Panera Bread (Copycat) Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I have been in the mood for broccoli cheese soup in a bread bowl from Panera Bread, but I know food from restaurants is sometimes enhanced with extra sodium, butter, etc. so it tastes even better. I thought by making it at home it could be (slightly) healthier and easier to calculate the Weight Watchers points if I knew what was in it. So, to Pinterest I went! I found a great copycat recipe from Yammie’s Noshery! So, that became my Saturday mission, to make this! And let me tell you, it tastes just like the Panera Bread soup and it is FABULOUS!!!!

The soup is so delicious and creamy, and the Bay leaves and nutmeg help round out the flavor to give it that rich taste. And the bread bowl is so soft and amazing…I think this actually turned out better than the one at Panera Bread!

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I’ll provide the recipe from Yammie’s Noshery at the bottom, but in the mean time I documented the process as I was making it, so you can visualize what you’ll be getting into. 🙂

First, take your medium yellow onion…

Medium yellow onion about to be diced

Medium yellow onion about to be diced

and cut it in half, then chop one half into small pieces. (My husband does not like onions, so I diced them up pretty small & he didn’t seem to notice)

Diced onion pieces.

Diced onion pieces.

Then melt your 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick of butter) in a sauce pan on medium heat.

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Then add your chopped onions and minced garlic. I had a container of minced garlic in my fridge that I used (2 cloves=1 teaspoon minced garlic), then you stir all of that around for about 45 seconds so it gives the onions a bit of time to tenderize and for all the flavors to really come together.

2 cloves garlic=1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 cloves garlic=1 teaspoon minced garlic

Pretty arrangement of some of the ingredients I had sitting there.

Pretty arrangement of some of the ingredients I had sitting there.

Then add your 3 cups of chicken stock. (I used Swanson chicken broth, 33% less Sodium) and 2 cups half & half (Walmart’s Great Value brand half & half works just fine. I normally buy just what I need, but I needed a more for another recipe I’m making, so I bought the bigger one, but that’s just a nice way to save money, and so you don’t have the extra sitting around in your fridge.)

Add the 3 cups chicken stock

Add the 3 cups chicken stock.

Add the 2 cups half & half

Add the 2 cups half & half.

Give it a stir!

Give it a stir!

Then let that sit a minute while you get your corn starch ready.

1/4 cup corn starch

1/4 cup corn starch

I used a little glass bowl & put in the 1/4 cup corn starch and a splash of water. Then I whisked it together so there were no clumps of corn starch, then I added that to the pot.

Add a splash of water to the corn starch and whisk until smooth (no lumps).

Add a splash of water to the corn starch and whisk until smooth (no lumps).

Then I turned the heat to medium low (3) and added my 2 Bay leaves and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg to the pot.

Add the 2 Bay leaves & 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg.

Add the 2 Bay leaves & 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

Stir pretty consistently at this point, because you don’t want your corn starch or chopped onion to sink to the bottom of the pan and burn.

Give it a stir, then let it thicken.

Give it a stir, then let it thicken.

In between stirs, chop your broccoli (I bought a bag of 4 c. frozen florets thinking it would save me the trouble of chopping the broccoli, and bonus I would only be getting the florets anyway, right!?! Not so much, I had to chop down every piece into at least 4 pieces to make them bite size little chunks. So, might as well buy a fresh head of broccoli next time).

Chop your Broccoli.

Chop your Broccoli.

Once the liquid in the pot has thickened up a bit (and it doesn’t have to be perfect because it will thicken more during this next part), take your chopped broccoli, and add it to the pot.

Add it to the pot.

Add it to the pot.

On the carrots, I purchased a small bag of shredded carrots & added 1/2 cup to the pot. This saved me the trouble of grating carrots, & this venture proved to be worth it….now what to do with the rest of the shredded carrots-add them to a salad I guess!

Add 1/2 cup shredded carrot "matchsticks" to the pot & stir. Let simmer on low heat about 20 minutes until broccoli is tender.

Add 1/2 cup shredded carrot “matchsticks” to the pot & stir. Let simmer on low heat about 20 minutes until broccoli is tender.

I turned down the heat to low (Simmer setting or maybe level 2 or lower) and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The way to tell if your broccoli is tender is by taking your wooden spoon and lifting up a piece of broccoli, then taking a fork and pressing into the piece of broccoli on your spoon. It should be fairly easy to stab through-after all, you don’t want to be knawing on your broccoli!

Once that is ready, remove your 2 Bay leaves from the pot, scooping them up and out with your wooden spoon. Then add your 2.5 cups of shredded cheddar cheese!!! I bought Sargento medium cheddar natural shredded cheese & that tasted great (and yes, with it being 2.5 cups you either have to buy a 4 cup bag or 2-2 cup bags-don’t skimp on the cheese!)

Add the 2.5 cups cheddar shredded cheese.

Add the 2.5 cups cheddar shredded cheese.

Give it a good stir, let the cheese melt and…

Wallah! Amazing Broccoli Cheddar Soup! :D

Wallah! Amazing Broccoli Cheddar Soup! 😀

Not to miss out on the whole Panera Bread-soup-in-a-bread bowl-experience, I made some easy bread bowls! I bought a bag of frozen Rhodes bread loaves (3 in a bag) and in the morning, I set out 2 of the loaves on a  greased cookie sheet to rise (takes about 5 hours for them to be ready to bake). After they defrosted a bit and started rising, I cut them in half and formed them into the round shape for the bread bowls, and reformed them again as they continued to rise.

(So, the big debate seemed to be: cut the rising loaves into 2 or 3 pieces? I chose 2 pieces, because I wanted to make sure they were big enough to hold about a cup of soup, so you don’t have to refill your serving amount, and besides you don’t have to eat all the bread! So, its up to you, either is fine. You could definitely make it work if you choose 3 pieces, maybe you would just core out more of the bread to make the bowl a little wider on the inside.)

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After they had completely risen, I baked them at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes, turning the pan every 5/10 minutes so they would brown evenly. After baking, coat the tops with a bit of butter (either use spreadable butter using a knife, or take a stick butter remnant & rub over the top) to keep it soft.

Coat with a bit of butter to keep it soft, then after it has cooled, core out the middle to make a bowl.

Coat with a bit of butter to keep it soft, then after it has cooled, core out the middle to make a bowl.

Fill with soup.

Fill with soup…

and enjoy!

and enjoy!

1 cup of Panera Bread Broccoli Cheddar soup=7 WW points

Rhodes Frozen Bread=3 WW points per “slice”, (9 slices per loaf). So, if you made your bread bowls with 1/2 loaf=(3 x 4.5)=13.5 & if you actually eat about 2/3 of the bread bowl=8 WW points

For a total of 15 WW points for the soup with the bread bowl- taking into consideration that you don’t eat the whole bread bowl. And trust me! You can’t! I tried. So you know, maybe this is something you have only once in a while. You can pre-track this and plan your day accordingly so you have some extra daily points to use on it, and then use a few weekly points to make up the difference. Or maybe you just eat the soup which is fantastic on its own as well!

Panera Bread (Copycat) Broccoli Cheddar Soup (Makes about 4 servings)

Recipe from Yammie’s Noshery

1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)
1/2 of a medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups half and half (or 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of heavy cream)
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 Bay leaves
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped small
4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
2 & 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bread Bowls (optional)

Cook the butter, onion, and garlic on about medium heat until tender.

Slowly add the half and half and chicken stock. Mix the corn starch with a little bit of water until there are no clumps and add it to the rest. Add the nutmeg and bay leaves and cook on medium low until thickened.Add the carrot and broccoli and simmer until tender. Discard the bay leaves.

Add the cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper and serve in bread bowls.

Chicken & Cheese Stuffed Shells

In depth view of the tasty filling! So good!

In depth view of the tasty filling! So good!

I found the recipe for these tasty Chicken & Cheese Stuffed Shells from over at “Life in the Green House” . She did a good job on the recipe, so please refer to that. I really enjoyed this recipe, as it was so flavorful and pretty easy to make. I woke up Saturday morning, and lined a pan with tin foil (for easy clean up), then I baked a chicken breast with salt, pepper & Italian seasoning at 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until completely cooked. Then I let that cool and shredded it. I only needed about 4 oz of shredded chicken for this recipe, so I shredded the rest and put it in the freezer for a chicken quesadilla or to make this again another time.

Toasted cheese on top-mozzarella & parmesan

Toasted cheese on top-mozzarella & parmesan

Then I started preparing my filling and boiling the noodles. I put 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese in the filling and put only about a tsp of the oregano and basil in as they were dried herbs and can be about 3x more potent as fresh. ( I think next time I will try the whole Tbsp, as I dont think she used fresh herbs, and it could handle a bit more flavor) I also used only 1 egg white. I cooked mine in a smaller 9×9 pan and that seemed to work great, it made about 14 shells. I used Ragu Garden Combination pasta sauce to layer on the bottom and top of the stuffed shells. Also I had some left over shredded Parmesan cheese from another recipe, so I layered the top with a sprinkling of the part-skim mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

I figure these to be 4 points each shell, so 1 serving=2 shells for 8 WW points.

Fancy Homemade Valentine’s Dinner

Valentine’s Day is my 3rd favorite holiday! My favorite is Christmas as I love the Christmas music, all the lovely lights and the amazing food! Then Easter because of all the beautiful spring colors, and finally, Valentine’s for the chocolate & the flowers! 😀

On February 9th, I knew I wanted to make my husband a nice early Valentine’s Day dinner since I knew we had dinner reservations planned to go out on the 14th. As I was watching Food Network that morning (my weekend ritual) I happened upon The Sandwich King(which I honestly hadn’t watched a full episode of in the past). However, thanks to Food Network’s “The Kitchen” I got to know Jeff Mauro a bit more, and realized that he is quite intelligent and an excellent cook, despite his goofy humor. So, I gave it a chance and he was making this wonderful delight! 🙂 Filet Mignon Crostini with Rosemary Pesto-Link to the fantastic recipe and easy to understand instructions: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/jeff-mauro/filet-mignon-crostini-with-rosemary-pesto-recipe.html

So I headed out to Wegman’s (our amazing local grocery store that feels like every fancy local butcher, cheese shop, bakery, etc. all in one) and I could not find the filet mignon. So I texted my awesome little sis (since she took a Meats class in college) and she informed me that a beef tenderloin would be from the same cut of beef so I could use that!

I followed the recipe to a “T”, other than the fact I do not have a food processor (I informed my husband this would make a great future birthday present), so I used Buitoni fresh basil pesto instead and spooned some out into a bowl to mix with the rosemary to create the “Rosemary Pesto”.

We both absolutely loved this fancy little dinner! Served with a nice red wine (or in my case I actually prefer Welch’s sparkling red grape wine), this is a great dish-the flavors all pair so wonderfully, coming from someone who typically doesn’t care for a blue cheese flavor, it coordinates so well with the rosemary pesto and the beef tenderloin.

Also, if your love (like mine) doesn’t care for fresh tomatoes, you may top with a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan cheese & a dash of salt. Enjoy!

Recipe: Filet Mignon Crostini with Rosemary Pesto by Jeff Mauro, Sandwich King, Food Network

Recipe: Filet Mignon Crostini with Rosemary Pesto by Jeff Mauro, Sandwich King, Food Network.

Cut French baguette into 1/2 inch slices.
Cut French baguette into 1/2 inch slices.

Sprinkle with olive oil and salt & fresh cracked black pepper on both sides.

Sprinkle with olive oil, salt & fresh cracked black pepper on both sides.

3 oz. Gorgonzola cheese ( I asked the deli to cut a 6oz in half for me. Nice way to save money and only buy what you need. )

3 oz. Gorgonzola cheese ( I asked the deli to cut a 6oz in half for me. Nice way to save money and only buy what you need. )

I chopped fresh thyme ($1.99 for a sprig like that) & mixed with my store bought fresh pesto.

I chopped fresh rosemary ($1.99 for a sprig like that) & mixed with my store bought fresh pesto.

This was my first time pan searing a steak (my husband normally does this).The trick is to really use ample salt and pepper to form a nice crust and then don't mess with it until it is time to flip over.

This was my first time pan searing a steak (my husband normally does this).The trick is to really use ample salt and pepper to form a nice crust and then don’t mess with it until it is time to flip over.

Finely sliced cherry tomatoes.

Finely sliced cherry tomatoes.

Spread a thin amount of the gorgonzola dolce over the toasted baguette slices. (Gorgonzola has a similar taste to blue cheese, though a bit more mild)

Spread a thin amount of the gorgonzola dolce over the toasted baguette slices. (Gorgonzola has a similar taste to blue cheese, though a bit more mild)

After the cheese is spread, top with thinly sliced meat, then the rosemary pesto and finally, the sliced tomato & sprinkle with fine sea salt.

After the cheese is spread, top with thinly sliced meat, then the rosemary pesto and finally, the sliced tomato & sprinkle with fine sea salt.

Recipe: Filet Mignon Crostini with Rosemary Pesto by Jeff Mauro, Sandwich King, Food Network
Recipe: Filet Mignon Crostini with Rosemary Pesto by Jeff Mauro, Sandwich King, Food Network