Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Wholesome ingredients make this better for you than the stuff you had as a kid, and is easy to make
Wholesome ingredients make this better for you than the stuff you had as a kid, and is easy to make

I used to serve at one of the most successful restaurant chains in the world, and man were they good at making, well, everything. People were always surprised when we told them everything was made from scratch and to order…except for the soup. The soup came in a bag and while still delicious had a million ingredients. I always thought this was a little strange, because soups are so so easy to make.

The following recipe is a simpler re-creation of one of the soups from this restaurant…it was the soup we would sneak into mugs and hide in the corner and drink it was so good. Little did we know that we were drinking to our health, as tomatoes are high in antioxidants, have been proven to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and are high in Potassium and Vitamin’s A & C. My Creamy Tomato Basil Soup has wholesome, real ingredients, and is the perfect soup for pairing with a wintery day and a nice glass of Chianti.

Ingredients

2 tbps olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 small cooking onion, chopped

1 leek, sliced

2.5l canned peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes (I use the big can from Costco)

1 cup vegetable stock

1 cup heavy red wine

3 tbsp fresh basil, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup 35% cream

Salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat, then add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add onion and cook for 1 minute. Add leek and continue to cook until soft and onions are translucent, 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes one at a time, discarding the hard, green tip of each one as you go, then dumping the juices in when done.

Turn the heat up to medium high and let mixture come to a boil. Add the vegetable stock and wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the basil, reduce heat to medium low, and let simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Turn to low and stir in cream. Allow soup to heat through, and serve!

This Creamy Tomato Basil Soup is delicious when topped with fresh basil, feta cheese, old cheddar, parm, pine nuts, or any combination of the above. While the amount of cream in the soup is small in comparison to volume, you may want to opt for a lighter or vegan option instead. Should you go this route, remember the soup is highly acidic, so to avoid any milk or dairy substitute from curdling, sprinkle 1-2 tsps baking soda over the soup and stir in. This will neutralize the acid and make any cream replacement work.

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French Onion Soup

So simple so good
So simple so good

So I know that EVERYONE is under the impression that French Onion soup needs beef broth and soggy bread to be awesome…and to be honest French Onion Soup with both of those things is crazy good. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here is a surprising truth: French Onion Soup originated in the French countrysides in husband and wife little hostels/b&b’s where travelers stopped for a filling meal and a good sleep. The only ingredients in their soup were onions, water, salt & pepper, and then topped with whatever they could afford at the time. It was designed to be a cheap and long-lasting and easily accessible, and let’s face it, onions are pretty much always good to go.

My French Onion Soup is completely vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free without any toppers, so it’s totally up to you what it becomes. Oh, and did I mention that it is delicious and flavourful and if you never say anything NO ONE will guess that there is no meat involved in the making of this soup. I dare you to take this challenge…

Ingredientsimage

8-12 onions, sliced (the more variety the better)

1/2 bottle of decent, full bodied red (Cab Sauv is best, a French full bodied wine is better, but basically anything you will drink on it’s own but doesn’t cost a ton)

1 carton (900ml) vegetable stock (or even better make your own)

1 carton (refill your veggie stock carton) water

White, non-died string + cheesecloth

2 sprigs each of fresh thyme and rosemary

3 bay leaves

Parmesan Crisps

1 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese + parchament paper

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Half and slice onions by hand or in food processor, making lengthwise strips. Put all strips in large stock pot with lid or Dutch Oven on stove on medium heat, and let cook for 4-8 hours. Remember, the longer it cooks the more flavour you get; these onions will create their own, amazing, delicious juice which is what you want for this soup. The onions should caramelize and can even stick to the bottom of the pot as much as they want, because that’s all flavour. Stir every hour or so. No butter, no oil, no anything is necessary for this process.

Once you have decided your onions are dark enough, add your wine, and let cook/reduce for 5 minutes. Then add vegetable broth, water, and bay leaves. Pack the thyme and rosemary in the cheesecloth, make a “tea bag” and tie/secure with string, then drop in the soup, tieing one end of the string to a pot handle. If you have no cheesecloth, no worries…tie the herbs together and secure to the pot handle without the cheesecloth and your good. Let cook one hour.

Optional: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Place 2 inch round disks of grated parm. Cook for 5 minutes until golden and let cool.

Spoon soup into bowls and top with Parmesan Crisps. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Bean and Toasted Cumin Soup

This toasty, smoky, nutritious soup is great to whip up at the last minute.
This toasty, smoky, nutritious soup is great to whip up at the last minute.

 

I am feeling a bit under the weather today, so this toasty, smoky and very filling Black Bean and Toasted Cumin Soup is perfect on my sore throat. This soup is really flavourful, full of protein, and is also one of the all-time easiest soups to make. You can choose to make the unfancy version with cumin powder and no garnish, or you can fancy your soup up with all the fixins’. Either way, this recipe is a delicious and nutritious way to whip something up last minute.

Toasting Cumin Seeds

Ingredients

5 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cans (425g) black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tbps toasted cumin seeds, ground

1 carton (900ml) of no salt added vegetable stock

cilantro (optional)

1/4 cup plain Greek Yogurt (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Blending Soup

 

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Add garlic to oil, and let cook 30 seconds. Add the onion, and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the black beans, cumin, and some salt and pepper to taste, and continue cooking, 3 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Puree the soup using a hand blender until smooth.

Transfer soup to bowls, garnish and serve.

Optional Garnishes

1 spoonful of plain Greek Yogurt or sour cream

1 sprig fresh cilantro

Drizzle of cilantro oil (zing 4 tbsp olive oil and few springs of cilantro with hand blender in wide mouth mason jar)

Cilantro Oil

Soup will keep, sealed in an airtight container and refrigerated, for one week.

 

Levels of Awesome

Healthy food is typically boring and lame. I thought so too…how can food taste good without delicious starchy-ness? Without deep-fried crunchiness? Without meaty saturated fatiness? Well, my friend, it is entirely doable, you just have to add dimensions of flavour to your everyday ingredients. Incorporate these suggestions to make your salads, soups, curries, stir fries, sauces and bakes more flavourful and exciting, without adding extra bad for you stuff. Think of it as increasing your foods level of awesomeness a little bit more every time.

 

Roast Roasted Tomatoes 1

Take plain veggies and supe them up a bit. Roast any veg tossed in a bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and add them to your recipe as you normally would. Roasted grape tomatoes (10-15min), hot or cold, add a sweeter note to salads. Roasted cauliflower dusted with cumin (35-45min) is a great addition to curry for a hint of charred nuttiness. Roasted nuts (5-10min) add body and texture to dips. Roasted garlic (in beheaded clove in tinfoil, 40min) is good in and/or on pretty much everything. Almost any vegetable can be roasted to add another flavour dimension to a dish.

 

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Sautéed/Caramelize

Sautéeing, to the point of caramelization or not, adds a sweet and sticky dimension of flavour. Adding warm sautéed spinach, onions, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, garlic, asparagus, or beans to a salad or omelette can make the difference between an energetic happy chew or a sad, slow chomp. For sautéeing, cook sliced or chopped veg of choice on medium to low heat in 1 tsp of olive oil per handful until desired softness is achieved. For caramelization, cook a bit closer to low and add another drizzle of olive oil to the pan, cooking until veg is super soft and starts to turn caramel coloured. Add balsamic vinegar or hot sauce instead of extra oil for a unique bite.

 

Marinate

It’s not just for meat anymore, although yes, a good marinade can tenderize a nice piece of meat to perfection. Marinating veggies is a great idea too, giving them flavour and juiciness. Marinate cauliflower in curry spice and coconut milk overnight before roasting. Drizzle chopped red onion, zucchini, eggplant and garlic cloves with oregano, olive oil and lemon juice and marinate for an hour before throwing on skewers for the barbie. Even firm cheeses like feta and halloumi can be cubed and marinated in balsamic vinegar to give colour and tang to the outer layer of each piece.

 

ToastToasted Curry Spice

Nuts and spices can become earthier and richer with a bit of toasting. Throw pinches or handfuls of pretty much any nut or spice into a frying pan on medium heat and toast them up a bit. When they start to turn golden immediately take them off the heat and get them out of the frying pan. Let cool and use as usual.

 

Soak

This technique is great for ingredients that are dried or semi dried. Soak dried cranberries or cherries in orange brandy for a brie cheese topper, or as a tasty addition to any salad. Dried whole chilies can be soaked in red wine before being chopped and added to chili, stews or soups. Semi-sundried tomatoes are delicious when soaked in white wine before being tossed in a chunky light vegetable toss. Who am I kidding…soaking is another way to help you get a little buzz on while maintaining good health!

 

What other ways are there to add a new dimension of flavour to a dish? How do you increase your foods awesome factor?