Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Soupy Science...Homemade Creamy Tomato Bisque

We shook things up a little at Jones Family Christian Academy yesterday. Jewell and one of her friends are working through the same Apologia General Science course together and have studied together in the past. The current chapter is about "Simple Machines" and is a little shorter than the others, so my friend, Sena, suggested that we get the girls together for the day and just knock it out. The girls were excited about the prospect of studying science ALL day! Wait, who am I kidding? They were just excited to spend the day together!

All this was decided about 7:45 yesterday morning with plans for them to arrive about 10:00. I ran around and cleaned bathrooms, dusted and swept like a wild woman! Nothing like a last minute plan for having guests to get the place clean! I think I did a week's worth of cleaning in about an hour! But it's all good! I'm done for the week and it's only Tuesday.

Yesterday was rainy and a little dreary, although we were glad to get the rain and are praying for more today! I thought soup would be the perfect thing for lunch, so I pulled out a few staples and got to making "Creamy Homemade Tomato Soup".

I first had this soup at a book club hosted by my friend, Melissa Lester. She served it with the most decadent grilled cheese sandwiches. It was divine! I have made it dozens of times since then. It is such a simple recipe, made from things you probably have on hand. I threw together some party pizzas and even pulled out my Friendly Village plates. It just felt like that kind of day! 

I had to modify the recipe a touch, but it still turned out delicious. I am giving you the original recipe, but don't hesitate to make it if you don't have the canned Italian-style tomatoes.

Creamy Tomato Soup with Sourdough Croutons

3 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
2 (14 1/2 oz) cans diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups whipping cream
1 small can tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp pepper
sourdough croutons
fresh thyme leaves

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in diced tomatoes and chicken broth. Transfer half of mixture to container of an electric blender and process until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides. Place in a bowl. Repeat for remaining half, then return all of pureed mixture to the saucepan. Add whipping cream, tomato paste, sugar and pepper. Stir well with a wire whisk. Cook over medium hear, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly heated. Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with croutons and garnish with fresh thyme if desired.

My revised version - Here's what I had on hand...

I didn't have the cans of Italian herb style tomatoes, but I always have a can of crushed tomatoes on hand. BTW - I love this Cento brand of tomatoes. They're a little more expensive, but they are so fresh tasting, and the color is such a vibrant red. I use them for everything from spaghetti sauce to chili.

I sauteed my onion, and at the last minute, added about three cloves of finely chopped garlic.

Next, I added my tomato paste and dried herbs.
I added a small palm full of basil (maybe a tablespoon)
and a large palm full of oregano (1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons).

Yes, this is different from the original recipe, but I like to cook my dried spices a little instead of just dumping them in. I think it really brightens the flavor by letting them bloom. I also cook the tomato paste for a few minutes. It deepens the flavor and color and adds to the sweetness.

Next I added my canned tomatoes and chicken broth. The recipe calls for two cups of broth and the can is 14.4 oz. Close enough for government work. Then, instead of transferring it to a blender, I used my stick blender. The doorbell rang about this point, and I forgot to take a picture of the process. Sorry! But if you don't have a stick blender, get one! They're cheap and so easy. The trick is to keep the bottom of the stick flat against your pan. Don't lift it while it's running or you'll have tomato soup everywhere!

At this point, I let it simmer for a while.
Yesterday, it went for about an hour on low.
I stirred it occasionally, but it doesn't stick.

About 15 minutes before serving, I turned off the heat and added the heavy cream. OK - I didn't have any heavy cream, but I always have half and half, and usually substitute that anyway. Another confession. I didn't take out the recipe while making this, so I just added 1 cup of half and half when it actually called for two cups. Oh well. Just saved me a few calories, although even though it was really good, two cups would have been better!

I stirred in the half and half with a whisk and returned the lid to the pot. I didn't turn the heat back on but let the heat of the soup warm the half and half. Works perfectly every time and you don't have to worry about the cream separating in the heat.

While I was working on lunch, I also worked with Brack on his schoolwork and played with sweet little Nora. She loves to love on Possum Kitty. So far, he has been very patient!

Sena took responsibility for the big girls and worked with them on the chapter.

Who wouldn't want to "do science" on the couch while soup simmers in the kitchen?

The girls are performing an experiment to learn how a lever and fulcrum works.

We had a great time yesterday! It was nice to take a break from our regular schedule and have company, especially on such a dreary day. We also shaved several days off our calendar for science. Also a good thing!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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