More Than Bread

When I was in middle school, a Panera Bread opened in town. I remember spending multiple half-days downtown, wandering in and out of shops, and most lunches were enjoyed at Panera. You could usually find me with a bacon turkey bravo sandwich, or a bread bowl filled with creamy chicken and wild rice soup. And you can’t forget about the chocolate chip bagels – I had never encountered such a treat before! It was the first place I went after I got my braces off sophomore year of high school, and where I went for lunch after getting a cast for breaking my finger. It’s a place I was very familiar with, but over the last few years, fell out of favor.

So, when I was asked if I would be interested in taking a trip to review their soups, I was more than happy to reacquaint myself with Panera. One thing I remembered, and really like, is that their soup selections change depending on the day. Since it’s listed on their website and it’s the same each week, it’s easy to keep track and visit on your favorite soup days! One of my best friends from high school was obsessed with their baked potato soup, so I remember we always had to go on Fridays so she could get it. As a serious planner, I appreciate that knowledge ahead of time!

Being new to the world of full-fledged vegetarianism, I’m always happy to see when restaurants label things as vegetarian (as well as gluten free and dairy free)… it helps make things easier. With their easy to spot labeling, I knew right away which soups I could (and couldn’t) enjoy. So I set my sights on the low-fat vegetarian black bean soup – the plump beans simmered in a mildly spicy broth was just what I needed. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my expectations weren’t high, simply because most black beans soups I’ve had while dining out have been less than fantastic… they’re usually on the watery side and far from generous when it comes to the black beans. This soup, however, was a pleasant surprise.

I paired the soup with their Mediterranean veggie sandwich (I had to go with the “You Pick Two!”), and it was a completely satisfying and delicious meal. It was just the push I needed to make my visits to Panera more frequent. I’m hooked on that black bean soup! And, the veggie sandwich was just the right amount of crisp vegetables, dressing, and feta cheese. And besides, who doesn’t love soup in a sourdough bread bowl? I can’t wait to head back to try out more soup – their creamy tomato soup and new grilled cheese is calling my name!

Have you been to Panera? What’s your favorite item?
Soup lover? Share your favorite soups!  

Disclaimer: I was sent a gift card to try Panera’s soup and write about it. All thoughts & opinons are my own. 

Creamy Tomato Soup

When I was working from home because of Hurricane Sandy, I made sure to watch as much morning television as possible (you know, The Today Show, Live with Kelly & Michael, Rachael Ray, etc.). While most of the stuff wasn’t worth mentioning, they did have Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa on The Today Show one morning which immediately caught my attention. She made a few different things for the segment, but the one that really stood out was her tomato soup. I’m not typically a tomato soup fan since most of the kinds I’ve had just tasted like hot tomato juice, but I was willing to give hers a try.

Since our oven has been out of commission, everything I’ve been making has been either on the stove-top, or in the toaster oven. So this soup was perfect, and it paired amazingly with grilled cheese. But not just any grilled cheese – grilled gouda (my absolute favorite) with sautéed red onion and BBQ sauce. I wound up making quite a few modifications to the soup to fit my taste, and it was so delicious. The entire thing can be completed in one pot, in a matter of about 30 minutes. That’s pretty good for a flavorful homemade soup if you ask me! I’m definitely making this again (and the grilled cheese)!

Creamy Tomato Soupinspired by Ina Garten’s Easy Tomato Soup
– serves about 6 –

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 14 oz. cans of vegetable broth
1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on your spice preference)
1 tsp dried basil
Salt & pepper to taste

1. In a large pot over medium heat, add the oil and diced onion and sauté for about 10 minutes, until they’re translucent and starting to brown. Add the minced garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.
2.  Stir in the vegetable broth, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, basil, salt, and pepper. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes. 
3. Stir in the heavy cream and let it simmer for an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  

Do you have a favorite type of soup? Or one you can’t stand?

More Leftovers, More Creativity

An 18.5 pound turkey for 8 people will leave you with a lot of leftovers. So much, in fact, that my fiancé has had a turkey sandwich for lunch every day so far this week, and we’ve had turkey incorporated in each dinner as well. I like turkey, don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t mind not eating it again for awhile.

Even though my fiancé would be happy with just heating up a Thanksgiving leftovers plate night after night, that just won’t cut it for me. Sure, I love mashed potatoes and stuffing and all that good stuff, but for me, it needs to be jazzed up after 3+ days of consumption. So, I decided to make what I’m calling Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole on Tuesday, and Turkey Noodle Soup on Wednesday. Since everything was already prepared it was a matter of assembling the ingredients and warming them up – score!

The Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole was pretty awesome. I usually don’t like when my food gets really combined on my plate, but for whatever reason, I encourage the comingling of flavors on my plate during Thanksgiving. This casserole did just that; it was a big blob of deliciousness and let’s be honest, your food doesn’t always have to be pretty. Of course the ingredients you use and the measurements will depend on what you have available and what you want to use, so you can simply use the recipe below as a guide! I’d be interested to hear the combinations anyone else comes up with.

Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole

Sliced Turkey
Mashed Potatoes
Mashed Turnips (or other Thanksgiving sides)
Shredded Cheddar Cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a 9×9 greased baking dish, layer stuffing, turkey, turnips, mashed potatoes, and cheddar cheese.
3. Continue to do so until you’ve used what you have left, or however much you want to use.
4. Bake about 20 – 25 minutes, until all layers are warmed and cheese is melted.

I had planned on making a few different things throughout the week, but due to the plethora of Turkey, it wasn’t until Thursday that we actually ate something that wasn’t completely turkey based, but instead was simply an addition. On Wednesday, though, as I mentioned we had Turkey Noodle Soup. The inspiration came from The Runner’s Kitchen, who posted her own version of the soup earlier in the week. Aside from the leftover turkey, I simply added some diced celery and onion, and the only pasta that would seemingly work, spaghetti (that I broke in half) into chicken broth. I’ve been making quite a few soups lately, and they all start with either a chicken or vegetable broth base. They’ve all been super flavorful, and really easy (I’m talking 10 or less ingredients that you simply throw in the pot and wait about 30 minutes).

So if you still have turkey left over, even after making a quesadilla, a casserole, and having it for lunch, try this soup to finish it off!

Turkey Noodle Soup

½ box noodle pasta (any will do – egg noodle, spaghetti, fettuccine)
1 can low sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup water
1 cup sliced and shredded turkey
½ yellow onion
2 celery stalks
1/2 cup corn

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Red pepper flakes

1. Bring separate pot of water to a boil, cook pasta about 5 minutes (it’ll finish cooking in the soup)
2. While pasta is cooking, chop onion and celery, and sauté till almost translucent (about 5 minutes)
3. Warm chicken broth over medium heat in large pot, adding pasta, celery and onion, followed by turkey and seasonings (salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, etc.). Heat for about 20 minutes, enjoy with some crackers!

More Mexican – Ole!

Sometimes I think I’m living in the wrong part of the country. Or, maybe just the wrong country in general. In case you haven’t picked up yet from this blog, I am in love with Mexican food. Clearly to the point where I’ll eat it all day, every day. Yes, today I had my left-over Eggplant Enchiladas, and then made more Mexican inspired food for dinner. What were those two things, you may ask? Southwest Chicken Soup and Tijuana Tortas!

I actually found the soup recipe on Kitchen Monki, and the torta recipe on Fitness Magazine’s website. I figured I’d put the two together, since neither really seemed to be a meal in itself. Since my fiancé and I thought ahead and had a rotisserie chicken for dinner on Sunday night, we were able to use the left-over chicken from that in the soup. We also always have black beans, salsa, Mexican spices, and jalapeños on hand, so getting the rest of the ingredients was simple.

One might think that making a soup could potentially be difficult and or labor intensive. Not this guy! I literally threw the ingredients in to the pot, put it on medium heat, and went about my business. Now that’s the kind of week night cooking I’m looking for!

The sandwich was actually a little more difficult, only because it involved mashing the black beans and avocado. After struggling by just using a spoon, I realized a few quick pulses in the blender would have made much more sense. At least there’s always next time.

As always, I was nervous how the two dishes would come out, and then even more nervous for how they’d work together. Thankfully, they both came out really well. I would absolutely make either of these dishes again in a heart beat. They’re quick, easy, and really flavorful.

Check out both of the recipes below, and get cookin’!

Tijuana Torta

1 15-ounce can black beans, or pinto beans, rinsed
3 tablespoons prepared salsa
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeño
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 ripe avocado, pitted
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 16- to 20-inch-long baguette, preferably whole-grain
1 1/3 cups shredded green cabbage

1. Mash beans, salsa, jalapeño and cumin in a small bowl. Mash avocado, onion and lime juice in another small bowl.
2. Cut baguette into 4 equal lengths. Split each piece in half horizontally. Pull out most of the soft bread from the center so you’re left with mostly crust. Divide the bean paste, avocado mixture and cabbage evenly among the sandwiches. Cut each in half and serve.

Southwestern Style Chicken Soup

1 Rotisserie Chicken or 3 cups, shredded or cubed
3 cups Chicken Stock
1 can Canned White Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained
12 ounces Salsa Verde
1 Ground Cumin, to taste
1⁄2 cup Sour Cream, optional
2 Green Onions, optional
2 cups Cheese, shredded
1 bag Corn Tortilla Chips

1. Simmer chicken, chicken stock, beans, salsa verde and cumin till hot and combined
2. Add tortilla chips to bowl, spoon soup
3. Top with sour cream, and cheese

Happy south of the border nomzing!