Fast Tip Friday: Fancy Dip, Freaking Fast!

Garlic Herb Dip 4

You want the best dip ever, and you want to make it fast? Well have I got a solution for you! Granted, its speed is based on the fact that you have a herb garden handy, as well as some frozen pucks of puréed garlic. But if you have been visiting Ali Does It for a while then I expect that you would have both of those things already.

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So go out and grab a bunch of your herbs. Like, a BUNCH. I have some basil, parsley, lemon thyme, sage, and a million chives and garlic chives. Mince those into a bowl with your thawed garlic puck, and add a little salt and pepper to taste. Tip in a 500mL container of plain Greek Yogurt. Stir. That’s it!

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Corn and Tomato Dip

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Another Martha Stewart dip, and I loooooooove this one. The way I made it is totally unhealthy but that’s kind of the point and it’s amazing. I can totally see myself just sitting down on a late summer afternoon with a bag of tortilla chips and just eating the whole thing for a meal. And then having to roll myself away from the table. Or dying. But what a good way to go. I doubled the amounts I found in the original recipe to fit the food I had and used cream cheese instead of silken tofu because silken tofu is gross and hard to find around here. You can use whatever you prefer.

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Start with some ears of fresh corn. I used five here, bought from the grocery store as our corn season has only just begun in Ontario. Use a knife or a special corn-kernel-scraping tool (whatever they’re called) to get all the kernels off the corn and into a pot.

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Pour in 1 cup 2% milk and heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the corn is nice and tender. Let that cool for a bit.

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Meanwhile, grab a giant bunch of basil (any colour) out of your garden and start slicing that up.

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Grab as well some cherry tomatoes, about 16, and quarter those.

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Plop those in a bowl until you’re ready for them.

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In the bowl of a food processor, plop 1 250g package plain cream cheese, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, a few pinches of salt, some pepper, and about 2/3 of your corn-milk mix. Buzz that until it’s mostly smooth and uniform.

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Transfer the contents of the food processor to a bowl and mix in the rest of the milk-corn stuff, together with the sliced basil and quartered tomatoes. Serve with chips and enjoy!

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Fast Tip Friday: Singleton’s Pizza

Singleton's Pizza 11When I was younger, and my dad was away at sea and my brothers had gone out for the evening, my mother and I would sometimes take it easy from dinner preparation for one night and do something quick and dirty with the leftovers we had in the fridge. Now that I’m a grown-up, it’s the perfect thing to cobble together on nights when the Pie is out of town and all I want to do is plant my butt on the couch with a beer and watch the game. You just need three things: leftover spaghetti sauce (the chunkier the better), cheese, and rice cakes (this also works on pita, na’an, and any other form of flat bread). Singleton's Pizza 1

Heat up the sauce a bit and grate some cheese.

Singleton's Pizza 2Gren has realized I have the cheese grater out. Singleton's Pizza 3

Gren is trying to inhale the cheese from where he’s standing. I love it when he wrinkles up his face like that because I know if he could see himself doing it he’d be totally embarrassed.

Singleton's Pizza 4Line a baking sheet with parchment, move your oven rack to the middle, and turn on your broiler (don’t move it to the top or you will simply set all this on fire). Place your rice cakes(or flatbread) on the baking sheet. Top the rice cakes with your warm sauce. Singleton's Pizza 6

Add grated cheese. Give some to your dog or he won’t go away. To make it less sad singleton, I added some fresh basil out of the garden and that made me feel a little less lazy and pathetic.

Singleton's Pizza 7Broil until the cheese is melted to your satisfaction. Singleton's Pizza 10

Eat!

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Five-Minute Frittata, for Two

This is my favourite quick dinner when you want something a little bit better than a cold bowl of cereal but you want to apply pretty much the same level of effort. This dish serves two but I was so hungry after all my efforts in the garden that I ate the whole thing myself.

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First I grabbed some fresh herbs out of said garden. Then I preheated my oven to broil and grabbed an oven-safe nonstick skillet. Nonstick works best for this particular eggy dish, but you have to make sure that it has been approved for use in the oven so you don’t end up killing yourself with chemicals or burning the handle off.

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I chopped up the herbs.

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Then I grabbed a tomato and chopped and de-seeded it as well.

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Now you can start heating up your skillet, with a nice big pat of butter in it to melt.

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Then I cracked 4 eggs into a bowl. I proceeded to beat the crap out of them.

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Add in a big dollop of sour cream. You can use milk or cream but I have recently discovered that sour cream in eggs makes them light and fluffy and flavourful so I like using it.

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Then I poured the mixed eggs into the hot skillet.

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Let that sit for a moment.

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Then start pulling the egg away from the bottom of the skillet. You’re not really stirring the egg, so much as exposing more of the raw stuff to a hot cooking surface.

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Stop scraping before all the wet stuff is scrambled.

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Now you can top it with all the goodness you’ve prepared. This is salt, pepper, chopped herbs, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese.

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And then go ahead and shove it under the broiler for about two minutes, until all the wet egg is now solid. Please don’t judge me for my dirty oven.

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You can see I actually overdid this one a little bit.

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Then you hold the pan over a plate and start to slowly tip it so the whole thing starts to slide out.

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Keeeeeep sliding.

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When you’re about halfway out, lift the pan so that the second half of the egg flips over and covers the first half.

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Top with more pepper and garnish if you like.

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As I said, you can cut this in two and share it. Or if you’re really hungry it makes a great meal for one!

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Spag Bol Redux

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I have so many fun and exciting things to show you guys in the near future, but I thought I’d do a little bit of a retrospective today. My very first entry on this here blog, five-plus years and 900-odd posts ago, was a recipe for spaghetti bolognese. I make this spaghetti sauce all the freaking time, so I thought I’d do another post just to show you how things have changed over the years, but they still remain in essence the same. For one, the Pie and I went vegetarian for a month when I made that post so there’s no meat in that sauce. For another, I was way lazier when it came to chopping things up, so my sauces were much chunkier. I like them a bit more uniform these days.

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Some things stay the same, though: I always load it down with diced onions to start. I made a crapton (a metric measurement of course) of this so that I could freeze it so I can’t give you exact measurements. Just lots.

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I always add diced red pepper (I’m allergic to green) and diced mushrooms. You can add whatever you wish, though. Sometimes I chuck in whatever’s in my fridge that needs to be used: avocadoes (they add a nice thickness the sauce), tomatoes, sometimes even carrots.

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And then of course a variety of tomato-based canned items. I used to use jarred spaghetti sauce as my base but I found they were sneaking green peppers into the mix and it wasn’t doing my digestive system any good so I switched to canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and canned diced tomatoes.

Spag Bol Redux 1

First I start by sautéeing up the onions with olive oil and a little butter. I let them go until they’re smelly and soft. Then I pull apart a large hunk of lean or extra lean ground beef. I like to break it up with my fingers to ensure that there are no big chunks in the pot. You can also use ground turkey or pork or whatever works for you. If you’re going the veggie route and using TVP, add that last.

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After the meat is browned to my satisfaction I tip in my vegetables, as well as some minced garlic, salt, pepper, and various spices.

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I like a mix of italian spice plus extra basil.

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I add in all my tomato things as well and give that a grand old stirring.

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Let that simmer for at least half an hour so the flavours can mingle, and feel free to adjust the spices as you see fit. I like to let it simmer as long as I can, but it’s good either way.

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Cool and freeze or serve hot on top of your favourite fresh pasta, baked into a pasta casserole, or glopped on top of bread as a sloppy joe!

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Punchy Potato Salad

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With potato salad, like most salads, you can wing it more often than not and it turns out great.  It does help, however, to have a general idea of what sort of flavour theme you want to have ahead of time.  For this one I wanted something creamy but also with enough greenery and fresh things in it I didn’t feel like it was coming straight from a plastic grocery store container.

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I started off by washing and chopping 13 medium sized potatoes.  I like to leave the skins on.

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I then boiled them until they were quite soft.

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Then I hard-boiled 6 large eggs by putting them in a pot of water with a dash of vinegar (the vinegar makes the shells easier to remove) and bringing it to a boil; then I turned the water off and left them for 20 minutes.

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I drained the potatoes and chucked them in a large bowl together with about 3 stalks minced celery.  Then I grabbed a handful of herbs from the garden and minced those as well: dill, chives, parsley, green basil, and purple basil.

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Into the bowl.

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Some chopped baby dill pickles too.

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And of course the eggs, which I peeled and chopped coarsely.

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The dressing was simple: Dijon mustard, Wafu’s sesame dressing, and some aioli I picked up at the grocery store (instead of standard mayonnaise).

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A little black pepper never hurt.

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Mix that all together.

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Oh the creamy, dill-y goodness!

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Staying Hydrated in Style

I wasn’t going to post about this, because I do it so often and it’s so simple that I never even think about it.  But the Pie suggested it might be a good idea to let you in on the deal.

Summer Drinks 3
Gren also gets hot in the summer.

I get dehydrated really easily in hot weather and summer in Ottawa is very, very HOT.  Hot and long, temperatures often going up as high as 50°C (122°F) on humid days.  And when I get dehydrated I tend to faint and that is super embarrassing.  Therefore, I drink a TON of water.  But water gets so boring after a while, so I dress it up a little and then I can pretend I’m at some fancy spa.

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We have to keep the curtains shut to keep out the afternoon sun. It makes the shadows very interesting.

I have a pretty glass bottle that I keep in the fridge full of water, and it’s a simple thing to just add a bit of natural flavouring to it.  My go-to refresher is lemon water.  I just cut the ends off a lemon, and slice the rest of it small enough to fit in the mouth of the bottle.  Then you just leave it for a few hours and BOOM.  FLAVOURED WATER.

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Another good refreshing option is adding a sprig or two of fresh mint from my mini garden to a handful of fresh raspberries.

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For something more subtle, try cutting up half a cucumber and sliding that into the water.

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And the extra fancy option is a few sliced strawberries and some fresh basil leaves.  I think this one is actually my favourite now.

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I find that I can keep topping up the bottle for a couple of days before the vegetable matter in it starts to get squishy and needs to be composted, and the water starts to lose the flavour.

What’s your favourite combination?

 

Creamy Pasta with Roasted Squash and Sauteed Mushrooms

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I think this dish will make your Friday night, especially if it’s one of those nippy nights that is a portent of cold evenings to come.  This will serve a family of six happily.  Here’s how I did it, but feel free to add your own flair.

Creamy Squash Pasta 1

To begin with, roast 2 heads garlic and half an orange kabocha squash with olive oil and salt and pepper at 450°F for about 40 minutes.

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While that’s on the go, dice up 2 small onions, and slice up a whole package of white mushrooms.

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And grate a 150g package of asiago cheese.

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When the squash is roasted, chop it up into little cubes after peeling off the skin.

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I popped the roasted garlic cloves out of the head and sliced them up as best I could.

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Here I defrosted about 2/3 cup of the frozen pesto we have on hand (if you grow a lot of basil, you make a lot of pesto).

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Now, this is not a sauce you want to make well in advance.  I suggest making it right before you serve it and your pasta water is already on the boil.

In a skillet, melt a knob of butter with a dollop of olive oil over medium high heat.

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Add in your mushrooms and sautée them until they’re browned.

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Chuck those mushrooms in a bowl for now.

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Add your diced onions to the skillet and cook until softened.  Then you can chuck the mushrooms back in, together with your garlic and roasted squash.

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Give that a stir.  Already it smells amazing.

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Then chuck in your pesto, as well as 4oz (half a 250g package) plain cream cheese.  Stir that until it’s all melted and lovely.

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Pour in about 3/4 cup whipping cream, as well as 1 cup milk (or any combination of dairy you wish — that was just the amount of cream I had to get rid of).

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Add the cheese and stir until melted and incorporated.

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Toss with your cooked pasta and serve immediately.

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You can garnish it with whatever you wish! Even nothing!

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Turkey Meatball Rigatoni with Pesto

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Happy Canada Day!  Today is a holiday here in the Great White North.  Last Monday was also a holiday for those of us in Newfoundland, and I cooked this recipe up on that particular day.  We are trying to consume the contents of our pantry and freezer before we move (and we’re doing a pretty good job) so this gets rid of a chunk of the stuff in there.

Turkey Meatball Rigatoni 1

Anyway, my landlord is doing some renovations to her house, which is directly behind ours, and she needs our yard for access.  The first thing I said to the Pie when he got up and joined me in the kitchen last Monday morning was, “Oh good, you’re clothed — there’s a man in our tree.”  And there was.  And there were several in the backyard.

Morning View

And in the front yard.

Rock Collection

And in the side yard.

Gravel Road

And everywhere.  All.  Day.  Which made Gren very grumpy.

Couch Potato

And all the shops were closed so we had to make do with what was around for our dinner.  So start making up some meatballs, okay?  Preheat your oven to 375°F and grab a baking sheet. Ignore the small highway being created in your backyard.

Dirt Road

Finely grate up a medium-sized carrot.  Chuck that in a bowl.

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Slice up some green onions.

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Then dice ’em.  Chuck those in the bowl with the carrots.

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Then add a few spoonfuls minced garlic.

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Plop in 2 eggs.

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And about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs.

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Give that a thorough stirring.

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Add in some ground turkey, seasoned with salt and pepper.

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Stir that all together, then use your hands to squish it into golf-ball-sized meatballs.

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Plop those onto your baking sheet and let those cook in the oven for 20 minutes.

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To test for doneness, cut one open and see that there’s no pink inside.

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Grab yourself some pesto, too.  However much you want.  I like lots.  You can buy it or make it yourself, it’s up to you.

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And slice up some tomatoes.  I used grape tomatoes here.

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Boil up a pot of water and cook up some pasta.  We used rigatoni, because it was something we needed to get rid of.

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Drain the pasta.  Dump the tomatoes and the meatballs into the pot with the pasta.

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Add the pesto.  Stir like there’s no tomorrow.

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Serve it up hot!

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Aw Yiss. Some Motha. Flippin’. Tomato Soup.

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I don’t know why I felt the need to use that title.  I just DID.  Also, in case you didn’t recognize the meme, Canadian comic artist Kate Beaton is awesome and you should read her stuff.

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What do you do when you are moving and you have too many cans of tomatoes in your pantry, and your husband has left an open can of tomato paste in your refrigerator?

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I think we all know the answer to this.  It’s in the title after all.  Besides, nothing says summer in Newfoundland like a big bowl of hot soup.  And I’m not even kidding.  I haven’t seen the sun in a while and as I write this it is raining and 7°C.  Now you can use fresh tomatoes in this soup, and I’m sure there’s a good argument for doing so, because the taste is so much better and whatever.  Personally, if I have a nice fresh tomato in my hands, I’m going to want to eat it as is, not simmer it in a soup.  But to each his own.

Tomato Soup 1

If you do decide to use fresh tomatoes, I recommend blanching them first to get the skins off.  Put a put of water on the boil and when it’s a-rollin’, submerge your tomatoes in the water for about a minute and a half, until the skins start to split.

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Remove the tomatoes from the pot and plunge them into a bowl of cold water (to stop the tomatoes from cooking and going mushy).

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Then you can just peel them easy as you please.

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Take a few carrots, peel them, and chop them up.

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Do the same with a large sweet onion.

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You know when you are reading real estate listings and you have to sort of translate them to understand what the sellers are trying to tell you?  Like, “cozy” means “small”, “quaint” means that none of the doors are level and won’t shut properly, and “rustic” means “broken”.  I think you can apply almost the same principle to food.  At least in terms of soups.  When I read that a soup is “hearty” that tells me that there’s more stuff in it than liquid.  And when I read “rustic” I understand that the creators were just too lazy to cut everything up extra small.  So by that logic pretty much everything I ever make is “rustic.”

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Sauté the onions in a large saucepan with a gob of vegetable oil until they are soft and transparent.

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Now you can huck in your spices.  I used some minced garlic, smoked paprika, and then some powdered chicken stock.  Give that a good stir.

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Now you can add in your tomatoes (I used 2 cans plus the 2 fresh ones I blanched) and your carrots.  I didn’t drain my canned tomatoes because I wanted the liquid.  If you’re using fresh tomatoes you may want to add in a bit of water. Plop in a can of tomato paste as well, to thicken it up.

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Simmer that for a while until the carrots are soft.  Now you can leave this in its hearty, rustic state, or you can give it a whaz with your handy immersion blender and mix it up.

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I chose the latter, obviously.

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Then I took a can of evaporated milk that Mrs. Nice had purchased for undisclosed reasons and poured that in. Uh, don’t, you know, confuse evaporated milk with condensed milk. I don’t think that would end well.

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Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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I would have loved to serve it with fresh basil but dried had to do.  Yum!

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