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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Meal Planning Monday...on Wednesday?

I got so much good advice after my rut post (which, in a nutshell, was about me being overwhelmed about a lot of things, including meals and meal planning) that I thought I might try out a new (hopefully) weekly post with recipes to share.  Clearly today is Wednesday, and I probably need to think of a different title for this series (if it lasts), but I wasn't feeling creative tonight so we're going with it.  Suggestions welcome.

I love stumbling across new blogs, websites, etc. with meal ideas and meal planning tools, and I got such an overwhelming response with so many suggestions that have been beyond helpful that I thought, why not share the wealth of knowledge I collected and try to help each other out?  For this first post, my plan was to post a simple and delicious meal that is often in our fall/winter rotation that we ate on Monday night; however, I forgot to take a picture of said meal, and posts without pictures are boring so I'll give you one we tried out last week that was a BIG hit instead: homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese.  The weather has been dreary here in Raleigh for what seems like years, and it was pretty chilly last week, and y'all know I've been devouring some tomato soup and grilled cheese anyway so we thought we'd try our hand.  There are a ton of recipes for tomato soup on the internet, but I've tried quite a few recipes from Mel's Kitchen Cafe recently and she hasn't let me down yet so this is the one I went with.  Seriously, after eating this soup Dan said, "I'm pretty sure we could go into business just selling this meal and make a fortune."  It was that good (I also need to give Prince Danny the credit for actually making this soup while I was getting Lilly to bed last Monday night).  Added bonus: there's a picture of the finished product on the website where I found the recipe, making this post non-boring.  Wahoo!  Without further ado, the recipe:

Photo Credit:  Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Classic Tomato Soup
Recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe 
Serves 6-8

2 (28-ounces each) cans diced tomatoes
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth (we used homemade that I had in the freezer)
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste (Dan found paste in a tube so we didn't waste a whole can for 2 T.)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (cuts the acidity of the tomatoes)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream or fat free half-and-half (we used heavy cream because it's delicious)

1.  In a colander set over a large bowl or liquid measuring cup, drain the canned tomatoes, pressing lightly to release all of their juices.  Transfer the tomato juice to a large measuring cup (if you didn't strain the liquid into one in the first place) and add the chicken broth.  The mixture should measure about 3 1/2 cups.  Set the liquid and tomatoes aside.
2.  Melt the butter in a 4 - 5-quart pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until it is softened, about 3-5 minutes.  Add 2/3 of the drained tomatoes, the bay leaf and the brown sugar.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are sizzling and fragrant.  The mixture will be very thick.
3.  Stir in the tomato paste and the flour.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the misture begins to darken, 1-2 minutes.  Slowly stir in the reserved tomato juice/broth mixture, the remaining tomatoes, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring the soup to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat.
4.  Discard the bay leaf.  Puree the soup in batches (in a blender) or use an immersion blender (the Baums chose this route) to puree the soup.  Stir in the cream and seaon with salt and pepper.  Serve warm.

I used MyFitnessPal to get a calorie estimate in case you're concerned about that sort of thing, and if this recipe serves 7 people it is 172 calories/serving, which is not too shabby in my book.  Grilled cheese probably makes that number sky-rocket, but we won't go there.  The secret to a good grilled cheese is the bread, I think - we got some fresh from a local bakery and Dan made some with cheddar cheese and some with pimento cheese and yummmm.  Is it bad that this is making my mouth water even though we ate not too long ago?!

So, friends, let me know what you think if you try out this recipe.  As I mentioned above, it 100% got the Baum Squad's seal of approval (baby boy ate it for lunch every day last week and some dinners too, ha!), so I hope you'll like it, too.  I haven't tried it, but I would imagine that it freezes pretty well, so it may be a good make-ahead meal.  And while you're at it, drop me a line and let me know whether you think I should continue with the recipes or leave the blog to all things baby/family.

Happy hump day...I see you, Friday!


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