Even in the spring, soup, such as Potage Crecy, can be warm and comforting. Photo courtesy Flickr/gpeters
I like nothing more than spending time planning meals, then chopping and dicing ingredients to create them. There are times, though, when it's nice to have something less involved but equally satisfying for dinner. Hot soup is the ideal option and is perfect for cool spring evenings. These recipes use frozen and canned ingredients to make preparation time short while still creating rich, gratifying meals. Add a salad and bread to round out the menu.
Homemade stocks, frozen in quart-size freezer bags, come in handy when time is an issue, but canned or boxed broths are just as convenient. Take the time to look through the freezer section at your grocery store for pre-chopped onions, mirepoix (carrots, onion and celery) and other vegetables for future, quick meals. Canned beans, vegetables and tomatoes should also be in your pantry at all times. And I remember my father telling me to always have tomato paste on hand.
My world-traveling father always came home with recipes from his adventures to try out on our family. This is his slightly lower-fat version of a soup he discovered while on business in Vichy, France. It is a luxurious and silky carrot soup named for the Crecy region in France, which purportedly grows the most flavorful carrots in the country.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup frozen, chopped onions, defrosted
3 cups frozen, chopped carrots, defrosted
1 quart (or 4 cups) canned or boxed chicken broth
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons plain white rice, uncooked
1/2 cup half and half
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
Salt to taste
In a 3 or 4-quart saucepan, heat olive oil and saute onions on low heat until soft but not brown (about five minutes). Add carrots, stock, tomato paste and rice. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, then puree the mixture in a blender. Return to pan and gently stir in the half and half. Season to taste with salt. Add one tablespoon of butter, if desired and ladle into bowls. Serves six.
This is a hearty, healthy and warming treat on a cool evening, or any time you're in the mood for hot soup. Using frozen and canned ingredients cuts down on preparation time. Add the optional navy beans to make this soup a bit heartier.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
1 16-ounce can navy beans, drained (optional)
1 10-ounce box of frozen, chopped spinach, cooked in microwave
1 cup (or 8 ounces) canned carrots
1 cup (or 8 ounces) frozen chopped carrots, defrosted
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cans (13,75 ounces each) chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons instant chicken bouillon
5 cups water
9 ounces frozen tortellini
1/4 cup (or 1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook carrots and onions with seasoning and garlic for approximately five minutes until softened. Add spinach, water, tomatoes, broth, water and, if you're using them, beans. Bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Add tortellini and cook according to manufacturer's directions. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with cheese. Makes four servings.