cheesy mexican soup [with hidden veggies!]

There are eight cups of veggies in this soup (if you count the cilantro), and it serves about four grown people who go back for seconds, so everyone's getting at least two servings of veggies! I wanted to make something tasty that also happened to be full of sneaky vegetables. Every time I make it, I push the limits even further... adding more celery, or doubling the amount of bell pepper. Seeing if they notice it now has butternut squash in it. (They totally didn't notice.) My kids love it, and my husband even says, "Mmm, this is good." Which is kind of a big deal. He'll eat anything, but for him to actually tell me he really likes some concoction I've come up with means a lot to me. I serve it to my kids as it is, but I love to pile mine with cilantro and sriracha sauce. Mmm, perfection. Leftovers go great used as a queso over scrambled eggs, believe it or not!

I make this soup differently every time; sometimes I will make a roux, add the cheese to that and then stir it into the soup, or I may just plop the cheese in at the end and stir it until it melts (it doesn't really need the flour, because the veggies make it pretty thick already). I use whatever broth I happen to have on hand: chicken, vegetable, beef -- it doesn't matter. And this last time, I added about a half cup of moderate salsa to the whole thing, and that really amped up the flavor (without making it spicy). So really play around with it and add your own twist. This is how I made ours last night:

1 cup onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1.5 cups bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1.5 cups roasted butternut squash
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups broth (any kind)
1 cup tomato, diced
3 cups milk (or whipping cream, half & half, or a combination)
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I use about one cup)
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cups salsa

  • In a large pot, saute the onions, carrots, and celery for about 10-15 minutes. Add the bell pepper and garlic and cook for five minutes more. Toss in the squash and seasonings, stir to coat the veggies.
  • Pour the broth over, and transfer all your veggie chunks to a blender. Blend until very smooth (this is the imortant part -- there's no way River would eat this with chunks of bell pepper, celery, and squash floating around!).
  • Transfer back to the pot. Add the tomato and bring to a simmer; simmer for about ten minutes. Add the milk and cheese, heat through until completely melted, then stir in the cilantro and salsa.
  • Serve and enjoy! (Don't forget the Sriracha.)

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