Sunday, July 15, 2007

Beer-Cheese Veggie Soup

2 cups (8 oz.) cauliflower florets
1 cup plus 3 T. water
1 T. margarine
1/2 c. chopped onions
1/2 t. bottled minced garlic
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 can or bottle (12 oz.) light-bodied beer
1 can (14 3/4 oz.) fat-free chicken broth
3 T. cornstarch
2 c. half-and-half
2 c. (8 oz.) already-shredded Cheddar cheese
Reduced-fat real bacon bits (not imitation; optional)

Place the cauliflower and 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe covered casserole and microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the margarine in a 4 1/2-quart Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and Worcestershire and stir well.

Add the beer. Raise the heat to high and boil 3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Add the chicken broth and bring the soup back to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and boil while you drain the cauliflower, chop it into bite-size pieces, and add it to the pot.

Combine the cornstarch and 3 T. water in a small container that has a lid. Shake until the lumps disappear, then set aside. Add the half-and-half and cheese to the soup. Stir constantly until the cheese melts, then shake the cornstarch mixture again and add it to the pot. Stir constantly until the soup is thick, about two minutes. Serve garnished with bacon bits (if using).

Notes: I chop the cauliflower into bite-size pieces before I microwave, otherwise the heat of the cauliflower makes chopping difficult. This a very tasty soup that works as a Meatless Main Dish or as a first course. It's fancy enough to make people think you spent a lot of time on it, and it reheats well.

Source: Desperation Dinners, by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross

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