Evenings in this house can be crazy. We're constantly juggling different activities in different seasons, but one thing we always make time for is a real dinner, cooked at home.
Now, before I go any further, I want to dispel any assumptions that I'm cooking a gourmet meal every single night. I'm not, and I think this post is a perfect example of that. But just in case you get to the end of this and think "well, sheesh, I sure thought that was gourmet", let me be clear: we also microwave frozen, steamable broccoli in a bag.
But one of our family values is real food, and another is staying on budget. So, to make sure we accomplish those two things every week, eating at home (or at least bringing along food we cooked at home) is pretty much non-negotiable.
One of my favorite "tricks" to making it happen, even on our busiest nights, is employing the "Time Cook" setting on my oven. Most ranges have this function, sometimes called "Cook Time" instead, and if you're not using it, you're missing out big time.
I'll even go so far as to say that if you're thinking about replacing your range in the foreseeable future, to make sure the one you buy has this Time Cook function.
The beauty of Time Cook is that you can get the depth of flavor that a longer roasting period can develop through caramelization, but without having to be at home to wait for it to happen. Roasting veggies like this can take 30 minutes or more, so can you imagine being able to go about your nightly routine AND cook like this? It's possible, folks.
For this recipe, I slice and season about 4 lbs of tomatoes (roma is what I prefer if I can get them, but any ol' tomato will do) while the oven is preheating and the kids are getting dressed for whatever activity is happening that night. Then, I throw them into the oven, set Time Cook for 30 minutes, and peace out.
When we get home, all that's left to do is blend the soup in my Vitamix and toast up a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches, taking active dinner prep time down to about 10 minutes for the night. SAY WHAAAAT?!
One important thing to remember about using Time Cook:
This setting is not well suited to baking breads, muffins, meat, or anything that will be ruined if it stays hot in the oven too long. Yes, the oven will turn off after the set amount of time on "Time Cook" is up, but it's still warm inside. I suggest you save this function for veggies or anything else that won't be ruined by staying warm for a longer period of time -- the stuff you can kinda eyeball for done-ness, you know?
If you try this out, let me know in the comments! I'd love to hear how you use your oven's Time Cook function in other recipes to make your life a little easier at dinnertime.
I'll leave you with this gem of a real-life snapshot, taken in our house mid-dinner on a tomato soup night. Oh, and the recipe below.
Roasted Garlicky Tomato Soup
2 lbs roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
1 head of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1- 1 1/2 Cups unsweetened original almond milk (or substitute regular milk or another unflavored, dairy-free option)
1 Cup chicken or veggie stock
Lemon juice (optional)
Preheat oven to 425F. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Arrange tomato slices on the sheets in a single layer. Separate the garlic cloves from one another (still in their skins) and scatter around the tomatoes.
Pull the leaves off 2-3 sprigs of rosemary and sprinkle over the tomatoes and garlic.
Drizzle everything with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Roast in the oven for 30-45 minutes.
Squeeze the garlic cloves to remove them from their skins and add to a blender along with the tomatoes. Add the almond milk and blend on high until completely smooth. Add stock little by little until the desired consistency is reached. Taste for seasoning and adjust, adding more salt or even a squeeze of lemon if necessary. Blend again, until the desired consistency is reached, then transfer to a pot on the stove to heat before serving.
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