I'm really good about eating right at home. I'm not one to be tempted by food in the house - I'm not a snacker and I don't eat out of boredom (probably because I'm never bored - ha). I will stick to my plan with no problems. The only challenge of course comes when dining out, which we do at least once weekly, but one place that I think is delicious and keeps me from falling of the wagon is Panera Bread. They even post their nutritional facts online, which is super helpful. I could eat there every day, but of course, my pocket book would not appreciate that.
Recently I tried their new vegetable soup with pesto. It was SO good! Like most recipes I make, it usually starts with an inspiration of something I've tasted and want to be able to make at home. This was no different. And, since I love soup, what better thing to have around for healthy meals than a pot of yummy vegetable soup? I took note of the ingredients and decided to give it a go this week.
The Panera soup appeared to have barley in it, but, I wanted my soup to have a bit of protein in it so I decided to try adding quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). Quinoa is one of the highest protein grains available and one I've been wanting to try. So, eyeing a box of it yesterday at TJ's (and organic, to boot), I decided to give it a try. I actually just microwaved it according to the box's instructions, and it couldn't have been easier.
While the quinoa cooked, I got the rest of the soup together quickly. I started with a box of vegetable broth and a can of fire roasted tomatoes, which I pureed. I had about a half of a box of TJ's Roasted Bell Pepper and Tomato Soup in the fridge, so I tossed that in, too. Then I added the veggies, which I finely chopped: onion, garlic, cauliflower, zucchini, frozen green beans, and a red bell pepper. For a bit of Italian flavor (which pretty much all my cooking has), I added a bit of dried basil and oregano. It would have been nice to add fresh basil, but I didn't have any. I was going to buy the pesto to imitate Panera, but decided I probably wouldn't use the rest soon enough, so I passed.
I simmered the veggies a bit and then added the quinoa. That thickened the soup up quite nicely and gave it a great texture. I noted that the soup at Panera had some kind of leafy green in it- I'm guessing kale- but I had baby spinach on hand, so that's what I used. The result was a quick and easy soup that tasted super delicious and healthy. I topped the soup with a little grated Parm-Reg, and it was stick-to-the-ribs good. My family LOVED the soup. Maybe next time I will try the dollop of pesto, as Panera serves it. But I really don't seem to miss it. I daresay I like my soup even better than theirs!
The amount below would generously serve 6. It would be a cinch to double the recipe. If your soup comes out too thick, simply add a little water.
Vegetable Quinoa Soup
¾ cup dry quinoa
1 box organic vegetable broth
1 can (15 oz) TJ's organic fire roasted tomatoes, lightly pureed (or just regular tomatoes if you don't want the 'kick')
½ box organic Roasted Red Bell Pepper and Tomato Soup (TJ’s)
2 zucchini, finely chopped
1 cup cauliflower, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup green beans, chopped coursely (frozen is OK)
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp each: dried oregano and basil
2 cups fresh spinach or kale, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare quinoa according to box instructions. Meanwhile, combine all other ingredients except spinach, salt and pepper. Simmer over stove until vegetables are tender. Add quinoa and spinach and season with salt and pepper. Cook until spinach wilts and serve. Top with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if desired.