Tomato Bisque with Crispy Mozzarella Cubes

Tomato Bisque | Pinky's Pantr
Today was a scary day at work. I arrived at the office to be greeted with the news that our Vice President had called an impromptu “Organizational Announcement” meeting. Everyone was to report to the meeting at 9 a.m. sharp. The VP’s announcement was that they were going to be outsourcing some of our jobs and some people would be laid off at the end of this year. So sad. It’s hard to understand the business decision to cut costs by sending our work abroad, but it’s harder to accept when good, hardworking employees of long standing are laid off without a qualm. I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to keep her job but my heart breaks for my friends who don’t.

I think comfort food is called for tonight. And what could be more comforting than a yummy bowl of tomato soup? Add a grilled cheese sandwich and you’re instantly transported back to those carefree childhood days when it seemed like nothing could go wrong. This soup is delicious and very easy to make. Instead of grilled cheese sandwiches, I gave it a different touch by making Crispy Mozzarella Cubes to serve with it. Yum! Now if only the job situation at work were as easy to fix. Sigh…..

TOMATO BISQUE

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1½ cups chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  1. In a medium pot, heat the oil.
  2. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and thyme, stirring until fragrant.
  4. Add the tomatoes, broth, and honey, and stir together well.
  5. Season with salt and pepper if desired, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  7. Remove and discard thyme sprigs.
  8. Puree soup with an immersion blender. If you want it chunky, puree only half the soup.
  9. Stir in the cream, adjust the seasonings, and continue to cook for another minute or two.
  10. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with parsley, if desired.

CRISPY MOZZARELLA CUBES

  • 1 block of mozzarella cheese (size depends on how many cubes you want to make)
  • flour
  • egg
  • panko bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat 2 inches of canola oil in a deep frying pan on the stove.
  2. Cut mozzarella cheese into cubes as small or large as you like. I like a good-sized cube so I cut them about 1½ inches big.
  3. Place about 1 cup flour in a pie plate and season lightly with a little salt and pepper.
  4. Beat 1 egg in a shallow bowl and season lightly with a little more salt and pepper.
  5. Place about 1 cup panko bread crumbs in another pie plate.
  6. Take a mozzarella cube and coat it first in flour, then egg, and finally bread crumbs. Repeat with remaining cubes. If you run out of flour or bread crumbs, just add more, and beat another egg if you need to.
  7. Carefully drop each coated mozzarella cube into hot oil.
  8. Deep fry until golden brown.
  9. Transfer briefly to paper towel lined plate to drain.
  10. Serve hot.

7-Can Soup

7-Can Soup | Pinky's Pantry
This soup has been around for a while in one form or another. I’ve seen it made with hamburger meat, canned mixed vegetables, pasta, ranch-style beans, minestrone soup, all kinds of different ingredients. And that’s the beauty of this soup. You can literally make it with whatever ingredients you have on hand in your pantry as long as you have the base of canned tomatoes and beans. The Pioneer Woman makes her version with seven ingredients coming from cans, plus the addition of Velveeta cheese. I thought I would try her version because (I admit it) I love Velveeta cheese. I know, I know. But hey, it was all we had growing up in the Philippines! I seriously think it’s the best “cheese” to use when you need something quick-cooking and melty. I also liked the addition of the chili and think it elevated this into a hearty Tex-Mex style dish. It was delicious! I served it with a bunch of garnishes on the side and the family thought that made it even better! This soup comes together really quickly and is perfect on a cold winter’s night!

7-CAN SOUP

  • 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans
  • 1 can (15 oz.) whole kernel corn or fiesta corn
  • 1 can (10 oz.) Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chili with no beans
  • 8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cut in cubes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional Garnishes:  sour cream, sliced or diced avocado, chopped cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, and/or red pepper flakes
  1. Without draining any of the cans, empty all seven of them into a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Toss in the cheese cubes and continue to simmer, stirring until cheese is melted.
  5. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  6. Serve optional garnishes on the side for people to top their own soup.

[Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks]

Corn Chowder

Pinky's Pantry | Corn Chowder
What could be more satisfying than a hearty bowl of corn chowder? Corn chowder is an American soup with recipes for it dating back to the 1800’s. It’s delicious made with fresh corn kernels when corn is in season. But when corn isn’t in season, you can still turn out a delicious pot using canned corn.

I started adding carrots to my corn chowder just as a way to sneak more veggies into my kids’ diets, but you could omit the carrots if you prefer. Sometimes I leave them out (as pictured below) and the soup still turns out fabulous.
Corn Chowder | Pinky's Pantry

CORN CHOWDER

  • 8 slices of bacon, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 5 cups canned chicken broth
  • 1-1½ lbs. yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8 ears of corn, kernels removed (about 6 cups fresh corn kernels)
  • 1 pint (2 cups) half-and-half or milk
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  1. Cook bacon in a large heavy stock pot over moderate heat until crisp.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Set aside.
  3. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease from pot, then add garlic, onion, celery, and carrots.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion becomes translucent.
  5. Add broth, potatoes, and thyme and simmer, covered, until potatoes are just tender.
  6. Stir in corn kernels, half-and-half, salt, and pepper.
  7. Simmer, uncovered, about 10-12 minutes.
  8. Remove sprigs of thyme before serving and garnish with crispy bacon.

NOTE:  If corn is not in season, lessen the chicken broth to 3 cups and replace the fresh corn with 2 cans whole kernel corn, undrained, plus 2 cans cream-style corn.

Hamburger Soup

Hamburger Soup | Pinky's Pantry
I was watching Pioneer Woman on TV one day and saw her make this soup. I had to try it of course, and have made it several times since. It was very easy to make and I loved how it was so versatile. You could add other ingredients to it if you like. I’ve added beans, pasta, zucchini, broccoli, all sorts of things. It’s a great way to use up all the leftover veggies you have in your fridge. One time, I had some left over lasagna noodles so I cut them into short strips and tossed them in! It was great! The soup makes a big, hearty pot perfect for a large, hungry family, but feel free to cut the ingredients in half or even one- third if there are less than 4 of you sitting down to eat.

HAMBURGER SOUP

  • 2½ lbs. ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 large cans (49 oz. each) beef broth
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 5 medium potatoes, cut into cubes
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Brown ground beef in a large stock pot with the onion, celery, and garlic.
  2. Once the onions are translucent, drain as much oil as you can from the pot.
  3. Stir in tomato paste and diced tomatoes.
  4. Add beef broth, carrots, potatoes, bell peppers, oregano, and parsley.
  5. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until carrots and potatoes are tender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve with a good crusty bread.