I'm not normally someone who rejoices when Friday arrives, but I'm making an exception today. This has felt like the longest week ever, and am I ever glad it's over! Shane's off work too which makes it even better. We're heading out to run errands in a bit, including a stop at Trader Joe's, where I'm really hoping to find Candy Cane Joe-Joe's. They're one of my favorite holiday treats and sadly the last time I was there they were completely sold out. The chocolate covered version was available but I like the plain ones better. What's your favorite holiday find at TJ's? Any can't-miss items I need to know about??
The only downside to this little shopping expedition is that it's freeeezing out! I'm such a cold weather wimp these days. The cold never used to phase me much but in the past few years I just can't deal. I even went so far as to buy an electric blanket on a whim last week. We are loving it so much! It's not that big but we both huddle under it when we watch tv at night, it's my happy place :)
I'm also relying on soup (and lots of it) to help me deal with the seeming arrival of winter. I already have a tomato soup recipe I love, but I couldn't resist trying this new one because of the inclusion of balsamic vinegar. Tomatoes, onions and garlic are roasted in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, beef broth, brown sugar and soy sauce. The sugars in the veggies caramelize in the oven and the vinegar mixture reduces until it is thick and rich. It's all pureed with a little more beef broth and some half-and-half and you're ready to dig in! The soup has an amazing depth of flavor and the consistency was perfect - not too thick or thin.
This recipe couldn't be easier, and soup is the perfect comfort food for the long winter ahead - especially if you make grilled cheese to serve on the side. This probably goes without saying, but if you don't like balsamic vinegar this probably isn't for you. The flavor definitely comes through, which is a very good thing if you're as big a fan as I am!
Creamy Roasted Tomato-Balsamic Soup
from Cooking Light, October 2005
1 cup low-sodium beef broth, divided
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 (28-oz) cans whole tomatoes, drained
3/4 cup half-and-half
heavy cream, basil and freshly ground black pepper (optional garnishes)
Preheat oven to 500 F. Spray a 13x9 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray (I used a metal pan since I wasn't sure if Pyrex or other glass containers were safe to use at such high temperatures.)
In a measuring cup, whisk together 1/2 cup of the beef broth, the brown sugar, vinegar and soy sauce. Add the onion, garlic and tomatoes to the prepared pan then pour the broth mixture over them. Roast for 45-50 minutes, or until the vegetables are lightly browned (the liquid will have reduced and should be thickened).
Transfer the mixture in the pan to a blender or food processor. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of beef broth and the half-and-half. Process until smooth. At this point, you can go in one of two directions - eat the soup as is, or strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove the solids so the soup will have a smoother consistency. I strained it but it's up to you :) Garnish with a drizzle of cream, chopped basil and freshly ground black pepper, if desired.