Oma’s Tomato Soup in a Flash

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There are days when I crave french fries, when all I want to do is stop by Yats, this yummy Cajun-Creole restaurant in town, and pick up some chili cheese etouffee. I have weeks where jet lag is clearly a real thing, but I refuse to admit it exists. I will not be weak. Winter starts to creep in, days get shorter, and by the time you get home, the sun has set, the dog still needs to be walked, and despite the fact that it’s only 6 p.m., it’s much too dark and late to make real dinner.

Do not give in to the urge to get french fries or your city’s equivalent of chili cheese etouffee from Yats. Instead make tomato soup. I bet you have all of the ingredients in your house. If not, this weekend stock up on canned tomatoes, buy a spice container of cloves and a jar of Better Than Bullion, and make a habit of always having an onion or two and some garlic in your house.

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This tomato soup is special. Twice a year we would see my grandparents who lived in Holland. My grandmother, Oma, would make this soup with little mini meatballs floating in it. I remember her standing over the stove in her green kitchen making this soup. We would have it or her chicken noodle soup before every lunch in wide bowls with wide rims. My grandfather would pick up his bowl and always slurp out the last drops. I looked forward to Oma’s tomato soup every time they visited us in Indiana. She’d make a big pot first thing and we’d have it before dinner every night.

Even now that Oma is gone, Opa still eats soup every night. When he was here over the summer he gifted me Oma’s cookbook. It’s an old green, hardcover notebook with pages of handwritten recipes. Oma took a cooking class when she was young. Each night she would come home and tell Opa the recipes of the day. He then carefully wrote them down in the notebook.

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This tomato soup is a cinch to make. It requires maybe 10 minutes of hands-on time and 40 minutes of simmering, flavor melding time. This tomato soup has been my go-to meal this fall on nights when I can’t muster up the energy to make a full-on dinner. Plus I happened to be given the glorious gift of a HUGE amount of tomatoes at the end of the summer, which I canned into 10 quarts of tomato awesomeness. Make a pot of this. Double the recipe. Triple it. Curl up with a bowl of it as the days grow shorter. For me, it tastes like childhood. I hope for you it tastes like an easy and healthy dinner on a night you just couldn’t squeeze out one more drop of energy.

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Sprinkles For All Occasions

This is what my childhood looked like

Sprinkles and flakes (or, more correctly, hagelslag and vlokken) on bread for breakfast, lunch, snack, dessert….they weren’t just for ice cream in our house.

Serious Eats’ Sweets blog wrote about sprinkles today and when I came to the post in my reader I almost yelped aloud. You know how some things can really take you back to your childhood, to certain memories? Looking at that grid of bread and pieces of chocolate and sugar did that. Back to visiting my grandparents and marveling at how many different boxes of sprinkles Oma would line up on the table at dinnertime. To tapping the box carefully, just like Opa did, at the kitchen counter at my parents house, and squashing the sprinkles into the toast so they would get melty. Back to introducing our friends to sprinkles and to them wanting the treat every time they came over.

So, sprinkles and flakes are these chocolatey or sugary morsels from Holland (that’s where my mom is from and why they were a staple in our kitchen) that you but on buttered bread or toast. If you top untoasted, fluffy, and preferably crunchy-crusted bread with sprinkles, you get a nice crunch crunch of chocolate against the soft bread. If you go with brown and crisp toast, apply sprinkles to buttered bread, wait a minute to let them begin to melt, them press them down with a knife, and the chocolate and butter will mush together into something beautiful and melty.

ingredients to sprinkle bliss

I’m not sure where you can get sprinkles or flakes in the States without having to order them. Perhaps at an international grocery? My mom usually keeps a good stock from The Dutch Store. And every once in awhile I take a box and hide it in my cabinet to eat when I need a pick-me-up.

Do you have a food that takes you back? Like if you saw a picture of it, you’d be all “oh man! That embodies my childhood!”

Papa

I hate that a 25% off sale at Anthropologie still doesn’t make any of the sweaters remotely affordable.

Just wanted to get that off of my chest. Meanwhile, I realize that I’ve been sorely absent from my blog. The first thing I want to type is that I’ve had a rough summer and haven’t felt like writing.

But that’s so far from the truth in so many ways.

We went to Spain.

I worked at my beloved Green Cove for a week.

I got an amazing bike, and we’ve gone on lots of great rides.

My dad dressed up in drag to raise money for Alzheimers.

And honestly about a month ago I was planning to write a post on the song Up, Up, Up by Givers, about how joyful and light it was, and how it really exemplified my summer. How I couldn’t believe how much happier I’d been this summer than last summer. Then the thing we all knew was looming and ugly on the horizon happened. My grandfather Papa passed away on August 12. Do you ever not want to type something because it’ll feel more real that way? I sat here not wanting to write that sentence, working up the courage.

Papa was 95. He lived the most full life, up to almost the last minute. He really lived every one of those 95 years in every sense of the word. He’d been sick (bladder cancer) and had reached the point that he was just … ready to go, to be done. Three months later his body finally gave into his mind. So in a way I know I should be relieved that he got what he wanted, that he wasn’t stuck here anymore, in a sense. But I don’t care. I don’t care that I got to know my grandfather better and more fully as an adult than a lot of people get to know their grandparents. I miss him.

I miss Thursday night dinner where he’d start to order before any of us were even remotely ready, because he knew exactly what he wanted at all his regular restaurants. I can hear him saying, “coffee, decaf, black.” I hate the thought that I won’t be able to call him up when The American President is on TV. I don’t have anyone special to make my Papa brownies for anymore. He was my biggest supporter and critic when it came to my baked goods. He loved to hear about work, and no matter how frustrating of a day I may have had, he was always proud of what I was doing. And who in the world is going to tell me that my hair looks wonderful even when it looks like shit? I’m going to miss his endless and usually repetitive stories, especially the ones he told about my grandma, Mimi. God he loved her so much. He spoke about her in such a tone and with a look of sadness and total love that you knew he missed her and thought of her every single day, even though she had been gone for almost 14 years.

Today I was scrolling through the pictures on my phone and came across this one of a clock that Michael’s grandma has in her apartment in St. Louis. We took it because Papa had been describing this exact type of clock one day. He used to carry it in our jewelry store back in the day. We were going to share the photo with him, but it slipped my mind, and we never did. Such a stupid thing, and I shared so many other things with him, but there you go.

I really did not expect to be this sad when this day came. I think what’s been hardest for me to come to terms with is where he may or may not be right now. Papa was a hardcore atheist. He was proud of that. So I know that he probably didn’t believe in the traditional afterlife where you maybe meet up with your loved ones, etc. etc. What he did believe would happen to him when he passed on, I’m not sure. I want so much to believe that Papa’s with Mimi, that they’ve been reunited in the great beyond, but I don’t want to be unfaithful to who he was. So he’s just…gone? He just stopped breathing and that was it? That’s incredibly hard for me to wrap my brain around.

Last Christmas Papa and I were at Kids Ink, a children’s bookstore in town, picking out books for a friend. The lady in the store brought us a pile of books, including When We Were Very Young, a collection of poems by A.A. Milne. My dad read these poems to me as I grew up, especially the poem “Vespers.” I never realized the deeper family tradition with this poem until that day in the bookstore though. Papa picked it up, turned to the last page, and smiled. “My mother used to read this poem to me every night before I went to bed,” he said quietly. And then he started reading it, “Vespers.” I’ve never heard him get emotional when he talked about his mother, but right then he had tears in his eyes.

I didn’t want to talk at the funeral. I’m a terrible public speaker. Instead, I read “Vespers.”

Vespers
by A.A. Milne

Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

God bless Mummy. I know that’s right.
Wasn’t it fun in the bath to-night?
The cold’s so cold, and the hot’s so hot.
Oh! God bless Daddy – I quite forgot.

If I open my fingers a little bit more,
I can see Nanny’s dressing-gown on the door.
It’s a beautiful blue, but it hasn’t a hood.
Oh! God bless Nanny and make her good.

Mine has a hood, and I lie in bed,
And pull the hood right over my head,
And I shut my eyes, and I curl up small,
And nobody knows that I’m there at all.

Oh! Thank you, God, for a lovely day.
And what was the other I had to say?
I said “Bless Daddy,” so what can it be?
Oh! Now I remember it. God bless Me.

Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

A Tribute: Oma

My Oma passed away in the beginning of June. For awhile I didn’t want to write about it here. I didn’t know what to say, and I didn’t want to make a public ordeal over my loss and sadness. Now I want to write about Oma though. I don’t want to cry every time I think of her now, and the majority of the guilt I felt at first has gone. Now I just find myself remembering things.

My mom traveled to Holland for the funeral and to help Opa attempt to settle into life without his wife of around 50 years. Each of us family members who couldn’t make the trip wrote something for Mom to read at the funeral. This is what I wrote.

This past week and a half has been long. I’m glad it’s over, but it’s not really over. I’m glad I have a wonderful and supportive boyfriend. I’m glad I can support my mom. I’m not glad that the last time I saw my grandmother was two years ago. Distance sucks. I’m not quite sure what else to say right now. I think I’m going to miss my Oma though.

I remember how sometimes as she was fixing dinner, I would wander into the kitchen and stand at the counter. I’d look at all of the meats and cheeses she had out and she would roll up a piece of ham for me into a little tube as a before dinner snack.

She used to fill up these little tubs with water, they were yellow and green and maybe a foot tall at the most I think, and put them on the back terrace. We would play in them while the grown ups sat and talked.
I think lots of things that just appeared around the house had Oma’s hand in them. When we arrived in Holland every summer, the candy tins in the tv room were always filled with me and Ian’s favorite candy bars (Bros for Ian, Milky Way for me). A little white tent with blue trim always sat in the entry way. (I wonder now if that entry way was ever used for entering the house!) Inside the tent, Cobis the doll waited with his other dolly friends for me to play with them.
I remember Oma doing laundry. I’d sit in front of her washer and watch the clothes go round and round through that little porthole of a window. And then she never put things in the dryer. She always hung them outside behind the garage on the clothesline. We’d be playing in the backyard, pushing the kabouter around in the wheelbarrow, and she’d be hanging laundry. And it always smelled so so good. Not one bit like the laundry at home. And yet somehow whenever I smell laundry being done, I think of Oma.
Opa is more of a talker than Oma. He played with us, rough-housed with us, as kids. But Oma was always there with a kind smile and a hug, a really good hug where you could press your face into her chest.
It’s hard to live with regrets and guilt after someone has passed. So what I’m trying to think about is not how I didn’t get to hug her one last time, but how I got to talk to her on skype and how really lucky I was to get to see her face even though she and Opa live so so far away. That is very special. That’s what I’m going to try to remember now.

Days 21, 22, & 23 – Decoupage and Remembering

I have a basket next to the couch. It’s filled with magazines. Bon Appetit, Readymade, Cook’s Illustrated, Real Simple. I’ve dog-eared the recipes I want to make. Then the clutter on the coffee table gets to be too much, so I move the magazines to the basket and forget about the dog-eared recipes. When the most recent round of magazines came in the mail, I decided to start tearing out recipes and project so that I’d actually make them. This only led to more clutter on my coffee table, and clutter that floats to the floor the second the dog or cat walks by.

So my clutter inspired me. I need a recipe box! Why not take things full circle and decorate the box of magazine recipes with pictures from those magazines?

Decoupage. It’s making a collage on a useful object and sealing it up so you can…use it. For example, a picture frame or journal or…a shoe box for recipes.

This project took me two days. Day 21 & Day 22. Lots of creativity flowed. The whole process is not difficult, but does involve drying of glues.

You’ll need: the object you will decoupage, pictures/colorful paper/tissue paper, glue, modge podge/glue that dries clear, scissors, a paintbrush.

Cut out pictures or paper that will cover your object. I used food-related (and a few Julia-related) pictures. Plan out where you’d like them to go on your object and how they fit together best. Glue them down. Let the glue dry. Cover your collage with a coat of modge podge. Let dry. Repeat with one to two more coats. Done!

Day 23

This is a shiva candle. In the Jewish tradition, when a loved one dies, the family sits shiva for one week beginning the day of the funeral. This is the initial mourning period, a time to remember and reflect. No work is supposed to be done, no cooking, just sitting. And a shiva candle is lit in honor of the loved one. Don’t blow it out. It will go out on its own after seven days. It burns as a memory, the presence of the soul, as an aid to guide the soul to its next resting place.

My oma was Catholic, but we still burned shiva candles for her here. It’s not so much about the religion but what the candle symbolizes. For me, it’s a reminder of my grandmother’s life and just a nice way to say good-bye. Every time I’ve stood at the counter preparing a meal or baking something this week, I’ve looked at the candle and thought about how more times than not, I remember Oma standing in the kitchen , apron on, wooden spoon in hand.

Days 17, 18, 19, & 20 a.k.a. I am behind

Creativity is hard to document!

I have also been a bit of a slacker lately. Probably at least half of my creative endeavors have involved cooking, something I do on a regular basis. The whole idea of this month was to stretch my wings and let some creative juices flow. So I’m pacting to do stretch and flow more the second half of this month.

Day 17 

Mira attended a picnic at 100 Acres at the Indianapolis Museum of Art with Michael and me. The summer sun and extensive playing and exploring wore the pup out and she stole some drinks…many drinks…from Michael’s plastic cup. Luckily I had my water bottle with us, too.

Day 18

Homemade bread requires some planning to make. It’s certainly not difficult, but between hours of multiple risings and baking, the whole thing must be planned into the day. Due to bad planning on my part, we had no bread in the house on Saturday morning, and all I wanted for breakfast was some runny eggs with bread. So I made biscuits from Smitten Kitchen. They’re quick and fairly easy. My tips are these: the dough is quite sticky. Add maybe 1/2 cup extra flour. Make sure to bake them until they are truly golden. Slightly underbaked biscuits are not as delicious as fully baked ones. Breakfast was consumed too fast for photos.

Day 19

Happy Father’s Day! I have a…weird…awesome…hilarious…inappropriate dad. He dresses up in drag to raise money for Alzheimer’s, he tells me he needs a classy place for his whores to host more high-profile customers (my father is not a pimp), and he misses my mom when she leaves town for multiple weeks. So, on Sunday, my brother, his girlfriend, Michael, and I made dinner for him: Salads and stuffed shells from 101 Cookbooks.

The secret to these stuffed shells? Lemon zest. It’s mixed into the ricotta filling and spread across the bottom of the baking dish. Trust me, it really adds a unique flavor to the whole meal.

The beauty of this pasta is that you can make it in advance. This would be a great dish to make on a Sunday afternoon, freeze, and then make during the week after work. Scroll down to find the recipe after the jump!

I also went up to Zionsville for the annual pet parade and took a few photos for Robert Goodman Jewelers’ Facebook page. My favorite

Day 20

I hung my shelf in the living room! Finally the photos that have been tucked away all hidden on my bookshelf have a real home. And now I have a place to put flowers that is Lolacat-proof! The white roses are from my parents in honor of Oma.

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Day 12 – 36 Hour Chocolate Chip Cookies

Long week. Glad it’s over, but it’s not really over. Glad I have a wonderful and supportive boyfriend. Glad I can support my mom. Not glad the last time I saw my grandmother was two years ago. Distance sucks. I’m not quite sure what else to say right now. I think I’m going to miss my Oma though.

Chocolate chip cookies – a classic comfort food.

Chocolate chip cookies, you gotta have more
You can bake them in the oven or buy them at the store
But whatever you do have them ready at the door
And I’ll love you til I die, boom, boom, boom

That’s gotta be Michael’s anthem.

In our quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookies, I came across a recipe published in the New York Times in 2008. The gist of the article that accompanied it was that in order to get a truly flavorful chocolate chip cookie, you must let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 36 hours. The resting time allows the eggs, the hydrating ingredient in cookies, to really penetrate the dry ingredients. You must pay attention to the size, because, well, it matters. Large cookies allow for three textures – a crisp outer edge, a soft center, and a small space where the two meld together in a ring. Please also use salt. Salt enhances sweet like no other. Trust this. And use disc-shaped chips. Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chips are a larger, disc shape.

So, was the 36 hour wait worth it? Well, Michael, the very picky judge, claims these are addicting and good. My brother claims they are more flavorful. I ate five yesterday.

The recipe suggests baking for 18-20 minutes. I had never heard of cookies baking for that long, so I punched 10 minutes into my timer for the first batch. When it beeped, the cookies were very ready to come out. In fact I shortened the baking time to 8 minutes for the rest, rotating the sheets at 4 minutes.

Also, don’t be scared by cake flour. Mix 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1 tablespoon of cornstartch and you have one cup of cake flour.

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