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Easy! Creamy Veggie Soup with Bacon {Grain-free, Low-carb}

Creamy Veggie Soup with Bacon

Creamy Veggie Soup with Bacon

My previous post was about how to make Cauliflower Cream for a soup base. Even if you aren’t a low-carber, getting more veggies into your lifestyle is likely a positive move, so I hope you give this a try!

Thick, creamy and healthy! Soup made with Cauliflower Cream

Thick, creamy and healthy! Soup made with Cauliflower Cream

The recipe below is just ONE of probably hundreds of possible combinations of ingredients for using the Cauliflower Cream soup base. I used the shredded veggies because they were on sale and free of preservatives, and saving time whenever possible has its own value! Feel free to modify, swap out, invent or otherwise make this recipe work for you! Clam or seafood chowder will be coming soon in my kitchen 🙂

 

 

Creamy Veggie Soup with Bacon and Ham

  • 1 recipe of Cauliflower Cream soup base (4-6C depending on size of cauliflower)
  • 1C diced bacon
  • one onion, diced
  • 1- 12oz bag mixed shredded veggies (broccoli hearts, cabbage and carrot)
  • 32oz container of chicken broth, or make your own stock to use
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 oz shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
  • crispy ham to garnish (optional)
  1. Prepare one recipe of Cauliflower Cream soup base and set aside.
  2. In a stock pot or dutch oven, Saute bacon until nearly crisp and fat is rendered.
  3. Add onions to bacon, cook and stir 3-5 minutes over medium heat.
  4. Add shredded vegetable mix and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-8 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.
  5. Add broth to pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are cooked.
  6. Carefully add Cauliflower Cream to pot and gently mix together, bringing the soup back up to temp.
  7. If using cheese, add it a little at a time, stirring after each addition to melt the cheese.
  8. Serve in bowls, topped with crispy ham if desired.
Adding onion to the cooked bacon and fat.

Adding onion to the cooked bacon and fat. 

Adding shredded veggies to pot.

Adding shredded veggies to pot. 

Adding Cauliflower Cream to pot after simmering.

Adding Cauliflower Cream to pot after simmering the veggies and broth.

After the Cauliflower Cream is mixed in, it becomes a rich cream soup!

After the Cauliflower Cream is mixed in, it becomes a rich cream soup!

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Cream Soup Base… (you won’t believe it’s made from cauliflower!)

Cauliflower Cream for soup or sauce

Cauliflower Cream for soup or sauce in the pitcher of my Ninja. Hopefully you can see the very SMOOTH texture in this pic!

I never thought I would see a day that I counted CAULIFLOWER among my favorite vegetables.. and yet here I am! It’s actually one of my staple grocery items now, and I don’t want to be without it any more than I want to be without nut butter (egads… )

The problem turns out not to be that cauliflower was “icky”, but rather I’d never had the occasion to really get to KNOW Cauli. Before going on Wheat Belly, giving up grains and also going low-carb, I had only my trusty (high-carb) root vegetables and starches to rely on to thicken or act as a base for other toppings. The healthy head of off-white, cruciferous abundance was something I usually avoided at the store! I knew it was good for me, but if I was going that route, I’d grab broccoli or cabbage way before I’d reach for Cauli. If I had only known…

So here is one of the methods that will show you why I hold it with such high regard in my kitchen, and hopefully it’s something that you will try as well.

In my house we LOVE soup! Broths, chowders, stews… especially as cold weather becomes the norm, warming up with a bowl of homemade goodness is a cherished tradition! Well, most cream-based soups rely on a rue of flour or an addition of cornstarch to make them thick and creamy. Not this one!

To make this cream soup base, you will need:

  • A high-powered blender or food processor 
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cleaned, center stalk removed
  • 1/2C heavy cream
  • 1/2C cream cheese, softened 
  • Add-ins are optional and include shredded cheese,
    roasted garlic or other seasonings
  1. The first step is to steam the cauliflower on the stove top in a few inches of water. I use a covered stockpot because it’s easiest for me. I usually let it steam for 20 minutes or so, until the cauliflower is VERY soft. When it’s done cooking, strain it and let as much water drain out as possible. (Getting the cauliflower soft enough is essential to this method working.)
  2. Transfer cooked cauliflower to a high speed blender (I use my Ninja) or food processor. If your cauliflower is large or your bowl is small, you may have to do this in more than one batch. (This works with freshly steamed cauli, as well as with some that has been refrigerated for a few days.)
  3. Blend cauliflower until SMOOTH, adding 1/2C heavy cream as you go. (When I say smooth, I mean almost as smooth as pudding… like you can’t believe it’s actually cauliflower, “smooth”)
  4. When you’ve blended it to the right consistency, add the softened cream cheese and continue processing until all the small pieces are blended in as well.  Makes about 6C

That’s IT! Really.
Now that you have this incredible, thick, smooth Cauliflower Cream, you can use it in conjunction with a wide variety of soup recipes such as the (Easy) Creamy Veggie Soup with Bacon that I will be posting next. If you have a very small head of cauli, you may need to halve the other ingredients. I’ve had a giant farm-market head the last few times I’ve made this, and the quantities above were ideal.

If you want to use this as a cheese sauce over veggies or meat, you can add grated cheddar (or whichever cheese you prefer) to the smooth mixture while it’s still hot, and process until creamy again.

Mixing the Cauliflower Cream into a broth with veggies and bacon

Mixing the Cauliflower Cream into a broth made with veggies and bacon.

The method for making this into a creamy soup is to saute any other ingredients you may be using for your soup (such as bacon or other meat and veggies); add about 32oz of broth; simmer until all ingredients are cooked; stir in the cauli-cream and grated cheese if you will be using any. Voila! Creamy, thick, low-carb soup that can hide an entire head of cauliflower 😀  I plan to use this base to make clam chowder in the very near future (alas not today as my son is not a fan of foods that come from water.) I’ve used a variety of add-ins and may post updates using this base in the future. Flexibility in the grain-free kitchen is key!
Oh, did I say “hide”?….. Well, yes, cauliflower is one of MY favorites, but it is NOT a fave of my son… so this is an excellent means of kitchen camouflage! I think just about anyone would be hard-pressed to identify this as being made from veggies, even those who turn up their noses at the mere thought! If this describes you, and you give this a try… I’d love to hear what you think! Who am I kidding, I always love to hear your feedback 🙂

 

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“Candy Onion” French Onion Soup and {Grain Free} Flaxseed Meal Croutons

One of the things that we’ve always done, but that we enjoy even more now that we are low carb, is our Saturday morning trip to the Farmer’s Market in our small rural Michigan town. There are always such wonderful choices and sometimes there will be unexpected things to try among the fresh red tomatoes, green cukes, purple cabbages and farm fresh eggs. This week I bought a giant “Candy” onion. These things are just HUGE!! Seriously, it was *bigger* than a softball (unfortunately I forgot to take a pic first, but I did find one online at Jungseed.com just to show you the size. You can order seeds if you would like to grow your own!) It was so beautiful that paying $1.50 for one didn’t seem outrageous. From the second I hefted it into a bag, I knew that it was destined to become French onion soup, mmmm!

Since you all know that we are grain free, you may be wondering how I’ll pull off a REAL and indulgent French onion soup without including toasted French bread or croutons to hold up all that gooey cheese. Well, I wondered too! So, I decided to make a bread from ground flax seeds. It’s sort of foccacia style, more flat than a regular loaf of bread. After baking it up, I cubed some of it, spread it out onto a baking sheet with a little olive oil and garlic salt and toasted it up some into faux-croutons. I knew that it would make a bowl of soup even more filling than usual, but the flax meal (and coconut oil) in the bread are such healthy alternatives that I was excited to give it a try.

I am including the recipe for the soup I made as well as the flax bread. There are so many varieties of onion soup out there, and I have tried a lot of them… that I now just go with what I have on hand to determine the types of onion and whether I use red wine (I used Chuck’s Hard Cider instead today.) I usually include at least one variety of sweet onion, such as a Vidalia, and also sometimes use red onions or even jarred cocktail onions to mix things up a bit. This time I used just the Candy onion along with a hefty dose of garlic for flavor and all the wonderful health benefits. I hope that you are able to find a Candy Onion so you can try this version, but I think that most of the French Onion Soup recipes out there are naturally grain-free except for a few that might include some flour, which can easily be omitted. The choice of cheese is up to you, but we have used provolone as well as Swiss…. however, this time it was yogurt cheese that we purchase at the local bulk food store, which was very mild.

“Candy Onion” French Onion Soup

  • 4 Tb butter
  • 1 giant candy onion sliced into 1/4″ rings (or 4 medium onions)
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 32 oz beef broth
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 1 Tb Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 Tb Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 C Chuck’s Hard Cider (or red wine)
  • 1 Tb dried parsley
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme, tied
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Croutons and cheese if desired

In a stock pan over medium/low heat, melt the butter and slowly cook the onions, garlic and salt until tender and almost gooey. This is best done slowly, stirring frequently, for 30-40 minutes.

Add the broth, worchestershire, cider and herbs and simmer another 20 minutes or so. Add the vinegar and remove thyme and bay leaves. Serve in bowls with croutons and top with sliced cheese, melted under the broiler.

Candy Onion Soup

Flax Seed Bread (For Croutons)

  • 2 C ground flax seed
  • 1 Tb baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tb erythritol (or sweetener of choice)
  • 5 eggs, well-beaten
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1/3 C coconut oil
  • 1 Tb dried thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ground pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and combine well using a whisk. Add eggs, water and oil, combining completely. Stir in seasonings. Let sit for a couple minutes to thicken slightly. Grease a baking pan with butter (I used a 9″ by 9″ stone baking dish.) Spread batter evenly and bake for about 20 minutes.

To make croutons: Cut bread into 1/2″ cubes and spread on a baking sheet. Spray with olive oil spray and add seasoning if desired (I used garlic salt.) Bake at 275 for another 20 minutes, stirring the pan occasionally to dry them more evenly. Because the egg content is so high, these will not be the dried out and hard croutons that you might be used to, but they will work well for holding up the cheese on the French Onion soup.

 

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Morels with Creamy Mushroom Leek Soup

One of the great pleasures of food, for me, is having the opportunity to use ingredients fresh from the earth. Spring is the beginning of the season where Mother Nature’s bounty becomes accessible to us once again, and for many people, seasonal spring foods are a bit of a celebration.

This weekend, we spent some time in the woods, searching for our favorite spring treat, Morel mushrooms! Because of the weather, we’ve had a very early season for them, and the gray morel variety is already out. Morchella Esculenta is a very distinctive fungus, as are the earlier, darker, Morchella Elata. The morel mushroom is one of the most easily recognizable varieties that people hunt, but care still needs to be taken to have a full understanding of all look-alikes before foraging in the woods, and it’s a very good idea to accompany a seasoned mushroom hunter if possible.  (Please see Northern Country Morels website for more information.) Also remember that while the morels are edible and choice for most people, it is always possible that someone could have intolerance to a new food, so only eat a small amount to begin with, until you know that they are safe for you.  There’s a saying … “You can eat ANY mushroom, once.” We definitely want to live to taste another day! Personally, I have been hunting morels since I was a child, going on many trips into the woods with my parents to hunt for the elusive fungus of my dreams! Now I go out with my husband, and we very much enjoy the time walking the woods, even when we come up empty-handed. And when I say fungus of my dreams, I mean it literally… every spring I have dreams of finding groves of lush morels growing, just waiting for me to find them… unfortunately, that doesn’t translate to reality very well most of the time 😉

The good news is that even if you aren’t planning to hunt your own mushrooms, you can purchase dried morel mushrooms at many larger grocery stores, as well as order them online. We are lucky, even though our weekend hunting didn’t result in a basket full of ‘shrooms, we have a friend who shares with us the morels he finds when mowing his yard! What a guy, huh?! Since he is so generous with one of our favorite treats, I return the favor when we make fresh sushi rolls at home, and send a few in his direction.

So now that I have a gorgeous bowl of fresh morels, I have to decide what I want to do with them. I usually sauté them in butter and often make them part of a cream sauce, because I like to keep the contrast mild, to preserve the unique morel flavor and texture as much as possible. I started to look around to see what else I had on hand that would go well with them…  a package of crimini mushrooms that need to be eaten soon (thinking I can stretch the flavor a bit by using the oil left from sautéing the morels for the criminis)… remembering I have some nice sized leeks in the garden that wintered over (when cooked, leeks are so mild and sweet, perfect complement to the mushrooms), still have some of my parmo wheel, heavy cream of course because of the low-carb diet… wishing I had beef filet, but I do have some very fresh ground chuck and thick cut bacon from the meat market…

Morels and Creamy Mushroom Leek Soup

Simmering cream with the criminis and leeks.

Morels with Creamy Mushroom Leek Soup

  • ½ lb thick cut bacon, ½” dice
  • ½ to1 lb morel mushrooms, soaked, rinsed, dried off, and otherwise free of dirt
  • Butter as needed for sautéing
  • 1 lb sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 2 medium leeks, thoroughly cleaned and sliced
  • ½-1C heavy cream
  • ¼ C finely shaved Parmesan Cheese
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

I prefer to work with either an enameled cast iron skillet for this, or Caphalon because they are nice and heavy, but use whatever is comfortable for you. Cook the diced bacon down slowly until it begins to crisp, and the fat is rendered.  Remove the bacon to a plate using a slotted spoon and set aside, reserving the bacon fat in the skillet for sautéing the morels.

With the fat heated over medium, carefully add the cleaned morels, minding them closely and turning as needed until they brown up a little and seem done, about 10 minutes. Remove morels and set aside.

If there is enough fat remaining in the pan, add the sliced crimini mushrooms, or add a Tb or so of butter first. (If you are wondering why I didn’t cook both mushroom varieties together, it’s because I don’t want the morels cooking down into the soup, I would rather layer them on at the end, as the spotlight of the dish.) Cook the crimini mushrooms for 5-10 minutes, until they begin to look done.

Leeks are notorious for being very dirty, so be sure to split them lengthwise and rinse all sections in water before using.

Add a little more butter if needed and add the sliced leeks, cooking for an additional 5 minutes or so, until they begin to soften. Slowly add the cream to the pan, not quite covering the mushrooms and leeks, and simmer over low heat for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon. Add the shaved Parmesan to the pan, stirring to allow it to melt. Add salt and fresh pepper as desired. Dish into bowls, top with morels and bacon, or serve over a small tender burger, as we have done.  Makes 2-3 servings.

As always, this recipe is free from gluten, free from wheat, and low-carb, though it is quite high in fats. While I do use fats in my gluten-free lifestyle, this is not the kind of rich meal we would eat every day, but what a treat it is for a springy Sunday afternoon! The servings are smallish, and every bite is worth savoring, mmmm.

 

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Southwest Style Chicken Veggie Soup (GF of course)

So last night for dinner, we grilled a whole chicken with some smoker chunks thrown in, and afterward made a homemade chicken stock (kitchen tip to follow). Tonight I wanted to take advantage of the fresh stock and make some kind of chicken-based soup. I have already admitted that I don’t use recipes to cook most of the time, especially when it comes to food that I am comfortable with, but tonight I did make note of the ingredients that I used (just for you!) This has a nice Southwest flavor without the carbs from tortillas.

GF Southwest Style Chicken Veggie Soup

  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • 4 leaves napa cabbage, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red sweet pepper, finely diced
  • 3 quarts homemade chicken stock (or GF canned broth, or GF chicken base and water)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 TB chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tsp arrowroot powder dissolved in a couple TB water (optional for body)
  • 1 C diced cooked chicken breast
  • 1 can cannelini or black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes and peppers
  • Cumin, paprika and oregano to taste
  • Sour cream and fresh cilantro as garnish (optional)

To make the soup: Heat olive oil in stock pot and add next 6 ingredients (fresh veggies). Feel free to add or omit anything that you choose, however if you add a tender vegetable like zucchini, you’ll want to wait until later in the cooking process so that it does not dissolve completely. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until vegetables are tender. Slowly add chicken stock, followed by lime juice and cilantro, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are as tender as you wish them to be. We prefer them a little al dente’, so I use the shorter cooking time. Slowly stir in the arrowroot and water if you choose to use it. Add chicken, beans, Rotel and spices to taste, heat through. Serve as is, or garnish with a dollop of sour cream and cilantro.

I have always had a tendency to favor fresh ingredients and clean flavors, which has translated well to a gluten-free diet so far. If you are vegetarian, simply substitute vegetable broth and skip the chicken. Likewise, if you are avoiding legumes, skip the beans. I feel that every recipe is merely a source of ideas, and encourage everyone to get comfortable with their ingredients and experiment freely.

Homemade Chicken Stock: No need to be intimidated by this task, it is very simple. Also, I tend to be frugal in the kitchen and like to make complete use of every ingredient. I can’t imagine just tossing the chicken carcass into the garbage, when I know how delish real stock is! This works just as well whether you have cooked your own whole chicken (or turkey), or if you have picked up a rotisserie chicken at the market for the sake of convenience.

To make the stock, simply collect all the bones, skin, and waste pieces from the chicken and throw them into a stock pot. Cover with water. Add a couple roughly chopped onions and cloves of garlic if you wish. Bring to a boil and cook at a medium heat (low boil), stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by at least half. I usually add more water at this point and continue cooking to reduce again, to get as much flavor as possible. Place a colander into a large bowl or pot and strain stock. This can be used immediately, or refrigerated or even frozen for later use. If you would like to remove the fat, simply refrigerate until the fat rises and becomes firm, then remove it with a spoon. Homemade stock takes a little time, but the effort is truly minimal, and you will be rewarded with a richness that you can’t get from a can or powder!

 
 

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