Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Broccoli Cheese Soup, Panera Style

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

There are many, many things I love about working from home ... but I admit, there are a few things (just a few!) that I miss about going into an office every day.  There are days I miss talking with colleagues about things in the news or running an idea by someone else. I miss the oh-my-God-you-won't-believe-what-the-hell-she-did-now! dramatics. 

And, I miss lunch. 

I miss going out for lunch and I miss the "hey, I'm chained to my desk today ... would you mind bringing me back some lunch?"  Lunch is usually leftovers at my kitchen table with a book (I'm not complaining about that) but some days, especially on cold winter days like the ones we've been experiencing, I wouldn't mind someone bringing me back some soup from, say, Panera.

Ah, the soups from Panera.  We don't have a Panera in close proximity enough for me to go there even occasionally for lunch.

Sigh.  So, the other night I was making fish sandwiches for dinner and I wanted a soup to accompany it.  I had two small heads of broccoli that were getting close to their prime, and since The Husband didn't care for my most recent broccoli-related soup (that would be Slow Cooked Broccoli Soup with Garlic and Olive Oil, as found in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger), I needed something else.

All of a sudden I was craving Broccoli Cheese Soup.  And as I was persuing some blogs in my reader, one of my favorite foodie blogs, Lynn's Kitchen Adventures, just so happened to have a post about recreating Panera Bread's tomato soup ... and a link to one of Lynn's other Panera recreations, their broccoli cheese soup!  (You should really check Lynn's blog out.  After you make this soup.)

I made this for dinner and it was an instant hit (except with Betty, who does not like soup).   The Husband, myself, and Boo loved this.  I made it exactly as Lynn instructed, without the bacon.  I used vegetarian chicken broth and 2% milk.

My version of Panera Bread Broccoli Cheddar Soup (from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures)

5 cups broccoli florets (if you have a little more or a little less that is fine)
6 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk or 1/2 & 1/2 (1/2 & 1/2 does taste better but I usually use milk)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 – 3 cups grated cheddar cheese
bacon, cooked and chopped (optional)

Steam broccoli until tender, about six minutes. Chop finely. I do mine in the food processor because we like it really chopped up and it is quicker. Set aside. In a large saucepan combine broth and milk. Slowly whisk in flour. Cook over med to med high heat stirring. Cook until it starts to thicken but not too thick. I usually do it until it just starts to boil. Add chopped broccoli. Reduce heat to med low. Continue to cook about 5 minutes. Add cheese stir until cheese melts. Serve. If using bacon sprinkle each bowl with a little.

This is a great way to use up broccoli that is not at it’s peak but you do not want to throw it out.

I'm telling you, this was beyond awesome.  Dare I say, I think this is even better than Panera's soup, if you can imagine such.  As Lynn writes, it is certainly cheaper.  It was exactly the perfect soup for a cold winter's night.

And yes, I did have the leftovers for lunch the next day while reading a book at my kitchen table.  *

* If you refrigerate this for the next day, be forewarned that this will thicken considerably ... and it is already a very thick soup.  This was not appealing to The Husband, who took a container for lunch and promptly threw it out.  For me, I just added a little water (about 2 tbsps or so) before stirring and microwaving for a minute or so, and it was just as delicious as it was the night before.  The kids had a snow day, and even Boo ate some for lunch too.


Book Dragon said...

dang it, now I'm hungry and my Panera isn't open yet!

Elizabeth said...

Yum -- I'm printing it out right now.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

Yum, this sounds delicious! I don't think I've ever gotten the Broccoli Cheese Soup at Panera, I'm usually a chicken noodle girl myself.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I can't wait to make firstborn LOVES broccoli and cheese soup!

caite said...

that sounds very easy...and perfect in this cold weather. and you are right..if it thickens that is easily fixed like you did.
I would go for the touch of bacon. :-)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

what a great cold weather delight!

Beth F said...

LOL -- I was going to make marinated skirt steak sandwiches tonight and I was thinking about what to serve with them. Now I'm thinking this soup. I happen to have broccoli and cheddar cheese in the house. I love Panera's.

Elisabeth said...

How did you know that is my favorite soup! Thanks! I stopped buying it at Panera's when I realized how "bad" it was for you, but now I can make a healthier version. I did not realize how simple it was to make.