A bowl of creamy homemade tomato soup is a beloved favourite any time of year - great in that classic combination with a grilled cheese sandwich, as a side dish with a salad, or to dip a slice of toast into. It's also pretty amazing packed in a thermos on a cool fall day for a special picnic. You can make this soup rustic and chunky or smooth and silky. (Much better than that soup from a can!) Use fresh or canned tomatoes and see how easy it is to make. Join us for a late fall picnic by a lake and check out our other tasty picnic fare, too.
There's nothing more soul-filling than an autumn picnic by a lake. We've had such unseasonally warm fall weather here in Alberta that we had time to squeeze in one more glorious picnic before the cool weather hits! We're making all the summer memories we can while we have the chance.
Do you know the story of "The City Mouse and The Country Mouse" - the one where two mouse friends each go and live in the other's home because they think life is better there but in the end, they decide they like their own home best? Well, this month we got together with our blogging friends Nicoletta and Loreto of 'Sugar Love Spices' and had a couple of wonderful Fall Picnics - first an amazing one in the city with the stunning Edmonton skyline in the background and now a gorgeous one in the country by a lovely lake and glowing autumnal forest.
And guess what? Unlike the mice in the story, we can't decide which experience was the best. It's a draw. Maybe you can decide. See the photos of our city picnic here and scroll down for details of our country picnic below.
Picnic by the Lake
On this beautiful fall day, we headed out to Chickakoo Lake, about a half hour west of Edmonton. It's a pretty woodland area dotted with several small lakes and ponds interspersed with a network of lovely walking trails. Since we were carting our load of picnic gear, we scouted out a secluded spot by a pond that wasn't too far of a hike. We definitely looked like country/city mice pulling our wagon piled high with picnic stuff!
This little area by one of the ponds was private and shady. . . just the call of the birds around the lake to provide a peaceful backdrop as we unpacked all our picnic treats.
'Late Fall Picnic by the Lake' Menu
Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Hummus with crackers
Prosciutto-Wrapped Stuffed Dates
Welsh Cakes and Spice Cookies
Hot Chocolate with Homemade Marshmallows
We were all hungry so we dug in to our appetizers right away! We brought our favourite prosciutto-wrapped stuffed Medjool dates - filled with chopped walnuts, parsley, thyme, orange zest and wrapped in cozy little prosciutto blankets - the perfect blend of sweet, herby, and salty. Nicoletta and Loreto brought a delicious Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Hummus - creamy and satisfying, topped with pumpkin seeds and paprika & za'atar infused olive oil and served with crispy, nutty crackers.
Homemade Tomato Soup and Sandwiches
Our tomatoes have have astounded us again this year. (I've made over 85 pounds of them into tomato paste already.) They are a wonderful unknown German variety started from seeds given to me by my German friend, Gisela, on a trip there a few years ago. These tomatoes are sweet and fleshy and absolutely amazing in flavour. They make the most delicious homemade tomato soup. It's simple, but with a rich and complex flavour, so much better than anything you can get from a can! Sometimes I leave this homemade tomato soup rustic and chunky, and sometimes I purée it and strain it so it's smooth and silky - that's what I did for our picnic. Since I packed the soup into a thermos to keep hot, it was great to be able to pour it and sip it straight from the bowl or mug in all its lusciousness. (If you wanted to make the soup extra special, serve it with these fun and festive Seeded Croutons.)
We served the homemade tomato soup with Nicoletta and Loreto's amazing panini sandwiches; half stuffed with soprasetta and provolone cheese and the other half with flavourful grilled vegetables. Oh, my, we all had to taste them both!
We sat and just reveled in the solitude and beauty, lingering over our meal, laughing, chatting, nibbling and soaking up the beauty of our surroundings.
Then we packed up our picnic gear and meandered down to another spot on the sunny side of the lake . . .
With bellies full and souls satisfied, we explored the lake and hiked along a few of the trails afterward.
So, if you had a choice, would you rather go on the city mouse's picnic or the country mouse's picnic?
Drop a comment below if you'd like to weigh in 😍.
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Homemade Tomato Soup
- 6 cups (3 lbs/1.35kg) peeled diced tomatoes, juice and seeds mostly squeezed out, see instructions below, or 6 cups good quality Italian San Marzano canned whole tomatoes (one large 28oz/798ml can + one 14oz/398ml can) with their juices. See notes, below, if using less flavourful supermarket tomatoes.
- ¼ cup (60gms) butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (~1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste (plus more if tomatoes are bland)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
- 3 cups (720ml) vegetable stock divided
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ cup (120ml) heavy cream/whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons sherry, optional
- Peel the tomatoes, either by using a serrated vegetable peeler or dipping them into boiling water for 1 minute, then removing them to ice water and slipping off the peels. Core the tomatoes and cut them in half across the equator, then gently squeeze out most of the seeds and juices. Cut the tomato flesh into cubes and pack them into a measuring cup to measure them until you have 6 cups (or weigh them on a scale). Set them aside.If using canned tomatoes, squish the tomatoes with your hands to break them up, and set them aside.
- Heat the butter in a large saucepan or medium-sized dutch oven over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are softened and translucent.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and allspice. Stir in the baking soda - it will foam up a bit (baking soda helps neutralize the acid in the tomatoes, making them milder and sweeter).
- Mix ¼ cup (60ml) of the vegetable stock with the cornstarch and set it aside. Pour the remaining stock into the soup.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the soup, uncovered, for 20 minutes (bubbling gently).
- Stir up the cornstarch slurry and pour it into the simmering soup. Boil for 2 or 3 more minutes, until the soup is slightly thickened.
- Remove the bay leaves and pour in the cream and sherry (if using). Cook for another minute or two to heat through. Taste and adjust for seasoning, add more salt or white pepper if needed, or a pinch of sugar.
- Three options to finish the soup: 1. Leave the soup as is, with a rustic, chunky texture 2. Puree it with an immersion blender for a creamy texture with small bits in it 3. For an ultra-creamy soup, purée it with the immersion blender, then pass the puréed soup through a fine-meshed strainer to remove any small textured bits.
- Serves 4.
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