What's For Dinner: Slow Cooker Broccoli-Cheese Soup

On a blustery fall day, there is nothing better than a warm bowl of soup for dinner. I've made broccoli-cheese soup on the stovetop before, but I wanted to up the lazy factor, so I decided to make a slow cooker version. To make this soup gluten-free, I used potato starch as a thickening agent; if consuming wheat isn't a problem for you, go ahead and substitute in all-purpose flour. If using all-purpose flour, stir it into the onion-garlic mixture and cook for a minute or two until just slightly browned before adding in the evaporated milk.

I prefer a thick broccoli soup, so I only blended it slightly. For a smoother soup, blend it for longer; or, if you prefer a chunkier soup, go ahead and skip the blending step altogether. I used a mixture of monterey jack and sharp cheddar cheeses; you could also just use one or the other rather than a blend. When served alongside a few slices of crusty bread or a handful of saltine crackers, you've got yourself a comforting (and filling!) meal on a cold autumn night.

Slow Cooker Broccoli-Cheese Soup (printer-friendly version)
makes 6-8 servings

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons potato starch (or all-purpose flour)
1 can (12 ounces) nonfat evaporated milk
4 cups (32 ounces) low-sodium vegetable broth
4-5 cups broccoli florets
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
pinch of red pepper flakes
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup organic half-and-half
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a mixture of monterey jack and sharp white cheddar)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until softened and golden, 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the potato starch and evaporated milk, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, 1-2 minutes.
2. Pour the thickened onion mixture into the slow cooker. Stir in the vegetable broth, broccoli florets, dried basil, and pinch of red pepper flakes. Cover with the lid and cook on low 4-5 hours or high 2-3 hours.
3. If desired, use an immersion blender (or blend in batches with a regular blender) to puree the soup to your desired thickness. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Turn the slow cooker to warm or off, then stir in the half-and-half. (If your soup doesn't look thick enough, stir a tablespoon of potato starch or flour into the half-and-half before adding to the soup.)
5. Stir in the shredded cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary and serve immediately.