i love this recipe. i made it last night with leftover easter ham -- the kids ate it up, it's one of their favorites. here's what i changed: generous with the onions and carrots, omitted the celery (i don't really like celery, so keep it in if you like it), added 2 cloves of garlic, added an extra russet potato. once the potatoes were cooked, i spooned some (about a third) into my magic bullet and pureed it. this made the soup nice and thick, but still chunky. after i puree the potatoes and add the cheese, i usually have to add an additional cup or so of chicken broth, just until it gets to the right consistency. the keeps the soup from getting too "glue-y" - you want the pureed potatoes to make it velvety, not overly dense. then i salted it and added the tobasco -- don't even think of skipping the tobasco. a few drops gives it a nice little edge. you could also try bacon instead of ham, and play around with different types of cheese to change up the flavor a bit. a smoked cheddar or gouda would be delicious, as would a combination of sharp cheddar and parmesan reggiano. next time i want to thinly slice a handful of potato skins and fry them in a little oil to use as a garnish on top -- yum.
if you're not familiar with epicurious.com, you really should be. i've gotten several recipes that my family loves on this site. i love saving recipes to my "recipe box", and i always read several of the reviews -- there are usually great ideas from fellow home cooks on how to really liven up the recipes. just a tip: stick with recipes that have a 3 1/2 - 4 fork rating. good luck!
ps -- i love and highly recommend these double handled soup bowls. williams-sonoma updated them, so they're larger (17 oz) than the set i have, but still at a great price. sadly, they don't come with the little plate anymore. but they're still oven safe, so i can use them to make these delicious individual chicken pot pies.