In 4-quart saucepan, cook beef over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is thoroughly cooked; drain.
Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and all remaining ingredients except cheese and croutons. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons cheese in each of 4 soup bowls; fill bowls with chowder. Sprinkle with croutons.