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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Coconut Curry Noodle Soup

Last time I posted I think the season could still be considered summer. Now we are knee deep in autumn. This is totes my favorite season. Changing leaves, cool weather/perfect running weather, cozy food, and art contest prize delivery trips!

Michael and I ran in a 5K with a few of his friends earlier this month.

I have yet to run a race in my FiveFingers, a goal I set for myself in the spring to reach by the end of the summer, but this 5K was amazing. It was at Mallow Run Winery, a bit south of Indianapolis. Firstly, I’m super happy with my time of 24:25. Guys, that’s a 7:52 per mile average pace! That’s under 8 minutes! These are things I never thought I’d say about myself as a runner. Secondly, we got a free glass of wine after the race. Thirdly, we tasted various wines after our free glasses.

Fourthly, we bought two bottles of wine per couple and sat on the patio and enjoyed many glasses. Wine and running and friendly people are a good combo!

In the last month my magazine’s amazing art director and I have traveled to three cities to deliver prizes for our art contest. Do you have a kid? You should so enter! Multiple perks to these trips include: making the day of a kid and his or her family, giving money to art programs in schools, getting to visit awesome cities!

San Diego. We visited the San Diego Zoo. Oh mah Gawd, it was worth every dollar of the $40 we paid to get in! We ate cupcakes two nights in a row. We saw seals. We hiked on the beach And we saw Erica!

I went to high school with Erica. She moved to L.A. for college and is still there. I’m glad we’ve stayed friends despite miles and time. The kind of weird thing about this whole trip is that most of the time it was cloudy. I thought San Diego was sunny almost all the time.

Knoxville. We had a hotel…disaster…horror story…grossness…long story short, the hotel was terrible and we ran at 11:30 at night. Before we broke free from trucker hell, we wandered around downtown Knoxville. Jen had a contact emergency that took us to this little grocery.

They had growlers and eight beers on tap IN THE GROCERY. Like a little bar in the grocery with awesome beer! I died a little. Just one more reason the South is superior.

Kalamazoo. The Bell’s Brewery is located in Kalamazoo. Oktoberfest is in season. Have you had Oktoberfest on tap at the Brewery that it comes from? Holy amazing caramel-flavored beer awesomeness! We sat in the bier garden and enjoyed some pints. I left with a six pack of Oktoberfest and a variety six pack.

I just realized that I sound like a drunk. Wine. Beer. Beer. I am not a drunk. I am not a drunk …

So cozy autumn food. It goes well with Bell’s beer. It goes well with cool weather. Unfortunately we are having some sort of Indian summer during the days. 70s and 80s, what? I don’t care. I’ve been cooking roasted chicken, potatoes, and butternut squash (which, sidenote, is amazing, sweet, and creamy just diced, salted, peppered, and nutmeged, and roasted), vegetarian chili, and a new soup, coconut curry noodle soup.

This soup is coconuty, spicy, flavorful, and I love the slurpy noodles. I actually managed to eat most of the soup with chopsticks! As is, the recipe is vegetarian, but I’d say add in some chicken or shrimp if you so desire. One of my favorite soup perks is how it lasts for multiple meals. This one gave me two dinners and two lunches. Plus, it was insanely affordable. I got my ingredients at the farmers market and an incredible international grocery in town called Saraga. They have a whole aisle practically of curries. And all sorts of produce from around the world. And all of the exotic food that costs a fortune at the regular grocery cost half the price. I think overall, this meal, or four meals, cost me around $10. Seriously, guys.

The recipe calls for Singapore noodles, but you can sub any rice noodle. Laksa paste is a type of curry paste. I found a jar at Saraga, but if you can’t, just go for any curry paste available. As for vegetables, I used a carrot, a zucchini, and a red pepper.

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Soup Days: Vegetarian Chili

This winter has been a very soupy one. Soupy in a food sense for sure. I cannot get enough of making soup. You can let it simmer in a big pot as you walk the dog, it can cook all day in a slow cooker, and it’s good for lunch for days and days.

If snow could be soup, then winter has been soupy in a snow sense too. I haven’t seen grass in what feels like an eternity, but is probably more like two or three weeks. Winter will never end.

We got hit pretty hard by the Storm of Doom last week. First, two inches of ice, followed up by five to six inches of snow. I happily did a little sledding on Saturday. My bum did not happily sled. It is in fact largely bruised now.

Now as the ice was falling last week I thought about how this amazing chili recipe would be the perfect thing to be trapped in your house with. Then it occurred to me that when you’re house-bound, you can’t leave to get ingredients for chili at the grocery. So I would just be taunting you.

Now that the roads are passible and there’s still quite a bite in the air, I say have some chili! I’ve been looking for a good and flavorful vegetarian chili all winter and I think I’ve found a winner! It’s spicy for sure, a little sweet, thanks to the barbecue sauce, sticks to your ribs, and Joy the Baker says the steak seasoning is the secret to all the wonderful flavors. I trust Joy. She’s got taste and she’s funny.

Uh, also, I tried to take a photo, but it looked not so great. I’m trying to get the hang  of this food photo thing. It’s tricky! Any tips?

Recipe post-jump.

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Red Lentil & Vegetable Soup

Oh the weather outside is frightful…cold…frigid…very winter-like for early December. Perfect soup weather. And perfect running weather.

That’s right bitches. I ran outside in 20° weather yesterday and today. And today I ran my best 5K time – 25 minutes. And then, just for good measure, I ran another half a mile. Total mileage and timeage? 3.6 miles in just under 30 minutes.

Now I swear I’m not bragging. I’m just amazed by myself. In high school, when we were forced to run at crew practice, my friend and I were the last people to finish because we walked most of the way. So guys, if I can do it, so can you. I swear.

Now, once you finish running, or just standing outside for 2 seconds, you’ll need something to warm you up. And I’ve got that covered. You will need a bowlful of red lentil and vegetable soup. It’s like tomato soup with substance, a bright sunny kick from some lemon juice, and a nice, warm cumin flavor.

Cumin reminds me of my dad’s chili, which reminds me of being toasty in winter.

Toasty up your insides. Make this soup. Maybe add some green beans, because that’s kind of what I want to do next time I make it. And there will be a next time, and a time after that, and a time after that…….

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Chilly Fruity Soup

I’m officially cooking on a budget. Welcome to the saddest grocery trips ever. But I’m doing well so far. It takes focus and willpower and math. At the grocery tonight, I had $24 in my wallet to spend. I kept a running total as I added items to my basket. When I got to the dairy section I didn’t have enough for heavy cream. So, no heavy cream.

Good thing sweet and wonderful fruit is super cheap during the summer. And very good thing my friend Marian sent me this summer fruit soup last month. It’s from Mark Bittman originally. I love how easy it is, how much it makes (talk about leftovers!!), and how deep the flavors are.

mmm fruity soup

Plus, with the intense heat that’s been suffocating us lately, this doesn’t steam up your kitchen, and won’t steam up your body. Though maybe a steamy body is what you’re looking for…

I didn’t stick with all the fruits in the recipe Marian sent me. I just kinda went with what I have. But I’ll note in parentheses the original fruits just in case you’re wondering! No matter what fruit you use, make sure it’s ripe but not squishy. Continue reading

North Carolina feasting

Last weekend I went to North Carolina. Oh yeah, I already told you that. I’m obsessed with North Carolina, particularly the mountains. Hm, told you that already too. Oh well, it’s good to reiterate the important things. I drove down to Tryon, NC, this magical little horsey community just almost tipping into South Carolina. Ivey, one of my best friends Bette’s mom, has a house there. The front porch looks west towards the mountains and sunsets. There’s a three stall barn next to the house where Bette’s retired horse Johnny, Ivey’s superstar Joseph, and her newest addition Gus, live.

Renée picks tomatoes for gazpacho

And this summer, Ivey’s planted a little garden filled with okra, tomatoes, basil, and marigolds, too.We spent many of our days off from camp at this house. It’s like my summer retreat. I love it. So I could hardly wait to spend four days there with Bette and Renée, a fellow Green Cove counselor, and Bette’s friend Jennifer. (There was a fifth girl, but I’d prefer not to mention her as she put a big fat blotch on the weekend.)

We rode ponies, went to Bele Chere, visited camp (where I got to hug Lee, the riding head, and my summer momma), and cooked so much good food.

I’ll go in the order we cooked these items.

blackberry peach pie

1. Porch Swings, our beverage of choice. Pimms (a tradition for us in Tryon), gin, cucumbers, 7Up, and lemons.

2. Gazpacho. Tomatoes from the garden, cucumbers, avocado, spices, jalapeños, green peppers.

3. Blackberry-Peach pie. Peaches and blackberries in a buttery crust. Oh and a little vodka.

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Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup and Edward

One of the best perks of my job is the free stuff. We have a product review page called Cool Finds in Jack and Jill. Companies email us about reviewing their products, we say “sure, we’d love to! But we have to see the product first.” The company sends us their product, we decide if we like it or not, and then we fight over who gets to take it home. I’ve gotten an air popper for popcorn, a Paul Frank winter hat, a pair of fuzzy slippers, and a rice cooker. The rice cooker came with a recipe book. We figured if we were going to take advantage of this free rice cooker, we might as well give the company some publicity in return, so we featured one of their recipes for chicken tortilla soup. The U.S. Kids Test Kitchen made it and all employees were fairly impressed. I thought it needed just a bit more kick. Last night we made it at home with a few spicy additions.

I’m just going to say that this recipe is firstly fairly cheap. Canned ingredients, rice, chicken, and broth. Secondly, it’s a ONE POT RECIPE. So few dishes!! Thirdly, it’s pretty easy to throw together.

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