Broccoli Cheese Soup is one of my favorite lunch time choices at Panera especially in the winter. If I'm allowing myself to indulge I usually get it in a bread bowl. The soup is so warm and creamy with the crusty bread it's the perfect combination. Because it's not the healthiest of choices I tried to make my version a little lighter. I used skim milk instead of half and half, low sodium chicken broth, margarine, whole wheat bread bowls and fresh vegetables instead of frozen. Just a quick word to the wise, this recipe makes a lot of soup. We had dinner, leftovers and froze two containers for future use so if you want to make a smaller batch I'd cut everything in half.
4 Carrots - Peeled and Diced Small
1 Onion - Diced Small
3 Large Broccoli Heads - Diced into Florets
4 Tbsp I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
6 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3 Cups Skim Milk
2/3 Cup Flour
1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Pepper
16 oz Shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack Cheese
4-6 Individual Whole Wheat Bread Bowls - Hallowed Out
Adapted from: http://www.shortstopblog.com
Start by prepping all of your veggies, dice up your onion, carrot and broccoli. In a large pot melt your margarine or butter. Add the diced onions and carrots, saute for about 5 minutes until the onions soften. Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and bring to a boil. If you are keeping this vegetarian you can obviously substitute the chicken stock for vegetable broth.
Add the broccoli and cover the pot allowing it to steam for about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the chicken stock and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so.
In a separate bowl whisk the flour into the milk. Reduce the heat down to low and slowly pour the milk and flour mixture to the pot. The broccoli should be soft by now so using the whisk break up the large pieces of into smaller ones. Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Allow it to cook another 10 minutes on low, stirring occasionally to begin the thickening process.
Slowly whisk in the shredded cheese a few handfuls at a time. I used 8 oz of a cheddar and monterey jack cheese mix and then another 8 oz of cheddar cheese but you can use just cheddar or another combination of cheeses. As the cheese melts, the soup will thicken even more.
Once all of the cheese is added it will need to cook another 10 minutes but be careful you don't want it to stick, burn or get too thick so watch is closely stirring frequently. While the soup is finishing you can prepare your bread bowls, cut the tops off and then using your hands rip the pieces of the bread out until it is just a shell. Ladle the soup into your individual bread bowls that have been hallowed out. Garnish with a little extra shredded cheddar cheese. Use the extra bread for dipping and make sure to eat your bowl!!
Enjoy!! - Nicole
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