I have a love-hate relationship with Trader Joe’s. I go to TJs for good prices on some of the staples that our family uses. While I am there, I am always tempted by the frozen convenience food. We all know why we choose convenience food; we’re tired, we don’t want to generate a pile of dirty dishes, we want something fast. Sometimes I pick up a bag of frozen pasta or a frozen pizza, but I am always disappointed. The pasta is inevitably overcooked and mushy, the pizza is relatively flavorless. And although Trader Joe’s is relatively inexpensive it will always be more costly to purchase a pre-made meal over making the same dish from scratch.
None of that changes the fact that there are many lunchtimes or dinners that arrive with a hungry, cranky Gina and the need to get food into myself fast before I throw a three-year old style tantrum. I need a meal that is fast, healthy, and delicious. My favorite convenience food that fits the bill is homemade soup, made in huge batches and frozen in single servings. There’s minestrone, bean with barley, lentil soup, and my current favorite, broccoli-cheddar. My friend Kristen, pastry-chef extraordinaire, introduced me to this soup last November. Just before Anna was born Kristen and my fellow pastry student Jess arrived at my doorstep with two quarts of the soup – along with lasagna, cheese bread, and mushroom ravioli (all with homemade pasta – because Kristen does not do things half-assed). All that wonderful food sustained me for weeks after Anna was born and I have since made the soup several more times. The recipe is from the awesomely named blog “All Day I Dream of Food“. Because I am incapable of following a recipe exactly I modified the ingredients slightly; substituting vegetable stock for the chicken broth and doubling the amount of both cheeses. I am planning on going to the farmers market this weekend and buying up 8 pounds of broccoli to make up another giant batch to enjoy over the next couple of months. Besides the fact that it is delicious, every time I eat the soup I am reminded of when I ate it last year, while holding tiny baby Anna in my arms; sustenance and sentimentality, now that’s a great meal.