Creamy Tomato Soup with Focaccia Croutons

The other night was just one of those days: rainy, cold, and dismal outside.  The weather was perfect for wearing pajamas at 5pm, cuddling with pets &/ significant others, and of course: making soup!

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I noticed on the Two Peas & Their Pod blog a recipe was posted for a healthier creamy tomato orzo soup, and I was immediately intrigued.  Especially because we had 1/2 loaf tomato basil focaccia bread left over that was way past its prime and destined to be made into croutons.

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I made this soup, with only two changes, and I was very impressed.  The creaminess comes from greek yogurt so it is actually a very healthy soup.  I highly encourage anyone who loves creamy tomato soup but hates the idea of slurping up 50% saturated fat in one bowel to try this recipe!

Creamy Tomato Soup with Focaccia Croutons

From: Two Peas and Their Pod Blog

Yield: 4 bowls

You Will Need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-15 ounce cans diced tomatoes *
  • 1-15 ounce can vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil *
  • Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (we use Chobani)
  • 1 cup cooked Orzo pasta *
  • 1/2 loaf of stale focaccia bread for croutons (my addition, HIGHLY recommended)

* I used no salt added diced tomatoes and added my salt per our taste.  I did need to add a lot of salt to achieve a good flavor, but I still feel I added less than what would be in the regular sodium cans.

* I believe you could up the fresh basil a tad, maybe add in an extra  1 TBS.

* I substituted ALPHABET pasta instead of of orzo.  No, I don’t have a five year old.  I am just a kid at heart and the sight of this in the grocery store pretty much made my day.

Lastly, my own addition that pretty much MADE this soup amazing was the hommemade focaccia croutons.  See below for how to make these.

Now for the recipe:

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bay leaves.

2. Add the tomatoes and vegetable broth. Stir in the brown sugar and fresh basil. Season with red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, to taste. Simmer on low for 15 minutes.

3. Remove the bay leaves from the pot. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup (or blend the soup in a standing blender and return to the pot). Stir in the Greek yogurt until well combined. Stir in the orzo pasta (or alphabets). Serve warm.

And for the highly encouraged, totally worth it, absolutely delicious add in….

Tomato Basil Focaccia Croutons

Like I mentioned, I had an extra 1/2 loaf of focaccia bread left over from making my roasted eggplant and tomato sandwiches, and it was getting very stale.  I made croutons out of the bread by simply cutting it up into thick cubes, combining with 1 TBS + 1 tsp olive oil, and sprinkling with a little salt (about 1/2 tsp).

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I then baked these beauties for about 10 minutes until they were nice and crispy.  I stored them in an air-tight container until dinner time when they met their fate by drowning in a bowel of creamy tomato soup.

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The next time you are craving a creamy, healthy, comforting soup, I definitely recommend you give this recipe a try.  I highly encourage the use of alphabets instead of orzo, because let’s face it: childhood favorite > random pasta that looks like rice ;)

And if you have a little extra time, whip up some homemade croutons for dunking.  You can never go wrong by adding more carbs!

What are your favorite healthy soup recipes?

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Baked Eggplant Parmesan- A Very Tasty Use of Leftovers

I made a dish the other night (to be posted for meatless monday) that left me with leftover eggplant and fresh mozzarella.  If that doesn’t scream eggplant parmesan, nothing does!  I knew I wanted to try a baked variety to keep this dish on the healthier side.  (Yes, I realize fresh mozzarella is not necessarily “light”, but that’s all the more reason to not fry the eggplant!)

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I consulted a couple of different recipes and came up with this adapted recipe.  It turned out DELICIOUS, so I wanted to pass the inspiration on to you guys.

Note: the trickiest part in posting this recipe comes with the baking times.  I found mine to require way less baking than suggested, probably because I only made this using the 1/2 eggplant I had leftover (only needed enough to feed two).  I am going to post this as I did it for two people, but if making it for more people just be aware that your baking times will be longer.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan for Two

(Adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe and this Whole Foods recipe)

You will need:

  • 1/2 a large eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 6 TBS italian breadcrumbs
  • 6 TBS parmesan cheese, plus 1tsp divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • pinch of dried oregano
  • pinch dried basil
  • about 1/2 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced thick and chopped into chunks (or you can use shredded mozarella, regular or 2%)
  • Salt and pepper (look at how much salt is in your breadcrumbs.. you may not need to add any)
  • Jarred marinara sauce (or homemade), about 1.5-2 cups, divided

Steps:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the breadcrumbs,  6TBS parmesan cheese, oregano, and basil.  Transfer mixture to a flat surface such as a plate or cutting board.
  2. In a small bowel, combine the egg and 1 tsp water and lightly beat together.
  3. Line a large baking sheet (may require 2) with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  4. One by one, dunk each slice of eggplant into the egg, shake off excess, and then press firmly onto the breadcrumb mixture.  Turn the slice over and press firmly on the other side as well.  Transfer eggplant to lined baking dish.  Repeat for all eggplant slices.
  5. Bake the breaded eggplant in the oven on 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, and then turn them over.  Bake for another 10-15 minutes & remove from oven.  Keep a close eye on them at this point so they don’t burn.  Mine cooked for a total time of 30 minutes and they were perfectly brown.
  6. Line a 9X13 baking dish lightly with some marinara sauce, about 1/4 a cup or so.
  7. Transfer the breaded eggplant to the baking dish and layer with marinara sauce then fresh mozzarella cheese.  Keep repeating the eggplant-sauce-cheese layering process until all of your eggplant and cheese are used up.  Dust the top with a light coating of parmesan cheese, about 1 tsp (optional).

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8.  Bake at 410 degrees for 10-20 minutes, until cheese is beginning to brown and bubble.  Baking times vary- mine only required 10 minutes.

This recipe was so tasty, I highly encourage you guys to give it a try.  It can be a very healthy and filling meal if you use low fat mozzarella and pair with a nice big salad.  It is delicious enough for a date night in but easy enough for a weeknight meal as well.  This happens to be another one of those versatile recipes that will please kids, adults, vegetarians, and pretty much anyone that likes sauce and mozzarella cheese (i.e. EVERYONE!).

If you are cooking for two such as myself, on Monday I will be posting another great recipe to utilize the rest of the eggplant and mozzarella cheese, so stay tuned.

Have a great Saturday everyone!