Recipe: Crockpot Corn Chowder

There is nothing like a good chowder on a cold winter's night... and a chowder made in a crockpot.. well that makes it even better... this Crockpot Corn Chowder fits the bill nicely.
You can use fresh or canned corn instead of frozen.. I just prefer frozen corn when fresh is out of season... if you do use canned corn.. be sure to drain it and look for a lower sodium canned corn... no need for extra sodium in the this.
I used smoked bacon.. you can use diced ham instead.. just add the ham about an hour before the soup is finished (no more than half way through cooking if you must add it sooner... otherwise it gets rubbery).
I like a little kick to my soup... so I add a little cayenne pepper... you can leave it out if you prefer.
I used half a can of fat free evaporated milk because that's what I had on hand.. I was out of my usual fat free half and half... either will work well... if you use fat free regular milk... it will be thinner so you will need to compensate with more flour. 
While I'm on the topic of fat free half and half... in an effort to eat healthier and not totally sacrifice favorite flavors.. I try and cut back where I can.. I think the fat free half and half is a great's really a matter of choices... likewise ... we like the flavor of smoked bacon... but Warren doesn't care for turkey bacon... if you like it.. then by all means use it...  if ham is an okay substitute for you.. then do it...
To make this meatless... use a vegetable broth and omit the bacon or ham... remember to compensate with spices or your soup may be bland.
I use a lower fat and lower sodium broth also... every little bit helps.
Okay... I do sprinkle cheese in mine... I love cheese... since Warren isn't a fan.. or so he says.. truth be told.. I put it in sometimes without telling him and he loves it... if you have a picky eater... you can leave the cheese out.. it's optional.. or.. you can sprinkle it in the individual bowls... finely shredded cheese will melt quickly.. and everyone gets their choice.
You can use any cheese you prefer... Monterey Jack, cheddar, American... even Pepper Jack for a little kick.
The celery can be finely diced and sautéed with the onion.. or if you don't like celery pieces in your soup.. you can add a cut up stalk ... leaving the pieces large enough to easily remove before serving.
I use my mini chopper to chop the onions and garlic together.. it's easy and perfectly mixes the two.
I like to add sliced small Belgian carrots to the soup too... that's also optional.
To add a more "rustic" feel to the chowder .. and to add more flavor and natural nutrients.. I don't peel my Russet potatoes.  I also cut them into chunks .. not diced.
So there you have it... a number of ways you can alter this recipe to fit your own tastes... I hope I've inspired you to try this.. it is delicious!

Recipe:  Crockpot Corn Chowder
All you need:
1 large bag frozen corn
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced (*See TIPS)
2 tablespoons butter
4 medium Russet potatoes, cleaned and rough cut
1 cup sliced Belgian carrots
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1 teaspoon paprika
3-4 cups chicken broth
4-5 strips smoked bacon, partially cooked and cut up
1 can fat free condensed milk or equivalent amount fat free half and half
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup finely shredded cheese (optional) *See TIPS
All you need to do:
In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat... add the onions, garlic and diced celery (if just adding the stalks to the chowder.. don't sauté the celery).. and cook for about 5 minutes until onions are soft.. do not allow them to brown... if needed, lower the heat... then add everything to the crockpot.  Use a spatula to get all the butter left in the skillet into the crockpot.
Partially cook the bacon.. until some grease has been rendered and the bacon starts to brown... but is still pliable... drain on paper towels briefly then cut it up and add it to the crockpot.
Add the corn, cayenne, paprika, potatoes, carrots and chicken broth to the crockpot.
Set the pot on low heat and cook for 7 1/2 hours. 
In a medium measuring cup... mix the flour with some hot broth from the crock pot... mix until smooth.. keep adding more broth and mixing until you have a thick sauce like mixture... add it to the crockpot and stir well.
Add the condensed milk (or fat free half and half)... also add the cheese (if using).
Stir well and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

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