When I was in high school (which feels like 4 years ago, but was actually a million, sob!) students were given 30 minutes to eat lunch everyday. Starting senior year we were allowed to leave campus during that time, to do what whatever it is that seniors do, as long as we were back before the next period started.
Sweet, sweet freedom!
Except, it always took 5 minutes to round everybody up, then another 5 to argue over who’d have to sacrifice their parking spot (a rare and precious jewel,) which meant that by the time my friends and I arrived at our dining destination, we’d have approximately 10 minutes left to eat before having to turn around and head back.
What’s that you say? Save yourself the trouble (and the parking spot) and eat in the cafeteria? Pssht! We were SENIORS, damnit!
Anyways, we weren’t left with many options with such a short amount of time to spare, so the girls and I usually resorted to inhaling chalupa value meals from Taco Bell (I know,) devouring cheese fries from A&W (I KNOW,) or slamming bowls of soup from Panera (I know!) during those super speedy lunch runs.
Thick and decadent, Panera’s creamy Baked Potato Soup with bacon was my favorite option of the three (what with it not being a chalupa or platter of cheese fries and all!) Perfect for the fall and winter, I decided to create an updated, non-teenage metabolism version of the soup using one of my favorite potato swap outs – grated cauliflower. (But, uh, kept the bacon… )
I first fell in love with grated cauliflower a few months ago when I made Key West Grilled Chicken with Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower “Rice”, where I used grated cauliflower as a low-carb rice alternative. Guess what I found when I sauteed some of the leftover grated cauliflower though? It tasted like hash browns!
Guess what I found when I replaced the potatoes in Baked Potato Soup with grated, steamed cauliflower? Bacon-Cheddar Cauliflower Chowder that’s not only rich and creamy like the real thing, but low-carb to boot. Whee!
Clocking in at 265 calories, with 7 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein per serving (per Livestrong’s Recipe Calculator Tool) I could not be more pumped about this chowder. You will LOVE it!
Start the Bacon-Cheddar Cauliflower Chowder by chopping 1 celery stalk and 2 garlic cloves. I used my food processor for all the prep work in this recipe so, instead of repeating myself 100 times, just know that you can hand chop / use a box or flat grater for everything you see below!
Remove the celery and garlic to a plate or bowl, then fit the processor with a grating blade and grate 1/2 head of cauliflower, to equal 4 cups grated cauliflower.
Like I said, a box or flat grater will do the job just fine, or you can just chop the cauliflower up real small!
Next grate up 2-1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese to be used in both the chowder, and as a garnish. I recommend grating cheese fresh for things like soups and chowders, as the pre-grated stuff is coated in, well, stuff, that makes it not melt as well as fresh. If you’re in a pinch though, by all means – dooo iiit!
Next, chop up 8 strips center-cut bacon, to be used in both the chowder and as a garnish. I know you were panicking.
K. Prep work’s done. Time to get cookin’!
Heat a big ol’ soup pot over medium heat, then add the chopped bacon and let it cook low and slow until it’s nice and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, then remove all but 1 Tablespoon drippings from the pot.
Next add the chopped celery and garlic, season with salt and pepper, then saute until the celery is nice and tender, about 4-5 minutes.
Add the grated cauliflower to the pot, along with 1 teaspoon onion powder and 2 Tablespoons water, then season with more salt and pepper, and place a lid on the pot to steam the cauliflower until tender. This will take between 5-7 minutes, and just give it a stir every now and again.
Once the cauliflower is tender, add in 1-3/4 cup chicken broth and 2 cups 2% milk. (Obnoxious chicken broth measurement, I know, but we’ll use an additional 1/4 cup in a bit!)
Also throw in a dash (or 3, or 30) of your favorite hot sauce. This will give the chowder a fabulous flavor, and pretty orange color.
Almost done! Bring the chowder up to a boil then slowly drizzle in 2 Tablespoons flour whisked into 1/4 cup chicken broth while stirring constantly.
The flour will make the chowder lusciously thick and wonderful in just a couple of minutes.
Finally, turn off the heat then stir in 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese until smooth, then stir in half the cooked bacon. Taste, then add more salt, pepper, and/or hot sauce if neccessary.
Ladle the thickened, cheese and bacon-laced cauliflower chowder into bowls, then top with remaining shredded cheese, cooked bacon, and sliced green onions (or chopped parsley, if you’re in a pinch!)
Bacon-Cheddar Cauliflower Chowder (Low-Carb Recipe)
Serves 8, 265 calories, 7 grams of carbs, and 15 grams of protein per serving
8 slices center-cut bacon, chopped (half used for garnish)
1/2 small onion, chopped OR 1 teaspoon onion powder
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper
4 cups shredded or grated cauliflower (1/2 large head)
2 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth, divided
2 cups 2% milk
3-4 dashes hot sauce (or more or less)
2-1/2 cups (12oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided (half used for garnish)
2 green onions, chopped (optional)
- Whisk together flour and 1/4 cup chicken broth in a small bowl then set aside.
- Saute bacon in a large soup pot over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate then remove all but 1 Tablespoon drippings from the pot. Add chopped onion (if using,) celery, and garlic to the pot then season with salt and pepper and saute until vegetables are tender, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add cauliflower and onion powder (if using) to the pot then stir to combine. Add water then place a lid on top and steam cauliflower until tender, stirring a couple times, about 5-7 minutes. Add remaining chicken broth and milk then turn up heat and bring to a boil.
- Slowly whisk in flour/chicken broth mixture while stirring, then turn down heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until chowder has thickened. Turn off heat then stir in 2 cups cheddar cheese until smooth, then stir in half the cooked bacon. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, and/or hot sauce if necessary. Serve topped with remaining shredded cheese, cooked bacon, and green onions, if desired.
*Use a food processor’s chopping and grating blades to make prepping veggies and cheese a breeze!
I am so jazzed over this recipe!! I mean of course grated cauliflower isn’t going to have the same, super-smooth mouth feel as cooked potatoes, but it is DARN close.
As for the thick and creamy consistency of the chowder? I’ll let the spoon speak for itself…
Hope you’ll give this chowdah a try!
In other news…
I’ll be on KCCI News Channel 8 tomorrow morning around 6:38am cooking a festive, fall menu. Tune in if you can!