better than (okay, as good as) panera: broccoli-cheddar soup

Let me take you back, dear reader, to my final year in college. I went to school in a beautiful but small town (cough Westminster cough), and it wasn’t until my senior year that we got a Panera Bread. It took only days hours for Panera to become the new, cool hang-out for starving students (Denny’s was suddenly demoted to the place we frequented only after Panera closed at 10 pm), and the broccoli-cheddar soup craze spread like wild fire across campus (so did bed bugs that year, but that’s another story).

I loved my broccoli-cheddar soup (in a sour dough bread bowl, preferably), but after eating it almost every day for a year, I no longer felt a strong need to seek it out when I moved to a town with more than two inexpensive dining options.   But, when I saw this recipe in my January Food Network magazine that promised broccoli-cheddar soup *just like* the original, I just had to gather the ingredients and set out to make this, the dish of my misspent youth.

This soup isn’t a quick meal to pull together, but it is pretty easy (if you consider pouring a Dutch oven filled with hot soup into a blender easy).  It will fill your kitchen with wonderful, cheddar-soupy smells, and it tastes remarkably like the real thing.  I even ran out of cheddar after 1 and 1/2 cups, and changed over to mozzarella with no negative results.  Next time, I’ll serve this in bread bowls (for the full experience), but it sill tasted great dished up in a regular, old bowl.

So save your pennies and don’t worry about putting on pants — make this Almost Famous Broccoli Cheddar Soup at home and satisfy those soupy, nostalgic cravings.


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