Heirloom Tomato Soup: Cheap and Guiltless

Heirloom Tomato Soup

As the weather gets cooler I find myself craving warm comfort. I’ve said it before and ill say it again, soup is the starving artist’s secret weapon: low cost, high yield, mega satisfying. Lately I’ve been eating my stress, which is never good. This weekend I decided I needed to make something warm, satisfying, and completely guilt free. I had grilled cheese on the brain (more on this in another post) and so I naturally thought of tomato soup. I tell you I was tempted to buy a box of Trader Joe’s tomato soup. Like, whatever, I just want soup, I don’t care. And then I came to my senses and realized that for a few more dollars I could make a big pot of my own soup that would knock the pants off of TJ.

So here is what I purchased:

  • 1 package of TJ mini heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 24 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 box vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 cup of chopped fresh basil

And here’s what I used from my own pantry:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt, crushed red pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sugar
  • Tomato paste (in a tube in my fridge)
  • 2 tsp dried basil
Heirloom Tomato Soup
Heirloom Tomato Soup

All I did was get my big enamel soup pot over medium high heat with just enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Toss in the heirloom tomatoes and let them heat up while you dice half the red onion (be sure to stir them around occasionally). Once the tomatoes have been heated for 8-10 minutes, add the onion with a good pinch of kosher salt, a few pinches of crushed red pepper, and the dried basil. Once the onions soften, use a garlic press to press in two cloves of fresh garlic right into the pot. Then add a good squeeze (about two tbsp) of tomato paste. Stir and cook for one minute then add the two cans of tomatoes, about 2 cups of the vegetable broth, bay leaves, and about two teaspoons of sugar. Bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, add the fresh basil, and use a stick blender to puree to desired consistency. Feeds 4-6 people easily. Delicious, healthy, and totally homemade.

Serving suggestions/variations:

  • Adding a can of fire roasted tomatoes will add a new dimension of flavor to your soup
  • Using diced carrots along with the onions will contribute to sweetness and add more flavor
  • Try topping your bowl with some sliced avocado. Or, if you’re feeling indulgent, some grated gruyere cheese. Mmmmmm.

New Episode Tomorrow!

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Friends, I’m pleased to announce that tomorrow I’ll be posting a new episode of the Starving Artist!

Looking for a cheap and easy dish that will warm your body in soul in those frigid single digit temperatures? Tomorrow I’ll show you how to take a $5 rotisserie chicken from Costco and turn it into a big steaming pot of homemade chicken soup that tastes better than your grandma’s and can be ready in less than 40 minutes. It’s the perfect comfort food to melt away all that cold and ice and make you feel all warm and gooey inside. Tune in tomorrow!

And don’t forget, you can all episodes of the show by clicking on the video tab at the top of the page or, better yet, by visiting my YouTube channel and becoming a subscriber. Hooray!

Impromptu Comfort Food

Alright, I caved in. I haven’t been feeling well and I decided it was high time I medicated myself with some comfort food. If I had it my way I would have gone all out with shrimp scampi served over linguini or a baked macaroni and cheese with bacon and mushrooms… however, paychecks have been few and far between for the past few weeks, so I had to make my comfort food the same way I make all my food: improvise. I started, as always, by poking around my kitchen. In the fridge I came across the half-empty jar of marinara sauce I had used earlier in the week to make the post I Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat Sauce. Since I rarely have any occasion to use jarred marinara sauce, I decided that I should find a way to get rid of it. I also found half a red onion. As I moved to the cabinets I found an item I had completely forgotten about: whole wheat egg noodles left over from god knows when. Looks like my comfort food was going to be pasta and tomato sauce. But, I was not about to settle for jarred marinara sauce and noodles… no, this caused for something more substantial…. sausage…. yes! I immediately went to the grocery store and picked up a package of sweet italian sausage, a can of diced tomatoes, 2 fresh tomatoes, and a package of fresh basil. All of it cost less than $10. I returned home and assembled my dinner. I used the ingredients I bought combined with items I always have in my kitchen: fresh garlic, tomato paste, capers, italian seasoning, and a few others. I can’t remember the last time I had Italian sausage in tomato sauce. It was so fantastic, particularly when topped with the grated Romano cheese I found in my fridge. Exactly what I wanted. Take THAT over the counter medication!

Soon I will get some paying work in and I’ll share a Payday Recipe – something indulgent that you don’t have to spend your entire paycheck on. I’ll show you where your money is best spent and how to make it sparkle. Until then, more frugal creativity will be coming your way. Later today my company arrives -we’ll see what culinary mischief I get into with them over the next two days.

Impromptu Sausage and Tomatoes (Recipe PDF)

What sorts of culinary mischief are you getting into these days? :-)

One of Those Weeks

Ever have an off week? You know the kind of week I’m talking about. Nothing about it is particularly bad. In fact, a lot of it might actually be good, but for whatever reason, things don’t quite line up. Maybe you’re not feeling quite yourself. Maybe you have some stuff weighing on your subconscious. Maybe you’re just drunk. Whatever the case may be, you get to the end of the week and think, “what the hell just happened?” That, dear readers, has been me this week and I know exactly what my problem has been: a head cold. I’ve been fighting this damn thing since Sunday and it does not want to go away. Like a true starving artist, I don’t have health insurance, so I can’t just casually visit my primary care doctor and get a z-pack for $10. No no. Instead I rely on the starving artist antibiotic: orange juice, sudafed, and whiskey. Quite the trio. Also Vicks Vapo Rub. Classic. Shout out to my friend Molly for hooking me up with the whiskey for my birthday.

Still, I think everyone would agree that when you’re not feeling well, what you really want to reach for is comfort food. I have to tell you that I don’t get sick very often, so usually when I do I use it as an excuse to gorge on all my unhealthy favorites – mac and cheese, pasta with meat sauce, a toasted bagel with cream cheese, etc. This time around I have been shockingly in control. I’ve been eating salads, vegetables, nothing terribly starchy… I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me. Actually I think it’s because I had been on such a good kick the week before – eating right, going to the gym 5 times a week. I was feeling really good and I guess I didn’t want being sick to completely negate all my efforts. Still, at this point some comfort food is sounding pretty damn good, especially considering I’m still sick. Some culinary mischief may be in order… tune in this weekend to find out what it is.

Meanwhile I am super excited for the weekend. One of my best friends who I’ve known since I was in second grade is coming to visit with his girlfriend. Not only am I excited to see them, I’m super pumped to have an excuse to indulge in some local eats that I would otherwise avoid. You bet I’ll be giving full reports here on the blog, so come back this weekend to find out where we end up.

Anyone else have an off week? What’s your favorite comfort food/sick remedy?