Tips for Busy People, Tomato Soup

Just in case anyone was wondering, I do have plenty to do besides staying home and cooking every meal of the day.  The food aspect of my life is only an attempt to chill the hell out and enjoy life more healthfully.  It’s great for my health, great for my family, and contributes to the greater good of my community.  I laugh more, I stress out less, and I enjoy things differently.

That said, this is still a very stressful time in my life.  Maybe some of you can relate: one semester left of grad school…and then what?!  The choice between a lifetime of academia (because face it, what the hell else does one do with a PhD in Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies, or Cultural Anthropology?), racking up tremendous amounts of debt in law school, or joining the work force as a minion with a Master’s degree…pretty stressful.  And then of course there is the stress of wondering WHO ON EARTH WILL TAKE ME?!  And I pretty much just glazed over the most stressful part of my life: one semester left of grad school!  This means I have to pump out a thesis within the next few months, while raising a first grader who has gymnastics and homework and festivals and library books and permission forms and questionsquestionsquestions.  She’s my world though.

…Meanwhile, I’m baking bread every week, cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner from scratch, and basically ridding my life of every food convenience you can think of.  So in case you’re reading my blog and wondering how on earth you could live without Happy Meals, boxed foods, and frozen dinners, I’m here to help.  Please, by all means, send me your questions!

First things first, I use Sunday as a make-ahead day.  This is actually something I’ve been doing since my bodybuilding days.  Basically, anything that can be made ahead of time and stored appropriately, I make on Sunday.   Every Sunday, I make two loaves of bread; one I store, and one I freeze.  I use this bread for Isabella’s lunches, sandwiches, or for use with dinner.  On Sunday morning, if there is any left, I use it to make French toast.  I think this week we will have a lot left over, so I will make a lot of French toast and whatever is left after breakfast I will freeze for Isabella’s breakfasts.  Other things I make ahead on Sundays are: hummus (accessible go-to healthy fats!), vegetable broth, pizza dough, and granola.  Granola is especially convenient for those mornings that I don’t feel like cooking (yes, I have those mornings too), and I store it in a plastic cereal container.

Throughout the week, I generally decide what to make for dinner based on the state of my produce.  For instance, some things last longer than other things, so I try to use up the more perishable things early in the week.  By the end of the week, dinners are decided by what’s not going to last another day!  Last night we had tomato soup and mozerella/spinach paninis (recipes below!).  Basically, I had to use up bread, tomatoes, and spinach.  This is a fun system because it forces me to make things up on the fly.  Have you ever seen that show Chopped?  Yeah, that’s going down in my kitchen every day!

Mozzarella and spinach panini on homemade bread!

Aside from my make-ahead Sundays, something else I do to make more effective use of my time is to cook a little extra any time I can.  Spaghetti sauce is so easy to make and even easier to store, so I try to make a double or triple batch at once; then, later in the week I can use it again for pizza or another pasta dish.  Also, by making a little extra at dinner, lunch for the next day is already done!  We do a lot with beans, quinoa, and rice, so it’s very easy to repurpose them for a new lunch, or for a quick lunch on the go we simply eat them as leftovers of whatever we had the night before.

Another major time-saver is that I rarely refer to recipes for dinner tips and ideas.  I make most of it up totally on the fly, so I don’t waste any time measuring out spices and other ingredients.  I use what I have, omit or replace what I don’t, and basically just make it work.  I have many, many variations of what I affectionately refer to as “@#$% in a pot,”  and “@#$% in a bowl.”  You get the idea.  Sometimes it goes so well that I write down everything I did so that I can recreate it, but other times I’m content to make it differently every time.  Quinoa, beans, pasta dishes, rice dishes, soups, sauces, granola, and stews are among the things that I think would get boring if they didn’t taste a little different every time I make them.

For any tips on storing, preparing, or planning meals, please feel free to email me or drop me a comment.  Also, don’t forget to subscribe so that you can receive email updates!

Today’s recipe is for my tomato soup.  To be fair, I pretty much just made it up on the fly, but it was honestly the best tomato soup I’ve ever eaten.  And I never really like tomato soup.  Also, I learned how to make tomato paste in the process!  Two for one!

6 tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
4 cloves of garlic
¼ cup olive oil

2tbsp butter
2tbsp flour
1 cup vegetable broth

Fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of milk
¼ cup sugar

Place the first set of ingredients in a food processor and run until a smooth sauce forms.  Boil in a large pot for ten minutes.  Pour through strainer to eliminate seeds and chunks.  Save the remaining mush—store and use as paste in another recipe!

Before returning sauce to the pot, first melt butter in the pot.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in flour and stir quickly to create a roux.  Slowly whisk in broth, ensuring that the roux doesn’t clump up.  Whisk until a smooth liquid forms.

Return to pot and simmer;  add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil and stir constantly until soup thickens slightly.  Cool before serving.


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