Mrs J uncovered some smoked pork shanks and neck bones in the big freezer yesterday so I boiled up a nice stock using those along with the classic mirepoix of carrots and onions and celery. The aroma from that pot simmering drove all of us a bit crazy. The dogs were wandering about in a daze, bumping into walls and ignoring kitties. I’m lucky to survive the deboning of the pork. I did have their attention. Annie and Buddy shared the carrots – Jack was waiting for the good stuff.
I was thinking a bean recipe would be great but Mrs J was adamant that I cook a cheesy broccoli potato soup and when she gave me the “I have spoke” look I considered the recipe selection process closed. Google turned up plenty of variations on the basic theme, I won’t link to any of them because none of those added much to my basic plan. I will note that one recipe called for Velveeta. I’m far from a cheese snob and have gobbled a ton of that mixed with spicy tomatoes from a can in a nacho dip I’m sure all of you know well, but I used shredded cheddar this time.
To the strained and de-fatted stock I added four medium cubed potatoes and simmered them until they were nearly done, then added a couple of cups of broccoli and the chopped meat from the necks and hocks. Give the broccoli a few minutes then add heavy cream and the shredded cheddar and bring back to a simmer until the cheese is melted and the broccoli is done. The amounts of cream and cheese are not really a big deal, I used a bit more than a half pint of heavy cream and six or eight ounces of cheese in a quantity of soup that would feed six. Salt and pepper to taste, I also added a shake of cayenne pepper. Garnish with more shredded cheese and serve with some nice hearty bread.
The little garden has been very good to us this year. Lots of tomatoes and peppers. Mrs J stripped the tomato vines of the last of the ripe fruits and they are boiling down right now. Baked a couple of loaves of bread, mostly white flour but with a cup of whole wheat in the mix. No idea what else I may do today, if anything. Mebbe a sammich later? Mmm…hot dogs.
[Edit: pictures added] The sauce is done, I grew weary of waiting so I transferred the sauce to a wider pan and stirred it more so it would reduce quicker. Ended with enough to fill 3 pint jars. Note that this sauce is pretty thick. And tasty! I mopped up the residue with some bread crusts, sauce tastes sweet, almost like there is a bit of sugar in there. I think it’s the carrot I shredded into it.
It got down to 40 degrees last night, so suddenly I’m in the mood for soup. I had to actually cover my tomatoes. There is a wicked wildfire burning not far from my office and the smoke is thick all over the area. Many of our clients are affected and we’re all worried about them. It sounds like they’ll get a good handle on it today, but not before a few dozen houses burned to the ground. These things always make me remember what is important.
Since I was in the mood for soup, I pulled this recipe out. It is a repeat from last fall, but it is one of my all time favorite menus I created. I’d never made homemade tomato soup before I made this recipe. And the grilled cheese is an adaptation of a recipe I watched a morning anchor make years ago. The combination is great. I have canned tomatoes listed, but of course, this time of year, fresh tomatoes are better. Just blend them until you have about 4 cups of juice. I use the whole tomato, don’t bother with peeling or seeding. You can use them in whatever way makes you happy.
Hearty Tomato Soup
- 28 oz canned tomatoes*
- 1 tsp crushed garlic
- 8 oz carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 3 green onions, including greens
- 1 tsp basil
- ¼ tsp oregano
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
2 quart saucepan
In a blender, mix tomatoes, garlic, carrots, celery & onions. Blend until liquid. In saucepan, combine tomato mixture with spices, heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let bubble (don’t let boil or use high heat, it will scorch) for 5 minutes. Add flour to cold milk, blend until smooth, add to soup. Let bubble again, reduce to low heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Totally Awesome Grilled Cheese
For each sandwich:
- 2 slices whole wheat bread (or favorite firm bread)
- Enough favorite cheese (Velveeta, cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, etc. to cover bread (about 3 slices)
- Sliced Jalapeños (if you want some heat)
- 1 large slice of tomato w/dash of salt
- 1-2 tsp Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
- Spray Oil
Spread salad dressing on both slices of bread and add ½ of the cheese to one slice of bread, place tomato & jalapenos on the cheese and top with remaining cheese and the other slice of bread, this keeps bread from getting soggy from the tomato. Lightly butter outside of both sides of the sandwich and grill in skillet sprayed with cooking spray or lightly oiled on medium heat until cheese is melted and bread is toasted. While it is grilling, press down hard with a spatula, “squishing” the sandwich. I don’t know why, but this makes them taste better.