Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese

I'll give you the punchline quick: the key to any good creamy soup is... cream cheese! This applies to tomato soup, but I have also had great success with cauliflower soup, broccoli soup and many others. I think cream cheese, even low fat cream cheese, gives soup a really nice creamy texture when compared to milk.

This is more or less an original recipe if you can really call it a recipe. In terms of the goals of this blog: cheap, quick, and local (and healthy) this meal does fairly well. It's definitely fast, and I would say healthy, you could use local tomatoes (I didn't). I did use organic tomatoes and I am pretty sure it still comes out fairly inexpensive.

Garlic infused olive oil from PD Farms!

Tomato Soup

1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cans tomatoes
1 tsp basil
1 tsp honey
1/4 cup cream cheese

Saute onion in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add garlic and saute an additional 30 seconds. Add tomatoes an other ingredients (except for cream cheese) and simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Taste and adjust flavors if necessary. I don't usually add salt because there is quite a bit in most canned tomatoes, but if you used no "salt added" tomatoes you might want to.
About this much basil

Puree soup. I use an immersion blender which I highly recommend, but any blender works. Add cream cheese and heat until cream cheese is melted.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

mmmm cheese and roasted peppers
Again, not sure if this constitute a recipe, but there is something about a good sandwich, especially a good grilled cheese sandwich. For this one I used whole grain bread, extra sharp cheddar and roasted red peppers. I really like roasted red peppers on grilled cheese.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tortellini with Creamy Mushroom Sauce + Garlic Green Beans

Tortellini with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

The big thing in this meal, in terms of cooking skill, is the creamy mushroom sauce. One of my New Years resolutions this year was to get better at making sauces, and this was one of my attempts. This is kind of the only News Years Resolutions I have actually made progress on, others include making monthly budgets, working out 30 minutes a day, and not leaving dishes in the sink over night. But I still have 8 months to start making moves. Anyway, in terms of my goals of making food that is quick, cheap, and local (and good) this meal was definitely quick and fairly inexpensive, the green beans and milk were organic, and I used local/organic garlic from PD Farms. While cream sauce can be pretty (very) rich this one is lighter then most because it uses 2% milk instead of cream.

The inspiration for the mushroom sauce came from the Breitenbush Cookbook. Breitenbush is a hot spring resort in the Cascades and it is one of my favorite places in the world! They have a great vegetarian and vegan buffets and if you are camping near by you can just pay for lunch, or dinner or whatever. I've been happy with the recipes I've tried so far but I have noticed that they tend to make quantities sufficient for 10 or so people (even when they say 6 to 8). Good if you are running a retreat center, not as good when you are cooking for two. They recommend serving this sauce over herb biscuits, when making biscuits and gravy, which I tried and would also recommend.

The original recipe calls for 1 -1/2 cups of half and half plus 1/4 cup sour cream which I am sure would be delicious but is a little rich for me so I lightened it a bit. Here's my version:

Creamy Mushroom Sauce;
2 tbs butter
1/2 lb mushrooms (I always have trouble with weights since I don't have a scale, I used about two cups)
2 tbs flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1- 1/2 cup milk (any kind, but I usually use 2%)
1 tbs wine
1/4 cup yogurt (I almost always substitute yogurt for sour cream, but at least the nonfat has a tendency to separate and look a little watery - it still tastes good)
1 to 2 tbs herbs depending on taste - I like rosemary and thyme

Chop mushrooms, you can either slice them or chop them more finely depending on the texture you are going for. Heat butter in large skillet and saute mushrooms until tender. Mushrooms release a lot of water when cooked so wait until most of this liquid has cooked off unless you want a really watery sauce. Add flour and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or so (cooking flour and fat such as butter is called making a roux and is the basis of pretty much all sauces). Add milk, salt, pepper, wine and herbs and cook on low stirring regularly. Cook until the sauce has thickened. This is usually a minute or two after it starts boiling. Add yogurt and remove from heat. You can also add pretty much any type of cheese such as Parmesan or cheddar at this stage to make a variety of sauces.

Cook tortellini, or pasta of your choice according to package instructions. Add sauce. Mmmmm

Garlic Green Beans:

OK, this isn't really a recipe. Wash green beans. Heat garlic olive oil or regular olive oil. Add chopped garlic if using regular oil and saute for 30 seconds. Add green beans and saute until tender - about 5 minutes. Done!

Smacznego! (I think that's bon appetite in Polish, but I just googled it and don't speak Polish so I could be wrong)