Sunday, February 24, 2013

Challenge Accepted! (Part 1)

On Friday I linked you up to the Pinterest Challenge, as hosted by Sherry and Katie.

Happy Pinning!

I rose to the challenge, and I had a totally pin-tastic Sunday. 

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you'll know that I love to cook. Mostly I like to cook things are deceptively simple, things that taste like a million bucks but aren't really all that complicated. Things like my crockpot roasted chicken, garlic lemon chicken, pesto salmon, henrich-style alfredo, etc. 

But every once in a while, it's fun to do something that requires a little more effort. 

Enter these beauties: 

Bacon Guacamole Grilled Cheese

And some of this goodness:

Creamy Tomato Soup

I've been craving grilled cheese and tomato soup all week, so I was really excited about this meal and got started right away when we got home from church. It was actually nice--usually we go to the in-laws for Sunday lunch/dinner, and as much as I love that tradition, every once in a while it's good to have a break and have a Sunday of rest at home. 

Anyway, I made both of these in about 40 minutes! I was super busy the whole time, and I could have taken my time and been more relaxed (or if I wasn't as confident of my skills, I would have taken more time), but we're always starving after church. 

You can find the original recipes linked above, below each picture, but since the Pinterest Challenge is about putting your own spin on things, I wanted to give you a quick recap of what I did. 

First thing was to chop up my onion, celery, and basil (I used fresh, since it's growing on my windowsill anyway). 

The recipe called for diced tomatoes in puree, but since neither Giant nor Trader Joe's carried such a thing, I just made sure I had a can of tomato paste on hand for thickening and adding an extra kick of tomatoey goodness. 

Saute those veggies in butter, then toss in the tomatoes. 

I was puzzled as to why the recipe called for flour on top of the veggies, because you need straight up butter to make a true roux, but add the vegetable broth and baking soda and hold tight...

I let it simmer away while I worked on prepping ingredients for bacon guac grilled cheeses. 

I always cook my bacon in the oven...super easy, the splatters don't cause a ton of smoke, and all the pieces achieve the same consistency. Plus cleanup is a breeze.

And please be insane like me and make sure all your sandwich ingredients are neatly lined up for easy assembly: 

I used jalepeno jack cheese, and mild cheddar. 
Normally I'm a sharp cheddar girl, but I thought the mild creaminess would be nice against the spicy jack. 

Back to the tomato soup. Again, this is just my experience talking, but I figured once the soup was complete it could just hang out on the back of my stove and stay warm, while the grilled cheeses cooked. That way both things would be done and hot at the same time. 

Anyways, I tossed about 3/4 of the soup into my blender because I'm a nut about texture and I don't like baby-food-puree. Then I added 1/2 cup of half-and-half, and 1/2 cup of milk, because calories don't exist this weekend. Lastly, I mixed in a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste and stirred until smooth. 

Can you hear the angels singing? 

This was beyond heavenly. I didn't always like tomato soup, and I still don't really like it out of a can (or even those fancy boxes). But between the fresh basil, fire-roasted tomatoes, and the incredible creaminess, this was just amazing. So.much.flavor and texture. 

As stated above, I stuck this dude on the back burner (as low as my hot-burning gas stove would go) and attended to those bad boy sandwiches. 

This is my little trick for getting the cheese to melt before the bottom of the sandwich burns. Hold your biggest pot lid over it to catch some of the heat. 

More angels. 

In its plated gloriousness.'s the thing. 

Both of these food items were totally awesome. Tons of flavor, and suuuuper rich and filling. But honestly, the two together was a little much! Dan ate all of his sandwich, but I only ate half, and neither of us could finish the soup. I absolutely loved both of them, but there will a little too much going on in one meal. I think the soup with a plain old-fashioned grilled cheese would probably be a little less overwhelming, and I really think these sandwiches can stand alone. Plus, all the cheese-and-guac-and-cream was pretty rich. 

Still totally worth it. 

Part 2: Craft Edition coming soon!