Creamy tomato soup with basil pesto

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BMN # 83: Week 1, Day 2
Theme : Soups and Stews

I used to make tomato soup only from fresh tomatoes. But recently that I came across this super easy version with canned tomatoes and I have been making this every now and then when my son asks for it. My son is a big fan of tomato soup with croutons.

When I was in India, I always used to feel a little jealous about all the ready made food items that you can pick off the shelf from a supermarket in US. Like for this recipe, its just mixing canned tomatoes, bottled pesto and cream/evaporated milk for a few minutes. Its only after moving to US that I understood how much more domestic work load is there for the families here. My day started with cooking and packing lunch. After my son and my husband left, I was sweeping and mopping the house, loading the dish washer, hand washing the pans that cannot go in it, washing the clothes and folding and ironing them later. Almost all of those chores was handled by my maid in India. By the the time I was done with all that, it was time to cook dinner and once the kid is home, your time is not yours anymore.

I am not working, so I have time to attend to all this. But  if I was working, the amount of workload would still be the same. There is no way the families can manage all this, without a little help from occasional packaged items. I would never recommend opening packages every single day. But every now and then, we need all the help we can get.

So here is a quick recipe made with some easy to put together ingredients. Read on…

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Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2  14 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons basil pesto
  • salt and pepper as needed

Method:

  1. Heat the butter in a big pan. Saute the onion until pink. Add the canned tomatoes, season with salt and pepper. Cook it in a slow simmer for about 10 minutes. Take off the heat. Once its cool enough, puree the soup in small batches and return to the pot.
  2. Add in the milk and cream and bring it to a slow simmer. Turn the heat off and at the time of serving stir in a teaspoon or two of basil pesto. Serve with toasted bread and salad on the side.

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Broccoli Soup

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BMN # 83: Week 1, Day 2
Theme : Soups and Stews

I have always loved soups and salads. Luckily my son has taken after me and not after his dad in this matter. His dad eats healthy, but definitely not raw. Soups are okay but still not a favorite. Still that doesn’t stop me from preparing soups frequently.

Coming to the recipe here,this is the kind of soup that you can start when you realize that your son is going to be home from school in fifteen minutes and be finished by the time he is home. Only reduce the quantity in half to prepare for one and you are good! All you need to do is cook the broccoli with stock, onions and garlic, purée it and then cook again with some milk. It’s a simple, delightful treat for me. I prefer butter over olive oil in this recipe, the flavor of garlic cooked with butter is delicious.

Bread croutons are a must with soup for my son, so that’s an addition as well. This soup is perfect for a light meal, serve with a salad and bread on side to make it the main meal.

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Recipe adapted from: All Recipes

Serves two

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon butter or olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 cups broth
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat oil or butter in a pan. Saute the garlic and the onions. Add broccoli and the broth and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer and cook until the broccoli is tender.
  2. Take off the heat and puree in a blender once its cooled down. Pour it back to the soup pot, add milk and seasonings. Bring it to a slow simmer and take of the heat.  Serve with bread croutons on top.broccoli_soup1

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Meal in a bowl Soup

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BMN # 83: Week 1, Day 1
Theme : Soups and Stews
There are some books that you always reach out for when looking for an idea for a meal. One of my favorite books to browse is The Perfect recipe for losing weight and eating right. The main reason I like the book is that flavor variations that each recipe gives. Like for soups, there is this basic recipe that you follow. But if you change the ingredients every time – be it the choice of vegetables, starch or seasonings, you end up with a different flavor each time you serve it. So same basic recipe which starts with  sauteed onions and a tomato & broth combination, ends up being different every time. The author has named the soup section as Meal in a bowl Soups. And I have used the same for this post title. You cannot explain the concept better I guess!

This time I decided to go with a clear soup with whatever veggies were left in my fridge. So you have a zucchini,fennel, celery soup. I wanted it to be light, so I was debating whether to add the beans or not. I ended up adding it finally to my bowl and then heating it up again. I served the soup with an egg on top. That yellow color perks me up on a cold day.

Read on for the recipe.

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The recipe makes 4-5 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups veg broth or water
  • 1 can diced tomatoes or 5-6 tomatoes roughly pureed
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano/basil
  • 1/2 kilo (1 lb) vegetables of your choice*
  • 1 cup cooked black beans
  • 1/4 cup white rice
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce like Tabasco or Sriracha
  • 1 sunny side egg, optional
  • salt, pepper and pepper flakes as needed

*I have used a mix of sliced celery, zucchini and fennel.

Method:

  1. Bring broth or water and the tomatoes to a boil. Turn off the heat.
  2. Heat oil in a pan, saute onions until it turns brown. Add beans and washed rice. Pour the tomato broth mix and bring to a simmer. Add the dried basil or oregano and salt and pepper as needed. Let the vegetables cook in a slow simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables and the rice is completely cooked through.  Taste test and adjust the seasonings
  3. Turn off the heat and stir in some hot sauce if preferred. Let the soup sit for five minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve with a sunny side egg on top if preferred.

Note: I added the beans only at the time of serving as I didn’t add them when the soup was cooking.

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This recipe goes to this week’s Cooking from Cook Book Challenge. Please follow the link to know more about the event.

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Easy Chana chaat

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3:00 PM is panic time at my place. My son comes home by 4. Usually I give him rice and veggies leftover from our lunch. But there are times when I would have managed an easy lunch somehow and then there won’t be anything left for him to eat. Even though I know that he comes by 4, I choose only 3 PM to start panicking. I am cool as cucumber until then.

On one of those days, I made this quick chana chaat using canned beans. If you can plan ahead you can always soak and cook chana. The chutneys takes only a few minutes to make or you can always use ready made ones. I have used the recipe from Vaishali’s space. Ideally you use only sweet chutney for this, but I added a teeny tiny bit of green chutney too. My son loves the sweet chutney a lot. I make paani puri with aloo filling with ready made puris too, but for today’s post, it is the chana chaat.

Chaat in general is not exactly healthy, but this particular one is definitely healthy. There is no deep frying involved, its just cooked chana with chutneys, spices and a bit of yogurt. I added a spoon of ready made sev for a bit of crunch, but its not enough to make the healthy factor go away.

Here is the recipe.

Ingredients:
For the green chutney:

  • 1 cup coriander leaves
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 1 green chili (or per taste)
  • juice of a lemon
  • salt as needed

Grind everything together to a fine paste. Some people add ginger and garlic as well when grinding. You will need only a teaspoon or so of this chutney, so you can skip this if you want.

For the sweet chutney:

  • 1/2 cup of tamarind pulp
  • 1/2 cup jaggery
  •  a pinch each chili powder, garam masala and hing
  • salt as needed

Mix 1 tablespoon tamarind paste with half cup of water to get 1/2 cup of pulp. Or soak a small gooseberry sized tamarind ball in 1/2 cup water for 15 minutes and then extract the pulp and discard the fibrous bits. Bring the pulp to a boil with jaggery (or sugar). Add salt and the powders. Taste test and adjust if needed. Let it cook until it thickens a bit. Take off the heat and once its cooled down, use it in the chaat.

For the chaat:

  • 1 can garbonzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 small tomato, chopped finely
  • 1/2 small potato, boiled
  • handful of chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chaat masala, ready made
  • lemon juice and salt as needed
  • a tablespoon of sweet chutney
  • a teaspoon of green chutney
  • a teaspoon of sev, optional

Method:

  1. In a bowl, add the drained and washed beans, onions, tomatoes, coriander leaves, potatoes, chili powder, chaat masala. Mix it in carefully and add lemon juice and salt to taste. You can add more or less chaat masala according to your preference. Add some sweet chutney and green chutney. Serve with some sev on top.

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Pasta Salad

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My son stands against anything with pasta and rice. He does eat both, but with such a long face that it almost makes me guilty. Almost… But I don’t give up on these two foods and keep bringing them to the table irrespective of the nasty looks, sighs and nays.

The kid does like salads, so I have started adding a bit of pasta to his salad. He seems to be okay with that. So now, once in a while, I pack a cold pasta salad for his lunch. I prepare it the night before and refrigerate so that the flavors can mingle.

A good thing about salad is that you don’t need to have an exact recipe. Whatever is available in the fridge paired with a bit of  dressing makes an excellent one. My go-to salad dressing is a mix of mayonnaise and honey mustard, but I am slowly including more of the classic olive oil and lemon juice now a days.

For a salad, I like the combination of vegetables with beans and fruits. The bit of sweetness that the fruit imparts gives a lovely flavor and the beans fill you up. Cheese is more for my son’s taste buds. For this particular dish, I had some ready made taco seasoning to be used up. So that went into the dressing with olive oil and lemon juice. This video from Tasty is what I followed for the dressing. I had to skip the jalapenos and garlic since it was for my son’s lunch box. Taco seasoning is a mix of spices and can be made at home as well. Here is a recipe if you want to make it at home.

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Serves 2

Recipe adapted from: Tasty – Pasta Salad 4 ways

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked pasta
  • 1/2 cup cooked red kidney beans
  • 2 slices of cheese torn into small pieces or 1/3 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced mangoes
  • 3 tablespoons sliced olives
  • 1 big tomato, diced
  • handful of coriander leaves, chopped
  • salt as needed

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ready made taco seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, minced, optional
  • 1 tablespoon jalapenos, optional

Method:

  1. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cook roughly about one cup pasta in boiling water with salt to get two cups of cooked pasta. Drain and let it cool completely.
  3. Combine the salad ingredients to the pasta. Slowly add the dressing, mixing it in. You don’t have to use all the dressing, you can stop when you feel that the taste is fine.
  4. Do a taste test before adding salt, since pasta was cooked in salted water and taco seasoning also has salt.

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