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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Slow Cooker Vegetable Sausage Soup

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I've loved Panera Bread Company for a long time. I go through phases in my ordering there. At first it was always the chicken caesar salad. Always. Shortly thereafter I have an obsessive stint with broccoli cheddar soup in the bread bowl. Comfort food to the max! I then transitioned to the sierra turkey sandwich. When they came out with You Pick Two, I finally started to change things up regularly. Some days it was the black bean soup with the Greek salad. Other days it was the Mediterranean Veggie with the Fuji Apple Chicken salad. You can't ever go wrong with anything off of their menu.
Most recently, I opted for their French Onion soup because while I'm a huge French Onion soup fan, sometimes I don't have the time or patience to make it at home. It's good to know I can get my fix at Panera. It's thick and salty and chock full of onions, as any French Onion soup should be. What I like about all of Panera's soups is their simplicity. No fancy ingredients, but nothing boring either...just homey, comforting soup!

That was the inspiration behind this slow cooker vegetable and sausage soup. My mom had told me about a soup her friend had recently made on their girl's trip in Park City, Utah. Much like Panera's soups, it wasn't anything exotic...just simple ingredients that, when combined, made for a warm and satisfying winter meal. I took the original recipe and used it as a base, swapping a few ingredients for things I like (such as sweet potatoes!) and modifying it for the slow cooker, my most favorite soup ingredient! This was healthy and hearty. Served with a sprinkle of cheese and a hunk of sourdough (just like Panera!), this was the perfect supper for a chilly day!

One Year Ago: Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies (like the grocery store ones!)

Slow Cooker Vegetable Sausage Soup

-1 lb sausage, browned and drained
-3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
-2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
-3 celery stalks, diced
-3 large carrots, peeled and diced
-1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
-1 green pepper, diced
-5 cups water
-2 bay leaves
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-salt & pepper
-4 oz whole wheat spaghetti noodles, cut into small pieces

1. Add all ingredients (EXCEPT spaghetti) to slow cooker, stirring to mix. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until potatoes are tender. Add spaghetti and continue to cook until pasta is soft.
2. Serve topped with parmesan.

Note: While this post was sponsored by DailyBuzz Food and Panera Bread. all opinions and recipes are my own.