Monday, October 5, 2009

Soulful Soups

My friend sent out a mass email last week to brainstorm kids school lunch ideas. Two weeks into the school year, and she was exhausted- or so she said. I've been packing food-to-go for my daughter ever since she was born and considered myself an expert on this. So I made a lengthy list for my friend and sighed with the satisfaction at the job well done as I hit my "Send" button. Two minutes later, another friend on the mailing list emailed me a one-liner tagged with hundreds of smileys: "You forgot Campbell's Alphabet Soup!" That was true, sad but true. How could I forget that most kids love the Alphabet soup? My daughter actually learned her alphabets from those tiny pasta letters! Thanks for putting me in my place, my friend- I no longer consider myself an expert on kids school lunches! In my defense, the soup is usually my after-school thing , for those cool fall evenings. It is so easy to make, that you'll give Campbells a competition if you try it! Plus you can dress up this same basic recipe and end up with yummy minestrone, for those "I'm not really hungry for food" days. Enjoy the soup's warm comfort on those nippy evenings with these three easy recipes.

Basic Alphabet soup

Crushed tomatoes 1 8oz can
Canned Pink beans 4oz
Alphabet pasta
Salt to taste
Crushed Black Pepper to taste
Sugar 1tsp or to taste.
Cornstarch 1/4tsp
Milk 1/2 cup
  1. Heat some butter in a pan, add the crushed tomatoes, beans, salt and pepper.
  2. Add 1 cup water and 1/2 cup milk and allow to come to a boil. 
  3. Boil a fistful of pasta with a dash of salt separately. Drain and keep aside. Mix cornstarch with about 2 tsp of cold water thoroughly. 
  4. Add pasta to boiling tomato soup, add the sugar, adjust seasoning, add the cornstarch mix and simmer for another 5 min. 
  5. Stir in between and take care not to let the lumps form. Enjoy with a grilled cheese sandwich!  

Mixed vegetable soup:
Mixed veggies (peas, carrots, beans, corn) 1cup.
Spinach 1/2 cup chopped fine
Onion 1/2
  1. Start with all the ingredients of the Alphabet soup, and proceed exactly as before. Do NOT add any milk here. 
  2. Steam your mixed veggies for 3-4 min. in a microwave. 
  3. Saute 1/2 an onion in a dash of oil till tender. Add chopped spinach and cook till wilted. Take off the stove, cool and blend in a mixer. 
  4. Add the steamed veggies and spinach puree in the tomato soup and simmer additionally for 10 min (or till the veggies are tender enough for you). 

You can substitute the alphabet pasta with any other of your choice (I like the macaroni here) or completely omit it. Serve with toasted bagel bites. 
Onion 1 
Leeks 1 
Celery 2-3 stalks 
Mixed veggies 1 cup 
Zucchini/small squash 1 diced 
Red kidney beans (instead of pink beans) 1 8oz can 
Italian seasoning mix (to taste) 
Shell or penne pasta 
  1. Again, start with the basic tomato soup (without milk). 
  2. Combine tomatoes, beans and water, season with salt and pepper and keep to boil. 
  3. While the tomatoes are cooking, in a separate pan, take some oil and saute onions and leeks till translucent. 
  4. Add finely chopped celery stalks to onions. Add another cup of water and cook till reduced to half. 
  5. Finally strain this through a mesh strainer. Add this onion-celery stock to your tomato soup with steamed vegetables and precooked pasta. 
  6. Add the Italian seasoning while simmering for 10 min. You can omit corn starch if you like your minestrone like that. 
Serve garnished with parmesan cheese. Perfect with warm garlic bread sticks or croutons on those chill-in-the air kind of days! This soup is my entry for WYF: Light meal Event.