Dairy Free Cheesy Wild Rice Soup
1 1/2 c. wild rice
8 c. unsalted chicken stock
1 tsp. celery seed OR 1 c. diced celery
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium sweet onion, minced
1/2 tsp. fresh minced garlic OR 1/4 tsp. dehydrated minced garlic
1 lb. ground chicken or skinless, boneless chicken breasts
5 strips of bacon
1 can organic mushroom pieces, drained
1/2 c. unsweetened soy milk
1 16 oz pkg of American flavored soy cheese slices
fresh cracked black pepper and sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Prep all your vegetables first. Dice the bell peppers, onion, celery (if you are using fresh celery) and drain your mushrooms now. Toss it all in a bowl together while you wait for the bacon grease. If you decided to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts slice those now. Make sure they are in small soup sized pieces, about 1 inch (they'll shrink when they cook).
In a large roaster pan add your wild rice and 4 c. of the chicken stock then set it aside. Fry your bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat until crisp. Remove cooked bacon with a fork to a plate with a paper towel on it and allow it to cool 5 minutes. In the same pan you cooked the bacon in, saute your veggies in the bacon grease making sure they all sweat their juices (about 8 minutes). Stir them frequently. When they are finished turn them into the roaster pan. In the same pan fry your chicken. Throw it in there and let it start to cook. While it is cooking, use kitchen shears to snip the bacon strips into the pan. Stir the bacon into the chicken after a couple strips go in. Make sure the ground chicken is really crumbled into small pieces. When the chicken is completely cooked add the chicken/bacon mixture to the roaster pan. Stir everything together very well. Shake the pan a bit to level out the contents. Bake in the oven uncovered for 1 hour or until the wild rice "pops" (opens).
When there is about 10 minutes left on the timer add the remaining 4 c. of chicken stock to a large pot turn the burner onto medium-high heat. While that is heating up take all your slices of soy cheese out of their packaging and rip each slice into four pieces and throw it into a microwavable glass dish with your 1/2 c. unsweetened soy milk. Microwave in 1 minute bursts until you can easily stir the cheese into the milk and it becomes creamy. It usually takes less than 3 minutes. Don't worry if your cheese LOOKS lumpy even after the 3 minutes. When you add it to the stock and it cooks those lumps will go away after about 30 minutes and you get a nice creamy, smooth sauce. If it resembles more of a broth even after there are no more lumps feel free to thicken it to your preferred consistency using equal amounts of corn starch to cold water (1 tsp. cornstarch for 1 tsp. cold water). I like my wild rice soup goop thick, like a stew. So I went 4 tsp. cornstarch and 4 tsp. cold water.
Once any lumps have worked themselves out, turn the heat down to low, just enough heat to keep it warm but not boiling for any reason anymore. Now...TASTE it. Does it need salt and pepper? Add it now to taste. Let this cook on the stove for about an hour so the flavors from the rice mixture marry.
Serve with a crusty bread, I used a simple baguette and some vegan buttery spread.
*Depending on how thick you like your soup will depend on how much of the rice mixture you put in the pot. I thought it was starting to get a little heavy on the rice mixture after a while so I ended up freezing about 3 cups of it. But I used it a couple weeks later in my Cornbread Minnesota Wild Rice Cranberry Stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner. If you don't mind it being more like a stew in terms of amount of food in your goop, use it all. Make it your own!!