Broccoli Soup to Sway the Hearts of Panera Lovers

by Maile on November 2, 2011

I absolutely love to go out to eat. However, in the past two years, the frequency of eating out in our household has diminished greatly. When my husband’s painting business plunged into ruin with the rest of the U.S. economy in 2008-9, we were left with some hefty debt. So we did what any responsible couple with four children would do: we moved into my in-law’s basement and my husband became a full time writer.

Smart thinkin’, right?

Well, against all odds, our tactic worked. Sure it took a lot of financial belt-tightening on our part, loads of inspired and beautiful writing on my husband’s part, inexplicable graciousness on the part of our lenders, and far more than a sprinkling of help from the Big Guy Upstairs, but we are now almost debt-free!

So occasions when we do get to go out to eat are a very big deal in our family simply because our current budget cares more about repaying our debt than feeding my desire to be served and cooked for. And unfortunately, when we do have the opportunity, my children unanimously vote to go to Panera Bread for our one meal out.

Now, if these kind of opportunities happened every other day, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But considering the infrequency of these events, I feel majorly jipped if we spend our meal at a chain restaurant rather than an inspired mom-and-pop sort of joint where grandma bakes the bread and daddy makes the stew.

Therefore, I devised a plan to put my kids off good ole’ Panera. They’re favorite item (and the only item they ever order) is the broccoli cheese soup. So I got my thinkin’ cap on and decided that if I could make my own delicious version of this dish, perhaps I could sway them from their devotion by filling them to the brim with that soup at home so that the very last thing they want to do is eat another bowl full.

Here, my dear friends, is the attempt—and I must admit that it is a mighty fine attempt at that (and the kids LOVED it).

Mai’s Broccoli Cheese Soup

1 tbsp. butter
1 large head broccoli, broken into flowerets
1 large carrot, shredded
½ cup onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 c. chicken broth
½ lb. cheddar cheese, shredded
½ c. sour cream
2 c. half & half
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
¼ c. flour

Melt butter in a large pot. Add broccoli, carrot, onion, and garlic, and sauté for 10 minutes, or until veggies begin to soften. Add basil, Worcestershire, and chicken broth. Cook veggies in simmering broth until broccoli reaches your desired tenderness, about 5-10 minutes. Reduce heat and add cheese, sour cream, half & half, salt, and pepper. Ladle out two scoops of soup into a small bowl. Add ¼ c. flour to bowl and make a thick roux. Pour roux into pot and simmer soup over medium heat until soup thickens. Serve with crusty bread.

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