Cauli-chowder With Cheddar Croutons

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Note: Orange cauliflower has as much as 25 percent more beta carotene (the precursor of vitamin A) than the white variety. If you can't find an orange cauliflower, use a white one (or 1 1/2 pounds frozen florets), and add 1/2 teaspoon turmeric with the half-and-half to deepen the chowder's color. From the Chicago Tribune.

For chowder:

• 1 tbsp. butter

• 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 1 medium onion, chopped

• 3 cloves garlic, minced

• 1 medium head orange cauliflower (about 2 lbs.) trimmed and chopped

• 6 c. chicken broth

• 1 c. half-and-half

• 2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard

• 3 c. shredded extra-sharp Cheddar, divided

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For croutons:

• 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 4 to 6 slices baguette or other sturdy bread


To prepare chowder: In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, combine the butter and olive oil. When it becomes fragrant, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the cauliflower and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the cauliflower is extremely tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Working in batches, purée the cauliflower in a blender or food processor, then return the purée to the pot. (Or purée in the pot with an immersion blender.)

Stir in half-and-half and Dijon mustard, then add 2 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Adjust thickness of the soup with more broth, if you like. Reduce heat to low while you prepare the croutons.

To prepare croutons: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil on both sides and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Put in the oven and toast, turning as needed to brown both sides, about 5 minutes.

Divide remaining 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese among the toast slices. Return baking sheet to the oven until the cheese is melty and beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

To serve: Divide the soup among serving bowls. Garnish each soup bowl with a crouton. Serve immediately.

Cheeseburger Soup

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Note: You can't get much humbler than this soup, but it's inexpensive and quick to prepare, and immensely satisfying. We're using Velveeta for its ability to melt and thicken the soup, but you could substitute shredded Colby or Monterey Jack if you prefer. From the Chicago Tribune.

For soup:

• 1 lb. ground beef

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 4 tbsp. flour

• 6 c. beef broth

• 1 lb. Velveeta, diced

For garnishes:

• Shredded iceberg lettuce

• Diced tomato (canned is OK, just drain well)

• Diced kosher dill pickles

• Diced onion

• Chopped jalapeños, optional


In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, brown the ground beef, breaking it into chunks as it cooks, until no pinkness remains, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of beef drippings from the pot. Season the ground beef with salt and pepper to taste, then sprinkle the flour over the beef. Cook, stirring continuously, until the flour colors slightly, 2 to 4 minutes.

Stir in the beef broth. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens. Reduce heat to low. Stir in Velveeta (or Colby, or Monterey Jack). Keep the soup warm while you prepare the garnishes, stirring the soup from time to time.

To serve, divide the soup among serving bowls. Top each bowl with the lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles, and jalapeños (optional). Serve immediately.