Thursday, January 16, 2014

Creamy Crock Pot Tomato Soup



Remember that ad campaign Campbell's Soup ran a few years ago, "Make it Campbell's Instead"? I'm sure all sorts of market research and lots of money went into creating it, and maybe there was more to it than just that phrase, but it always seemed like kind of a lame slogan to me. Like, really? Like their marketing team was tired one night and just said, "We got nothin'. Just tell 'em to choose Campbell's instead of something else." And then it always made me think, Well, maybe it's because it doesn't have that much to recommend it, so there was nothing else to say...?

That being said, I love tomato soup and used to eat lots of the iconic Campbell's variety. Every time I watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I thrill at the thought of trying Violet Beauregarde's Everlasting Gobstopper with the tomato soup that runs down her throat (then again, I'm not crazy about the idea of turning into a giant blueberry...so scratch that). Up until a few years ago, I would buy Campbell's tomato soup and eat it with a passion, despite the fact that it left my microwave looking like a scene out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As I became more aware of the downsides to processed food, however, I eventually realized that, like most canned soups, the classic Campbell's tomato is not a particularly great choice. The sodium in just a 1/2 cup is 20% of the daily value, plus it contains high fructose corn syrup and some funky additives. I've since converted to the Trader Joe's variety (organic, no HCFS, only one not-so-awful additive) but am always on the lookout for a homemade version to provide that perfect hot, creamy cup of comfort.

Of the recipes I've tried, this one is the clear winner:


Not only is this crock pot gem creamy and delicious, it also clandestinely contains 3 full cups of vegetables, not including the tomatoes, which is great for kids or other picky eaters! (Though I'm not really into the whole hide-vegetables-in-your-kids'-food movement. I think beets belong in salads, not in brownies. ...Actually, no. Beets belong in the trash. They're disgusting.) Regardless, you really can't taste the other vegetables in this soup. The flavor that comes through loud and clear is tomato. We had it with homemade bread (pictured) and I'm sure you couldn't go wrong with garlic croutons or grilled cheese. All in all, a huge improvement over anything you'll find in a can.

Creamy Crock Pot Tomato Soup
(Adapted from Skinnytaste)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. finely chopped celery
1 c. finely chopped onion
1 c. finely chopped carrot
28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes with juice
1 tsp. dried ground thyme
1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped
3 1/2 c. chicken broth
Parmesan or Romano cheese rind (optional)
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese 
1 3/4 c. 2% milk
garlic salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, and carrots and sauté 5-6 minutes or until onions begin to turn golden. Add to slow cooker.

2. Pour the juice from the tomatoes into the slow cooker, then roughly crush the tomatoes with your hands and add. Add thyme, basil, chicken broth, cheese rind, and bay leaf.

3. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours, until vegetables are soft.

4. Remove cheese rind and, using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.

5. Melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan. Whisk in flour and stir constantly for 4-5 minutes. Pour about 1 cup of the hot soup into the saucepan, then add the milk and stir until smooth. 

6. Pour entire mixture into the slow cooker, along with grated cheese. 

7. Continue cooking until warmed through. Season with garlic salt and black pepper to taste.

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