Thursday, December 4, 2014

Amazing tomato soup!

I've always been a sucker for good tomato soup. In fact, when I was a girl, my favorite was Campbell's Tomato Soup, while my sister's favorite was Chicken Noodle. We used to have to alternate when we had soup for lunch! Of course, now my tastes are more sophisticated--I haven't eaten Campbell's for years. My everyday go-to is boxed organic tomato soup, and one of my favorites is Noodles' tomato-basil bisque.

Tonight Mike made an amazing tomato soup, which just might be my new favorite!! It's from Good Food, Great Medicine, a fantastic cookbook (and healthy lifestyle book) by Portland physician Miles Hassell and his sister Mea Hassell. I loved this soup and would highly recommend has a nice kick, too!

You can get the recipe as a PDF on his Web site, or you can read it below. I just read his advice about ginger--he has a great tip about making it last longer (in white wine or mirin) and I didn't realize that you don't have to peel it!

Bon appetit!

Creamy Thai Tomato Soup

The Thai reference in the recipe name is actually culinary license on my part, but this is a great soup; rich and vivid, yet with the comforting quality of creamy tomato soups. This can be made from scratch quickly and uses ingredients I always have on hand.

(Serves 6)

¼ cup virgin coconut or extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 medium-large onion in ¼-inch diced (3 cups)
1 tablespoon freshly crushed garlic
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1½ cups tomato juice (or a 12-ounce can)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (see note)
2 teaspoons fish sauce (see note)
1½ tablespoons honey
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk (see note)

Optional: 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy 5-quart soup pot. Add pepper flakes and onion. Sauté 15 minutes, or until onions are very soft. Add garlic and sauté another minute.

2. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, ginger, fish sauce, and honey. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 – 30 minutes, stirring now and then. Remove from heat, add coconut milk, and blend thoroughly with whisk or purée. (See note below.) Add fresh basil
just before serving.

Miles Hassel's Notes:

  • I like the smooth-textured version of this soup. If you have an immersion blender, purée soup directly in pot. If you use a food processor, purée cooled soup in 2 batches. Return soup to pot and bring to a simmer again. The fresh basil is a grand addition, but the soup is bright enough in color and flavor to stand alone.
  • Thai fish sauce is potently fishy – don’t let the smell put you off. It is available in most supermarkets and probably has a shelf life of a hundred years or so. However, I have successfully substituted a tablespoon of mashed anchovies – about 3 anchovies. I dice them finely first, then mash them with the side of the knife blade until they’re a smooth paste.
  • Fresh ginger is an easy item to keep on hand. Buy a firm, smooth-skinned knob of ginger and cut it into one-inch chunks. Store the chunks submerged in white wine or mirin (a sweet rice wine used in Japanese cooking) in a glass jar in the refrigerator. The ginger will last a few months this way, although it loses some of its fresh bite over time. Peeling ginger is optional, but it’s easy to peel or scrape off the thin skin. (Some people find that ginger relieves nausea; you can make your own ginger tea by steeping sliced ginger in boiling water with honey to taste.)
  • Canned coconut milk is available almost anywhere for a wide range of prices. Don’t buy “lite” versions, and before you decide on a brand, read the ingredient list; added xanthan gum and soy lecithin are fine – they are natural emulsifiers. If the contents have separated into a solid white layer on top and the liquid below, don’t worry. Just scrape the firm creamy part into the soup (it will melt in quickly) and pour in the liquid. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Giving Thanks 2014

I am so thankful for the blessings in my life! What I'm most thankful for hasn't changed much since I last made a list in fact, right now my list would probably be nearly identical. But I'd add to that list the fact that I reached the age of 50 happy and in reasonable health!

We began Thanksgiving celebrations a little early, when my sister and her family came down to Portland the weekend before. We went over to a house my mom inherited from her brother to discuss renovation plans. I'm afraid I wasn't too much help...while Nadine was proffering her thoughts, I was too busy poring through drawers and bookshelves, finding some great gems--art supplies (my uncle was an artist), antique cameras, old maps, and these treasures:

Antique papers in the organ bench

Cool old schoolhouse desks
After that I convinced Mom and Nadine for a brief tea break at Medley in Multnomah Village. Yum--scones with jam and cream, with a lovely pot of tea, and even better company!

Mom and sister
Then we had a pre-Thanksgiving turkey dinner at my parents' house. My brother's new girlfriend has four boys. I accused him of trying to outdo me and my sister (who each have three boys)! Yes, that's right--10 boys in total with nary a girl in sight! Good thing they all love their moms!

Kieran had tech rehearsals for Mary Poppins that weekend, so we didn't see much of him. He got to see his cousins for about 1 hour the entire weekend, captured in the photo below!

My bro with 8 out of the 10 boys in the house

Nicholas, tired out from all the boy energy!
The best part about the Thanksgiving break was having Kieran with us again for awhile. He had four days off from rehearsals before diving back in on Sunday afternoon. Dress rehearsals have begun! Each day this week he's in dress rehearsals or previews from 5 to 10 p.m. The show officially opens on Saturday, and Kieran's first performance is Sunday at 12:00 noon (the child leads are double cast). It's all very exciting! I can't wait to see him as Michael Banks.

On Thanksgiving we went to my aunt and uncle's house in Lake Oswego...when I was a child my extended paternal family used to gather for every holiday and every child's birthday. As an adult, that frequency went down to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and occasionally the 4th of July. Now it's down to a much smaller Thanksgiving because of health issues and family drama. At times I've been a little bit sad about that, but we have been creating new (smaller family) and meaningful traditions on the other holidays.

I really appreciate the fact that my aunt and uncle are still willing to host Thanksgiving, so at least I can see some of my cousins and aunts and uncles there!

With my parents and brother on Thanksgiving

With my bro, who's celebrating 2 years of sobriety in December!
(would have been 3 years, if not for a bad day)

With my sweet boys
Friday Mike and I worked on cleaning our study, and on Saturday we went over to church so Chris could practice the sermon he gave on Sunday. (It was about his volunteer work for Care to Share, a food pantry where he and Mike have been volunteering for the past 4 years.) Kieran, Nick, and I walked/ran our dog around the church grounds while Chris was rehearsing.

My beautiful boys with our sweet girl dog with introspective eyes
Then we ventured out to find a Christmas tree! We went to White Lane Christmas Tree farm in Oregon City, where they had HUGE trees for $4/foot, or any tree over 7 feet for $30. The only downside was that a lot of the trees had some brown needles on them--not sure why. Finally, success!

My patient husband, who faithfully goes along
with this Oregonian's tradition of real Christmas trees!
If it were up to Mike, he'd go for the artificial one! Or just maybe I have converted him!

Nice to have Kieran with us for a change!
The tree farm offered shaking and baling for $10,
which we opted for--first time we've done that.
After our tree mission, we stopped by the Oregon City McMenamin's Pub. I was determined to try their hard blackberry cider--delish! I find hard apple cider to be a bit too sweet, so this was perfect for me.
Kieran, Nick, and Mike at the pub

With my little preemie! :)
I'm especially grateful to have a little bit of family time as we head into the hectic holiday season. So grateful for these amazing men in my life, along with all my other blessings!