Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spicy Molasses Cookies

Today is my love's birthday! Since we already had a party for him where I made key lime pie and New York cheesecake, I wanted something different to spoil him with today. He's not a cake fan, so when I saw this recipe under Pioneer Woman's "favorite" recipes I knew I had found what I was looking for. Kevin loves molasses cookies and since I've only tried one or two recipes before I'm still searching for the perfect one. I think I may have found it. Even though cookies are forbidden for me, I think I may have eaten 4....They're that great. Irresistible.

Note: A week later, these cookies are still fresh and soft and absolutely amazing. I have found the perfect Molasses Cookie. Thanks, PW.

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup Crisco (vegetable shortening)
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix sugar, shortening, molasses, and egg together until well combined.
Dump in dry ingredients, stirring dry ingredients together lightly. Mix together until dough is combined.
Roll dough into walnut-sized balls, then generously coat each ball with sugar.
Place balls on a baking sheet and bake for 9 to 11 minutes, allowing to bake for about a minute after cookies begin to crack.
Remove cookies from baking sheet and allow to cool….though these are delicious while still warm.

Makes 30 cookies

Monday, October 26, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

After watching the pepper roasting technique from Rachael Ray and The Food Network and more, I really wanted to try it myself. Red peppers tend to be a bit too pricey for my taste, but when I saw them on sale 5 for $1 I couldn't pass it up. I saw a cooking segment on The Today Show last week where they made a simple roasted red pepper soup. I used that recipe and we both loved the result. Make sure you love red peppers though. Or you will not love this soup. Because that's all it is.

To Roast the Peppers
For precise instructions see this post on The Food Network.
Preheat oven to the highest broil setting.
Place washed peppers on a baking sheet.
Put the sheet in the oven but
If you don't crack the oven door, so much steam will build up it will literally burn your face.
Broil for approximately 4-5 minutes on each side or until
Place roasted peppers in a paper bag and roll tightly
Let cool for about 30 minutes.
Skins will separate from the flesh.
Peel off the skins.
Slice off the stems and de-vein the peppers, removing seeds.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup
From: Sam Zien on The Today Show
Serves 6
1/2 cup onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoons olive oil
2-12 ounce jars roasted red peppers, drained
1 tsp cayenne pepper (I substituted chili powder and crushed red pepper flakes)
3 cups chicken broth
Salt and Pepper
Sour cream
Freshly chopped cilantro

Cook onions and garlic in olive oil in a large pot until softened. Add red peppers and cayenne to onions — mix well.

Put pepper mixture in a food processor with 1 cup of the broth, process until smooth. Put back into pot with remaining stock, season with salt and pepper and heat through.

Serve with a spoonful of sour cream and some fresh chopped cilantro.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sweet Potatoes, Apples & Pork Chops

I needed to throw a dinner together before leaving for church this morning--as we had my family here visiting. I couldn't just procrastinate and come up with something "easy" like Kevin and I normally do. I wanted to be a good hostess. So I started the bread machine bright and early and then tried to brainstorm through ingredients and crockpot ideas. I had pork chops that I found in the back of the freezer that were from who knows how long ago. I wasn't sure they were still edible but I couldn't throw them away without at least trying to cook them. (They were still great, btw.) We had two sweet potatoes in the pantry which had somehow developed moisture in their packaging and thus mold was taking over. I knew I could save at least some of those root vegetables. I also still had a huge bag of apples from our neighbor's tree. Hmmm. Think, Mel, think.

The result was quite delicious. Kevin helped me quite a bit in the brainstorming process. I have to give him half the credit.

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 apples, peeled and sliced
1 whole onion, sliced
1/4 cup apple cider
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp cinnamon
sprinkle of nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 boneless pork chops or pork roast

Combine all ingredients except pork in the bottom of the slow cooker. Stir to combine. Place pork on top and cook on high 4 hours.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New York Cheesecake

In looking for the perfect cheesecake recipe, I realized choosing one out of the thousands was quite daunting and nearly impossible. This is my first "official" cheesecake and I wanted it to be great. I knew right away I needed to consult one of my favorite recipe bloggers--Annie. I have used many of her recipes before and they have never failed me. We have similar styles and her cooking methods are refined yet down-to-earth. When I found her rave reviews about this cheesecake recipe, I knew I had found what I was looking for.

*Note, this cake will be served tomorrow night for Kevin and Brian's birthday desserts, so I have yet to hear feedback. I will post pictures and results later.
**Note #2: everyone raved about the cheesecake. The sides pulled away a bit as it cooled, so the edges are a bit imperfect, but taste wise it's top notch!

New York Cheesecake

For the crust:
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 additional tbsp., melted for greasing the pan
4 oz. (approx. 8 whole) graham crackers, broken into rough pieces and processed into fine, even crumbs*
1 tbsp. sugar
(*Note – if you have a kitchen scale, definitely weigh the graham crackers. I found the amount to be significantly different than the number of whole crackers they suggest. Of course, it varies depending on size/brand of cracker.)
For the cheesecake:
2 1/2 lb. (5 8-oz. pkgs.) cream cheese, cut into rough 1-inch chunks, at room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks plus 6 large eggs, at room temperature

To make the crust, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with 1/2 tablespoon of the melted butter. In a medium bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, 5 tablespoons melted butter, and sugar. Toss with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Transfer the crumbs to the springform pan and use the bottom of a ramekin to firmly press the crumbs evenly into the pan bottom. (Note: this is a fabulous technique! I have used it several times since, and it does a great job.) Bake until fragrant and beginning to brown around the edges, about 13 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while preparing the filling.

Increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium-low speed to break up and soften it slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape the beater and the bottom and sides of the bowl well with a rubber spatula; add the salt and about half of the sugar and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; beat in the remaining sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; add the sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat at low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; add the egg yolks and beat at medium-low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; add the remaining eggs 2 at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl between additions.

Brush the sides of the springform pan with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon melted butter. Set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills in case the pan leaks. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake 10 minutes; without opening the oven door, reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees and continue to bake until the cheesecake reads about 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool until barely warm, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Run a paring knife between the cake and the springform pan sides. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours.

To unmold the cheesecake, removed the sides of the pan. Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and the bottom of the pan to loosen, then slide the cake onto a serving plate. Let the cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve. (Use a long, thin, sharp knife that has been run under hot water and then dried for slicing. Wipe the blade clean and rewarm between slices.)

Key Lime Pie & Graham Cracker Crust

This has always been one of Kevin's favorite desserts. Our very first Valentine's day together, we made dinner and this was our dessert. Though I'm pretty sure the pie was a total flop--it didn't set right for whatever reason--we still ate it and it still tasted scrumptious. Kevin & his brother's birthdays are 1 day apart and they are both big fans of cheesecake and key lime pie. Since we're having a big family party to celebrate both of them, I went ahead and made both!

The pie recipe comes from Kevin's mom and is super fast and easy to put together. Just be sure to note it needs a night in the freezer.

I had never made my own graham cracker crust--since it's so easy to get a store bought one for pretty cheap. But I figured, why not? Especially since I had a whole box of graham crackers on hand. The crust is simple to put together--even more so if you have a food processor and can use the machine for the grinding of the crackers as well as combining it with butter and sugar.

Next time, I might to add a couple drops of green food coloring--just for effect.

Key Lime Pie
9" Graham Cracker Crust (homemade or storebought)
3 large egg whites
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
7 Tbsp lime juice

Beat egg whites until stiff. Gently fold in milk. Add lime juice. Pour into crust and freezeovernight. Top with whipped cream or cool whip if desired.

Graham Cracker Crust

This recipe is quick and simple, found in Betty Crocker Cookbook. Be sure to note the alternate cookie crumb crust.

Graham Cracker Crust
1-1/2 cups finely crushed regular or cinnamon graham crackers (about 20 squares)
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
3 Tbsp sugar

Heat oven to 350.
In medium bowl or food processor, combine all ingredients until well mixed. Reserve 3 Tbsp crumb mixture for garnishing top of pie before serving, if desired. Press remaining mixture firmly against the bottom and sides of a 9 inch glass pie plate. Use a ramekin or flat bottom measuring cup if necessary.

Bake about 10 minutes or until light brown; cool. Fill as directed in pie recipe.

For a cookie crumb crust:
Substitue 1-1/2 cups finely crushed chocolate or vanilla wafer cookies or gingersnaps for the graham crackers. Decrease butter to 1/4 cup; omit sugar.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Caramel Apple Cake

I was looking for a new dessert to bake for youth group as it was one of our students' birthdays. When I saw this recipe in the "dessert" section of my Taste of Home recipe box, I knew I wanted to try it! It was quite simple to put together and most of the ingredients are on hand. The cake is delicious and moist and perfect. I believe you could do without the caramel drizzle, as it is super sweet, but it's your choice.

1-1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3-1/2 cups diced peeled apples
1 cup chopped walnuts, opt

for caramel icing:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup light cream (or milk)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup confectioner's sugar
chopped walnuts, opt

In a mixing bowl, combine oil and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Combine dry ingredients with a whisk. Add to batter in three additions and mix well. Fold in apples and walnuts. Pour into a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan.

Bake at 325 for 1 and 1/2 hours or until tests done.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes; Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing:
In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, heat brown sugar, cream and butter until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted. Cool to room temperature. Beat in confectioner's sugar until smooth; drizzle over cake.
Sprinkle with nuts if desired.
Yields: 12-16 servings.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Crockpot Applesauce


My neighbors apparently have an apple tree growing in their yard and they have given me three bags filled with these indisputably all natural apples that are best used for cooking. I definitely knew I would need to use these for applesauce. Kevin loves applesauce and I drool over the homemade version. I like mine overflowing with cinnamon and quite chunky. But that's the beauty of making your own sauce--you can tweak it to suite your tastes.

Peeling two bags of apples is a little bit of a pain, I'm not gonna lie, but it is so worth the effort. I found this crockpot version over at A Year of Slowcooking (who's author, Stephanie, was just featured on Good Morning, America in celebration of her newly released crockpot cookbook--Make It Fast, Cook It Slow.) I don't mind standing over stove and monitoring a small 2 quart batch of applesauce, but after experiencing the 6 qt stock pot experience, I was all for the slow cooker!
I altered Stephanie's recipe which indicates the use of 4 large apples, and multiplying the ingredients by 5 (as I used about 40 small apples which could be translated into 20 large.)

40 small apples, peeled, cored and quartered
Juice from one lemon
4 tsp cinnamon (I realize this is a bit more than I needed, but I love cinnamon!)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup water

Mix all ingredients in a large slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours. When apples are tender mash/break apart with a potato masher or a fork.

This many apples yielded 14 cups of apple sauce.

Mmmm, mmm, good.

White Bread

For some reason, everyone who eats this bread thinks it's manna from heaven. Seriously, they can't stop raving about how amazing it is. Kevin especially. I feel a little guilty taking any amount of credit for it when all I did was throw 6 ingredients into the bread machine, hit dough setting then roll it out and roll it up into a loaf pan to bake. Simple. So if you don't have a bread machine, I recommend one. Look for them at consignment shops or garage sales. That's where my mother in law found me...for $2.00!
The only reason I don't feel completely ashamed for saying "Thank you" after the compliments is that I actually can and do make bread by hand so it's not like I'm totally cheating. :D

Ingredients (for 1 pound loaf)
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp shortening or margarine
2 cups bread (or all purpose) flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast

Add ingredients to bread machine according to manufacturer's directions. (always add liquid ingredients first, then dry ingredients (should be floating on top of liquids), then make a small well in the dry ingredients and add yeast LAST--being sure the yeast never comes in contact with the liquids or it will be activated too soon.) Select your preferred setting. (I like to chose the "dough" setting so that I can bake it up in a loaf pan. The shape of our bread machine is not ideal for looks or for slicing, but you do what you want.) If you selected the "dough" setting, let the machine do it's thing. Then, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the dough and place a lightly floured surface. Let it relax for 5 minutes. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out into an 18x9 inch rectangle. Roll dough up tightly, beginning at the 9 inch side. Press with fingers to seal after each turn. Pinch edges of dough into roll to seal.

Place seam side down in pan. Brush lightly with butter or veg. oil. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place (like on the preheating oven) for 35-50 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.

Bake for 22-25 minutes or until loaf is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from pans to a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jamaican Black Bean Soup

Panera's Black Bean soup has long been a favorite for me. Though this form of soup doesn't necessarily look appealing (which is isn't if you don't like beans) I absolutely love it--the spiciness, the heartiness, the deliciousness. I found this recipe on a google search at Well Fed. I had all of the ingredients on hand and decided to try it.

It was delicious. We both loved it! (Note: After a day to think about his reaction to the soup, Kevin has announced that it's not his favorite thing. He's not a huge legume fan first of all. And that's pretty much all this is. But he also said it had too many flavors going on for his taste. Which I found interesting. You be the judge.) This soup is very filling and nothing but healthy for you. The only down side was using the dry beans and having to wait for them to cook. (However, don't do as I did...be sure you realize that the beans will not be fully cooked before draining them and adding them to the soup.) Also, I use chicken bouillon cubes which require boiling lots of water (8 cups) and dissolving the cubes. Another pan.

Other than being a bit lengthy in process (which could be avoided if you use canned beans and boxed stock), this recipe is top notch! I served it with fresh baked white bread.

2 cups dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, diced (I used a small yellow/white onion)
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced (I used a green pepper)
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 ribs celery, diced
2 jalapenos, diced with seeds
8 garlic cloves, minced (I used 5)
1 Granny Smith or other tart apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 tablespoon dried basil
8 cups chicken stock
4 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 limes (I used lemon)
2 scallions, thinly sliced (for garnish, optional)

(For the cilantro cream)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lime
2 scallions, thinly sliced (for garnish)

Quick soak the beans: Place the beans in a large pot and cover with water by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
While the beans are cooking, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, add the onion and cook, stirring for about 10 minutes, until softened. Add the red bell pepper, carrots, celery, and jalapenos and cook, stirring for about 10 more minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the apple, basil, broth, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and drained beans. Stir to blend. Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until the beans are tender.
Remove the bay leaves. Place half of the soup in a blender and puree until smooth.
Return the pureed mixture to the pot and cook an additional 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lime juice. Ladle into bowls, garnish with the scallions and the cilantro cream and serve immediately.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oatmeal [Blueberry] Muffins

I was searching for flourless muffin recipes and stumbled upon an Oatmeal blueberry muffin recipe. I tweaked it to suit my tastes and the results are perfectly delicious, quite satisfying, and very healthy. I have experimented with a few different add-ins, so feel free to remove blueberries entirely or replace with chocolate chips, strawberries, nuts, apples, or bananas. Kevin loves these as well, but I tend to hoard them because I am crazy about them and they're a rare treat for me on my fairly gluten free diet.

2 1/2 cup old fashioned oats, finely ground in food processor
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3-4 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup milk
2 egg whites
1 cup blueberries

Process the oats until fine. Add sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pulse to combine. Add vegetable oil, milk, and egg whites. Pulse until mixed thoroughly. Fold in (by hand) blueberries.
Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

Aldi has just gotten their supply of seasonal baking items, and when I spotted the butterscotch chips, I knew a batch of oatmeal butterscotch cookies were necessary. I figured I could use another one of my oatmeal cookie recipes and just throw in the chips, but I decided to find an "official" obc recipe. When I found a highly rated recipe on Allrecipes.com and one on Hersheys.com, I compared them and found them to be identical. I assumed it would be hard to go wrong with a Hershey/Allrecipe reviewed recipe.

These are delicious. Perfect. If you love butterscotch and you love the spicy oatmeal cookie, you'll love these!

3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 2/3 cups butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
In a large bowl beat the butter or margarine, white sugar and brown sugar together. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating well.
Stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until blended. Stir in the oats and the butterscotch chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges begin to brown.

Mocha Cookies

I set out to bake my second batch of weekly church bake sale cookies and wanted something new. Something different. I had already made Oatmeal Butterscotch Chip cookies so I wanted a chipless cookie. I opened up my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook and decided to try the Mocha Cookie recipe. I had all of the ingredients on hand, which is not always the case with unique recipes such as this. I was excited to get to use my friend Emily's gift of Dominican coffee grounds too!

These cookies are simple to make, but do require a little extra time and effort with the rolling and cutting (not my favorite thing.) I have not yet heard outside reviews of this cookie, but here are my thoughts. They are a thin, crunchy cookie with good coffee flavor. I believe they would be a perfect cookie to have with a hot drink. Also, I haven't topped them with the caramel drizzle which might make them perfect. Let me know if you try this topping!

1 large egg
2 Tbsp instant coffee crystals
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

for the caramel drizzle
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup caramel topping
1/4 tsp vanilla
~2 Tbsp milk

In medium book, beat egg and coffee crystals with mixer on medium speed until crystals dissolve. Add sugar, butter and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla. Beat on medium until light and fluffy. Stir in remaining cookie ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour until chilled.

Heat oven to 375. Roll dough 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut with 2 1/2 inch cookie cutters. On ungreased cookie sheet, place dough 1 inch apart. Bake about 7 minutes or until set. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely; about 30 minutes.

In small bowl, mix powdered sugar, caramel topping and vanilla until crumbly. Stir in just enough milk until smooth and thin enough to drizzle over cookies.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dutch Apple Pie with Oatmeal Streusal

Oh. my. word. This streusal topped apple pie is aaaamazing. Everyone loved this version of a classic. The crunchy cinnamon topping is a perfect addition to the tart crisp sugared granny smiths piled beneath. And bonus...you don't have to use 2 pie crusts! :)

Roll out the Never Fail Pie Crust. Place in pie pan and flute edges.
Peel and thinly slice 6-8 cups apples (I recommend Granny Smiths, but any baking apple would do.)
Mix 2/3 cup sugar with 1-2 tsp cinnamon.
Fill crust with half of the apple slices.
Sprinkle half cinnamon sugar mixture on top.
Dot with 2-3 Tbsp butter.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Bake uncovered pie for 10-15 minutes.

Streusal Ingredients
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup butter

While filling is baking, make Streusel Topping: In a medium bowl combine 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, brown sugar, oats, and lemon peel. Mix thoroughly, then cut in 1/2 cup butter or margarine until mixture is crumbly. Remove filling from oven and sprinkle streusel on top. (Gently pat streusal onto the apples so that it is firmly in place.)

Reduce heat to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Bake an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until streusel is browned and apples are tender. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excess browning.

Cool completely before serving (to prevent excess juice from running.)
Top with ice cream or cool whip.

"Baked" Potato Soup

I found this potato soup recipe I had copied out of Southern Living's Slow Cooker Cookbook. It looked easy enough and would require little preparation right before the meal. I set the crockpot to high for 4 hours the night before. Refrigerated the whole insert full of soup overnight. Set back to high on Sunday morning and added the cheese & half and half just before leaving for church. It turned out wonderfully. We all loved it!

6 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (~3 and 3/4 pounds)
1 large onion, chopped
3 (14 oz) cans chicken broth (I used 9 chicken bouillon cubes dissolved in 9 cubes water.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter or margarine (this could be omitted I believe)
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup whipping cream or half and half (I used the latter)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (or anything similar), shredded
3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives, optional for topping
Sour cream, optional for topping
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (or "fake" bacon bits), optional
Shredded cheese, optional for topping

Combine first 6 ingredients in a 5 qt slow cooker.
Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours or until potatoes are tender.
Mash mixture until potatoes are coarsely chopped and soup is slightly thickened.
Stir in cream, cheese, and chives.
Top with sour cream and bacon and cheese if desired.

Makes 12 cups.