Soup is so awesome, right?
I can make a vat of it for little money, it's warm and soul satisfying, and so easy, particularly when there is a slow cooker involved.
I'm so busy these days and packing my own lunch, while financially desirable, is often a real bummer. I have to have things prepared and on hand or it won't happen. So I've been working on making one or two large amounts of something every week so as to ensure myself a decent something to look forward to in the middle of the day that won't land me in my friends' online "sad lunch club," which is a Facebook page of photos of lunches at people's desks that include things like "a saltine and two green olives" or "mustard on some bread." My days are pretty jam-packed and I'd really rather not resort to scooping BBQ sauce out of a packet with a carrot for lunch.
Soup is the sad lunch savior. Because it makes so much with so little effort, I am usually covered with something decent to heat up and eat while I work. And sometimes even my kids will eat it for dinner!
This particular soup will not be one my kids will want. THERE ARE GREEN THINGS IN THERE. But it is a wonderful, warm, filling soup that I made for myself for about $14 and I can freeze some. I am guessing it will produce at least 12 good-sized portions. I call that a nutritious bargain.
Spinach and Tortellini Winter Soup
1 1-pound bag frozen tri-color tortellini
1 bag frozen corn
2 pounds chicken pieces (I bought a bag of frozen breasts already in chunks)
2 cans beef broth
2 cans diced tomatoes (I used one can of fire roasted and one plain)
1 orange bell pepper, diced
2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
1 block cream cheese
2 tablespoons panang curry
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and black pepper to taste
Basically, you just throw all of this into a slow cooker and let it cook for about 10 hours on low heat or 6 hours on high heat. It's fine if the uncooked chicken chunks are frozen when you toss them in.
Stir when it's time to eat and serve with a good slice of bread. Garnish with some more fresh sweet pepper or green onion or cilantro, or all of the above. I also think a squeeze of lime before you eat is a nice finish.
My friends and I all agree that it's important to have a "Marry Me" meal in our cooking repertoires. For Kiley, it's a chicken-fried steak/mashed potato/Brookville corn situation. For me, at least as far as I know, it was manicotti that brought my husband to the alter all those years ago. For Amber, it's Thai chicken soup.
Amber is so certain of the husband-catching qualities of this soup, I had to go ahead and try to make some for myself. Not because I'm in the business of catching husbands, but because if it is good enough for the eligible bachelors of Lawrence, it must be good enough for me.
I'm not sure if this is just like Amber's recipe, but it includes a lot of things I love. Also, it's a slow-cooker recipe, which Amber and I both love. And it's full of spicy, lime-y, cilantro-y goodness, which are all things that are directly in my wheelhouse.
It requires a bit of chopping, but beyond that it's a fantastic one-pot meal good enough for company and this makes it an extremely attractive main dish.
Easy Thai Chicken Soup
2 tablespoons panang curry (or whatever you like)
2 cans coconut milk (I use light)
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons peanut butter
4 large chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (or if you prefer dark meat, do 6 or 7 thighs)
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 cup shredded carrots (you can buy them pre-shredded in the bag; I recommend)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili garlic paste
1 cup frozen peas
1 fresh lime
Cilantro for garnish
Cooked white rice (I like jasmine for this)
Spicy stuff as needed — I like to jazz mine up with Sriracha
Mix the wet ingredients and spices together in the slow cooker bowl. Add the chicken and vegetables and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 to 7.
Serve over rice and garnish with lime, cilantro, and additional hot stuff.
Last summer, when my tomato plants were rife with fruit, I followed a friend's advice and blanched and peeled about a bushel to freeze. Canning, it turns out, is a bit fussy for me. I can toss some stuff in a freezer bag like nobody's business though. And then I promptly forgot about the beauties in the back of the refrigerator in the garage.
But as the cold snap came upon us, my desire for soup grew, and I reached into the cabinet for a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup. (It's not bad in a pinch, OK?) But suddenly the bags of frozen beauties downstairs cried out to me, "BUT WHAT ABOUT US!?" Oh yes, my friends, a perfect frozen tomato application, at the perfect time of year.
I always think of tomato soup as Christmas-y food. Maybe it's just a color scheme thing, what with the rosy color and the bits of green basil. But it's a great thing for a crowd because it's easy to make a lot, and who doesn't love a grilled cheese sandwich?
It's nice to have on hand for the day after the big event, or for when everyone has grown tired of leftover ham and turkey. It can be made ahead and frozen to great results, and frozen tomatoes from the garden make it even a little more special.
My tomato soup is so very simple, which is another reason I am so fond of it. It's no fuss and always a hit.
Megan's Simple Tomato Soup
1 large can (46 oz) V8 juice
10 whole tomatoes, peeled and cored (about enough to fill a 1-gallon freezer bag, whole)
2 cups half and half
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vegetable base (I like Better Than Bullion brand)
1/4 cup white onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
6 or 7 large basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Begin by sauteeing the chopped onion and the minced garlic in the olive oil. When they are softened but not brown, add the tomato/vegetable juice and the tomatoes (frozen is fine — no need to defrost if they are just out of the freezer).
Let that simmer until the tomatoes are warm and beginning to break down in the tomato juice.
Add the vegetable base, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne, and simmer for 20 minutes. Finally, add half of the basil, chopped, and the half and half. With an immersion blender, puree until smooth.
Serve with another sprinkling of basil on top, and next to a perfectly browned, oppey-gooey grilled cheese sandwich. Prepare to be loved.
I woke up at 5:45 on Saturday morning. Not because I wanted to, mind you, but because I am officially old. I had kept my kids up late on Friday night in hopes of a nice sleep-in on Saturday morning, and dang if they didn't sleep in until the ripe hour of 7:30. Unfortunately, Mama couldn't pull it off.
Cranky, I stumbled to the kitchen and decided to make hay while the kids slept. Or, at least, soup. I opened the refrigerator and scanned the contents for thises and thats I could use in a nice fall soup. I had a butternut squash that needed to be used, so I pulled out the last of a bag of carrots, half an onion, and a half empty container of grape tomatoes. Feeling like I was on to something, I proceeded.
I roasted everything because I believe roasting brings out extra nice flavors in things, far beyond what boiling can do.
By the time the kids woke up, the kitchen was full of amazing smells and I was on my way to having a satisfying — dare I say, special — Saturday lunch. This is highly unusual. Usually Saturday lunches around here consist of turkey sandwiches and mac and cheese. Of course I knew full well no one else in the house would eat a roasted vegetable and squash soup, but I chose not to care. At 5:45 in the morning, it's all about me.
Saturday Morning Squash Soup
1 butternut squash
3 large carrots
1/2 large onion
2 cups corn
1 cup grape tomatoes
2 cups milk
3 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon chili powder
4 fireballs (see below) or 1 tablespoon vinegar to sub 2 teaspoons Sriracha 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Slice the squash in half the long way and scoop out all the guts and seeds.
Cut the carrots into large hunks, removing the tops. Arrange everything on a jelly roll pan.
Drizzle everything with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and roast for about an hour, until everything is soft.
Halfway through roasting, remove the pan and toss on the tomatoes and onions.
With 15 minutes left, put the corn into the oven in a glass baking dish, also tossed in olive oil and a little salt.
Remove everything and add to a stock pot with the chicken broth. Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat. I added a few of my friend Sara Jane's fireballs (spicy pickled green tomatoes), but I'm quite aware that most people don't have a jar of that deliciousness just sitting around. If you don't have them, it's fine — you can skip it or just add some other delicious pickled vegetable to give your soup some kick.
Using an immersion blender, puree everything thoroughly. Add in the milk and spices. Keep adding milk until you get a desired consistency. Not runny, but not thick like puree.
This is a lovely fall meal. Add a bit of crusty bread and a nice salad, and Mama's happy. The rest of the squash-haters in my house don't know what they're missing.
Rain! In July! Oh, blessed drops from the sky, I'm not even mad that I'd planned to eat leftovers and lie by the pool all evening. I promise.
If it wants to rain at the end of July, I'm happy. Maybe not if it's my outdoor wedding day, but I'm pretty much OK with rain in July under any other possible circumstance.
To celebrate the rain on Monday, we decided to make cheddar ale soup. My friend Kiley said it today after work: "I love this rain. It makes me want soup. Cheddar ale soup, to be exact."
Uh, OK. I can do that. Well, I can sort of do that. Do I have artisanal alma cheddar lying around? No. Do I have all of the exact ingredients to the auspicious soup that Free State Brewing Company has forever sold in massive quantities and that is in, a word, perfection? Not really.
So, as I am wont to do, I bastardized the heck out of that recipe. Can I call this Free State's Cheddar Ale Soup? Not on your life. Not even close.
Can I say that it was tasty and worked in a pinch? Absolutely! And it came together in about 13 minutes, was warm and filling on a wet and cool summer night. We have to take advantage of these moments when we can eat outside of the season, right? When it feels good to eat soup that isn't gazpacho in the summer? Yes, we do. So what if I didn't have aged cheddar on hand or any red or green peppers growing in my (non-existent) garden in the backyard? We will make this work! And make it work, we did.
Feel free to mess with this recipe. It is not the sacred cow of the Free State's menu. I am totally comfortable with you doing a "I have some of this, I think I'll throw it in" version.
For my soup, I happened to have some pepper jack, cheddar and roasted garlic goat cheese on hand. Into the pot they went. What?
Kiley and Megan's Cheesy Ale "Whatever" Soup
1/4 cup onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, diced
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup ale
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz goat cheese
3 cups half and half
4 oz pepper jack, shredded
4 oz cheddar, shredded
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt (but don't do this until the very end, and only if you need it)
Start by melting the butter in a stock pot and adding in the onions. Once they begin to get translucent, add in the red pepper and stir until the onions are done. Then add the flour and stir for a three or four minutes over medium heat.
Next, add the beer, slowly and whisking constantly. Once everything is nicely combined and not lumpy, add the cream cheese and goat cheese and stir well over medium heat until it's well-combined.
Now you are ready for the half and half (or milk, or cream, or some combination thereof — whatever you have on hand will do). Add it slowly and whisk regularly for about eight minutes. Don't get this too hot or it will scorch, but you do want it hot enough to thicken.
Once you have a nice, steamy milk base, add your cheese and spices. Whisk it all together until the cheese is melted. Here is where I used my immersion blender. It's perfect for soup. If you don't have one, you can use a traditional blender, or if you have neither of those, just be sure to dice everything into tiny pieces. Then taste and add salt as needed.
Stir and thicken, serve with a nice piece of crusty bread and a good movie.
I, like everyone else, look forward to the advent of fall for several reasons: boots, hoodies, fires and soup. Right? Those are the things everyone likes about fall. Wrong.
Not my husband. Mr. Meat and Potatoes likes fall because of football. That's it. As for the items on my list, he can go for a fire, he's ambivalent about the attire, and he's almost downright against soup. Wha?? Who doesn't like soup?
To be fair, it's not that he doesn't like soup, it's just that, as he puts it, "Soup is not a meal." So I guess it's not that he won't eat soup, or has declared some sort of war on food that comes in bowls, but that soup, to him, just doesn't cut it. He doesn't get excited about soup, because to him, it's like a garden salad. Sure, he'll eat it before a meal if you put it in front of him, but it doesn't really catch his attention.
But, because I am who I am, I charge ahead with my soup-making anyway, but I know I can't just call it dinner. I have to make something else to go with it. And this is where it gets even trickier. He eats two sandwiches EVERY DAY for lunch at work. So even if I put together a miraculous hot sandwich laden with special sauces and meats and grilled onions and fairy dust, he's a little "meh" about it, because, well, ANOTHER SANDWICH. So, soup and sandwich isn't really a great option either. But, soup and WHAT? Because I want my soup, so I have to find a way to make it a complete meal.
Last week, I made broccoli cheese soup. I wanted a meaty dinner complement my husband would enjoy, and I thought since the soup is creamy and mild, I'd do something with a little crunch and zip. To accompany our soup, then, we had some crusty French bread and some panko buffalo chicken tenders. So easy, so good.
My soup recipe makes a lot because I like to have enough for several lunches and maybe a dinner leftover. Please feel free to halve it.
Broccoli Cheese Soup
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or Colby jack is best)
4 cups fresh broccoli, chopped
1 cup chopped onion (I use frozen for this)
2 teaspoons dried mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2/3 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper
Start by melting the butter in the bottom of a large stock pot. Add the flour and whisk together to make a paste. Then, over medium high heat, start slowly adding in chicken broth and whisking to make sure there are no lumps. Next. add the chopped onions, the milk, and the broccoli. Stir, and (leaving the lid off) simmer at an almost-boil until the broccoli is tender, about 20 minutes, whisking regularly. The mixture should be thickening so be sure you're not getting lumps.
Once the broccoli is tender, it's time to blend. You can use a food processor or a traditional blender but I really like my immersion blender for this application.
Once you have effectively removed all lumps, you can add in the cheese and stir until it is melted. If you don't think your soup is thick enough, you can make a slurry of 1/2 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to add in and simmer to add extra thickness.
As for the panko chicken tenders, it's a cinch and it's a great complement to the meal. A little spicy, a little crunchy. Just what Mr. Meat and Potatoes needs to round out dinner.
Panko Chicken Tenders
12 chicken tenders
2 cups panko
1 cup Frank's Red Hot
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Mix the Panko with a teaspoon of salt, a few cranks of cracked black pepper, and the Parmesan cheese. Put it in a pie pan or a shallow bowl.
Prepare a glass baking dish with cooking spray.
Then, put the hot sauce in a second bowl.
Dip the chicken in the hot sauce and then roll in panko mix until it's thoroughly covered. Lay in the baking dish. Repeat.
Bake for twenty minutes and then turn on the broiler for about two minutes to get the tops nice and brown and crispy. That's it!
I love this meal. I made a few tenders without the hot sauce for the 3-year-old, and we had enough leftover for a complete second meal. Served with some crusty bread and a pile of grapes, it was a meal everyone could agree was great for early fall.