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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Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM#83

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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

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM#83

Apple sauce cake

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I love edible gifts. Sometimes so much that I don’t even share it. Not even with my ten year old son. This was one of those kinds. Usha of My Spicy Kitchen had gifted me, Pavani and Mireille this wonderful apple sauce cake when we met sometime back. Her gift was a mini cake beautifully packaged and presented in a cute checkered cupcake liner. It was very impressive. So impressive that I almost finished the cake on my own (remember – it was a mini cake). But guilt won over and I left some of this delicious cake for my kid, but it took some serious will power…let me tell you that!

I got the recipe from her (from King Arthur Flour) and baked it soon after. And I am sure I will bake this again for this holiday season. I am just inspired looking at the recipe again! I don’t buy apple sauce at home, but bought it specifically for this recipe. I am thinking of making smaller cakes like Usha did so that it’s easier to gift.

The cake is made with whole wheat flour. It is moist and soft and I love the addition of raisins to the cake. This makes a wonderful snack cake. With the apple sauce and the whole wheat, we can almost label it ‘healthy’. Well, healthy if you ignore the amount of sugar and butter. Or maybe healthier compared to other cakes. My honest opinion is that cakes are not healthy food even if it is made with whole wheat and apples, but we are good as long as we are sticking to that one single slice. Or may be that single mini cake :D.

Read on for the recipe.

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Recipe source: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (113gms), softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional
  • 1-2 tablespoon Icing sugar, optional

Method:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 180 C/ 350F. Grease and line a 9″ baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the dry ingredients  – flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon – and mix well using a wire whisk.
  3. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together well. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat it in.
  4. Now add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating it with the applesauce.
  5. Fold in the nuts and raisins gently. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40-50 minutes or until a skewer comes free of crumbs when inserted in the middle of the cake.
  6. Take off the oven and let the cake rest in the pan for at least ten minutes before taking out of the pan. Slice once the cake is completely cool. You can add some icing sugar on top if you feel like.

 

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This post is a part of the Bake-a-thon 2017

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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.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM#83 

 

 

Eggless Whole wheat Buttermilk cake

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I cannot believe that its already December and the year is almost over! With December comes a lot of birthdays in my family and a lot of baking for me. Its the most busy time of the year for me. Still when Valli pinged about Bakeathon 2017, an yearly baking event that goes live every Monday, Wednesday and Friday of December, I didn’t want to miss.

I am the unofficial cake maker of my family and my extended family here. They are my willing guinea pigs, but for most part I have started sticking to only tried and tested recipes. This cake was baked for my friend’s sister, who also taught us the art of Reiki. She bakes a lot and uses whole grains over plain ones. So I appealed to my Blogging Marathon friends for a tried and tested recipe. I ended up using Priya’s oft repeated whole wheat cake recipe. The only change I made to her recipe was to incorporate an additional step from my regular cake. I added the baking powder and soda to the sugar-buttermilk mix until it bubbles up.

To say that this cake was stunning, would be an understatement. It was served for a group of fifteen and every single one raved about it. I really didn’t expect such a reaction for a cake as simple as this, and that too made of whole wheat flour. Since it was a big group, I needed three layers. I don’t know whether the recipe scales well (not all recipes do) and didn’t want to take a risk.  So instead of tripling the recipe, I ended up baking it three times. The recipe below is however for a single layer cake.

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The simple syrup is very important for the cake. In fact I add it to all the cakes that I bake and frost. Simple syrup is water and sugar mixed in 1:1 proportion. But you can reduce the sugar to even half that quantity and still get away with it. But for this cake, I used 1:1 proportion.

Read on for the recipe and tutorial.

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup sugar*
  • 1/3 cup oil (odorless like sunflower or canola)

* Use 1 cup if you want it sweeter or if are planning to serve it plain. With frosting and the simple syrup 3/4 cup turned out okay for us.

Simple syrup:

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Glaze:

  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Frosting and filling:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 170 C/330 F. Grease a nine inch pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. In a big bowl, add the buttermilk and sugar and oil. Using a wire whisk, mix until the sugar dissolves. Add the baking powder and baking soda. Let it sit aside for 5 minutes to bubble.
  3. Sift the flour 2-3 times. Add this in 3 batches to the wet ingredients, folding carefully after each addition.
  4. Pour batter into a greased and lined 9″ pan. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes free of crumbs when inserted in the middle of the cake. Take out of the oven and let the cake cool in the pan itself for 10-15 minutes.
  5. After that, carefully take the cake out of the pan and cover it in 2 rounds of cling wrap. Return it to the pan and leave until ready to assemble.
  6. Check the pictorial on how to frost and assemble the cake.

Heat the oven to 170 C/330 F. Grease and line an 9″ pan with parchment paper. In a big bowl, add the buttermilk and sugar and oil. Using a wire whisk, mix until the sugar dissolves.

Add the baking powder and baking soda. Let it sit aside for 5 minutes to bubble. Sift the flour 2-3 times. Add this in 3 batches to the wet ingredients, folding carefully after each addition.

Once the flour is incorporated fully, pour batter into a greased and lined pan. I have used a 9″ pan here. An 8″ pan would give you a little more height.  Bake for about 35-40 minutes until a skewer comes free of crumbs when inserted in the middle of the cake. Take out of the oven and let the cake cool in the pan itself for about 15 minutes.

Once the cake is cool, carefully take the cake out of the pan, peel off the parchment paper and cover it in 2 rounds of cling wrap. Return it to the pan and leave until ready to assemble. I usually do this 2-3 days before the event and leave the cake this way until I fill and frost it. Prepare the sugar syrup and once its cool, refrigerate till the time of assembling.

For frosting and filling the cake, beat fresh cream with sugar until it holds peaks. I have used 3 cups of fresh cream here since I am frosting three cakes.

To anchor the cake to the cardboard base, use a little jam or fresh cream. I have used Nutella here, since I was sure that there are no nut allergies. Cut each cake into two layers. Keep the first layer and sprinkle it with sugar syrup liberally. I use about 3-4 tablespoons of syrup per layer and I just use my hands to sprinkle it.

Using an offset spatula or a butter knife, fill the cake with whipped cream. Build the layers, sprinkling each layer with the simple syrup and then filling with fresh cream.

Cover the entire cake roughly with fresh cream for a crumb coat. Refrigerate for at least half an hour. Cover with another round of fresh cream for the final finish. You will need an offset spatula and a turn table for a smooth finish.

For the glaze, add 3/4 cup chocolate chips to a microwave safe bowl with 1 tablespoon honey and 2 tablespoons each of milk and butter. Microwave in short bursts (15 seconds each) mixing well with a silicon spatula after each burst until the chocolate completely melts.

Add the glaze to the sides of the cake and let it drip slowly down. Fill in the center and carefully smooth it out.

Run the offset spatula under hot water, wipe the water off with a kitchen towel. Carefully smooth the top of the chocolate layer for a clean finish. Repeat a couple of times until the top is smooth. Using piping bag fitted with piping nozzles, decorate the cake as you wish with whipped cream and strawberries. Refrigerate until the time of serving.

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This is part of the Bake-a-thon 2017