Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Panera Bread’s Autumn Squash Soup

I used to go to Panera pretty frequently in high school and college.  For awhile, it seems like their menu stayed the same and I got a bit bored of my normal Frontega Chicken Panini. 

We wanted something quick and inexpensive for dinner tonight, and we had recently seen an ad for Panera’s Autumn Squash Soup.  So we headed there to give it a try.  We both got the “You-Pick-Two” and paired the soups with flatbreads.  Lance had the Mediterranean Chicken (with hummus, feta, cucumber, napa cabbage, and tzatziki sauce).  I went with the fall theme and tried the Turkey Cranberry (with garlic herb cheese spread, cranberry mostarda, and spinach). 

The flatbreads weren’t anything too special.  I was actually surprised that for a restaurant that prides themselves on their freshly baked bread, the flatbread tasted store-bought a bit soggy.  But it’s nice to see that they’ve changed up the menu and added some variety. 

We were pleasantly surprised by the soup – it is a vegetarian blend of butternut squash and pumpkin with vegetable broth, honey, apple juice, cinnamon, curry, and sweet cream topped with roasted salted pumpkin seeds.  We topped ours with a bit of pepper.  While it wasn’t on the same level as my favorite fall soup (Grillsmith’s Caribbean Pumpkin Crab Bisque), I would order it again.

Panera Bread has 1800+ locations.  The one we visited is located at 112 West Shore Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33609 and is open 6am – 9:30pm Monday – Saturday and 7am – 9:30pm Sunday.    

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Spinach Meatball Sliders

This was a super easy meal – the crock pot did most of the work.  It makes more meatballs than will fit on the sliders, but the leftovers can be combined with pasta or eaten on their own. 

Spinach Meatball Sliders
  • 1-26 oz bag frozen pre-cooked meatballs
  • 2 cups Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (I actually used a mix of cheddar, fresh mozzarella, and shredded mozarella)
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • 9 Hawaiian bread rolls
  • Salt
  • Pepper


1. Combine the meatballs, pasta sauce, tomatoes, garlic, spinach, and dashes of salt and pepper in a crock pot and stir to combine.  Cook on high for 3 hours. 

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice Hawaiian rolls almost in half, leaving the top still attached.  Top with mozzarella, then with meatballs and sauce from crock pot. 

3. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bread becomes toasty. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and then put tops back on sandwiches. 

Back to the Thai Temple – Tampa, FL

Two weeks ago, we went to the Thai Temple Sunday Market with our friend, Vimmi.  I enjoyed it so much that Vimmi and I headed back today! 

You can read my previous post for more info on the market.  Although I loved all my foods from last visit, I wanted to try a few new things this time. 

We still bought a bag of the fried bananas – they are too good to pass up.  I’m sure they are one of the least healthy options at the market – but at least we split them. 

This time I tried the pork noodle soup – Vimmi had the vegetarian version.  The line for the soup is one of the longest, so it is clearly a favorite of the regulars.  They let you pick the thickness of noodle for the soup (we both got thin angel hair noodles). My broth had meat mixed in to the noodles and vegetables, as well as Thai pork meatballs.  The meatballs tasted like doughy dumplings…I didn’t realize there was any meat in them.  We both ordered the “small” size soup – although they were actually pretty large!

Last night it poured rain, so the area with picnic benches was flooded.  We found a pavilion to sit under and avoided the muddy tables. 

After our meal, we picked up dessert to-go.  I chose the “khanom kauew” (small banana cakes).  There was a bonus orange-colored cake called “khanom taan” in with the others.  It was made from the fruit of a palm tree, which I had never tried before.  

The khanom kauew didn’t really have a cake texture - it just felt like mashed up bananas coated in coconut flakes.  I preferred the khanom taan – it had a spongy texture and sweet flavor.  It’s too bad my box only had one of the palm cakes.  Most of the desserts are new to me, so I’ll never know until I try them.  

Visiting the Thai Temple is the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning. 

The Wat Mongkolrata Sunday Market is located at 5306 Palm River Rd, Tampa, FL 33619 and is open 10:30am – 2pm.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mushroom, Kale, & Sausage Risotto

A few nights ago I made Coriander Chicken with Chickpeas & Kale from the latest Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine.  It was part of 3 “Express Lane Suppers” (meals that could be made with only 10 ingredients from the grocery store).  Tonight I tried out the 2nd one of those meals.

The original recipe from the magazine was just Mushroom-Kale Risotto, but part way through making dinner, Lance got home from work and suggested adding sausage to the mix (which is why the sausage isn't pictured in the ingredients photo).  If you’re looking for a vegetarian version of the recipe, just use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock & omit the sausage. 

Mushroom, Kale, & Sausage Risotto (adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine, October 2014 issue)

  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 5 T butter
  • 2 cups rice (I used Jasmine rice, but the original recipe called for Arborio rice)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large bunch kale, stemmed and chopped (the original said to use half a bunch, but I wanted to make it a bit healthier with more greens)
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1½ tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 14 ounces smoked sausage, sliced (I used Eckrich brand)


1. In a large saucepan, simmer the chicken stock.

2. In a larger pan, stir onion and 3 T butter over medium heat until onion softens, about 3 minutes. 

3. Add the rice and garlic, stir 3 minutes.

4. Reduce heat to low and stir 1 cup stock into the rice.  Cook, stirring regularly, until nearly absorbed.  Repeat with 3 more cups stock, adding 1 cup of stock at a time.

5. Stir in kale a handful at a time, thinning with extra stock as needed.

6. Take off heat and stir in ¾ cup of the Parmesan, the white wine vinegar, and the remaining butter; season with salt and pepper.

7. In the now empty pan from the chicken stock, heat 1 T olive oil over medium-high.  Add the mushrooms and cook until browned.  At the same time, heat the smoked sausage in a skillet over medium heat until slightly charred.

8. Stir the sausage and half the mushrooms into the rice mixture. 

9. Divide among plates, drizzle with olive oil, and top with extra mushroom and the remaining Parmesan cheese. 

We paired our dinner with Cigar City’s Cucumber Saison farmhouse ale.  Our friends had recommended it when we were at Cigar City Brewpub.  Personally, I wasn’t a big fan – it had a bit of a pickle aftertaste.  I’m not sure if that’s just because we had it for a few weeks, but it wasn’t expired and stayed in the fridge that whole time.  Lance really liked it though, so he ended up finishing mine.  It was worth trying though – definitely not a typical beer.