Tomato Soup and other thoughts

Today is the first day I have ventured into the library this semester. I had no intention of ending up here, but was dragged out of bed by Buffalo Joan, my friend and sole compatriot in our program. She thought we should get work done. A solid choice on her part. Except it’s currently 3 degrees Fahrenheit outside, a true heat wave for this week. Wednesday the high was -8. I only coaxed myself outside because I almost ran out of milk, and I dread running out of milk. The grocery store is just around the corner, and only closed from midnight until eight in the morning, but I dread running out of milk, so I bundled up in snowpants and made my way into the cold. The snow outside has smushed into ice – a denigrated reminder of its former flaky, powdery self. The excessively quilty coat I wear to stay warm outside is so long that I frequently trip upstairs. And the amount of schoolwork to be done is overwhelming. The good side to all of this, however, is that it has left me with time inside my tiny apartment to cook horrifyingly large portions of food so I may freeze some and have more to eat later.

My latest adventure was Tomato Soup. The first time I tried Tomato Soup, last semester, was a disaster. It tasted like a watery marinara sauce. After wading through recipes online, I finally found one that looked appealing. (Found here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/jersey-fresh-tomato-soup/detail.aspx). It could not have been more delicious! People raved about it (or were nice enough not to hurt my feelings).  Last night, I tried making it again. I learned some common-sense things the first time, like when you double the recipe, using a smaller pot than the original is not a good idea. I also did not endeavor to find fresh tomatoes in Canada in January, and settled for canned. The first time I misread the French label and came home with whole tomatoes that I had to seed and chop, but the second time I made sure to get crushed tomatoes. Unfortunately, the last time I came home from the grocery store, the temperature was -9, and I had underestimated the amount of food I would buy, which meant that I had underestimated the number of reusable bags to bring. I also bought a gallon of milk and pounds of potatoes, limiting the rest of “heavy things” that I could buy. I settled for three 28 ounce cans of tomatoes. When I got to making the soup, however, I decided I wanted more. Instead of braving the cold *again* – I’ve learned to drastically limit the number of trips I make outside, it’s enough that the weatherstripping on my door doesn’t work properly and cold air constantly rushes in – I decided to improvise with tomato sauce. Interesting choice, given that it was pre-seasoned, drastically limiting my control of ingredients.

I ended up using three 28-oz cans of crushed tomatoes, 1 quart low-sodium organic chicken broth, about half a jar of Kirkland marinara sauce, and doubling the rest of the ingredients accordingly. I omitted the onion, because I didn’t have any in the house, as well as the other spices. I prefer to leave dishes for people to season to taste as they eat them, rather than forcing my taste-buds on a whole batch of something for other people to sit through. At this point, the soup was a bit too tomato-saucy for my liking. Instead of adding more of a butter and flour rue, however they spell it, I looked through my fridge to see what I could add, and came up with cream cheese. I melted about 2 tbsps of cream cheese with about a half cup of 1% milk, and it came together beautifully. When I added it to the soup, it didn’t clump up like the flour and butter mixture had, and it melted evenly throughout. Pictures to follow, but I am one proud girl for saving the Tomato Soup day! Grilled cheese and soup or meatballs added make it perfect!

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