Tomato-Basil Soup

For the cooking classes I teach at the Mooreland Free Fair each summer, I always try to highlight some fresh, in-season produce since Indiana has such fantastic garden fare in August.  Even though our overall harvest has been a bit lackluster so far this season, our basil has been beautiful.  I am not sure how many times I’ve made this soup (or a version of it) this summer, but it’s been quite a few.  Today’s batch was generously garnished with some yummy queso fresco.  Mmmm!

2-3 T. oil or butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (or 2-ish cups fresh, diced)
1/2 c. fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 (15-oz.) can chicken broth (about 2 cups or so)
1/2 t. freshly-ground pepper
1/2 c. half & half or whole milk

In oil, saute onion until translucent.

Add tomatoes, basil salt and pepper; bring to a simmer.

Add broth and pepper; stir.

Blend until smooth.  (Make sure to cool mixture adequately if pouring into a blender with a plastic pitcher.)

Stir in half & half; add more salt and pepper if needed.


Easy Tomato Soup

Grilled cheese sounds good to me right now.  And, when I think of grilled cheese, I sometimes think of tomato soup.  This yummy version can be made with canned tomatoes or fresh, so it’s a great recipe to have on-hand in the year-round.  I’m even thinking of making enough of this to can this summer.  Soup always tastes best to me during the winter months.

2 cans (14.5 oz. ea.) diced Italian tomatoes, undrained (or about 4 c. of diced fresh tomatoes plus some basil, oregano and garlic to taste)
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed
6 T. flour
4 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
parmesan cheese

In a blender, process tomatoes until pureed; set aside.

In a large-ish saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until tender, then add garlic and cook about 60 seconds.  Remove from heat.  Stir flour in until smooth.  Return pan to heat and cook about a minute or so.

Gradually whisk in broth.  Add pureed tomatoes; bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes to allow flavors to become lovely.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top…and a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.

$12.00 (NOT!!) Cheesy Meatball Soup

This recipe came from my friend, Laura, and I think of her and our high school days every time I make it.  She and I have a lot of things in common, but there are some things in which she and I are polar opposites.  I still respect who she is, though, and I remember with fondness the common bond we share from our growing-up years.

Back to the soup:  There are all kinds of ways to cut costs in here to bring it down from a $12 soup to a $6 soup.  🙂  This is a great soup to make the day before you need it, because it re-heats nicely.  Plus, almost everyone loves cheese and meatballs.

The notes in parentheses are the things I do to reduce the cost.

2 lbs. cooked meatballs (You can buy prepared meatballs, or you can make your own, which GREATLY reduces the cost of this soup.  There’s a meatball recipe below.)
2 cans beef broth (15-ish oz. each)
2 cans water
1 c. sliced carrots
1 c. cubed potatoes
1 c. chopped celery (I usually replace the celery with broccoli, and I add the broccoli when I add the meatballs.)
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 c. corn
1 t. hot sauce
1 jar Cheez-Whiz (I make my own version of this OR I just make a cheesy white sauce like I would for homemade macaroni and cheese.  You will need about 2-3 cups of cheesiness.)

Bring broth and veggies to a boil, simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.
Add meatballs and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Stir in Tabasco and Cheez-Whiz just before serving.

Serve with more Tabasco, if desired, and tortilla chips.  I also like to have a tossed salad with it.

2 lbs. ground beef or ground pork
1 t. Tabasco
1/2 c. bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 t. dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste

Mix and shape into small meatballs.  Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes, or until done.

NOTE:  Although the soup itself does not freeze well, these meatballs freeze beautifully, so feel free to double the recipe and tuck some baked meatballs into the freezer (which will make this soup much less time-consuming next time).

Unstuffed Pepper Soup

This is a great, low-cost recipe from my friend, Jamie.  It’s very versatile and quite tasty.

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (I only used 1 lb. because I’m cheap.)
3 lg. green peppers, chopped (I chopped frozen pepper strips from last summer’s garden–about 3-4 c. total.)
1 lg. onion, chopped
2 cans (14 oz. each) beef broth (You could use chicken broth instead,  if you prefer.
2 cans (10 oz. each) condensed tomato soup, undiluted
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes, undrained  (I used one quart whole tomatoes and kinda smooshed ’em up.)
1 can mushroom stems and pieces, drained (I didn’t use these b/c I didn’t have them.)
1 1/2 c. cooked rice
salt & pepper as needed (and maybe a little bit of sugar if you’re using home-canned tomatoes)

In Dutch oven, cook ground beef, peppers and onions over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.  Stir in broth, soup, tomatoes and mushrooms.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add rice and heat through.  Yield:  10 servings

Zucchini Garden Chowder

This recipe was an Eat Cheap! contest winner a few summers ago, submitted by Rebecca Barnes of Winchester.  Here’s what Rebecca says about this chowder, “This recipe is very good and uses a lot of out of garden ingredients. It’s the only soup that my family doesn’t mind eating in the summer! I usually serve it with a sandwich or bread.”

We agree.  It’s a fabulous go-to recipe.

2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil (I use fresh)
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups water
3 chicken bouillon cubes (I usually use chicken broth for water and cubes)
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, un-drained (you can use fresh if you have them)
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn (again, use fresh if you have it)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar

In a Dutch oven or soup kettle over medium heat, saute the zucchini, onion, parsley and basil in butter until vegetables are tender. Stir in flour salt and pepper.

Gradually stir in water or broth. Add the bouillon (if not using broth) mix well.

Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, milk and corn; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until corn is tender.

Just before serving, stir in cheeses until melted. Garnish with chopped parsley if desired.

Yields 8-10 servings or 2.5 quarts

French Onion Soup

I don’t know why people think this is one of those soups you can only have at a restaurant. It’s very easy to make, and it’s a good way to eat cheap!

4 big onions, sliced thinly (cooking onions have more flavor than sweet ones for this)

2 T. butter (or olive oil)

1 T. flour

6 c. beef broth

1/4 t. pepper

 6 slices French bread or croutons (This is a great way to use day-old bread or stale croutons. Crusty bread is definitely better than soft bread, though.)

1 c. Swiss cheese, shredded (or Provolone)

In a stockpot, sauté onions in butter at a high temperature until softened; stir in flour.

Add broth and heat until simmering. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add pepper. (You can actually freeze the soup at this point. Just be sure to use name-brand bags and double-bag it!)

Turn on broiler. Put soup in oven-safe bowls and top with a slice of French bread (or croutons) and Swiss. Place bowls on a cookie sheet and brown cheese under broiler for 3 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling.

Be sure to set the timer!  You just might cry if you burn that beautiful cheese!

Cheeseburger Soup

This is a great soup–simple and tasty.  The original version called for Velveeta, but I improvised with a quick homemade cheese sauce that ANYone can make.

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 c. potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (You can always leave this out if you want–or add more.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. water and 2 beef bouillon cubes (or 2 c. beef broth)
2 c. milk

Brown beef with onion and drain.

Add next 5 ingredients and simmer on low.

To make the cheese sauce:

Grate 8 oz. bar of yellow cheese (cheddar, colby, etc.)

Melt 4 T. butter in saucepan.
Add 1/2 c. flour and whisk until blended.

Mixture should be pasty. Thin with milk (about half a cup or so) until mixture looks kind of like gravy.  Stir constantly!

Add grated cheese and stir until melted.

Add cheese sauce to ground beef mixture.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add chopped bacon or green onions just before serving if desired.