One Step Smoothie Prep

Plan the perfect Smoothie prep and only clean your blender ONCE this week! Makes healthy eating faster and easier! | themillennialmenu.com

 

Behold, a post about my favorite kitchen appliance: the freezer (and some mason jars and silicone ice pop molds, too.)

Today I'm sharing a trick that has saved me an hour a week - and provides me with breakfast and part of my lunch every day in 20 simple minutes on a Sunday. For a long time, the bane of my existence was cleaning my blender every day. As someone who needs to eat every 2 hours, smoothies are a lifesaver for me. I always make mine with Greek yogurt, low sugar orange juice, and frozen fruit - and I've recently been adding ground flax seeds. Since buying my refurbished Vitamix (Want one? find out how to get the best blender for less), smoothie prep has been so. much. faster. That thing can BLEND. Still....you have to clean it. And even after I started doing the clean the blender by turning it on trick, it still was the bane of my existence every night. Until....I started my smoothie prep routine.

Now, I make a big batch of smoothies once a week in my Vitamix (thank god that it's so big) and freeze them for the week. I use half in Ball glass jars (the 1 pint/16 oz. size) for my breakfast smoothie. I take it out 24 hours in advance (usually the morning before I want to drink it, when I'm drinking my smoothie which helps to remind me) to defrost in the fridge. I give them a quick shake and pour in a glass. I like the jars because they seal tightly and the glass freezes well. I notice absolutely no difference in the smoothie quality - and I swear it saves me an hour of smoothie making and blender cleaning time a week now that I'm not doing it every night!

My other new favorite tip for smoothie prep is my FoodWorks ice pop molds. I pour the smoothie into the pop and freeze them, and then pop them in my lunchbox when I'm packing my lunch in the morning. By the time I get to them at lunch, they're perfectly defrosted. They're super easy to clean out (I rinse mine out and then throw them in the dishwasher) and don't smell funky even after many uses. They also keep sealed in my lunchbox all day. It's a great way to add some extra sweetness to my lunch that's also healthy. I highly recommend both some sort of glass jar and the silicone molds for easy, healthy, on-the-go options! 

Smoothie Recipe Recommendations

I love both of these blogs and they're a great starting place for some smoothie recipes!

Healthy Smoothie Recipes on Cookie & Kate
14 Smoothies for an Instant Mood Boost on Pinch of Yum


Note: This post contains affiliate links for products I recommend. That means if you click on a product link in this post and choose to purchase the product on Amazon, I earn a commission. I only recommend products I use and love organically. This means that if you are going to purchase a product that I recommend, I encourage you to do it through the direct link from the blog so that I (and the blog) benefit. Read the full affiliate disclosure.

Super Simple Tomato Soup Recipe

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.

Bonus benefits here - tomatoes are super healthy! A big bowl of this tomato soup will get you plenty of antioxidants and more - check out the 29 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Tomatoes courtesy of Helen over at Well-Being Secrets.



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.