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Cheesy Cauliflower Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons

I have been a bad, baaaad blogger. I actually made this soup months ago and I am just finally getting around to sharing it with you!  I am mildly obsessed with cauliflower these days. At only 12 calories per 1/2 cup it is a great alternative to higher- calorie starchy foods, such as potatoes or pasta. Its mild flavor makes it extremely versatile -  it is great mashed, steamed, roasted, breaded and fried, as a lower- carb substitute in "potato salad". Pureed cooked cauliflower can also help thicken creamy soups and sauces without adding a lot of calories. 

Cauliflower - It's the rock star of the produce department!

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons
servings: about 6

1 yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups aged Cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pumpernickel croutons, see below

In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the flour. Cook for about 2 minutes. Whisk in milk, chicken stock, thyme, mustard  and Worcestershire.  Add the cauliflower. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until the cauliflower is very soft, stirring occasionally. Puree with an immersion blender. Stir in the heavy cream and cook just until the cream is heated. Stir in the Cheddar cheese and remove from heat as soon as the cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with croutons, if desired.

Pumpernickel Croutons

2 cups cubed pumpernickel bread, top crust discarded
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. toss the bread cubes with the melted butter and Parmesan. Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake until golden, about 13 minutes.Stir once during cooking.

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