Super Simple Tomato Soup

This easy tomato soup is the perfect way to make use of those delicious garden tomatoes! | themillennialmenu.com

It's the end of summer, and perhaps the only good part about that is the abundance of sweet, tender garden tomatoes at the farmer's markets. We grabbed a whole pile this weekend and decided to turn them into a huge batch of soup to keep summer with us through the colder months. I struggled to write a recipe for this post because it's just. so. easy. You throw a bunch of veggies in a pot with some broth, cook it for a while, toss it in a blender, and BOOM. Homemade soup. It's SOUPER easy. Yes...I went there. The ingredient amounts are pretty flexible - some onion, a few carrots, a few celery stalks, and a bunch of tomatoes. You can add more or less of any of the veggies. It's about 3 cups of stock, but a little more or a little less is okay too. You can add heavy cream at the end if you want, or keep it dairy-free. It's vegetarian and easily vegan-friendly. No matter who you are, nothing says comfort food more than a warm bowl of tomato soup.

In this recipe, I've included 3 different cooking methods: traditional stove top, slow cooker/crock pot, and pressure cooker. Either way, this soup is super low maintenance - 15-20 minutes of chopping time, then you leave it alone to cook (with cooking time dependent on what method you're using). When it's all done, you toss it into your blender for velvety smooth tomato goodness. My graduation present to myself was a Vitamix (refurbished and on sale) and this recipe is the first time I used it on soup - all I have to say is WOAH. These blenders are expensive for a reason - and I've found it to be well worth the price.

I hope I don't even need to say this, but you need to be making this with grilled cheese. My recommendation is sourdough bread and Cabot cheese. We had this soup with grilled cheese for lunch this weekend and it was pure bliss. The best part was that we stored a bunch in the freezer for quick lunches and dinners to come - a bowl of summertime.



Super Simple Tomato Soup

makes approximately 4 servings
(double the recipe for a big batch like I did and freeze some for later!)

Stove Top Method
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30-45 minutes
Total Time: 50-65 minutes

Pressure Cooker Method
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: Approximately 30 minutes, including time for pressure cooker to come up to pressure

Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Method
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 5-7 hours
Total Time: 5-7 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • Olive or canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 2-3 celery stalks
  • 3-4 carrots
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 6-8 medium sized tomatoes (Go for garden fresh tomatoes if you can. Either way, a mix of tomato types is good, but especially try to have some heirlooms)
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream *Optional*
  • 10-15 fresh basil leaves
  • Parmesan cheese, for garnish

SECRET TIP: Click on the Grocery Guide below to find out more about how you can buy your onion, celery, and carrots pre-cut from the hero of all grocery stores, Trader Joes!




Dietary Substitutions
Gluten Free
Vegetarian: Just make sure to use vegetable broth rather than chicken broth.
Dairy Free: Don't add the heavy cream or top with cheese. It will still be fresh & delicious!
Vegan-Friendly: Skip cream & cheese, use vegetable broth.

Directions

CHOP YOUR VEGGIES
1. Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic. If you don't have one, you need a garlic press - it's one of my 5 Kitchen Essentials for Your First Place.
2. Dice 1/2 a yellow onion. 
3. Dice 2-3 stalks of celery.
4. Dice 3-4 carrots.
5. Chop your 6-8 tomatoes into fourths.

[--> FOR STOVE TOP METHOD ONLY: SAUTE YOUR VEGGIES]
6. Heat 3-4 tablespoons oil in a pan. Add the minced garlic, let it saute for a few seconds. Add chopped onions, carrots, and celery. Let cook for a few minutes until veggies start to become translucent. You just want to soften them up a bit before adding the rest of your ingredients. Generously season with salt & pepper. *YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO THIS STEP IF YOU'RE USING THE SLOW COOKER OR PRESSURE COOKER. You can if you want to though!

COOK THE SOUP
7. Add all of the veggies to the pot - onion, celery, carrot, and tomato, plus garlic. Your veggies should be sautéed if you're using the stovetop method (see step 6), but they don't have to be if you're using a slow cooker or pressure cooker.
8. Add about 3 cups of chicken broth.
9. Follow the cooking instructions below, depending on your method of choice:

  • FOR STOVETOP: Cook the soup at a simmer, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes. Soup should be bubbling slightly the entire time but not at a boil.
  • FOR SLOW COOKER (CROCK POT): Cook on low for 5-7 hours. I have a 7-in-1 Instant Pot with a crock pot feature and it's The One Appliance Every Twenty-Something Can't Live Without.
  • FOR PRESSURE COOKER: Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes. Let pressure come down for 5 minutes, then release steam and open the pressure cooker. Read more about cooking with a pressure cooker here and find out why I love my pressure cooker Instant Pot and why it's The One Appliance Every Twenty-Something Can't Live Without.

FINISH IT OFF
10. When the soup is done cooking, let it cool down a bit. You're going to puree it in a blender and you don't want it to be steaming hot. It ends poorly. Trust me.
11. Add half of the basil (5-8 leaves) to the soup. Puree the soup & basil in a blender until smooth. You may need to do this in 2 batches, depending on the size of your blender.
12. Return the blended soup to the stove and whisk in 1 cup of heavy cream. If you want, you can blend it again for a second time after this step, but it's not necessary.
13. Add the rest of the basil to the soup and stir it in. 
14. Taste & season more with salt & pepper, if needed.
15. Garnish with parmesan cheese. Best enjoyed with a nice grilled cheese or fresh bread.

Yum.


Lunch Tomorrow, Storing, & Extra Ingredients

LUNCH TOMORROW - Soup is a perfect leftover food. It travels well and in a minute in the microwave tastes like a home cooked meal. Bring a serving for lunch with a piece of bread to dip.

STORING - Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. The soup is perfect to store in single serving bags in the fridge, which will last for 4-6 months. I just store in freezer zip lock bags and lay them flat in my freezer so that the soup can defrost evenly later. Once they've frozen through once, I'll stand up the bags in the freezer to save space. After defrosting, you may want to re-blend the soup if the cream separates, but it will still taste delicious either way and can usually just be remediated with a quick stir of a fork or whisk.

EXTRA INGREDIENTS -  The mirepoix (the fancy name for the combination of carrots, celery, and onions) is super useful for other soups or sauces. Carrots and celery are also great for snacking, and onions themselves are useful in almost any dish. Other than this, you shouldn't really have too many leftover ingredients - maybe a splash of chicken stock you should keep in your fridge (check out 6 Quick, Easy Ways to Turn Chicken Broth Into Dinner). If you have extra basil, top your next pasta dish with this fresh herb.


A New Kitchen

kitchen-2.jpg

Wondering what I've been up to the past few weeks? I started a new job and moved to Boston! I'm doing a training program to become a middle school teacher and work in a charter school, which includes working in a school more-than full time and grad school part time. It's going to be a crazy year - which makes eating healthfully, cheaply, and quickly even more of a priority for me. Getting settled into my new life has taken some time, so the blog has been on a mini-vacation while I get used to 5am wake ups, 10 hour days, and a new kitchen to cook in!

Speaking of our new kitchen - it's beautiful. We're renting someone's home for a year while they're traveling abroad so much of our set up was already done for us - I'm already sad about leaving in a year. While I could use about 20 more square feet of counterspace, living in the heart of Boston does have its space restrictions. I'm loving cooking on our gas stove and the gorgeous countertops. I used my own guides to Stocking a Panty, Fridge, and Freezer to get the kitchen ready for cooking. The Instant Pot has found a home on my countertop, instead of having to drag it out of a tightly packed cabinet (Read why the Instant Pot is The One Appliance Every Twenty-Something Can't Live Without). I've used my FoodSaver countless times to freeze muffins for on the go snacking during the week and chicken breasts that I bought on sale (read Why Every Millennial Needs a FoodSaver). It's starting to finally feel like home.

In terms of the Millennial Menu, there are some things you have to look forward to I want you to know about: MORE easy and delicious recipes, my secrets to grocery shopping and meal planning that help me save money and cook efficiently, food travel recommendations (especially in Boston), how to host people at your place (and what to make!), and more. Looking for something else? Leave me a comment here or send me an email at themillennialmenu@gmail.com - I'm always looking for new ideas and suggestions!

Happy Sunday, all. Subscribe to get recipes, tips, and tricks from the Millennial Menu straight to your inbox.

kitchen-appliances

Pesto Caprese Pizza Recipe

Pesto Caprese Pizza is summer in pizza form - with balsamic drizzle, of course. Ready in 15 minutes! | themillennialmenu.com

Summer is the perfect time for a Caprese salad - fresh garden tomatoes, tangy mozzarella, sweet basil. It's even better in pizza form in this Pesto Caprese Pizza recipe, perfected by a pesto base and balsamic glaze drizzled over the top. Done in 15 minutes and you've got dinner on the table.

You already know how much I love Stonefire Authentic Flatbreads from my Easy BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe. Their Naan bread is the foundation for that pizza and there are so many different variations of pizzas to try on the bread - including this Pesto Caprese variation! Stonefire makes Naan, which I use for my pizza base, as well as larger rectangular Flatbreads and Pizza Crusts. I prefer Stonefire over other brands of pre-made crusts and doughs because it's a quick option that still tastes fresh. To finish off the pizza, make sure to drizzle balsamic glaze over the top - it's a sweeter, thicker version of balsamic and it's just so good. Normally this is a splurge ingredient, but Trader Joe's has a delicious Balsamic Glaze for only $2.99 a bottle, compared to the $7-13 you'd pay at the grocery store. The whole dinner is summer in pizza form!



Pesto Pizza Recipe

makes 1 serving
Other recipes with these ingredients: Stonefire flatbreads: Easy BBQ Chicken Pizza // Rotisserie chicken: Easy BBQ Chicken Pizza, Chickpea Chicken Curry, Middle Eastern Grain Bowls // Balsamic glaze: Balsamic glazed baked salmon, roasted brussel sprouts, Caprese salad
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pre-made pizza/flatbread crust - I recommend any Stonefire Authentic Flatbreads product (read why on the Grocery Guide page)- I always use their Naan for the perfect cooking-for-one size. Note, if you use any of their bigger flatbreads or pizza crust, double the rest of the ingredients to make sure you have enough to cover the pizza. If you want leftovers for lunch, use a Stonefire Flatbread, which is about the perfect size to cut in half and have half for dinner and bring half for lunch the next day!
  • 2-4 tablespoons pesto
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
  • Handful of shredded chicken (I recommend rotisserie chicken, which is basically 0 prep time since it's pre-made and you just need to shred some. If you'd like to bake your chicken, use 1 chicken breast. Add 15 minutes to prep time.)
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • Balsamic glaze for garnish, Optional




Dietary Substitutions
Dairy Free: Skip the cheese, or use a dairy-free cheese!
Gluten Free: Grab a gluten-free pre-made pizza crust, like this crust from Udi's.
Vegetarian-Friendly Substitute tofu or just leave the chicken off.
Vegan-Friendly Combine dairy free & vegetarian recommendations. Note, this is not the best recipe to adapt for vegans.

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Spread 2-4 tablespoons of pesto (to taste) evenly onto your Stonefire-brand crust.
3. Add mozzarella cheese onto the pizza.
4. Add a handful of shredded chicken, distributing evenly.
5. Slice 8-10 cherry tomatoes and sprinkle onto the pizza.
6. Warm the pizza in the oven until cheese is melted and pizza is hot, about 10 minutes.
7. Drizzle with balsamic glaze to finish.

Yum.

 
 

Lunch tomorrow, Storing, & Extra Ingredients

LUNCH TOMORROW - The awesome thing about both the Stonefire Naan and Stonefire Flatbreads come in 2-packs, which means you can double the recipe and bring one for lunch the next day, too. I usually eat them cold for lunch, but you can also pop them in the microwave at work/school. If you don't want leftovers, buy the Stonefire Pizza Crust, which comes in a single pack.

STORING - If you do have extras, enjoy within 3-4 days due to the cooked chicken. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. You can also store ingredients separately and assemble the day you're going to eat it. You can warm up in the microwave, but to keep them from getting soggy, try reheating in the oven for 5 minutes at 425°F.

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - If you use a rotisserie chicken, you'll have almost an entire chicken left to do whatever you want with - and the options are endless. You can even make another pizza - my Easy BBQ Chicken Pizza. Also check out 7 Reasons Why You Should Always Have a Rotisserie Chicken in Your Fridge for more inspiration. Toss pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella with your favorite pasta and serve warm for dinner or bring as a cold pasta salad for lunch. The balsamic glaze is great on a Caprese salad, drizzled over roasted brussel sprouts, or on baked salmon.


Shortcut Shakshuka Recipe

Easy and fast shakshuka is ready in 7 minutes with 0 prep time. you have to try this tomato and egg bake that is vegetarian an healthy! Yum!  | themillennialmenu.com

Let's be honest here - it's time for a Shortcut Shakshuka recipe. Shakshuka is a baked egg and tomato-based dish of Tunisian and Moroccan Jewish origin, served both as a breakfast dish as well as at dinnertime. It's all the rage right now, but every time I tried to make it, I got frustrated - this was not a quick and easy dinner. The concept behind shakshuka is baked eggs, meaning you need to put your skillet into the oven to cook the eggs in the tomato sauce. This takes forever to do. And it also means you need to have an oven safe skillet so you don't burn your hand off. I have no patience for all of this, and I also hate undercooked eggs. BUT, I do love shakshuka - it's a savory, smoky, and inexpensive meal. SO, I bring you my solution: Shortcut Shakshuka. I whip up the fried eggs in a separate pan in 3 minutes and am so. much. happier.

This recipe also has ZERO prep time. You add your ingredients to a saucepan, fry a few eggs, and you're sitting down to a delicious dinner in 7 minutes. This is mostly made possible by the existence of Trader Joe's - particularly their Eggplant Garlic Spread with Sweet Red Peppers. I love the inclusion of the sweet red peppers to classic Shakshuka recipes like this one from the New York Times - but that's one more step. This spread adds garlic and the sweet red peppers to your recipe with no extra work - plus the eggplant adds a delicious depth of flavor without overpowering anything.

If you want, you can add some prep time by sautéing a bit of onion in the bottom of the pan before adding the sauces, but I've found you don't even need it. The spices are also optional - the Trader Joe's spread is flavorful enough that you don't need them, but they are good spices to have on hand anyways if you want to purchase a set for your pantry. Either way, you'll be enjoying a budget-friendly and really healthy dinner in no time. 



Shortcut Shakshuka Recipe

makes 2 servings
Other recipes with these ingredients: Farro: Middle Eastern Grain Bowls
Prep Time: 0 minutes (add 25 minutes if making farro)
Cooking Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup uncooked farro *Optional*Substitute: white beans, quinoa, wild rice, etc.
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup Trader Joe's Eggplant Garlic Spread with Sweet Red Peppers
  • 2 eggs (Note: this recipe makes 2 servings. I eat 2 eggs per serving, but I cook my servings of eggs one at a time. If you're making 2 servings, you will eventually need 4 eggs in total)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • Chopped cilantro or parsley, for garnish Optional
  • Oil, butter, or non-stick spray (for frying eggs)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika Optional
  • 1 teaspoon cumin Optional




Dietary Substitutions
Vegetarian!
Dairy Free: No feta cheese.
Gluten Free: If you choose to add a grain, make sure to add a gluten free one like quinoa
Vegan-Friendly Not super vegan friendly because you'd have to leave out the eggs and feta, but you could add extra grains and chickpeas for protein.

Directions

OPTIONAL: MAKE YOUR FARRO (or other grain)
1. Add 1/2 cup of dry, pearled farro and 1 cup of water to a pot. Bring to a boil. Turn down to low heat, let simmer for approximately 25 minutes, until farro is tender [Important Ratio: 1:2 dry farro:cooked farro, 1:2 farro:water].

MAKE THE SAUCE
2. Turn the burner on to medium. Add 1 cup tomato sauce and 1/2 cup Trader Joe's Eggplant Garlic Spread with Sweet Red Peppers and warm.
3. Add the 1 teaspoon paprika and 1 teaspoon cumin to the sauce, stir to combine.
4. Once the farro is cooked, stir the farro into the sauce. 
5. Add 1/4 cup feta cheese and stir. 

FRY THE EGGS
6. *In a separate pan* heat the burner to medium heat and add a bit of oil, butter, or non-stick spray.
7. Crack 2 eggs into the pan. Cook the eggs to desired doneness. Check out How to Fry an Egg for guidance.

TOP & ENJOY
8. Once the eggs are done, slide the finished eggs on top of the tomato mixture. Top with cilantro or parsley and enjoy.

Yum.

shortcut shakshuka is on the table in 7 minutes with 0 prep time. Enjoy a healthy vegetarian meal in no time! | themillennialmenu.com

Lunch Tomorrow, Storing, & Extra Ingredients

LUNCH TOMORROW - While I've enjoyed the tomato sauce/farro/feta mixture leftover, it's best to fry the additional eggs separately. This means that this recipe isn't the best option to bring for lunch (although you could enjoy it without the fried eggs) but it's perfect for another dinner. Just warm up the sauce and fry a few more eggs fresh!

STORING - Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. Again, you don't want to have any leftover cooked eggs.

EXTRA INGREDIENTS -  Feta is great in salads, a pasta dish, or over a Mediterranean-inspired chicken dish. Cilantro can be used in my Five Minute Fish Taco Bowls and parsley in the Middle Eastern Grain Bowls. Try the Eggplant Garlic Spread with Sweet Red Peppers as a pasta sauce, over grilled veggies, as a topping for bruschetta. Use any extra tomato sauce to make homemade pizzas!


Chickpea Chicken Curry Recipe

Simple Chickpea Chicken Curry takes just minutes and is the perfect weeknight dinner! My family LOVES this recipe! | themillennialmenu.com

If you're using a rotisserie chicken that's already cooked (and you should be, since I wrote 7 Reasons Why You Should Always Have a Rotisserie Chicken In Your Fridge) you can have this Chickpea Chicken Curry Recipe on the table in 10 minutes. TEN! MINUTES! It simply involves throwing everything together in a pot (or a pan - this is flexible, guys) and warming it up. Nothing can go wrong, I promise.

What I love about this recipe is it's a no-recipe recipe - start with some coconut milk & curry powder and add anything you want. While I suggest chicken, chickpeas, spinach, and farro, there's nothing stopping you from doing tofu, quinoa, and kale. Or quinoa, farro, swiss chard, and adding in some onion. Or ....the possibilities are endless. Note: This is definitely a simplified version of curry (not claiming it's authentic by any means) but in this case, that's the point - simple. If you want to make it a bit more exciting, you can use curry paste instead of powder and sauté onion to add into the curry.

One of the best parts is this recipe almost tastes even better LEFTOVER. The curry powder infuses into the coconut milk and everything soaks up this delicious broth. You can make a big batch for the week and enjoy a healthy, filling lunch every single day.



Chickpea Chicken Curry Recipe

makes 1-2 servings
Other recipes with these ingredients: Rotisserie chicken: Middle Eastern Grain Bowls, Easy BBQ Chicken Pizza // Coconut Milk: coconut rice
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 - 15.5 oz. can coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder (flexible, to taste)
  • 1 cup shredded chicken (rotisserie recommended - Read the 7 Reasons You Should Always Have a Rotisserie Chicken to be convinced) 
  • 1/2 of a 15.5 oz. can chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup cooked grains (farro,quinoa, etc.) Optional
  • 2 cups spinach Substitute: swiss chard, kale, anything green, or another veggie - get creative!
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste.




Dietary Substitutions
Dairy Free
Gluten Free (If you choose to add a grain, make sure to add a gluten free one like quinoa)
Vegetarian-Friendly Add extra chickpeas, substitute tofu for chicken
Vegan-Friendly Combine dairy free & vegetarian recommendations.

Directions

MAKE THE BROTH
1. Turn on the stovetop to medium heat.
2. Add 1 can of coconut milk to a pan (any size or shape pot/pan will do as long as it can fit everything). The coconut milk may be separated in the can - use a whisk to whisk together in the pot/pan if needed.

ADD EVERYTHING, HEAT, & ENJOY
3. Add 1 teaspoon curry power (add more if desired) and mix into the coconut milk.
4. Add 1 cup of shredded chicken.
5. Add 1/2 of a 15.5 oz can of chickpeas
6. Add 1/2 cup grains (optional - I always add a 1/2 a cup of farro to mine)
7. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, to tasteWarm ingredients until the ingredients are steaming and heated through. 
7 1/2. If you would like a thicker curry, let the curry bubble and cook a bit more on medium-high heat to thicken it up. 
8. Add 1 cup of spinach and stir into the curry.

Yum.


Lunch Tomorrow, Storing, & Extra Ingredients

LUNCH TOMORROW - Some recipes taste better the next day, and this might be one of those recipes. The curry has time to soak into the mix-ins and the curry powder infuses into the coconut milk even more.  Since this recipe makes either one really big serving or a dinner-sized and a lunch-sized serving, you'll probably be able to bring leftovers to work the next day. If you want to ensure you'll have leftovers, you can just add more chicken, chickpeas, and spinach and you'll just have a smaller stuff:broth ratio.

STORING -Store in an airtight container and enjoy within 3-4 days. This also freezes well, since coconut milk is non-dairy. Frozen best without the spinach and added later, but it's also fine to freeze all together, too.

EXTRA INGREDIENTS - You're going to have some rotisserie chicken leftover, but this is far from a bad thing - find out 7 Reasons Why You Should Always Have a Rotisserie Chicken in Your Fridge anyways. HINT: One of them is because you can make BBQ Chicken Pizza. You'll have 1/2 a can of chickpeas left, which freeze really easily. Or, you could toss them in a salad for lunch for extra protein - with some of the bag of spinach you'll have leftover. You could also toss your spinach in a smoothie or in your eggs at breakfast.