Someone once tried to tell me that soup wasn't dinner. (I don't want to name names, but he's five years old, keeps rocks in his pockets, owns five light sabers, has big brown eyes and lives at my house.) To him I say, have two bowls. Maybe even three. And with soup as good for you as this one, you could probably get away with four. And who's counting, anyway? Darn it, it's January and we're all counting. Counting calories, counting pennies, counting minutes. Fortunately, this soup measures low on all of the aforementioned categories, with an exceptionally high rating in taste. I know, because I'm the judge. (In fact I'm all three judges and I give it three tens.) As for calories, it's good and low since you are swapping out the heavy cream that usually makes soup so luxurious. Instead, you've got three options below: evaporated skim milk, low fat cream cheese, or fat free half and half. As for pennies, this soup is particulary easy on the pocket book, since you're using canned tomatoes (stock up during sales!), humble vegetables, and pantry staples for seasonings. And as for minutes, head directly to the kitchen because you could be having soup in about 25 of them. As an added bonus, I've included my recipe for rosemary focaccia. With this rustic flatbread baking in the oven and tomato soup simmering on the stove, the whole house will smell like an Italian villa. And even five year old little charges will be won over by such savory charms and be forced to admit that dinner, yes-this soup dinner, is down right delicious. (By the way, he had three bowls.) But who's counting?
Money and Time Saving Tips:
Keep the pantry stocked with canned tomatoes for fast dinners. I buy cases of tomatoes when they go for 50 cents a can. Use stock, broth or even bouillion cubes, depending on what you've got. You can also make the soup creamy with regular milk, but it may not be as luxurious. For the focaccia, use dried rosemary or swap it out for dried basil. But wedges of parmesan when on sale; they keep well. Baking your own bread, especially specialty bread, will save you oodles over bakery prices. If you're pressed for time, you can use purchased pizza dough or a roll of Pillsbury french bread.
Good for you Creamy Tomato Soup
Estimated Cost: $5.50 for four servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (14 ounce) cans Italian style diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups chicken broth or stock
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
3/4 cup evaporated skim milk, or 4 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese
chopped fresh basil or parsley for serving
In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add oniion and carrots and saute for five minutes. Stir in garlic and saute an additional minute. Add tomatoes, broth, red pepper flakes, vinegar, and honey. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender. For a creamy soup, transfer to blender and blend, or use an immersion blender directly in the pot. (Immersion blenders are a must have for soup lovers!) Soup can be made up to 2 days ahead of time to this point. Just before serving, add evaporated skim milk (or cream cheese of half and half) to pot. Warm through, but do not boil. Serve immediately with basil or parsley, and hopefully some warm focaccia. Rosemary Focaccia
Estimated Cost: $3.50 for 12 wedges
Notes: My favorite yeast is SAF, which many professional bakeries use. It may not be available at your store, so ask your supermarket baker which yeast they use behind the counter and buy that one. If you get a truly reliable yeast, and you make sure your water isn't too hot, you almost can't fail.
2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (think baby bottle warm)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, chopped, or 1 tablespoon fresh
3 cups flour (I use half whole wheat)
2-6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup to 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
additional chopped dried or fresh rosemary
In a large bowl, combine yeast, sugar, water, olive oil, pepper, salt, rosemary and half of the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon. (Alternately, if you have a free standing mixer, put in all of the flour and let the machine do the work.) Work in the remaining flour, using your hands and kneading when necessary. Knead dough for five minutes. Cover and let rise for one hour. (The dough can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Cover with saran wrap and store in fridge.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Press dough into a 12 inch circle. Don't worry about being perfect; you're going for rustic Italian here. Press the dough all over with your fingertips to make indentations. Cover dough with olive oil, cheese, rosemary and black pepper. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve. Any leftovers make a killer sandwich for the next day.
Up Next: My New Favorite Dinner
20 minute Toasted Walnut and Garlic Pasta
plus a burning question....