Easy Tomato Soup

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It’s Memorial Day weekend, and the weather is not cooperating. Damp and cold is the forecast. I predict there is soup in your future. I stumbled upon this Ina Garten recipe, using my time oh, so wisely. I choked down many bowls of the canned soup, not-to-be-named, in my day. The aftertaste is what I remember, and not in a good way. Ina is correct when she says its easy, except for the grilled cheese croutons. She lost me on that one. I’d rather just have a grilled cheese. I adapted her recipe by using my immersion blender to make it creamy, and I cooked the orzo in the soup. I like my soup thicker otherwise I tend to wear it on my shirts. My problem, not yours. I also did not want to spend the money on saffron threads. I needed 00 flour more than saffron. Shoutout to Amazon for that Sunday delivery! Instead of chicken stock I used vegetable stock because I had it in my closet pantry.

Let’s make some tomato soup!

Ingredients

3 tbsp. “good” olive oil

3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)

1 tbsp. minced garlic, (3 cloves)

4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock (store-bought is perfect)

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

3/4 cup uncooked orzo or other small pasta

1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over a medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. I like to sprinkle a little salt over my onions when I saute them,Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. To make this creamy, use an immersion blender. You can leave it a little chunky, or cream it up. Your choice.

Add your uncooked pasta to the soup. I suggest the orzo, but ditalini worked great too. Let the pasta cook until it’s soft. I don’t like my pasta a la dente, (GASP), especially in a creamy soup. This may take about 12 minutes depending on your pasta. Cooking the pasta in the soup makes it thick and soup spoon worthy.

Once the pasta is to your desired texture, stir in the cream. Please do not omit it. This is the game changer. Look, it’s so pretty! Let it simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring to blend it into the tomato mixture. You now have a creamy, thick tomato soup, that was, indeed, easy. Season it with salt and pepper, to taste.

Now go make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich and put on some long sleeves for goodness sake!

Chick-a-chick-a-boom-boom-you’ll-need-some-more-room…..for Chickpea and Pasta Soup!

Yes! Another soup. This soup is tasty, economical and quick.  It is perfect for a cold winter night. I rarely make a soup that does not have diced tomatoes.  I resisted adding  my little cherubs to this dish. Hubs said it’s a “do-again”. Glad I bought two cans of chickpeas.  I did, however, add sausage.  I love sausage. Italian sausage, chicken sausage, or even turkey sausage will work. I throw it on a parchment lined cookie sheet and roast (bake) it.  I slice the cooled sausage and spoon into the pan. Let’s call it protein. Just humor me.

The ingredients are simple. There is no technique you are required to master. Can you roughly chop vegetables? Then you can make this soup. The original recipe suggests you sort out some chickpeas from the soup and puree them, to add back to the soup. I did not have a magnifying glass or tweezers handy to separate the cooked onion, celery and carrots from the chickpeas, so I ladled some into a metal mixing cup, like you would use to make an ice cream soda, and used my immersion blender. Yeah. Don’t do that. I forgot about science. Metal conducts heat, and when you go to pour the puree back in, your hand will melt. Use a non-metal container, or just put the immersion blender in the pot and give it a quick blend. But not too much. Or not at all.

Let me tell you what I’ve learned about using a garlic press. Do not peel the  garlic clove. The press self-cleans (almost) if you have the garlic skin to pull. Rinse and repeat. I am all about easy cleanup.

Let’s make some soup

Ingredients

1 pound sausage (optional….insert sad face)

3 tbsp. olive oil

2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 onions, roughly chopped

3 sprigs of rosemary, minced

2 cloves, garlic (optional)

4 cups of vegetable stock

1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

8 ounces of small pasta, like mini shells or cavatelli

Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Parmesan cheese, for serving.

If you are serving this with sausage, heat your oven to 350 degrees before you start the soup. By the time the sausage is cooked, your soup will be ready.  Bake the sausage for about 30 minutes, turning halfway, so all sides evenly brown. Let cool and slice into mouth-size bits.

Heat oil in a 4 quart saucepan or Dutch oven over a medium-high heat. Add rosemary, celery, carrot and onion and cook until soft. The original recipe calls for one small onion. Two makes it so much better. Let the veggies slowly soften. Don’t let it brown. Pull the pan off the heat and add a little more olive oil, if it starts to brown.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the stock and chickpeas and simmer for about 5 or 10 minutes.  I reduced the vegetable broth from 6 to 4 cups, You can always add more later. If you have an immersion blender, puree the mixture a little. You can ladle out the veggies into a blender and puree. Pour the puree back into the pan. This will help thicken the soup. Add the pasta and cook for about 10-12 minutes. As the pasta cooks it will absorb lots of the liquid. The soup will thicken into a stew-like mixture. Season with salt and pepper. I slice up the cooked sausage and add it at the end. I like to let all the flavors meld together by simmering the soup for about 5 minutes. You can thin it out with some water or more vegetable stock. Let it stand for a few minutes to thicken, before you thin it out. Kapeesh?

To serve this soup, add some shavings of Parmesan. Fancy! Use a vegetable peeler to shave slices. You can also top it with grated Parmesan. Dinner in a bowl. Such a filling and flavorful soup. Enjoy!

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

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I have yet another tomato based soup for you. They all begin to look alike, but each has its own characteristics. This soup will ward off vampires and warm your soul on a cold fall evening. I don’t know if the traditional pasta e fagioli soup included bacon, but bacon makes anything better. If you don’t normally consume bacon (WHAT?), you can buy it and divide into three or four sections, and freeze in plastic bags. I do this all the time. With the kids gone, leisurely Sunday brunches including one pound of bacon is just a mere memory. If you divide it, you can cook a few pieces for a weekend breakfast or use it in a recipe.  To make chopping bacon a little less messy, chop it while it’s slightly frozen. Really! I’ve cooked with store brand canellini beans so you don’t have to. I strongly suggest using a name brand, like Goya, when you cook.  I have found store brand canned beans can still be hard, even after cooking. When a recipe calls for a few ingredients, they should be the best you can get. I have had good luck with store brand diced tomatoes. My favorite part is the mini bowtie pasta. Adorable and delicious.  You can add more or less liquids. This is a great soup to bring for a work lunch. The pasta absorbs some liquid and, as most pasta dishes, tastes better the next day. Of course the garlic and work……oops.

 

4 slices (or more) or bacon, chopped rough

1 large onion

4-6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1  28 ounce can of diced tomatoes (I like petite diced tomatoes)

2  15.5 ounce cans of canellini beans, rinsed

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup of water

1 3/4 cups of dried small pasta like mini bowtie (perhaps a few more for extra luck)

1/4 cup mince parsley or 2 tbsp dried parsley

pepper to taste

1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best)

Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Don’t walk away. Bacon can burn, so stir the bacon, to keep eyes on it. Stir in the onion, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. I add a healthy pinch of salt to sautéing onions. Cook until the onion is softened. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, beans, broth, water and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. If you have a Parmesan rind, you can absolutely add it to the simmering soup.

Stir in the pasta and cook until slightly underdone. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. I like to add the Parmesan now. The original recipe adds it the bowls. I like to put the lid on the pan and let the soup sit for about 20 minutes, with the heat off. It gives the soup time to have all the flavors meld together and the pasta to cook a little more.

Enjoy!

 

Helpful Hint: You should always have all your ingredients ready. This means, onions are chopped and placed in a bowl, garlic pressed and put in a bowl, pasta measured, Parmesan grated into a bowl, cans of tomatoes opened and beans rinsed, drained and placed in a bowl. Having your ingredients ready will make cooking less stressful. It’s easier to be successful when can focus on cooking when you don’t have to rush, and potentially misread your recipe. As the French say, mis en place!

 

 

 

Bean and Bacon Soup

Just when I was about the say that I was DONE with the Pioneer Woman, I found this delicious recipe. I don’t usually have time to soak beans overnight and then pre-cook them for a recipe. I used canned cannelloni beans for this recipe and they worked just fine. Another handy item to have in your cabinet is tomato paste in a tube. Many recipes call for a tablespoon of paste. Yes, you can buy a small can of tomato paste and then put the remainder in a container and freeze, never to be found or used again. It’s just another thing to do. I can hear your eyes rolling. Buy the tubes on sale, you will thank me. Just to remember to refrigerate the tube after opening. I recently found a container of chicken stock that He Who Will Not Be Named put in the cabinet instead of the fridge. I may need therapy. It wasn’t pretty.

2-15 ounce cans of cannelloni beans

4 cups of chicken stock (store bought works great)

1 lb. bacon cut into 1-inch pieces

1 onion, diced (or 2 if you love onions like me)

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

salt and pepper to taste

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 whole Bay leaves

minced parsley, to taste

Open the cans of beans and rinse. I take one can of beans and mash them up. Use a fork and a potato masher. Just break them up. Don’t over think this!  This helps thicken the soup a little. Put all the beans aside, in a bowl.

Put the bacon in a stock pot and cook until crisp.You should take the bacon out of the pan and place it on a plate with a paper towel, to drain. You will be adding some of the bacon back in the soup, and will reserve some for a topping. You can use less bacon.

Drain some of the bacon fat out of the pan and add in the onions, carrots, and celery. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of salt on the vegetables and cook until softened. Remember to put the hot bacon fat in a heat resistant container, or else it will explode. It happened to, um, a “friend” of mine. Oops. If you need more oil, add some olive oil to the pan. Stir, stir, stir. Add the garlic and tomato paste. Let this cook for about a minute. Stir, stir, stir. Add the chicken stock, bay leaves,  2/3 of the bacon, and beans. Give it a good stir, and put the lid back on. Simmer the soup for about 45 minutes. If you want less liquid, after 45 minutes, you can remove the lid and let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes to reduce the liquid. Keep an eye on the soup. You don’t want too much liquid to evaporate and scorch the pan. Not good!

When ready to serve, taste and season if needed. Serve with the remaining bacon sprinkled on top with the parsley. Unless you eat bacon everyday, don’t worry about it! Enjoy the damn soup!

Here’s the original recipe from the Pioneer Woman. I’ve slightly altered the recipe. She’s got pictures, if you need them.

Note: You can use vegetable stock. But why? I am assuming turkey bacon would work. You are no fun!

Zuppa duppa

White Bean and Chipotle Chili

Don’t shy away from trying this non-recipe. The Chipotle part is totally optional. In case you’ve been living in an igloo, lately we’ve had extreme winter weather here in New England. All the cold and snow draws me to the warmth and comfort of soups. I’ve been making a lot of the oldies but goldies. I stumbled upon a recipe for a white bean soup that knocked my Boston Red Sox off! It’s very simple but flavorful. You could make this with items in your pantry. Okay. I’ve stopped laughing. Who has a “pantry”? I store my canned goods in a cabinet or a hall closet. We pretend it’s a “pantry”. Tom Brady and me, that is. I pretend a lot. Oh soup, right. This soup uses canned cannellini beans and store bought chicken stock. If you’ve got an onion, garlic and some spices, you are almost there. The original non-recipe calls for uncooked chicken breasts. Well, I decided my soup was going to have a rich flavor and used skinless, boneless chicken thighs. Oh.Yum. I did make the Chipotle part. I make this recipe a lot and have left over adobos and sauce that I freeze. Now I have another way of using them. My freezer thanks me.

So let’s get this party started (I crack myself up, sometimes)

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut in spoon size pieces

4 cups chicken stock

1 tbsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. ground cumin

2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

In a 4-quart pot, heat olive oil and add onions. I like to sprinkle onions with a teaspoon of kosher salt. It helps draw out the water and caramelize them. Stir onions and cook until softened and starting to caramelize. Add the cut chicken thighs and start to brown them. Stir them occasionally. Don’t worry about any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. These add flavor to the soup. Add the oregano and cumin, stirring until mixed. Stir in the minced garlic. Cook for about 1 minute. Add 4 cups of chicken stock. If you want your soup a little less soupy, add only 3 cups. You can always add the remaining cup. Add the beans and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer soup for about 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally. You want to make sure the chicken is cooked. At this point, I like to turn this healthy soup into something less healthy by adding a piece of Parmesan rind. Yes, you read that right. As the cheese melts off the rind, the soup becomes a little creamier. After thirty minutes, I remove the rind and mash some of the beans with a fork, on the side of the pan. This makes it a little creamier too. This step is totally optional.

Like many soups, this tastes even better the second day, if there’s any left.

The Chipotle part is very easy. I spoon some sour cream or plain Greek yogurt into a jar and then add some chipotle sauce. Stir until mixed. I like it spicy, so I add a lot. Drizzle this cream over the bowled soup. The soup is fantastic without this so don’t fret if you don’t have adobos.

I hope you try many different soups this winter! Spice it up a bit.

Here’s the original non-recipe.

Please note that I used Progresso beans. The can was 19 ounces, while other brands were less.

Creamy Artichoke Soup

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Don’t pooh pooh the idea of soup in the summer. Even in the summer you get into a dinner routine that can become dull. So why don’t you try some soup? It doesn’t heat up your house since you cook it on the stovetop, for a short time. To make it even more attractive, you use frozen artichoke hearts. Frozen.Artichoke.Hearts. What a time saver. I found this recipe doesn’t make a lot of soup. When I first made it I used a 4 quart Le Creuset dutch oven. My immersion blender couldn’t…..um…er….immerse? I would suggest using a large saucepan or a smaller Le Creuset. You could also pour the soup into a bowl and use the immersion blender. But that seems like more clean up. You can use a blender, but follow the manufacture directions for hot soup. If you have an immersion blender, use it. Clean up is very quick. I’m all about the cleanup.

 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 leeks, white part only, chopped and rinsed in cold water (to remove sand)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small potato, peeled and chopped

1 8-ounce package of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed

2 cups of chicken stock

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

4 ounces mascarpone cheese

2 tablespoons chopped chives, for garnish (optional)

 

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until softened. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and stir for about 1 minute. Add the artichokes, stock, salt and pepper and cook until the vegetable are tender, about 20 minutes.

Using a handheld immersion blender, or in a blender in batches, puree the soup. Add the mascarpone and blend again to combine. Ladle soup into serving bowls, adding chives as a garnish.

Adapted from Creamy Artichoke Soup

Breadsticks and Soup for you!

It’s snowing again today. It’s beautiful. Until it turns brown. So today, before the boy went to work, I made some breadsticks and tortellini sausage soup. It hit the spot. There is nothing like the smell of bread baking on a cold winter’s day. The breadstick and soup recipes are from OUR BEST BITES (www.ourbestbites.com). They are simple and delicious. If you are going to make both, start the bread dough first. It has to rise for 45 minutes. The soup is wonderful and I have made a few changes that add a little richness to it. Please make this soup. Now. Tomorrow. Soon. It’s wonderful. I love to bring it to work for my lunch. I zap it in the microwave and I am brought immediately to a happy place. Don’t look at me.

Breadsticks (and Pizza Dough)

If you’ve never worked with yeast, this is the perfect recipe to start. It’s simple and requires very little attention.

1 ½ cup of warm water (about 110 degrees)

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. instant yeast

½ tsp. salt

3 – 4 ½ cups of flour

In a large bowl, combine 1 ½ cups of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Pour in the water. If you’re not sure about the temperature of the water, pour cool water into the measuring cup and let it sit for 15 minutes. Cool is better than hot. Hot water will kill the yeast and the bread won’t rise. Cool water will just make the dough take longer to rise. No big deal. Stir the mixture. Gradually add more flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and it barely sticks to your finger. Add 1 cup at a time. I usually use almost 4 cups. It depends on whether it’s a humid summer’s day or a dry winter’s day. So add and stir.

Spray a glass or metal bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured surface. I like to use parchment paper. I roll out the dough on it and bake the dough on it. Roll the dough in a rectangle and cut into 12 strips with a pizza cutter or knife.

Roll each piece of dough into a snake and then drape it over your forefinger and twist the dough. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. Don’t worry if they touch. Pulling freshly baked dough apart is wonderful! Cover with towel and let rise for 30 minutes. They get all chubby on you!

When there’s about 15 minutes to go, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Rub some butter on top of the breadsticks by grabbing a stick of butter with the wrapper on, and run up and down the breadsticks. Ohhhh bread and butter. Sprinkle breadsticks with garlic seasoning or powdery Parmesan cheese in a can (really) and garlic salt. Enjoy!

This dough is also perfect for pizza. Follow the directions until the forming of the breadsticks. Instead, I stretch the dough onto a cookie sheet that has olive oil spread on it and cornmeal. That’s how I make my pizza.

Tortellini Sausage Soup

I have made this soup many times. My family likes it. It makes a great meal on winter’s night and many leftovers. The recipe is not complicated, but it takes many, simple steps. As always, read the recipe thoroughly before making it. I strongly suggest that you prep all the veggies and have all the liquids and spices on hand. Being prepared makes cooking easier and more enjoyable. Trust me on this.

1 lb. Italian Turkey sausage – removed from casing

4 cloves of minced garlic

1 large onion, diced

½ cup of water

2 15-oz cans of chicken broth

½ cup of apple cider (I use apple juice)

16 oz. can of diced tomatoes (I prefer the petite diced tomatoes)

8 oz. tomato sauce

1 cup of diced carrots

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

2 medium zucchini – grated

12 oz. package of frozen cheese tortellinis

2 Tbsp. tomato paste (optional)

1 Parmesan rind (optional)

Heat pan on a medium heat and add enough olive oil to lightly coat bottom of pan. Add onions and begin to sauté them until translucent. Add the sausage that has been removed from the casing. Break it into pieces. You can further chop the sausage, as it cooks, so don’t worry. Let the sausage cook and brown slightly. Add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, juice, water, broth, carrots, oregano, and basil. Cover and simmer for ½ hour. I like to add tomato paste. The original recipe doesn’t call for it, but I like the flavor it adds. I try and freeze any Parmesan rinds I have. They are a great addition to a soup like this one. The rind gives it a little creaminess.

Add the parsley and zucchini and simmer for about 15 minutes. I like to use a box grater for my zucchini.  ImageYou can add a little more or less zucchini if you’d like. It melts into the soup when it’s cooking. Children do not even know it’s there (HINT) I even put in any chunks that I can’t grate. Whoever gets a zucchini chunk can clean up or be rewarded in any way you’d like (winky winky)
Add the frozen tortellini and cook for about 10 minutes. Serve this with bread or breadsticks and freshly grated Parmesan on top. I hope this feeds your soul too!

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Onions 101

Let’s talk about cutting onions. I cut a lot of onions. A lot. So I would like to take a minute and show you how I cut them. Dice them to be more precise.

First, I like to trim the tip of the onion off, and then cut from the root end to where the tip was.

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This make is it much easier to remove the skins.

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Once you remove the skins, you are ready to dice. I like to turn the onion onto the flat side, and make slices from almost the root to the end of the onion.

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Now I place my palm on the onion and press down, while I cut horizontally towards the root of the onion. I don’t cut all the way to the root, but as close as you can.

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Depending on the size of the onion, you can make one or two horizontal cuts. Please excuse my peasant hands. Hey, they work just fine. Sorta.

Now you are ready to dice the onion.

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It’s that simple. I suggest trying if first on a large onion. This is a great technique that saves you time when prepping for cooking.  I hope you try this method.