The slow cooker is a mainstay of modern American cooking — but it's not just you and me firing up the Crock-Pot on a weeknight. Famous chefs and celebrities are not above its charms, and this week we're bringing you five recipes from five kitchen stars that show off their favorite ways to put the slow cooker to good use.
First up: Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman herself, with a classic broccoli cheddar soup that is kid-friendly and good for any cold night. Of course, leave it to the Pioneer Woman to come up with a recipe that officially counts as a serving of vegetables while also appealing to anyone's love for cheese. I mean, it's a lot of cheese.
Pioneer Woman's Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheddar Soup: Watch the Video
The Most Kid-Friendly Soup for a Weeknight
According to Ree, "Broccoli cheese soup is a favorite of my firstborn son, Bryce, who is now taller than me by at least four inches even though he still looks like the sweet, blond, cherubic little pookie head he was fifteen years ago. Sniff sniff. Wahhh!
"And I'm here to show you the easiest slow cooker version of B-Man's most beloved soup ever. It uses frozen broccoli, which ups the easy factor without sacrificing nutrients, and except for a little puréeing and cheese grating toward the end, it's pretty durn effortless."
Thank you, Ree Drummond. This kid-friendly recipe is worthy of being in your regular weeknight rotation. It's a cinch to pull together, it requires minimal prep, and it doesn't involve dirtying any other pots or pans. Aside from a bit of mid-recipe immersion blending, it's pretty much the epitome of a classic "set it and forget it" slow cooker recipe made with easy ingredients, a lot of which you probably have hanging around the kitchen already.
Forget pre-browning or pre-roasting or pretty much any other pre-step; the only prep involved in this recipe is dicing exactly one onion and two carrots. That's it.
Two Controversial Ingredients Make This Great!
Once you have that knocked out, you'll simply toss those aromatics into the slow cooker for a few hours with your broth, seasonings, a pound of frozen broccoli (for maximum ease, and also because it holds up a bit better in the slow cooker), and … wait for it ... cream of celery soup. Yup, that cream of celery soup: Ree says it's a decent substitute for the creaminess and thickness that you'd get by making a roux, only in a fraction of the time (and no flour lumps or whisking-induced wrist fatigue).
Speaking of potentially controversial ingredients that up the richness ante: a few hours into cooking, once you purée the soup with an immersion blender, Ree calls for a hunk of none other than Velveeta to add even more creaminess. See? Truly a slow cooker classic — but in all honesty, ingredients like Velveeta and canned "cream of" soups became American comfort food cooking staples for a reason.
Velveeta substitute: Of course, if you're just not down with the processed cheese product, just use cheddar or Monterey Jack instead.
Ten minutes later, once your cheese has melted and you've seasoned everything to taste, you'll be ready to serve. Top with a sprinkling of crumbled Saltines — and more cheese, of course.
The Pioneer Woman's Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheddar Soup
1 pound frozen broccoli florets
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 (10.5-ounce) cans cream of celery soup
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds processed melting cheese, such as Velveeta
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (8 ounces), plus more for serving
Crumbled saltine crackers, for serving
Place the broccoli, chicken broth, onions, carrots, cream of celery soup, seasoned salt, kosher salt, black pepper, and cayenne in a slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on the HIGH setting for 4 hours. The veggies will be soft and the flavors will be marvelous!
Use an immersion blender or potato masher to purée the soup about three-quarters of the way smooth in order to leave some chunks for delicious texture. (Alternatively, use a regular blender. Just be sure to blend only 1 cup at a time and use extreme caution. Then return it to the slow cooker.)
Add the processed cheese and cheddar and to combine. Cover, turn the heat to the LOW setting, and cook for 15 minutes. Utterly creamy and delicious!
Here's where you want to taste the soup and add more of what you'd like: a little more salt, a little more cayenne, and so on. Serve it warm with a sprinkling of Cheddar and some crumbled saltines.
- Broccoli-Cauliflower Cheddar Soup: Substitute frozen cauliflower for half the frozen broccoli if desired.
- Bacon Broccoli-Cheddar Soup: Add 6 cooked, crumbled slices of bacon with the cheese.
- Chile Broccoli-Cheddar Soup: Add 2 drained (4-ounce) cans green chiles with the cheese.
Monterey Jack substitution: Use Monterey Jack or pepper Jack instead of the cheddar.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It! by Ree Drummond. Copyright © 2017 by Ree Drummond. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.