Homemade Tomato Soup

So, it’s finally chilly enough to warrant some wholesome, homemade soup! Tonight I whipped up one of my easiest recipes. It’s a favourite for the ease of preparation and the very basic (and affordable) ingredient list. Seriously, if you keep an even half-way stocked pantry, you’ll always have this simple list on-hand. Check it out:

image

I also love that it’s a one-pot deal. Toss your olive oil in a large soup pot and saute four cloves of freshly minced garlic and two chopped yellow onions in the bottom.

image

Once they are translucent, add any seasonings you like! Tonight I added some Italian seasoning, but sometimes I get wild and crazy. Lemon pepper or rosemary also work.

image

That’s when you add some flour (to absorb the oil and create some thickness), and add in the your pantry staple trio – a package of veggie stock, a can of stewed tomatoes (I like seasoned ones) and a can of tomato paste.

image

Bring that bad boy to a boil and add a bit of sugar (or sugar substitute) to cut the acidity. You can also add your choice of dairy or dairy substitute (I prefer half & half cream) to really thicken it up and add some creaminess.

image

Heat it through, then haul out your handy immersion blender to make the whole, beautiful pot smooth. Oh, and think about a side dish that works with soup!

image

One of my hubby’s favourites is the Cheesy Garlic Melt from M&M Meat Shops (yes, that is a shameless plug, lol!). It’s basically garlic fingers with cheese that heats up in 15 minutes – even easier than making grilled cheese sandwiches!

image

And in less than 30 minutes (and for about $7 total), you’ve got a hearty dinner for two plus lunches for tomorrow!

image

So go ahead and get wild & crazy with ingredients and sides – we’re in for a long, cold soup season after all :).

Advertisements

Adventures in Beeting

I’ve always been a fan of beets. There’s something earthy and humble about them – all purple and concentric once you peel back a few layers. Pickled beets have been a particular favourite of mine, although until this year, I had to rely on the canning skills and kindness of friends to get my fill. My kitchen usually celebrated their arrival with a nice chocolate beet cake. But no more! This year I tackled the beet beast and managed to can 18 jars, all sliced to (almost) perfection. Here’s what I learned along the way…

1. The ingredient list is short. Just vinegar, salt, sugar and water – plus, of course, the purple beauties themselves.

image

2. Beets aren’t nearly as attractive raw and untrimmed as they are cooked and with their tails cut off.

image

3. Beets are tricky to peel with gloves on – so much so that I’d risk purple-stained fingertips to do it without them.

4. Beets are even trickier to slice into near-perfect 1/2 inch thick rounds. Gloves are also over-rated in this exercise.

image

5. There’s nothing more satisfying than filling a lot of jars with beety goodness.

image

6. Even if you end up with dozens of jars, once you’re found out as a keeper of beets, they’ll be gone before you know it!

image

7. And then you’re left with only fond memories and beet stains until next season :(.

image

Happy beeting, friends!

The Canning Season

I dabbled a bit in canning last year after reading a delicious-sounding recipe for peach salsa. It was quite an adventure, given that I ‘made do” with whatever equipment I had in my kitchen¬† (i.e. nothing!) at the time. The salsa, nonetheless, turned out well and I was pretty enamoured with canning. Enter Christmas, and a wonderfully thoughtful beginners’ canning kit gift from my in-laws, and I was simply counting down the days to the late summer harvest.

In August, I began reading foodie blogs in earnest to prep for the season. It was on several of them that I was invited to enter a contest to win a copy of a new (and highly-touted) book by Canadian blogger, Amy Bronee, aptly named The Canning Kitchen. And whaddaya know? I won!

image

So began my season of canning! Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing my experiences with canning five different recipes this year. And today, I’ll start with the one that was the easiest – crunchy dill pickles.

As with all my canning adventures, I began at St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, where I picked up my straight-from-the-farm ingredients – a huge bunch of dill, 1/2 bushel of pickling cucumbers, and seriously fresh, locally-grown garlic. I had the rest of my ingredients on-hand at home, including pickling vinegar (it’s just white vinegar with 7% acetic acid) and pickling salt (available wherever canning supplies are sold).

Can I just say that this recipe couldn’t be simpler? I scrubbed my cukes in water, cut them into spears, tossed them into my jars with dill and garlic, and covered them in the boiled brine (vinegar, water and salt). For you sticklers, here’s some visual inspiration…

image

image

image

Of course, I followed the processing recommendations in the recipe – which was a snap with my new-fangled canning supplies. I could fit 10-500 ml jars at a time in my pot and rack combo, and removing them from their 20-minute hot water bath was so much easier with a jar lifter.

image

In terms of difficulty, this recipe and process was easily beginner-proof. I’d recommend it to newbie canners just starting out for sure! And the results? 15-500 ml jars of crunchy dills that are ridiculously sought-after by family and friends (really!). Just the confidence booster I needed to set the stage for the rest of my canning adventures!

image

So don’t let fear of the unfamiliar hold you back –¬† if I can do it, anyone can (get it?)! Happy canning :).