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[Photographs: Elizabeth Barbone]

Several years ago, before I needed to eat gluten-free, my mother underwent back surgery. During her three-month recovery, we developed a little ritual: each week we went to Panera for a bowl of soup. Her soup choices varied. Mine did not. Panera's Broccoli Cheddar soup had a hold on me. I didn't think too much of this ritual at the time; when I went gluten-free, I missed that cheesy soup!

I converted a few different recipes to gluten-free for broccoli Cheddar soup and, while they were good, they were missing a certain something. The recipes were either too rich (and that's saying something!) or tasted too strongly of broccoli. Finally, I did what I should have done right away. I headed to the Panera site and looked at the ingredients for their Broccoli Cheddar soup. The ingredient list included "pasteurized processed cheddar cheese." My reaction was something along the lines of, "Wait...what?" Could it be that real Cheddar was throwing the recipe off?

For the next batch, I used (gulp) Velveeta. It felt weird and sort of wrong cutting up the soft process-cheese product and putting it into a batch of homemade soup. As the Velveeta melted, the soup looked just like Panera's Broccoli Cheddar. But how would it taste?

My tasters, both gluten-free and not, loved the soup. They agreed that it tasted cheesy but not too rich. I agreed. The Velveeta proved to be the "secret" taste ingredient I wanted in this soup. (And if you don't want to use Velveeta? Simply substitute grated Cheddar cheese.)

About the author: Elizabeth Barbone of GlutenFreeBaking.com joins us every Tuesday with a new gluten-free recipe. She is the author of Easy Gluten-Free Baking. and "How to Cook Gluten-Free".

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