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Remember that time I said I’m only promising one post per month during the holidays?  I should set embarrassingly low expectations for myself more often!  Turns out my hours at work are pretty sparse this month, so, more time for cooking/blogging!  (Extra points to anyone who can suss out the inspiration for this blog title.)

I love soup.  Especially when it’s cold out.  Only problem is, Dr. Matthews is not really on the soup train (yet).  I guess when you’re 6’3″ and work out on the regular it takes quite a bit of substance to fill you up, hence his indifference toward one of my favorite meals.  Soup may be mostly liquid, but that does not mean it’s healthy!  My favorite soups all have lots of cream and/or cheese in them and I love nothing more than to chow down on some bread or a grilled cheese alongside (or dipped in!).  Thus, soup is not necessarily something I make when I’m trying to eat healthy.  Which is not very often, let’s be honest.

The last couple weeks I had the pleasure of hosting two of my favorite friends in Winston-Salem for lunch, both of whom love soup (is this just a chick thing?).  For Ciara last week, I made creamy tomato basil soup and grilled cheese.  This is one of my favorite soups and it’s so easy to make!

Creamy tomato basil soup

Ingredients

3 (or 4) cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 – 14 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
1 – 14 oz. can of whole tomatoes
2 cups of stock (chicken or vegetable) (I use chicken)
1 tsp of sea salt
1 tsp of sugar
1/2 tsp of fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup of heavy cream (or more… I add it till it looks like the right level of creaminess) 
3 tablespoons of fresh basil, julienned
parmesan cheese (I did not add the parmesan cheese this time, but it’s a great addition!)
Directions
In a saucepan, saute garlic in olive oil on medium heat for 1 minute – being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the crushed tomatoes.  Add the whole tomatoes one at a time, squeezing them into the pan to break them up.  Add the juice from the whole tomatoes, as well.  Add chicken stock, salt, pepper and sugar.  Cook the soup on medium at a simmer for 10 minutes.
To finish, reduce the heat to low and stir in heavy cream and basil.  Serve topped with parmesan cheese.
Sauteing the garlic

Sauteing the garlic

DSCN2552

My poor photography skills DO NOT do this soup justice!  I strongly advise you to click on the link to the original recipe to see her gorgeous photos of this soup.  You will be a lot more motivated to make it if you do!
Soup #2 is a copy cat Panera Bread broccoli cheese soup.  No exaggeration, this was one of the best things I’ve made in a long time and I thought it tasted even better than the original!  I will say, if you plan to make a lot of soups, invest in a stick (or immersion) blender.  Admittedly, I’ve not had the pleasure of using one, but anything has got to beat pouring hot soup into a glass blender and back into the pot.  Not to mention, blending really took all of the broccoli chunks out of this soup, which I happen to like.  I imagine with an immersion blender, you’d have more control over how many chunks are left.
Broccoli cheese soup
Ingredients

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half (or skim milk) (I had left over heavy cream from the tomato soup, so I used half that and half 2% milk)
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound fresh broccoli (florets only)
1 cup carrots, julienne (I took the lazy route and used matchstick carrots – no peeling or chopping ridiculously hard carrots!)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese (I grated my own this time – something about freshly grated cheese seems to taste… more flavorful somehow)

Directions

Saute onions in a little butter in a small pan – set aside.

In a large stockpot, melt butter. Add flour and mix for 3 minutes. (I removed the pot from heat before adding the flour and used a flat-edged wooden spoon, so I could scrape the bottom of the pot and prevent burning)

Slowly add half- half – mixing the entire time. (Also remove from heat before adding initial liquid)

Slowly add chicken stock- mixing the entire time.

Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, and let simmer on low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add broccoli, carrots; onions and cook on low for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season with salt, pepper; nutmeg.

Place soup in a blender or use an immersion blender and puree.

Heat soup over low heat and add cheese and mix till melted.

Sauteed onions

Sauteed onions

Size of the chopped broccoli

Size of the chopped broccoli

Mmmm... freshly shredded cheese

Mmmm… freshly shredded cheese

Before being blended

Before being blended

I forgot to take a pic in the serving bowl, so you're stuck with this one of the leftovers in their tupperware

I forgot to take a pic in the serving bowl, so you’re stuck with this one of the leftovers in their tupperware

My friend, Mandy, brought over a loaf of AMAZING home made bread to eat this with.  It was white bread with a little wheat – perfect combo!  So soft and flavorful, they were a delicious match.

In closing, I will leave you with three random asides:

1- These slow cooker liners WILL change your life (if you remember to use them):

2- Gaze upon the Matthews family decorated Christmas cookies (Dr. Matthews helped for the first time this year!):

3- I forget….

Happy Holidays!

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