The crockpot has become my friend.
Up until a few weeks, making dinner in the afternoon wasn’t that difficult. Now however, between changing diapers every 20 minutes, nursing a baby every two hours, and playing with (or teaching someone to put away) cars and blocks almost as often, dinner somehow gets passed over. Until about six o’clock when I realize we’re all hungry, and I forgot to make anything.
(You might think I’m exaggerating, but this has actually happened several times in the last few weeks.)
I already love using my crock pot for things like homemade stock, cooking whole chickens, and making yogurt. However, now I’m plunging into that world of one-pot slow cooker meals, and I’m enjoying finding new recipes, especially the frugal, healthy ones.
Nevertheless, there are some non-slow cooker recipes that will simply have to make the transition with me. Like our frugal, meatless staple, 5-ingredient Tomato Soup.
When using canned tomatoes, this recipe is ridiculously quick. Sauté onions, combine five ingredients in a saucepan, heat, blend, then serve. The whole process probably takes about 10-15 minutes.
These days I’ve had so many fresh tomatoes from our local produce stand that buying the canned version seemed like a waste of money. Unfortunately, replacing the canned tomatoes with fresh ones requires more cooking time – precious late-afternoon minutes that I really don’t want to spend over the stove these days.
So the recipe had to change. Now, during our quiet mornings when the baby is still sleeping and Ray is happily breakfasting, I can start the tomatoes in the crockpot. Then in the evening I finish the soup in the normal ten minute process I am used to giving it. If I have any sweet potato and carrot puree cubes, I throw a few of them into the soup for added vegetables.
Pair the soup with grilled cheese or chunks of homemade bread (as seen in photos), and you have a frugal, meatless dinner that is pure comfort food and still full of veggies.
Slow Cooker Tomato Soup
- 2 tablespoons butter, oil or chicken fat (skimmed off the top of homemade chicken stock)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup onion, diced (to taste)
- 6 cups tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (for a vegetarian version, use vegetable broth)
- 1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I’ve substituted sour cream and/or milk in a pinch)
- 1/4 cup carrots, chopped and steamed
- 1/4 cup orange vegetable puree – sweet potato, carrot, squash, etc.
- Optional garnish:
- Sour cream
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Sauté onions in butter for 2 minutes
- Place onions, tomatoes and stock in a crockpot
- Cover, and let it cook on low for 5-8 hours
- Add optional carrots or puree
- Puree tomatoes with cream, using an immersion blender or a regular blender (if using a regular blender, puree it 2-3 cups at a time – hot liquids expand in a blender and will make a big mess if you fill it too far… ask me how I know)
- Stir in salt. Taste, and add more salt if needed
- Serve hot, and garnish as desired
- Butter – .15
- Onion – .20
- Tomatoes – free (with produce “seconds”)
- Stock – free (made with chicken bones and scraps)
- Cream – 1.00
Total: $1. 35
(Obviously this dish will cost more when we have to buy our own tomatoes again, and the garnish and veggie purees add to the cost. In the winter, Canned tomatoes cost us about $1.00 for this recipe, which still makes it a really frugal meal.)
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What do you like to make in the crock pot? Any recipes you think I should try?