Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Murphy's Law Meets Tomato Soup

On average, my family eats together five out of seven nights of the week. It's important to me and I truly enjoy it. I thought that as my babies became teens, these dinners would become cumbersome, but if anything, the opposite is true. If anything, the company is even more enjoyable. 

Unfortunately, lately it seems that company is the only good thing about the meals. I don't know if it was the polar vortex or the fact that I am just not picking the right recipes or maybe (and this is a long shot) my oven is no longer calibrated correctly, but lately it seemed that when it came to cooking, I'd lost my mojo. Lately, everything I made just sort of...stunk.

My deep dish pizza was too doughy. My caramelized Brussels sprouts failed to caramelize. My corned beef was tough...even after four hours in the slow cooker.

Until tonight. Somehow the planets aligned and I made a kick-ass dinner. As a reflect on it, I think that my success was based on a combination of thinking of nothing but warm soup as I walked through the freezing cold rain and the extreme time restraints I had when I got home that forced me to think fast and keep it simple.  And...I have to admit (take a deep breath & own it) I didn't make everything from scratch. Although I did put my unique spin on everything.

I made...
Oven roasted tomato & red pepper soup
Sweet, spicy, and crunchy chicken
Pimped-out caprese salad
Roasted Zucchini
And for dessert....fudgy double chocolate chip cookie

It was a kick. ass. dinner. For the first time in forever.

And of course, for the first night in forever, no one was home at the same time to eat it. Maya had music night, Len was stuck in court, and Billy had a double drum lesson.

Isn't it ironic...

Oven Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup
400g plum tomatoes (about 6 small ones)
2 red peppers
1/2 onion (remove paper but you don't have to chop)
2 cloves of garlic (don't remove paper or chop)
4 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp. butter

Put the peppers, tomatoes, onion, and garlic in a pyrex-like dish and broil until the tomatoes start to char and burst a bit and the peppers char. You'll have to turn the peppers every 5 minutes or so and the whole thing should take about 20 minutes.
When they're done, put the peppers in a paper bag, close and put aside.
Squeeze the garlic out of the skin into a large sauce pan along with the onion and tomatoes, juices and all. You can also stick in the chicken stock.
Using the paper bag, rub the skins off of the peppers, it's ok if some remains. Cut them in half and remove the seeds and stem. Stick them in the pot with everything else.
Use an immersion blender to, well, blend until smooth. Then, add in the butter and let simmer for about 15 minutes to let the flavours come together.  Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve.

Crunchy, Sweet, n Spicy Chicken Thighs
6 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
1 pkg Shake n Bake, Extra Crunchy
2 tbsp. honey
your favorite hot sauce

Follow the directions on the box except that in the last 10 minutes of cooking, drizzle on the honey and a few shakes of the hot sauce.

Fudgy Double Chocolate Cookies
I came up with this recipe after I was left with less than half a bag of Double Chocolate Muffin Mix. Instead of trying to figure out the new ratios of ingredients, I made cookies. Here's how:
Less than half a bag of muffin mix + 1 egg + enough butter to get to the consistency of cookie dough
Roll into 1-inch balls, flatten a bit, and bake for 10 - 12 minutes @350.

What's your favorite not-quite-homemade shortcut?

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