Prep time: 30 minutes
Makes 6 1 ½-C. servings
Thanks to O'Brien-style frozen hash browns, you can avoid peeling or dicing potatoes, onions and peppers. Packaged bacon bits eliminate the messy job of bacon-frying, and they contain 50 percent less fat than regular bacon. Using fat-free half-and-half further slashes the fat and calories without losing flavor. You could also use skim milk, but your soup will be less thick and creamy. The rosemary gives a subtle pine-ish flavor.
2 14-oz. cans chicken broth (or 4 chicken bouillon cubes and 1 3/4 C. water)
1 28-oz. package O'Brien-style diced hash brown potatoes
1 3-oz. package shelf-stable bacon bits (or about 3/4 C. of cooked, chopped bacon or 1 C. finely diced ham)
1 15-oz. can corn, drained
2 tsp. dried rosemary or 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 C. water
1 1/2 C. half-and-half, fat-free half-and-half, or milk
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Optional garnishes: grated cheddar cheese, bacon bits, rosemary sprigs
1. Place chicken broth, potatoes and bacon in a large pot over high heat.
2. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to keep the soup gently boiling about 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add corn.
3. Mix cornstarch and water to a smooth paste. Stir cornstarch mixture into the gently boiling soup, and continue stirring until soup thickens.
4. Turn off the heat and stir in milk or half-and-half and pepper, until mixture is well-blended and the soup re-thickens.
5. Taste the soup and adjust seasonings as desired. Ladle into serving bowls; garnish each with a tsp. of shredded cheddar, bacon pieces or a rosemary sprig.
Slow cooker directions: Place all ingredients except cornstarch and 1/4 C. of water in a slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours; on low for 5-6 hours. Mix cornstarch and water into a smooth paste and stir into the soup. Turn the soup to high and leave the lid off, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes, until soup thickens.