Happy Hour: Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread and Tomato Soup

Good afternoon my darlings and welcome once again to another Friday.  For me the work week is behind me and I am getting ready to enjoy a nice weekend.  To be honest, my big thrill this weekend involves getting my sleep patterns back into a more normal pattern. 

I know, not terribly exciting, but necessary. 

While my babydoll is still on antibiotics from a massive sinus infection happy hour is going to be a more tamed down affair.  Tonight’s drink is opening a bottle of my babydoll’s Cream Ale Home brew.  He made a batch that has finally reached the drinkable stage.  He was very proud of it.  So tonight it will be a bottle of that. 

I think he just wanted pretzels with it so he could savor the one drink so tonight’s treat is going to be dinner: a nice slice of jalapeno cheddar cornbread paired with some homemade tomato soup. I actually really like this as it feels quite comforting to me. While the cornbread has a healthy fat content with the added cheddar, the soup isn’t all that high caloric. And with the cheese in the cornbread it is moist enough that adding butter isn’t necessary, at least for me anyway. My babydoll adds it anyway. I prefer to dip my bread in the soup.

The richness of the cheese is cut through by the spice of the jalapenos, but still feels decadent. Plus one of the few plants that produced well this year in the garden were the jalapenos so we have absolute buckets of them.

I’ll be honest, tonight I took a little bit of a shortcut with the cornbread.  Essentially I doctored a box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix.  It is good, it is cheap and it is fast.  Plus, I spent a lot of time on the soup so it is nice to have something quick and reliable. I also happen to like the taste.

For the cornbread

Equipment: bowl, whisk, pan for baking (9 inch square works well), grater for grating cheese (mine is an OXO Box Grater), knife

1 pkg Jiffy Corn muffin Mix.

I egg

1/3 cup of milk

2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

2-3 jalapenos, diced.

Butter or non-stick spray to coat your pan.

I use three jalapenos because we really like the heat, but you can adjust that to your palette.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease your baking pan and set aside. Dice your jalapenos and grate your cheese. In a bowl, mix the Jiffy mix, egg, milk, cheese and jalapeno.  It will be a chunky sort of mix.  You can make this into muffins if you want but I like the one solid piece that I can slice into the sizes I want.

The chunky mix – it won’t smooth out as you mix, just make sure it is well blended.

Pour the mix into your greased pan and smooth over top. 

Put into the oven.  How long you bake will depend on the size of your pan.  If you are using a standard 9 inch square pan, 18-20 minutes will do.  My baking dish is smaller so the mix is thicker.  I baked mine for 26 minutes.  You want to bake it until the top is golden brown and a knife stuck into the center of the pan comes out clean. Then take it out and let it cool.

It is baked when it is brown on the edges and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let it cool a bit before cutting

For the Tomato Soup

Equipment: baking sheet (get one with a lip at the edge to prevent the spillage of juices) , tin foil, knife, soup pot, blender or stick blender, sieve

2 lbs Roma tomatoes sliced

Olive oil

1 med onion

5 garlic cloves, roasted

3 cups veg broth

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 cup basil leaves

1 T red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Okay the first thing you are going to want to do is roast your garlic. (you can roast them with your tomatoes instead of separately – see below) It is super simple, but it takes a bit of time.  The benefit is that you can do it ahead of time and just use the rest of it as you need.  Personally I like a smear of roasted garlic on toast. So, to roast the garlic.  Take an entire bulb of garlic.  Slice the top off to expose the garlic within.  Rub the top of the now exposed garlic with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Then wrap the bulb up in tin foil.  Put it on a roasting pan and roast for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Once it is done. Take it out and let it cool.  You can squeeze the roasted cloves out of the paper shell, they will be mostly paste and smash easily.

Next you have to roast your tomatoes.  Slice them in half and lay them on a baking sheet slice side up.  Some may lean over, it’s okay.  Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a little bit of salt. Roast for one hour at 350 degrees.  If you are doing the garlic and tomatoes on the same day, just put the foil covered garlic on one end of the pan and let it roast with the tomatoes. 

The tomatoes will look a little dried out but still be a bit on the juicy side. 

Dice your onion and in a large pot saute it with a little olive oil.  Retrieve your garlic cloves from the bulb and add them to the onions (they will mostly be paste so just make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.  Saute your onions until they are translucent (about 8-10 min on med heat).

Add in the red pepper flakes and stir for about thirty seconds to let them release their oils.  Then add in your roasted tomatoes, and vegetable broth vinegar. Stir so that everything is combined and nothing is stuck to the bottom.  Bring it up to a boil and turn it down to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes, add the torn basil and simmer for another five minutes (if you add the basil too early it can get a little bitter) and then remove it from the heat. 

Let the soup cool down.  (trust me this is important, you do not want to burn yourself in a blender related spillage.)

If you have a stick blender, this is the time to break it out.  If you don’t then go for the regular blender.  It will work just fine.  Blend the soup until it is smooth and creamy.  If the skins of your tomatoes aren’t breaking down enough for you then you can strain the soup through a sieve if you would like. 

I tend to strain my soup as we freeze a lot of it.  This is one of those soups that freezes really well.  So I generally make a big batch. 

Once it is a consistency you like, taste and adjust the salt and pepper if you want.  Dole out the portion you want to use, reheat it and set the rest aside for later.

So for us tonight is about celebrating my baby’s home brew and enjoying a nice comforting meal.  This week has been long and quite frankly it is nice to have something comforting to sit down to at the end of the week. And for me, this is just the start of the soup season. I tend to make the Tomato soup at the end of the summer when the tomatoes are in abundance (this year we planted San Marzano Roma Pole Tomatoes and they came up in abundance) and then freeze a lot of the soup for use throughout the winter. As fall progresses there will be more squash based soups as those veggies ripen and are ready. In the winter I love having the soups handy. Not only are they warm and satisfying but because I make them myself I know exactly what went into them.

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