Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cream of Tomato Soup with Spinach & Rice

I've just come up with this tonite - it's perfect for a crisp October evening!

My goal was to approximate the brand-name version but without the additives, and this hits the spot - simply delicious, comforting and satisfying.

This recipe makes enough to save/freeze 3 extra bowls of soup.

Webster's Cream of Tomato Soup with Spinach & Rice

Makes 4 generous bowls (8 cups)

1 1/2 tbsp plus 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
8-10 baby carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup flour
1 x 900 ml carton chicken broth
1 x 796 ml (28-oz) can diced plum tomatoes, drained
1 x 398 ml (14-oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar or honey, divided (2nd portion to taste)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup torn baby spinach, stems removed
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup hot half-and-half cream
1/2 cup cooked rice

In a Dutch Oven or soup pot, warm the first 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil then add the onions, carrots & celery.  Saute on medium, stirring regularly, for 3-5 minutes, then reduce the heat, cover, and sweat the vegetables for 8-10 more minutes, stirring often.

Add the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil, warm it up, then sprinkle the flour over the top; stir in immediately, and continue stirring & cooking it for 3-5 minutes, until beginning to become slightly golden.

Pour the broth into the pot, then add the diced tomatoes & crushed tomatoes, stirring well to incorporate.

Season with the first amount of sugar & the pepper, bring gently to the boil, then reduce and simmer on low for 40 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Strain the soup, first through a coarse sieve, pressing to extract the liquid and allow some of the tomato pulp to go through, and *discarding the remaining solids.  Strain through a finer sieve to remove the seeds (this whole process actually takes very little time).

Return to a clean pot, and add the salt, spinach and rice.  At this point you can add the remaining sugar or honey to taste.

Warm up the soup gently to wilt the spinach, while heating up the half-and-half in a small pot (and not allowing to boil).

When the spinach is wilted, stir in the half-and-half.

That's it!  Wonderful with baking powder biscuits, Grilled Cheese Sandwich, or thickly sliced French Bread.

(*or save the remaining solids in the freezer to incorporate into a thrifty side dish, gratin or sauce.)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I'm Baaack!

Hi, Solitary Diners!

After a 2-month hiatus, I’m Baaack and raring to go!

During the summer, rather than totally wilting out trying out recipes in my overly hot apartment, I spent a lot of time outside with family & friends, and when home relied on old standbys, including many versions of one of my favourite default dinners: the Tortilla Bowl Salad (see June 5, 2011 post)

At the moment, my favourite is the BLT Tortilla Salad Bowl.  The combination of flavours and textures is so much fun to eat and quite more-ish.  Layers of salad, bacon & cheese are topped with a creamy lite ranch dressing with a hint of dill - a perfect counterpart to the dish. 

Directions are as follows: 

BLT Tortilla Salad Bowl

1 baked tortilla salad bowl (June 5/11 posting)
3 strips of bacon, cooked till crisp then drained and crumbled
2 cups torn crisp lettuce
1 finely diced celery stalk
1 finely diced Roma tomato (seeded)

Dilly Ranch Dressing (recipe below)

Grated cheese – 1/3 cup

Put the lettuce in the tortilla bowl, then strew the celery & tomatoes over top.
Then layer as follows:
1/3 bacon –
all the cheese –
1/3 bacon –
dressing –
1/3 bacon

And of course drizzle more dressing over the salad as needed.

Dilly Ranch Dressing:

1 tbsp lite mayonnaise
3 tbsp lite sour cream
1 tbsp yogurt
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp honey
dash of black pepper
pinch of dried dill
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/2 medium Dill pickle, grated

Combine all ingredients and let stand, covered for at least 1/2 hour to develop the flavours.

Cooking Ahead: 

Now that fall is here I’m trying out new recipes, enjoying my favourite stand-bys, and switching up my default dinners.

One of the most successful things I’ve done for myself lately was to cook three 3-4 serving meals in a row and freeze them in individual serving portions to enjoy later and give myself more time to pursue my other interests of sewing and beadwork.  Otherwise, when one comes home after work there’s little useable awake-time left after preparing a meal, dining, then cleaning up.  This way, one can throw dinner in the oven or microwave and get right to the project at hand.

I made:  Chicken Tikka one night (2 half-breasts made 3 meals);
              Hungarian Goulash the 2nd night (1 tenderloin made 3 meals);
              Chicken Cacciatore the 3rd night (2 half-breasts made 3 meals);

Next I made Brown Rice Pilaf & froze it up into 1-cup logs;

Then I made pulled pork and froze it into ½ cup logs (1 small pork shoulder roast made enough for countless meals), for burritos, pulled-pork sandwiches, or Brunswick Stew).

Within 3 days I had 2 weeks' worth of weekday meals with some extra lunches as well!  Talk about doing yourself a favour - if you can manage something like this every few weeks, you will be able to rely less on outside meals and will be looking forward to the "menu" of meals in your freezer.

The recipes will follow in subsequent postings.  Pictures are pending.