Even though I love spending my time in the kitchen, my time to do so during the week is pretty limited. I always meal prep on the weekends to make weeknights easier. Soup month happens to be the easiest month to meal prep and still have hearty, easy, delicious meals for dinner every night, with TONS of leftovers for my lunches. I have so much soup in the freezer, I won’t need to make lunches for most of February!
First was Sausage & Tortellini Tomato Soup. My original plan for a sausage soup was either sausage & tortellini with a creamier base, or sausage & white bean. Then someone was kind enough to share the tomato soup and it won my heart. One pan. No heavy cream (it has its places, preferably not in my soup). The tortellini cooks in in the broth. Ready quickly. Freezes well.
The recipe calls for hot Italian sausage; I used mild as it’s easier to find. And for the 28 oz of unseasoned crushed tomatoes, I used some crushed tomatoes and some marinara, both canned from my garden this summer. Trader Joe’s has a few varieties of fresh tortellini; I chose cheese but any flavor would work. And the cream cheese at the end creates a smoother broth but cuts the acidity of the tomatoes. It’s also my trick for chili, if you remember that from earlier this month.
My second soup of the week is also part of my Half Baked Harvest (HBH) challenge. I intended to make the recipe exactly as written, Golden Butternut Squash soup. However, then I found a mystery container of soup in the freezer that I THINK was some variety of butternut squash soup that I made a few months ago. Usually I label anything I put in this freezer, so that it doesn’t become a mystery item that I find months later. Oops? I remember making a different Half Baked Harvest soup in the fall, so I assume that’s what it was. Anyway, this week’s recipe called for roasted butternut squash, and after roasting the squash it was pureed with coconut milk. This is another great trick to make a soup or sauce velvety, just a little lighter than using heavy cream. After I completed the recipe as written, I added the mystery soup and adjusted a few seasonings.
No matter how good the butternut squash soup, I always feel like it needs something else. So I made Brussels Sprouts to get my veggies, and lemon butter sage chicken to get my protein. The chicken made the soup better and the soup made the chicken better – they belonged together.
To make the chicken, I salted & peppered one butterflied chicken breast. Then I sprinkled each side lightly with flour, and browned it in melted butter. Since butterflying the chicken breast made the cut thinner, it cooked up pretty fast. Once both sides were browned, I removed the chicken from the pan, added a little more butter, juice from half a lemon, and several whole fresh sage leaves. Keep the pan on low heat until the sage leaves just start to sizzle, then pour the reduced lemon butter and sage over the chicken. Also – great way to use up the sage I needed for the soup!
In other HBH progress, I made White Christmas Cranberry Layer Cake, Salted Caramel Stuffed Chocolate cookies, and 5 ingredient hazelnut brownies. The cake was for a birthday, the cookies were also for birthday treats, and the brownies were for a team party. All worthy reasons to bake so much, right? The cake was so flavorful; I loved the tart cranberry jam with vanilla cake and the very sweet white chocolate buttercream. For the cookies, I made a few with peanut butter cups and the rest with Rolos; both were fantastic. And the brownies were the fastest, easiest brownie recipe I’ve ever made. While I have a few decadent brownie recipes that remain my FAVORITE, this recipe will definitely be a go-to when I’m short on time or ingredients. I used my hand mixer vs. stand mixer, but these could just be done by hand. Less than 5 minutes to mix and out of the oven by the time you’ve served, eaten, and cleaned up from dinner.
FIVE (or seven) INGREDIENT HAZELNUT BROWNIES (credit to Half Baked Harvest)
- 4 TBSP (1/2 stick) butter, melted in a glass bowl
- 1 cup Nutella
- 2 tsps vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 cup chocolate chips. This makes 6. Oh the horror! These are optional.
- 1/4 tsp salt if you used unsalted butter (which I do). Yea that’s 7.
Mix the Nutella into the melted butter until combined, then add the eggs and vanilla. Once thoroughly mixed, add the flour (and salt, if using). Last, add the chocolate chips. Pour into an 8×8 pan, lined with foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. But not too clean, because fudgy brownies are the best.
I also completed my January Baking Challenge this week! From Sally’s Baking Addiction, this month’s challenge was Homemade Artisan Bread. This bread requires no special equipment – not even a mixer (no kneading!!!) and can be done with or without a Dutch oven. Thanks to Sally, I already had learned about making bread in a Dutch oven. When bread is trapped inside a heavy pan and moisture can’t escape during the baking process, it develops a hearty crust and soft, somehow firm & pillowy interior. I got a baby sized Dutch oven for Christmas, so I used half of the dough. The other half is in the freezer (labeled…) to make later this month, since soup & bread belong together. This bread was divine. If you’ve never made bread before – this is the recipe to start with!
Next week? I’ll be playing with my Instant Pot again for one of the soups! Stay tuned to see what else is cooking.