Healthy Roasted Tomato and Onion Bread Soup

The realization that I am a delicate Southern flower who requires thick, humid warmth to survive was not a gradual one for me. I remember vividly the exact moment that confirmed it.

It was my junior year of high school and I was sitting in my first period French class. Our class was held in a portable classroom (read: drafty old trailer) and the door was still open to welcome arriving students. And oh my ever-loving goodness, il faisait froid.*

*It was cold, y’all.

I was sitting in my desk, hunched over and hugging myself in an attempt to protect my vital organs from the piercing morning cold. Despite my efforts and the fact that I was wearing a winter coat (which, as you’ll learn, is basically miraculous for me), I was pretty sure I was dying of hypothermia.

As discomfort gave way to alarm, I wondered how much longer I should wait before raising my hand and asking to be carried into the main building, preferably by burly seniors in puffy coats. I looked around to see if anyone else was on the verge of death. A few people were chatting. A girl was shuffling around in her backpack. Ms. Moran was looking over some papers. Hm.

I began to calculate the distance I would have to walk upright — with vital organs relatively unprotected! — to pull the door shut in one last effort to save myself.

It was during this hellacious class (actually, I wouldn’t have minded a little fire just then — hold the brimstone, though) that I knew I would die if I were ever forced to move to any northern state. I remember realizing that at that very moment, people were walking around and going to work and surviving in, like, Vermont. I was aghast.

Since then, I’ve realized a few things. For instance, I’ve realized that I almost die each winter because I don’t wear enough clothing. I’m not running around in culottes or anything (you guys remember culottes?), but I have an aversion to layering my outfits. I end up pulling and tugging at things all day to get comfortable. Give me a short, lightweight sundress to slip on any old day.

As a result of my layering troubles, I’m often exposed to the elements. I’ll pat myself on the back for wearing a sweater, but then neglect to wear a coat over it. Or I’ll grab my coat on the way out the door, but decide not to worry about scarves or mittens. Or, like, real shoes.

I may or may not have been that person in college wearing rubber ducky flip-flops in the snow.

Anyway, I’m generally bad at cold weather, but I’m not totally hopeless. I may be dressing wholly inappropriately for the temperature, but at least I’ll be eating appropriately. When it’s cold, I start to crave oatmeal, warm drinks, chilis, stews, and soups.

This Roasted Tomato and Onion Bread Soup has been on a regular rotation at my house this winter. Something about serving piping hot soup over a toasty, buttered slice of bread feels rustic and satisfying to me. Best of all, each 1 cup serving of soup is full of veggies and has a little over 200 calories, making this recipe ideal for all the resolutioners out there! When I know I’m having a bowl of this with my dinner, I look forward to it all day long. So grab your snuggies, bundle up, and enjoy!

What are the temperatures like where you live? How do you brave the cold?

Healthy Roasted Tomato and Onion Bread Soup

Recipe by: Adapted from Eating Well
Yield: 6 1-cup servings

This bright soup is served piping hot over a slice of buttered bread. The result is splushy, hearty, and warms you to the soul. I sometimes make a batch of this soup and eat it for several days. When I’m ready to eat a serving, I toast a slice of bread while reheating the soup and then assemble as usual.

4 cups thinly sliced onions
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I halved most but left some whole)
1/2 cup thinly sliced garlic, plus 1 whole clove, peeled and halved
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
6 slices hearty bread of your choice
2/3 cup chopped fresh basil
6 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese
butter for bread
dash of red wine vinegar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add thinly sliced onions and top with another tablespoon of olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Toss the onions to coat. Caramelize the onions my cooking them, stirring occasionally (but not constantly, so they can caramelize on the heat) for about 30 minutes or until they’re rich and brown.

In the meantime, I usually chop my tomatoes and garlic. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray and add the tomatoes, garlic (except the halved clove), the last tablespoon of oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss tomatoes to coat. Roast these in the oven until the tomatoes are starting to fall apart and brown in spots, about 20 minutes.

When your onions are caramelized, move them to a big stockpot. Deglaze the skillet by pouring the chicken stock into it and bringing it to a simmer. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the stock into the stockpot with the onions. Add tomato and garlic mixture to the pot as well, mixing gently to combine. Bring this to a simmer. Remove it from the heat, salt and pepper to taste (sometimes I add a dash of red wine vinegar at the end for a little zing), and cover it to keep it warm.

Meanwhile, line your bread up on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake it for about 10 minutes until it’s toasted (full disclosure: I just toast mine in the toaster). Rub a little butter over it and rub the halved garlic cloves on it while it’s still warm (full disclosure: I use jarred minced garlic here instead for more intense flavor). To serve the soup, place a slice of toast into each bowl and ladle a serving of soup on top. Top with 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese and a sprinkle of fresh basil. Serve immediately.

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Roast Chicken and Onion Jam Panini with Sweet Potato Fries

There’s been a joyous new addition to my family! She doesn’t even have a name yet, but she’s already brought so much love and happiness into our lives. And quesadillas. She’s brought a lot of those, too.

Meet my new baby!

That’s right! I have a precious new Cuisinart panini press! And I got her for free! Well, sort of. My local grocery store has been running a promotion where you get a point for every $10 you spend on groceries. You can then use points to “purchase” an array of Cuisinart appliances. My little panini press here cost 100 points, or (wince!) $1,000 worth of groceries. Okay, okay, so obtaining her was a bittersweet accomplishment. Nevertheless, I was as excited as a bunny eatin’ a banana! The cashier politely listened to me ramble about all the panini I planned to make as I scooped my new appliance up to bring her home. Since then, there’s been a whole lotta pressin’ going on!

While searching around enthusiastically for panini recipes, I came upon a lovely blog: Panini Happy. A whole blog entirely devoted to using my new favorite kitchen gadget! I got so excited paging through the blog that I planned a whole dinner around panini! On the menu was a succulent Roast Chicken and Onion Jam Panini, a side of Sweet Potato Fries with Basil Salt and Garlic Mayonnaise, and a comforting side of Oven-Baked Macaroni and Cheese.

The panini was a synergy of gorgeous materials: sourdough bread, freshly roasted chicken, Gruyère, fresh thyme, garlic mayonnaise, and (drum roll please) ONION JAM. Panini Happy is where I met this Condiment of Condiments. Oh man, y’all, this stuff is good. Sweet caramelized onion, roasted garlic, reduced balsamic vinegar . . . it’s the perfect, hearty, luscious spread to drench your panini in. And drench we did!

Onion Jam

Recipe by: Panini Happy
Yields: ~3/4 cup of onion jam

3 large sweet onions
2 heads garlic, roasted*
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Squeeze roasted garlic cloves unto a small plate. Set aside. Cut onions in half lengthwise; peel. Cut off ends; cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick pieces.

Coat a 13″ skillet with cooking spray, and set over medium heat. Add onions, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 15 minutes.

Add sugars; re-cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden, 20 – 30 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup water and stir. Cover and cook until dark brown, 20 -30 minutes.

Add balsamic vinegar, roasted garlic cloves, and another 1/4 cup water. Continue cooking until liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
*See Elise’s helpful guide to roasting garlic on Simply Recipes

This easy roasted chicken breast was a new recipe for me, which I now adore. It’s simpler than roasting a full bird, but still produces juicy meat with a nice crispy skin. Easy as pie, especially for chicken you’re about to slice up onto a sandwich. Alternatively, you could pick up a rotisserie chicken at the grocer and slice some meat off the already-prepared bird for your panini. But then you don’t get to pull this out of the oven:

All that was left once my onion jam was prepared and my chicken had been roasted was to assemble my panini.

Roast Chicken and Onion Jam Panini

Recipe by: Panini Happy, adapted

Onion jam (see recipe above)
Roasted chicken (see recipe above), carved
Gruyère cheese, sliced
fresh thyme to taste
garlic mayonnaise (see recipe below, with sweet potato fries)
olive oil

Assembling the Panini:

1. Prepare onion jam (can be completed in advance).
2. Prepare roast chicken (can be completed in advance).
3. Preheat closed panini press to medium.
4. Brush one side of a slice of sourdough with olive oil and placed it on a preheated panini press. Assemble materials on top: slather on garlic mayonnaise, layer slices of cheese, slices of roasted chicken, a sprinkle of thyme, and heaping spoonfuls of onion jam. Place second slice of oiled bread on top, oil side up.
5. Using gentle pressure, press sandwich and hold for about 3 minutes, or until bread is toasted with grill marks and ingredients are heated through. Slice in half and enjoy immediately.

Finding the perfect side items to accompany the perfect panini was quite a task. The comforting, creamy side items I’d been craving throughout the cold, rainy weeks of November didn’t seem to “fit” next to my hip panini, but typical light sandwich fare didn’t appeal to me. So I compromised and made both! I baked a pan of my beloved Oven-Baked Macaroni and Cheese, but also crisped up some delicious (and more appropriate) sweet potato fries. Giada DiLaurentis’s sweet potato fries are my favorite; they’re sprinkled with fresh basil and kosher salt, and dipped in a tangy garlic mayonnaise (the same garlic mayonnaise, by the way, that I slathered on my sandwich). I’ve loved these sweet potato fries since I took my very first bite of them months ago. I cut mine thick, but you can slice them thinner for a crispier fry.

Sweet Potato Fries with Basil Salt and Garlic Mayonnaise

Recipe by: Giada DiLaurentis
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

5 sweet potatoes, cut into about 1 by 5-inch “fries”*
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
*Note: I usually make this recipe in batches of 1-2 potatoes at a time, and it’s perfect for 1-2 people. I keep the garlic mayonnaise recipe the same and have extra throughout the week for a sandwich spread.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the sweet potato “fries” on a foil-lined baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Bake until golden, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile combine the basil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. In another small bowl combine the mayonnaise, garlic, and lemon juice, and stir to combine. When the sweet potato fries come out of the oven, sprinkle with the basil salt. Serve with the garlic mayonnaise alongside for dipping.

Even if you don’t have your own panini press, I hope you’ll get out a regular ol’ skillet and grill up some cheesy, onion jammy sandwiches — and don’t forget the delicious sides! Oh, and one last thing . . . what do you think I should name my new gadget?

Roasted garlic and delicious finished onion jam.

Sweet potato fries cooking and panini grilling!


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