Friday, August 23, 2013

Cream of Tomato Soup for Miserly Health Freaks

Being thrifty makes my heart sing.  So does being able to make healthy meals fairly quickly out of things that I can always find around my kitchen.

The days are increasingly autumnal, and I am craving standard comfort food. And today I wanted cream of tomato soup.

But there were obstacles.

Obstacle #1: I do not buy canned soup.  It is loaded with unpronounceable ingredients as well as LOADS of sugar and salt, it may expose me and my loved ones to BPA, and, if you break down the cost by serving, it is ridiculously expensive when compared to homemade soup, which tastes better anyway!

Obstacle #2: Because of that  pesky BPA, I also try not to buy canned tomatoes, even though they are so handy to have around. Instead, I buy high-quality pasta sauce in glass jars, which I substitute for tomatoes in a pinch, and sometimes I buy the Pomi boxed tomatoes, though they are pricey.

Obstacle #3: I do not regularly stock cream.  I love cream, but I do not love ultra-pasteurized dairy products, and I'd have to make a 160-mile round trip to buy cream that is not ultra-pasteurized.  So I do not regularly buy cream.

Obstacle #4: Milk can be used instead of cream if stabilized as a white sauce, but milk prices are high (routinely over $4 a gallon here), and I am using my milk for kefir, so I do not want to use loads of milk for cooking, as that would cause my frugal heart some pain.

So I made cream of tomato soup anyway.

My favorite recipe is from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.  I cross referenced it with a version in good ole Joy of Cooking, which uses a béchamel sauce in lieu of cream.  Then I made this version, which makes six generous portions:


  • 1 stick of butter (I always used unsalted. Salted butter has shitloads of salt in it.)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 50 - 70 ounces chopped tomatoes (fresh, boxed, jarred, whatever)
  • some basil (fresh if you have it; dried if not. You may not need it if some of your tomatoes are from a glass jar of tomato-based pasta sauce)
  • pinch of sugar (you will not need this if you are using any tomato-based pasta sauce)
  • 4 cups chicken stock*
  • a tiny bit of allspice
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • one cup of powdered milk
  • 2 cups of water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of nutmeg

1. Melt 1/2 the stick of butter in a soup pot and add the onions, carrots, and garlic.  Cook on medium until softened, about 10 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes, basil, sugar.  ( I used one box of Pomi and a partially full jar of Muir Glen pasta sauce that I had to use up anyway.  So, because I used the pasta sauce, I didn't add extra basil or sugar.)

3. Cook another five minutes, then add chicken stock. (I just added the frozen cubes of homemade stock that I had in the freezer and let the cubes melt into the simmering veggies. Thawing isn't really necessary.)

4. Simmer for 45-50 minutes.

5. While the tomato base is simmering away, make what I like to call "cheater's cheap-ass béchamel:"
melt 1/2 stick of butter on medium low, add the flour, and stir your roux for 2-3 minutes.  Measure our your powered milk, top it with water to make 2-3 cups of powered milk, and whisk it with your roux.  Continue to heat and stir until thickened.  It will get thick like Alfredo sauce.  Add salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Turn off heat.
6. When the tomato base is all cooked and yummy, transfer it to a blender and blend.  You'll need to work in batches, and you'll need to be careful because it is hot.  I blended it in three batches, starting with a very low speed and turning it higher once it got going.

7. Put all the blended base back into the soup pot, and add the cheater's béchamel.  You may need to add a little more salt: taste it and see.

You now have a big batch of comfort food!

*Every time I roast a chicken (and I always buy whole chickens, not parts; more bang for your buck), all uneaten skin and bones and other bits as well as trimmings of the to-be-roasted vegetables (especially the leek tops!) get boiled several hours in a large quantity of water, are allowed to cool, and then draining through a colander for a nice, clear broth.  I then freeze this in usable portions for when I make soups and sauces.

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