Slow Cooker Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup

or easy comfort food for fast or frozen

Tomato soup and grilled cheese is a classic comfort food combination that many people love from childhood on.  Yes, it is true that you can get this in minutes from a can, and there are times that I will admit that I crave just that.  There is just something about your childhood favorites that can bring those wonderful feelings of simple joy flooding back.  It is also true that this can be made stove top in about 40 minutes, but I am a fan of instant satisfaction and slow cooking not only gives you dinner in the same amount of hands on time it would take you to cook up the canned version but it also gives the flavors even longer to mingle and get to know each other.  The additions to the flavor give the soup a bit more depth without being overwhelming and it is a great base to build from and try out different combinations.

Bonuses for stress reduction: this can easily be a back up pantry meal made with items you can keep on hand, it freezes really well in individual portions for lunches and in freezer bags for family meals.  We've tried three different variations and love them all!  The tips for alterations are included at the bottom.  I hope you enjoy and find some new ways to customize it to your tastes!

The base version is great alongside provolone topped garlic bread or mozzarella grilled cheese sandwiches (outside sprinkled with house seasoning before cooking).  Here's how it's done:

2 tsp dried minced onion
½ tsp fresh minced garlic
¼ tsp salt
½ teaspoon paprika
1 can crushed tomatoes (24 oz) or 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped
½ cup sliced roasted red peppers (prepared already, about ½ of a jar)
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Hardware: slow cooker, immersion (or regular) blender

1. In the slow cooker: Add the tomatoes, roasted peppers, onion, garlic, salt, and paprika. Stir well to combine. Next add in the stock and stir until blended.

2. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

3. Using an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender, working in batches), puree until almost smooth. Stir well then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add in options for serving: 1 cup frozen cheese tortellini, a drizzle of olive oil and Parmesan cheese for garnish. Directions - turn the slow cooker up to high after step 3.  Add in the frozen tortellini. Continue to cook until heated through, approximately 20 min. Then top each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a light dusting of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  

Alternate variation: Add ½ tsp chili powder in with the other spices and serve drizzled with both olive oil and lime juice. This version could be served either hot or chilled (try it with some diced fresh bell peppers and tomatoes tossed in).

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