Cheddar Chowder can be vegetarian or snazzed up with chopped ham or crisp crumbled bacon.

Benjie Sanders / Arizona Daily Star

If you prefer your veggies swimming in cheese, here's the recipe for you. My mom found the instructions for making Cheddar Chowder in "The Complete Cheese Cookbook," by Kraft Kitchens, around the time the book was published in 1973. We've adapted it to include a heftier dose of vegetables and less salt.

This decadently cheesy dish is rich in flavor, nutrients … and calories. For that reason I make it only about once a year. Also, if you don't have a food processor, it is a bit time-consuming. But since it requires easy tasks that can be doled out to supervised kids - peeling, grating - it's a fun recipe for a family to make together.

And it's well worth the effort.

When I was discussing Cheddar Chowder with a colleague, he asked me what it looks like.

"Cheese soup with lumps of vegetables," I said flatly.

Everyone around us said, "Yummmm."

And yummy it is. Also, vegetarian or meaty, depending on your preference. Due more to convenience than health consciousness, I generally omit the optional ham or bacon - although bacon really makes this dish sing.

I've been whipping up batches of Cheddar Chowder by myself since I was about 11. It's how I learned to make white sauce - and discovered the main thing about making white sauce is to not wander off. Also, if your white sauce is lumpy and just won't work - happens to the best of us - throw it out and start over. (You cannot beat lumps out of white sauce. I've tried.)

The ingredients for Cheddar Chowder are things you probably already have - cheddar, potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, milk and flour. It's that simple. But sometimes the most simple things are the most delicious.

Cheddar Chowder

Serves: 6

• 2 cups water

• 2 cups diced potatoes

• 1 cup sliced carrots

• 1 cup sliced celery

• 1/3 cup chopped onion

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon pepper

• 1/4 cup butter

• 1/4 cup flour

• 2 cups milk

• 2 cups (8 ounces) sharp cheddar, shredded

• 1 cup cubed cooked ham or 8 slices crisp bacon, crumbled (optional)

Add potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, salt and pepper to water. Bring to a boil and simmer, partly covered, for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, make a white sauce: Melt the butter (not a butter substitute) over low heat. Whisk in the flour a small amount at a time, stirring constantly, until the mixture is the consistency of a stiff dough. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking constantly, until the sauce is smooth and thickened, about 5 minutes. Add cheese and allow to melt completely.

Add undrained vegetables to the cheddar sauce. Add ham or bacon if desired. Heat through.

Adapted from "The Complete Cheese Cookbook" from Kraft Kitchens.

Contact Food Editor Tiffany Kjos at or 807-7776.