Summer Soup (on the cheap)

Tonight we had Summer Soup – think tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions roasted meet cream and parm.

Sounds expensive for November and that my friend is where you are wrong. See Meijer was having one of those amazing (for me) sale weeks. (Since moving to Michigan, I have become enamored with Meijer.)

Sale items (with prices) that went into my soup – and the sandwiches:

1. 1 lb. package of Campari tomatoes (10 for $10, 11th free)
2. Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers (10 for $10, 11th free)
3. Whole grain Bunny bread ($1.69) – don’t knock it, the girls eat it
4. Kraft Sharp Cheddar 10 slices (2/$4.00)

Thing(s) I had already bought:

1. Organic garlic – I bought a big bag of this on a whim almost two months ago and all the garlic has been perfect – no sprouting, no icky nats, and none has gone bad yet (a definite win for organic)
2. Pink Salt – I’ve got thyroid issues, so it’s the best for me (natural source of iodine)
3. Pepper for grinding
4. Dried thyme
5. Dried basil
6. Hungarian paprika (don’t know if it tastes all that different, but my mom bought it the last time she visited, so I will use it)
7. Homemade whey (a byproduct of the ricotta I make regularly)
8. Shredded parmesan cheese

Thing(s) I bought not on sale:

1. Organic onions (really this decision is back to the nats – I haven’t them when I’ve had organic onion)

Thing(s) you’ll need:

– deep roasting pan (mine is non-stick for easy clean up)
– measuring cups and spoons
– blender with good blade or food processor (I’ve used both – I prefer a blender with a big pitcher.)
– sieve (I use one that has bigger holes than the one you would use on coffee grounds. It also has a lip to hold onto the pot while in use.)
– a large stock pot (think taller rather than wider, if possible)
– a wooden spoon
– a scrapper
– a ladle (for serving)

So I made a big batch of soup, enough for two dinners and one lunch for my husband. (Edit: I had about a cup of soup left over after night two.) You could cut this in half if you didn’t want as much. I’d just rather cut my cooking time for the week down and have a fast healthy, home-cooked meal ready to go.

Ingredients
– 3 lb. tomatoes, quartered
– 6 sweet bell peppers, quartered and seeded
– 4 medium onions, quartered
– 4 big cloves garlic, rough chopped
– 2 tsp. Paprika
– fresh ground pepper
– salt
– 2 tsp. dried thyme
– 2 tsp. dried basil
– 1/2 cup e.v.o.o.
– 4 cups whey (I use Kirklands chicken stock when I have it)
– 1/2 fresh cream
– Either parmesan rind or 1/2 fresh grated parmesan (if using grated, it is best to pick one that doesn’t have fillers or stabilizers, so that it will incorporate easier)

Directions:

– Preheat oven to 450º F.
– Spread veggies out in pan. There will be some overlap/layering.
– Spread the spices and the oil over the veggies.
– Roast in oven for about an hour. NOTE: Turn, shift, move around veggies every 15 minutes for even cooking (to avoid charred horror). If you cut the recipe in half, you may have to cut down the cook time.
– When they veggies are all soft and melty, and you smelly bubbly roasted goodness, taken the pan out to cool for a bit – 15 minutes to an hour, depending on life. If you are going to wait less time, your cream should be room temperature – not straight from the fridge.
– Scoop veggies (and juices) into blender and add whey. Use your scraper to get the good bits off the pan. It’ll take a few batches. Blend until smooth.
– Transfer to pot through sieve. Use your wooden spoon or scraper to speed up the process. You are going to end up with a pile of fiber and seeds. NOTE: If you skip this step, you will have seeds in your soup and it will more closely resemble a baby food puree.
– Once in pot, add cream. Stir to incorporate. Add cheese. Cook over low to medium heat -depending on how impatient you are. Stir frequently to avoid the food sticking to the bottom of the pot. Do not boil.
– While the soup is heating up and the cheese is melting into it, make your grilled cheese sandwiches. I recommend using butter in the pan and 2 slices of sharp cheddar (swiss works good too) each.
– If you have little ones, be sure to pull their soup out while the rest heats up.
– Serve hot. (Or not. It is similar to some Italian soups which are served cold.)

So let’s breakdown the math:

$3.00 (3 lb. tomatoes)
$6.00 (6 Bell Peppers)
$ 1.3288 (4 organic onions – the bag was $2.99 with 9 onions)
$ 0.125 (1/2 oz. organic garlic – the bag was 1 lb. for just under $4)
$ 1.00 (spices – This is a guesstimate. I buy thyme, basil, peppercorn, and pink salt in bulk at Costco.)
$ 0.75 (1/2 cup e.v.o.o – I buy this in bulk at Costco.)
$ 0.00 (4 cups whey – I think of this as free, since I am really after the ricotta and I often throw out whey. If you consider the whey to be equal in value to the ricotta and the milk from which it came, it’d be $1.15)
$ 0.2875 (1/2 cup cream – We get our milk and cream through cow shares. October was a 5 pickup month for us. The cost is slightly more most months where we only have 4 pickups.)
$ 1.0833(1/2 cup parmesan cheese – My husband got this in a hurry, probably not on sale, probably about $3.25 for the bag. I can’t find his receipt.)
Soup Total = $13.5747 ($14.7247, if you want to count the whey)

That’s $6.79 each night! Without couponing.

$ 1.60 (8 slices cheddar cheese)
$ 0.676 (8 slices bread)
With sandwiches, our total meal cost for Summer Soup in November is $9.06. And even if you count the whey you are still just at $10.21 for a hearty meal for five. Don’t you just love a good sale.

To cut costs further:
– Get your onions and parmesan on sale.
– Exclude the parmesan.
– Buy your cheese in a block and cut it yourself. (I buy blocks for shredding.)
– Make your own sandwich bread.

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