The weather has officially taken a "turn" here in Ottawa. I wait around ALL year for this to happen. Autumn is my favorite season, I make NO bones about it. Ever. I love snow an' all, but the autumn colors on the trees just fill up a place in my heart that the summer has left barren. The FIRST thing I do when the temperature changes is crock pot something. I try to avoid chili until the blustery cold snow comes. Autumn....autumn is reserved for stews and thick, creamy soups!
I made a quick look through the cupboards, fridge and freezer. I had 3 large baking potatoes, a whole pound of bacon, a Spanish onion, a bag of shredded soy cheddar cheese and happened to have an unopened container of soy cream. Hmmm.....ah ha! Loaded Baked Potato Soup...dairy free!!
*For all my friends who can eat dairy, simply change the soy cream to regular dairy cream, the shredded soy cheese to shredded mild cheddar and the unsweetened soy milk to regular 2% milk.
Those dairy eaters interested in a lower calorie soup...substitute the dairy cream for fat free sour cream, shredded cheese for low calorie or "half fat" shredded mild cheddar and use skim milk for your milk. **I DO NOT recommend using "fat free" shredded cheese. The soup won't turn out properly**
Dairy Free Loaded Baked Potato Soup
1 pound organic bacon, cooked and finely chopped
3 large russett potatoes, baked in the oven, chopped 1 in. cubes
1 large Spanish onion, minced
1/4 c. flour
8 oz. shredded soy cheese, cheddar flavored
16 oz. plain soy cream
2 c. unsweetened soy milk
2 c. of water OR chicken stock
2 T. fresh cracked black pepper
1 T. fresh cracked sea salt
green onion for garnish
extra shredded cheddar for garnish
ALL bacon fat reserved
In the oven or on your stove, fully cook the whole pound of bacon; set aside to cool on paper towel. Pour ALL of the bacon fat in a large, deep pot. Mince the onion and sautee in the bacon fat on medium heat, stirring every couple of minutes. After 10 minutes, add in the 1/4 c. of flour. Incorporate it well into the onion, making sure there is NO flour that hasn't absorbed onion juice and fat juice. Slowly add the soy cream, 4 ounces at a time; stirring each addition completely into the onion and flour until the roux is complete.
When the roux is finished toss in the whole bag of cheese and stir constantly until the cheese has melted, this will take up to 10 minutes of stirring off and on. Add the 2 c. of unsweetened soy milk, in 1/2 c. increments, until it is all well incorporated. The soup will still be VERY thick at this point, resembling something more like a chowder. At this point you need to decide how thick you and your family like your soup. As you add your water or chicken broth, add it 1/2 cup at a time, totally incorporating each addition. Evaluate the consistency, flavor and thickness each time. You can stop adding liquid when you hit your desired consistency.
Chop your cooled bacon, reserve 1/8 c. of bacon for garnish, toss the rest of the chopped bacon in the soup. Chop your cooled, baked potatoes and toss them in the soup. Make sure you stir as you add each handful of potatoes. The starch on the potatoes will make them likely to stick to each other, so stir well. At this point, once you have everything in the pot you can decide if you want to turn it into a crock pot or leave it in the pot. We planned on eating this all weekend so I crock potted mine. It almost filled my 5.5 quart crock pot.
When serving, I simply ladled some soup into the bowl and garnished with extra shredded soy cheddar, crumbled bacon, freshly snipped green onion, fresh cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste.