Okay, not to sound like Oprah or anything, but Panera Bread is definitely at the top of my list of “favorite things,” er, places. I know it’s pretty bad because every time I go there to pick up a meal, I order the same “Pick Two” items — a cup of Vegetarian Creamy Tomato soup with half of a Turkey Artichoke sandwich. (And, sometimes, I get the soup in a bread bowl. It’s To.Die.For.) If you haven’t tried these items, though — or, even worse, if you don’t have a Panera Bread nearby — just trust me that this is the perfect combo for a cold winter day.
You can, therefore, imagine my great pleasure when I stumbled upon a recipe — in my estimation, at least — that is a dead ringer for Panera’s soup in the January issue of Food Network magazine. Even better is the fact that it incorporates an ingredient I’ve begun to experiment with more and more in my baking adventures: agave.
The recipe comes from the good people at Domino Sugar, who continue to eagerly market the brand’s new Organic Agave Nectar. To be quite honest, I think it’s the perfect way to add a touch of sweetness to a rich and creamy soup without adding tons of calories or any unnatural ingredients.
This soup makes the perfect accompaniment to a hero, wings, nachos, sliders, or even a bowl of chips with guacamole. Serve it up with a helping of TRB‘s homemade croutons and you’ll have your game day guests cheering for a touchdown!
2 stalks celery
1 small onion (TRB omitted)
2 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cubed and divided
2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (TRB used about 1 tsp. dried basil)
1 (8oz.) package low-fat cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp. Domino Organic Light Agave Nectar
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a food processor, add celery, onion (if using) and garlic; pulse on high 10-15 seconds until pureed. Pour into large saucepan. Do not rinse food processor. Add half the butter to vegetables. Saute over medium heat, about 10 minutes or until fragrant.
2. Add tomatoes, broth and the basil; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover pot; reduce heat to medium / low, allow to simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Cut cream cheese into 1/2″ cubes and place in food processor along with 1 cup of the soup. Process on high until cream cheese is dissolved, about 1 minute. Add cream cheese mixture, agave and remaining butter to hot soup; stir until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
TRB‘s Homemade Croutons
1 loaf Italian or Ciabatta bread, sliced into small cubes
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (if desired)
1/4 tsp. onion powder (if desired)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3-5 tbsp. olive oil to coat
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread cubes into a bowl. Sprinkle with garlic powder (if using), onion powder (if using), kosher salt and pepper. (TRB Tip: Over the holidays, I used Paula Deen’s House Seasoning, which is a combination of these ingredients, and it worked perfectly!) Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil over the bread cubes, using enough to coat.
2. Toss the bread cubes with the seasoning and olive oil until well coated. Transfer to a large baking sheet.
3. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the bread is golden brown. Remove and let cool. Serve in soup or salad.
What are you serving your Superbowl crowd? Share your recipes with us! Post a comment below.
P.S. Go Giants!!