It’s cold in Virginia right now, winter is clinging to the ground and the air and my bones need soup. Soup means crockpot time. I know crockpots are getting a bad rap right now because of that episode of This is Us. But they really do make life a lot easier. I tend to get done early on Mondays so I like to make one thing in the crockpot that I can tweak and twist and use all week. Given the weather I went for a hearty tomato basil soup.
I use my crockpot two ways, I either dump a bunch of stuff in and go off to work so that I can come home to a mostly ready meal. But sometimes I use my crockpot as a less needy dutch oven and add things in slowly and really let the flavors marry and come together slowly. I went for the latter technique this time because I had a bunch of little things to do around the house and this allowed me to add things and go get a task done before coming back to check on it. I started by caramelizing a bunch of red onions with butter, salt, pepper and garlic powder.
Once those were cooked down and I’d printed off all the labels for my amazon returns I started on my tomatoes. Since I have an immersion blender I tend to thick chop my tomatoes because they are going to cook down regardless of the size and nobody has time for a petite dice. But I do have a technique for my touch chop that can be done pretty quickly once you get the hang of it.
First start with a pile of sexy looking tomatoes. The sexier your tomatoes the sexier your soup will be. That’s just a fact. Kidding, start by slicing your tomato in half, then remove the stem with two angled cuts and discard. Next you need to cut slices lengthwise along the tomato and then flip the whole thing around and cut perpendicular. Scoop ’em all up and add them to the crockpot. Easy Peasy, tomato choppy.
Once the tomatoes have been added in and you have seasoned again it’s a good time to throw the cover back on and let those bad boys stew. At some point your whole house is going to fill with the tangy smell of cooking tomatoes. At that point it’s time to revisit and add in the last few ingredients you need before it’s ready to be blitzed.
I love the roasted garlic you can find at most olive bars. I get a whole container and just pull them out whenever I need a little extra oomph in my food. I also love the perfect fresh balance that basil and tomato make so I chopped up some of that. And then you always need more salt and pepper. Once that has stewed for some more time it’s time to blitz. I wanted to make a nice little boomerang so you could see how cute my immersion blender is. Total fail.
Once I had blitzed the soup I added in some tomato paste, parmesan cheese, a dollop of heavy cream and a couple of splashes of low sodium chicken stock just to round out all the flavors. I also needed to add in a little more salt, garlic and pepper. Because crockpots are tricky and always need more than you think they will.
Now on to the three ways I decided to serve my soup! This was the fun part! Because you don’t want to get bored with all your hard work!
Day 1: Sausage and Parmesan Crisps
This one was fairly straightforward, while the soup was finishing off in the crockpot I chopped up some smoked sausage I had in the fridge and cooked it in a pan on the stove. My secret for cooking meat like this are a few splashes of low sodium chicken stock. It helps deglazes the pan and lets you steam rather than roast so they don’t dry out. This billowing cloud above my pan is steam, not smoke. I promise.
Next I took a 4 oz container of parmesan cheese and made twelve little piles on a silicone baking sheet and baked them at 400 degrees for 3 minutes to make amazingly easy and low carb parmesan crisps!
I know they look a little soggy but I put them on a paper towel to cool and they crisped up beautifully. They did get a little melty when I put them on the hot soup.
Day 2: Roasted Chicken and Stuffed Bell Peppers
I love herbs de Provence. It’s a wonderfully savory spice mix that goes well with a variety of proteins and flavors. I particularly like it with tomatoes so I decided to coat some cubed chicken in Herbs de Provence, along with salt, pepper, olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar.
I set those aside to quickly marinade while I sliced open some small bell peppers and stuffed them with mozzarella I happened to have in my fridge. These little packets are actually meant as single size servings but I am amazed at how handy they are when I haven’t planned ahead.
I ripped them up and stuffed them into the bell peppers. I added a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar because I love balsamic. I baked everything together on the same sheet pan while I reheated some of the soup up on the stove. I set my oven to 375 degrees and left everything in there for about 30 minutes.
I decided to be bold and serve my soup on a plate as it had gotten quite thick on the stove. It actually was pretty easy to eat this way and was a delicious treat after a long day at work because it was so quick yet surprisingly fancy and satisfying. Lloyd doesn’t usually stop to talk once food is in front of him but he put down his fork long enough to tell me it was good. Le sigh.
Day 3: Cheese Straws and Cheese
By the end of the week I was truly ready for something easy peasy. I throw the remains of the soup into a bowl and microwaved until it started splattering. I stuck a couple of cheese straws in there and sprinkled some cheese on top and called it a day. Honestly the simplicity of this meal was what made it so great.
Day 4: Spinach and Artichoke Dip
And last but not least I just had a little bit of soup left and also some spinach artichoke dip and I figured that they would probably go really well together. I was not wrong. Also, the cheese ended up looking like the Sydney Opera House which was not intentional but totally cool.
- 8 largish tomatos
- Half a stick of butter
- 1 large onion
- 6-8 garlic cloves (roasted or raw, dealer’s choice)
- 10-12 leaves of basil
- 2 Tbsp of tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp of heavy cream
- 1/2 cup of low sodium chicken stock
- Parmesan cheese to taste
- Caramelize onions and butter with salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste in your crock pot (set to high) for about 1-2 hours
- Chop and tomatoes and cook until mushy for about 1-2 hours, season as you go.
- Add in basil and garlic once tomatoes are ready to be blended then blend. Do not splatter back splash.
- Add in heavy cream, chicken stock, tomato paste and parmesan cheese and let simmer for about another hour.
- Alternatively you could put everything into the crockpot at the very beginning and just let it stew for hours and hours until you decide to blend it up. It will still be delicious and is a lot less work.