Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

Three posts in four days?!? Man oh man. I guess I’m taking to this blogging thing more than I thought I would – plus, it motivates me to actually cook stuff. Today we have another rather non-glamorous dinner, but it felt right for today, after eating a heavy Easter lunch at my grandma’s…although, truth be told, this soup is somewhat on the rich side, rather heavy on the butter and cheese. No surprise I like it so much.

This is actually also another slow cooker meal. I feel like I use crockpots in a different manner than most people – it’s supposed to be a convenience, a “throw it all in in the morning and come home to dinner all ready” but as I’ve mentioned, I don’t pull that off too often. Apparently I use it more on the weekends. Anyhoo…let’s get to it.

tbps

This soup doesn’t photograph well…sorry.

Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

(adapted from PinFoody)

Ingredients

  • 2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • 1 cup finely diced carrots
  • 1 cup finely diced onions
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 32 oz box vegetable broth
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups half-and-half, room temperature
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Add first 8 ingredients (through the bay leaf) to the crockpot and stir well. Cook on LOW for 5-7 hours.

About 45 minutes before you want to serve, prepare what the fancy folks call a “roux”: melt the butter in a skillet over low heat. Add flour and whisk constantly for about 5 minutes. Pour a cup of the hot soup into the skillet and mix; add three more cups and stir. Pour it all back into the crockpot and add parmesan cheese and warmed half-and-half. Stir everything well; you might need to add more seasoning since the soup has been cooking for so long.

Cook it for another 30 minutes on low. Serve with a baguette warm from the oven. This soup is freaking fantastic for bread-dipping.

Notes

I personally feel the baguette/other similar bread is a crucial accompaniment. That’s really about it!

Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken)

Butter chicken is up there with palak paneer as one of the most Indian-newb-friendly dishes. It generally isn’t that spicy, and in this recipe, really isn’t spicy at all – obviously you can tweak it to suit your preferences. The name sounds decadent, like it would just be dripping in gobs of butter, but the butter:chicken ratio here is actually very restrained.

I should probably also use the “admittedly inauthentic” disclaimer here too, as I did with my chicken tikka masala. This is definitely not the traditional way of making chicken makhani – it is the cheater version. This one’s for all my fellow cheaters out there.

butter chicken

Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken)

(adapted from Canadian Family)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • approximately 2 or 2.5 lbs skinless, bone-in chicken drumsticks or thighs
  • about 2 paratha or naan per person

Directions

Melt the butter in the microwave and pour into your slow cooker. Add all the remaining ingredients except chicken; stir to combine into a smooth gravy.

If desired, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces to the slow cooker and make sure they are all coated well with the gravy.

Cook on HIGH for 2.5 hours or on LOW for 5 hours. As it gets close to finishing, cook your bread of choice according to its package directions (some are best in the oven, like naan, while paratha is definitely better on the stove).

Notes

It’s seriously as simple as that! I love this recipe because while I like to use my crockpot, I often don’t really have it together enough in the mornings to get everything necessary for a recipe all assembled and into the crockpot before I have to leave for work. Because this only takes 2.5 hours, and I get home around 4:30, I can have dinner ready by 7:00 as there is virtually no prep time.

As I mentioned, this is not spicy whatsoever, but if you wanted to kick it up a notch you could add some diced green or red chilies into the gravy.

Also, just an FYI: this is a MESSY dinner. You need a lot of napkins. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Minestrone Soup

V and I are watching “Chopped” on the Food Network. We’ve literally never watched anything on the Food Network before, but whaddaya know, it’s really enjoyable! And…stressful! You wouldn’t think it’d be that interesting or that dramatic, but it totally is, and they’re using all these crazy ingredients I’ve never heard of. Mamey? (apparently a fruit) Duck tongue? Okay I know what duck tongue IS, but…

Anyway – not relevant. We are a little more humble here at Sconnie Sustenance. Minestrone is pretty damn humble and is insanely easy to make. It’s kind of my go-to dinner when I a) don’t have a lot of food in the house, b) don’t want meat and c) want something healthy. Fortunately, these are all ingredients I pretty much always have on hand.

minestrone

Minestrone Soup

(adapted from Cookie Monster Cooking)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 32 oz box of vegetable broth (or chicken broth if you don’t care about keeping it vegetarian)
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into quarters
  • 1/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup dried elbow macaroni (or shells, or something similar)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • as much grated parmesan cheese as you please

Directions

Heat the oil in a large deep pot. While it warms, chop up your onion and then add to the pan, along with the garlic. Swirl it around so as not to burn.

Pour in the box of vegetable broth and can of diced tomatoes. Add diced carrots, sliced zucchini, and chopped celery as well as the basil, oregano and sugar. Put the lid halfway on the pot and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Once 20 minutes is up, add the elbow macaroni and cook for another 8-10 minutes.

Finally, add in your drained and rinsed black beans and salt and pepper. Stir it up good and pour into bowls. Now, this next part is my personal favorite: shake as much parmesan cheese as you want over that bowl. It probably goes without saying that I prefer a heavy hand with the parm. It’s all the better if you buy a quality bag of grated parmesan.

Notes

The original recipe also called for 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar. The first time I made the recipe, I followed those directions and did not care for the taste the balsamic vinegar imparted on the soup. Too tart. I really don’t recommend using it.

Also, the original recipe did not include any celery, I just added that because I had some I needed to use up. And it called for 5 cups (40 oz) of vegetable broth, but the package of broth boxes that I get from Costco come in 32 oz containers, and 32 oz has worked just fine for me thus far.

Try it and let me know how you like it!

Chicken & Spinach Pasta Bake

My source for this recipe claims that it’s a great “pre-marathon meal”. I really can’t speak to that…I can just tell you that this is yummy. This is exactly what I mean when I say “classy comfort food”. There’s nothing sexy or sophisticated about chicken and spinach pasta bake, but it hits the spot.

chicken spinach pasta bake

Chicken & Spinach Pasta Bake

(adapted from Bitchin Camero)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb small pasta (shells, elbows, rotini)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/8 cup white wine
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set a large saucepan of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions, or slightly less. Drain and set aside. While the pasta cooks, you can chop up the spinach.

Dice up your chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Pour olive oil into a skillet over medium heat and brown the chicken for 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and stir for a few minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.

Add salt, spinach, and white wine to the skillet and stir for 3-5 more minutes or until the spinach begins to wilt. Pour your drained pasta into the skillet and mix well to combine everything. Now pour it all into a medium-sized casserole dish or a 9×9 pan*. (The one I used was kind of a weird size, about 10×10, but worked okay for this recipe.) Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top and bake for about 25 minutes, give or take.

Notes

*The casserole dish. I halved this recipe from what it was originally because it called for four chicken breasts and I only had two. If you used the original amounts, a 9×13 pan would probably work just fine. The only ingredient I didn’t halve was the mozzarella cheese…because I love melty mozzarella cheese…and I felt 2 cups was just right, regardless 🙂

Enjoy!

Super healthy shrimp fried rice

This is the kind of dinner I should be making every night instead of like, once every other week. According to the site where I found this recipe, one serving of this shrimp fried rice is only 126 calories. Crazy right? It is loaded with vegetables so I suppose it’s not that hard to believe. If you’re looking for a really healthy, really nutritious dinner, this is it.

shrimp fried rice

Shrimp & Veg Fried Rice

(adapted from My Food Diary)

Ingredients

  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • approximately 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Directions

If you have a rice cooker, get your rice started cooking in there before you do anything else. It will be done about the same time you finish all your veggie chopping, if you’re like me and veggie chopping is a pretty laborious process.

Chop up the two bell peppers, celery stalks, and onion.

Pour the olive oil to a skillet on medium heat. After a moment, add your minced garlic; once that softens, add in the bell peppers, celery, and onion. Mix well and let it cook for 4 or 5 minutes.

Assuming your rice has finished cooking, add that to the skillet and stir well. Now add the shrimp and stir until heated through. Pour in the soy sauce and add the black pepper.

Notes

The original recipe called for sugar snap peas as well. I have nothing against sugar snap peas, but they were very expensive today at the store and I don’t LOVE them, so they got nixed.

And if we’re being fully honest here, I completely forgot about the soy sauce. Probably would’ve added some nice flavor and the dish is a little on the bland side without any other herbs or spices. You could add basil or oregano or hell, even chili powder. Go nuts.

Creamy rotini with grape tomatoes & spinach

This is the meal you cook when you don’t have a lot of time, or a lot of motivation, but are resistant to the idea of busting out the blue Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese box/ordering pizza/just saying “oh f*ck it” and eating ice cream out of the container. Not that I have ever done any of those things.

photo

Creamy rotini with grape tomatoes & spinach

(adapted from The Comfort of Cooking)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup heavy cream*
  • a few squirts of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lb rotini pasta
  • 1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 oz baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parmesan

Directions

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. While waiting, pour olive oil into a good-sized skillet and turn heat to medium. Add minced garlic and allow to soften. Pour in heavy cream* and lemon juice, adding salt and pepper to your liking. Stir together and turn the heat up to high so the liquid will boil. Once it starts to boil, turn the heat to low and cover the skillet, allowing the liquid to simmer for 10 minutes.

Add rotini to boiling water and cook according to package instructions.

Once 10 minutes are up, the pasta should be done cooking as well. Drain it and place immediately back into pot on low heat. Pour cream mixture over pasta, cover, and allow to sit for a few minutes. Then add chopped grape/cherry tomatoes, parmesan, and chopped spinach, stirring together. Cover again and toss the whole thing around vigorously so it mixes properly.

Notes

*The heavy cream. I realize this isn’t the healthiest of ingredients, so tonight when I made it, I thought I’d try subbing Greek yogurt. They say you can substitute Greek yogurt for practically anything! Yeah…it didn’t work so well. When I got to the simmering step, it looked kind of lumpy and curdled and frankly did not smell great. Sooo perhaps this is not a recipe where Greek yogurt subs well.

Another note on the heavy cream. After my Greek yogurt disaster, I realized I only had about 1/2 cup of heavy cream. I went ahead with it anyway and it turned out all right; not as decadent and creamy as it is with a full cup, but definitely satisfactory. You can go that route if you’d like.

Start to finish, this recipe takes approximately 20 minutes. And it’s fabulous.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies On Earth

I’m not kidding. I’m not exaggerating. I know everyone says their chocolate chip cookie recipe is the best, but unless they’re claiming this recipe, they are wrong. They just are. I’ve made these for my family, for V’s family, for coworkers, and of course (perhaps most often) just for myself and V. My mom said they were up there with the best she’s ever had. My MOM said that, you guys.

I’ve perfected this recipe by blending a few different ones found on Foodgawker. The secret ingredient in all of those recipes is…cornstarch. Some people find that weird, but since this is essentially the first CCC recipe I’ve tried on my own, I don’t know any better. Cornstarch is where it’s at.

choc chip cookie

Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1.5 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (mini chips are okay too)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet (or two) with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy and light in color (this is why your sticks of butter can’t just come straight out of the refrigerator. Not like I ever made that mistake or anything.) Add egg and vanilla and blend together.

Mix in all the dry ingredients: flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Using a standard-sized cookie scoop, or shaping with your hands, drop dough onto prepared baking sheet. (Ignore the gross cooking spray stains on my pan please.) Bake for 8-10 minutes – NO LONGER!! It’s important to remember that at 8-10 minutes, they are NOT going to look like they’re done. The edges may or may not be slightly golden brown; the tops will not be at all. Take them out anyway – don’t let them bake longer than 10 minutes. I promise it’s going to work.

Allow cookies to cool on the pan for at least 5 minutes or until they appear more done. Transfer to a wire baking rack to finish cooling.

Notes

You can use a Kitchenaid stand mixer for this, but if you don’t have one, a hand mixer does the job just fine. That’s what I use. 🙂

Depending on the size of the dough balls you make, this recipe yields between 18-24 cookies.

If you try these, please let me know how it goes for you!