I look back on my pre-meal planning days and laugh at my foolish younger self, aimlessly wandering the aisles of the grocery store picking and choosing food with a mix of ambition and impulse…and often hunger. (OOOO…gummy bears!)
Since I have become an avid meal planner, shopping and cooking has become much more efficient around our house. But that comes with a caveat – we need a meal plan with flexibility due to my husband’s unpredictable work schedule. My kiddo is too young (and picky) to eat what we prepare for dinner, so if my husband works late then my choice is to cook for one or have a PB&J. This isn’t a tough choice for me…but after one late night becomes two, three or a week-long stretch, those PB&J’s start to loose their magic…or worse…they turn into cold cereal.
I love home cooking. LOVE. IT. In my perfect world, every night would be an exercise in homemade culinary delight, but in the real world, I need a meal plan that gives me options (spaghetti and meatballs will keep in the freezer) AND gives me an opportunity to enjoy something truly wonderful at least once a week.
So we came up with Soup Sunday.
Every Sunday we whip up a pot of soup – something delicious that my husband and I look forward to all week long. This way, when we have a crazy week and dinner time has been a parade of sandwiches and scrambled eggs, we can slow down and enjoy an afternoon of chopping, stirring and simmering.
Soup Sunday has some advantages…
-Sunday is the one day of the week that my husband is (almost) always home from work. The ability to trade off parenting/cooking duties is handy – soups can be heavy on the prep work. Few things have brought me as much joy as trying to dice half the contents of my crisper with a toddler yanking on the back pockets of my jeans.
-You can buy in bulk. Get a few soup recipes under your belt and you’ll see that there are some pretty common ingredients – potatoes, pasta, chicken stock, some incarnation of canned tomatoes. These are a steal in bulk at warehouse stores – even organic varieties.
-Lots of opportunities to use in season produce without becoming repetitive.
-It’s a great way to bust out of a rut. Go to your favorite food blog/recipe search engine and type “soup recipes”. Prepare to be totally overwhelmed…and inspired.
-It’s a cozy fall/winter tradition. We shelve Soup Sundays when the weather is warm. Even people that loath the cold weather will be happy to dig into a bowl of soup.
-It’s an excuse to buy really good bread. We usually have a tough time using up a whole loaf of good artisan bread…not so when soup is on the menu.
-Leftovers that make you look like Martha Stewart. I’m KIDDING. Sort of. Mondays are typically crazy – knowing that you can offer up a great batch of leftover soup means that making dinner is one less thing you’ll have to do.
Since I’m a bit obsessive about my meal planning, I map out my Soup Sundays several weeks in advance. Here are the soup recipes on my schedule:
-We keep a box of red wine in the pantry for soups and pot roasts and it delivers absolutely delicious results. No need to splurge here.
-Instead of using large slices of bread on top of the soup, my husband cubes the bread before covering with cheese and broiling – this makes it easier to get the perfect bite of soup, bread, and cheese on your spoon every time.
-We half this recipe and it still easily feeds 4 or 5 adults.
-White cheddar can be a pain to find – regular sharp cheddar works just as well.
Organic Creamy Tomato (with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches)
*Originally found on the Whole Foods website, but it has since been removed. Here is the recipe.
-24 oz tomato puree
-2 cups organic chicken or vegetable stock
-2/3 cup organic half-n-half or milk
-sea salt, to taste
-garnish: chopped fresh basil
Heat tomato puree with stock until simmering. Remove from heat and whisk in half-n-half. Season and garnish with basil.
*I add 1 minced clove of garlic. Just enough to give it a nice flavor, but not so much that it tastes like pasta sauce.
-I’ve replaced 1/2 cup of vegetable juice with red wine in this recipe with wonderful and subtle results. (If you’re going to keep a box of wine in your pantry, may as well use it.)
Broccoli, Potato and Cheddar Soup
I have a print out of recipe with no name or URL on it – it is delish. Go to your favorite recipe search engine and find a version that sounds good to you. Remember what I said about getting out of a rut?
I like Ina. I want to go to her house in the Hamptons and be BFF’s.
Quick & Easy Beef Chili – this a family recipe:
-2 lbs hamburger
-1 large can of tomato juice
-2 large cans of red kidney beans
-1 large can of Hunts chili beans
-2-4 tablespoons chili powder
-1 whole onion, chopped
-1 small can of diced green chilies
-Salt & Pepper
Brown hamburger, add onion and remaining ingredients, simmer until hamburger is completely cooked and chili is warmed through.
*Or – do it the super lazy Erin Oltmanns way – brown meat and onion in frying pan until meat is cooked through and onions are translucent. Add to crock pot with remaining ingredients and simmer on “low” for 1-4 hours.
More Soup Recipes