Soup is Good Food

Those who know me can attest that my cooking abilities leave so much to be desired.  The minute I walk into the kitchen, I develop ADD.  Cooking is combined with cleaning, roasting with rearranging.  Much of the food coming out of the kitchen is burned well-done which, thankfully, is how my family likes it.

And they WILL like it.

Occasionally, I’ll get lucky and stumble on a recipe so easy that even I can’t screw up.  One that rushes my family up to give a standing ovation and throw roses at my feet.  One that makes me tell all my soccer peeps and innocent bystanders how good it is.

The girlies in this family love Panera Bread.  Beena has been going there for years with her friends and now can go more often since she’s working in a shopping center that contains one.  Zombiegirl and I have date night occasionally, and we go to Panera for dinner.  It’s unanimous that their baked potato soup is the reining favorite.

A little Google search found the recipe here.  I tried it the first time and it got rave reviews at the dinner table.  I tweaked it the second time and it got even better.  Leftovers lasted exactly one day, so now I have to double the batch so I stand a fighting chance to take some into work for lunch. 

For those innocent bystanders I told the soup about, here’s my tweaked recipe:

6 large baking potatoes
5 slices low-sodium bacon
1/2 cup butter
1 large onion, diced into really, really small pieces
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups 2% milk
2 teaspoons coarse salt 
2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups (6-ounces) grated cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub potatoes well and prick several times with fork; bake until soft in microwave (I have a baked potato setting).  Remove from microwave and let cool. When cool, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out potato pulp; set aside. Throw skins into compost.

Cook bacon until crisp. Drain, reserving drippings, crumble, and set aside.

In a large soup pot over low heat, add reserved bacon dripping and butter. Add onion and saute approximately 4 to 5 minutes until soft. Stir in flour until well combined; cook for several minutes, but do not let brown. Gradually add milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add potato pulp, salt, pepper, crumbled bacon, and 1 cup cheese. Stir and cook until cheese is melted. Stir in sour cream. Add extra milk, if necessary, for desired thickness.

NOTE: At this point, soup may be refrigerated until ready to serve. When ready to serve, warm over low heat, stirring until hot. Remove from heat and serve in soup bowls. To reheat the next day, add a few teaspoons of water or milk before heating to thin.

To serve, serve in individual soup bowls garnished with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Additional crumbled bacon, sliced green onions, and/or chives may be served to sprinkle onto the top of the soup.

Yes, I know there’s bacon in it.  And yes, I have to take a Lactaid before I eat this soup.  I feel the bacon-to-soup ratio is so small my conscience really doesn’t realize I’m eating meat.

And I have yet to find free-range bacon.

The kids all agree that it tastes a lot like Panera’s.  Served with a side salad, it makes the perfect meal.

Now to perfect my bread bowls.

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