Creamy Tomato Soup w/ Blue Cheese

Here we go again.  Or I.  But I like to think we are in this together.  Since we are.  So, it is a total we situation.

Back to my normal…which, minus all the laundry and dishes and bill paying…kinda sorta rocks.  Buuuuttt, no matter what you are returning to, coming back from vacation can be difficult…so difficult, that it would have just been easier to stay on vacation – ha!  We all wish, right?!?

Let us get back to talking about food.  It takes my mind off that whole laundry sit, which is totally cool with me.

No matter what the weather is outside your window….sometimes your food choices just don’t match.

Ice cream in January.  Pumpkin pie in July.  Grilled peaches in December.  Hot soup in June.  Anyone with me?  Yeah, I figured that much…we can be weird together!  What weird things do you crave out of season?  Right now (and most summers) it is soup.

Lately, my craving for tomato soup has been Out. Of.  This.  World.  Completely, and totally.  I have gone to restaurants known for their monster grilled cheese sandwiches (i.e. Melt for my fellow Clevelanders) hoping the Soup du Jour would be tomato…because it is awesome.  Trust me friends.  It is.  It wasn’t on their menu last time…talk about a total let down (upside?  a fried egg on my burger, so we made up rather quickly).  After this outing, my need for tomato soup increased 7.6 fold.  I was on the hunt.  Officially.  I had hopes, high hopes, for the hospital’s cafeteria.  Daily, I scoped out the soup options.  I talked about it from when I got to work ( ahem, at 6:30am) until I could wander/escape down there.  It got to the point that my lovely coworkers started to report back to me the soup possibilities, if they found themselves down there before me.  I even got one to call the cafeteria for me…newbies.  Gotta love ‘em!

All of this effort and nothing, people.  Zero tomato soup.  I was on the verge of buying a can of Campbell’s and calling it a day, but I found myself with a bit of time and a few cans of San Marzano Tomatoes…and within no time I had a pot of tomato soup simmering away on my stove and a bit of sweat forming on my brow…Gross.  The sweat not the soup.  Tip of the day…turn on a/c if making soup in the middle of the summer.  Unless you love sweaty brows.  Which, more power to ya.  I think.  I don’t know.  Sweaty brow or no sweaty brow…just make the soup.  Be it December or June.

Oh! and definitely, and I mean definitely, add some cheese.  I prefer blue cheese, but not a blue cheese fan?  Totally OK, just add another crumbly cheese.  I bet feta would be crazy good or goat cheese?  Life is better with cheese, as is soup.

Creamy Tomato Soup w/ Blue Cheese

Adapted from Michael Symon

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Yellow Onion, diced
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 – 28 Ounce Can of San Marzano Tomatoes, with juices (dont’ have/can’t find San Marzano - use what you can find – but splurge on San Marzano if possible!)
1 – 14 Ounce Can Chicken Stock
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
2 Teaspoons to 2 Tablespoons Sriracha Sauce (depends on how spicy you prefer)
Salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon total)
3/4 Cup Half + Half
1/2 Cup Blue Cheese, plus extra for garnish

 

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and a pinch of salt and sweat for a few minutes.  Add garlic and continue to sweat for an additional few minutes, until onion and garlic start to become translucent.  Add tomatoes, stock, and oregano and bring to a simmer.  ( taste and add salt here if needed)  Stir in half and half and sriracha sauce and continue to simmer for an additional 30 to 40 minutes.

Transfer soup along with blue cheese to a blender, working in batches if needed.  Blend until smooth or desired consistency.  I like mine a bit chunky, but to each their own.  Pour back into original pot and taste - add extra salt or sriracha if needed.

Serve once soup is reheated.  Top with blue cheese and enjoy.

Ocean Isle, NC 2012

Well, Hello there!  How’s life?  I am in post vacation depression.  Which is totally a real thing.  Just ask my family.

Last week…as in just a few days ago …I was happily sitting on a beach, the sun in my hair (and sligthly burning my skin), my toes in the sand (and the sand finding its way into everything and everywhere)…oh, and there was most definitely a drink in my hand.

My family was lucky enough to find ourselves able and willing to spend another week together, in 1 house, just steps away from the surf and sand of the Atlantic Ocean.  It was a short week. ( clarification: the week was 7 days in length, like all weeks, but it ‘felt’ short, as in it flew by, as if it had wings…for some reason I felt the need to clarify that, sorry) A week that we stuffed to the max with fun and laughter and some good ‘ole family time.

The vacation started a day early for my parents and I.  We headed out early Friday morning on the Harleys.  We made the wise decision to break up the trek into two days worth of travel.  Boy, did our butts thank us!  We rested for the night in Asheville, NC and headed out early the next morning after meeting up with the rest of the crew.  With the caravan complete…we continued our trek to the shore.  After this trip, I am sure of one more thing in life..motorcycles were meant to be riden over mountains, through tunnels, and around curves.

Helmet hair, however, kinda sucks.

Before we continue…I should warn you…there are A LOT  of pictures.  Mainly of my niece and nephew.  And my brothers.  I promise there were others there….but, since most of our time was spent in bathing suits and since I refuse to show my bathing suit clad body here, I figure it wouldn’t be fair to show others…y’all can thank me later.

Here is the entire crew…well minus Aunt Irene and Mom.  At least in this picture.  Yes, we know, self-timers, right?…eh, we prefer to take multiple pictures and use our imaginations.

See…can you figure out who is missing ( not officially missing, just taking the picture)?  James did a bit of photoshop work on these two pictures, however Alyson ended up with no feet.  And Jeff, is it really photo bombing if you are supposed to be in the picture?

 

We spent nearly every waking hour on the beach.  In the ocean.  Playing in the sand.  Soaking up the sun.

And every evening, we all felt like this.

Sibling love.

It runs in the family.

I was supposed to be taking a picture of them with their sea turtle.

But I didn’t.

See, Giant Sea Turtle.

Which mom and I took total credit for when they went up to the house.

I don’t think they have ever taken a serious picture.

Their faces will be straight right up until you snap the picture and then they go all goofy.

James Hasselhoff?

Their poor wives.  I should have warned them.  I didn’t.

This kid is fearless of the water.  His sister is a tad hesitant.

But I worry (but not really at all) that she is more fearful of us trying to dunk her than she is of sharks trying to eat her.  Or of water up the nose.

Which she should be.

I still get dunked.

 Those sunglasses I am wearing…were eaten by the Atlantic.  And possibly a shark.  Eventually.

They were good sunglasses.

I stink at owning sunglasses.  Never trust me with yours.  Unless you want new ones.

We hit a water park mid way through the week.  Ya know, to give the kids a break.  Ha!

Carter tried to take a nap after this picture.

It was pathetic.  And kind of cute.

The boys rented kayaks the final day.

Super fun!

Just don’t think about sharks in open water.

Did you know…that when you are in the ocean, you are only 10 feet away from a shark at all times?

Thanks Dad.

Family.

At least we are weird together.

 Vacation was a blast…only 51 weeks until next year!

 

Mixed Berry Galette

PIE!

I love pie.

I love the fruit soaked bottom crust and I enjoy picking at the jammy fruit puddles that have bubbled out around the edges.  I am a pie picker.  A picker of pies?   You see those purplish smear marks in the picture above, those were jammy puddles.  I spooned them off, straight from the oven.  They didn’t have a chance.

I learned my pie picking habits early….Grandma never minded that I would pick at her pies when I wandered into her kitchen and more importantly, grandpa never minded that my cruddy fingers were picking at his cherry pie before he even got a single slice.

You see, I grew up with a grandma that made cherry pie weekly for my grandpa, who ate cherry pie weekly.  For 60+ years.  I wonder where my mean sweet tooth came from?  Her pies were nothing crazy.  No random exotic fruit from some far away land that was only in season for 2.5 hours each year.  She used cherry pie filling from the can (probably the only canned food she ever bought) and her pie crust was a simple flour/vegetable oil/milk crust…one that should would make without ever measuring an ingredient.  Every now and then she would stray from the usual cherry and bust out a blueberry or a pineapple or maybe a sugar cream or custard.

She taught me how to crimp the edges using my thumb and pointer finger.  She taught me how to make cinnamon rolls out of the extra pie dough.  She taught me that pie dough isn’t something to be feared.  She taught me that fruit shrinks when baked, so pile that filling high.  She taught me that pies do not require a recipe, fruit + thickener + sugar and you are golden.  She taught me that baking a pie can make you feel like a true baker.  She taught me to keep it simple.  She taught me that a runny pie is not the end of the world…it still tastes like pie and when paired with vanilla ice cream, the extra juice is welcomed!  She taught me to wait for that bubbling around the edges….so you aren’t bummed out with a runny pie.  Therefore, she taught me patience, which is still a work in progress.

While I might be straying a bit from her crust recipe and forgoing the pie plate and crimped edges all together with this pie…I think she would approve of the final outcome.  And I think she would totally dig the rustic style…I know I do.

Mixed Berry Galette

Makes about a 9 inch round

Ingredients

Crust

1 Cup Flour
6 Tablespoons Butter, VERY COLD ( frozen if possible), and cut into small pieces
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Shortening
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Granulated White Sugar
3-5 Tablespoons Ice Water

Filling

6 ounces Blackberries
6 Ounces Blueberries
6 Ounces Raspberries
1 Pint Strawberries, hulled and quartered
3 Tablespoons Granulated White Sugar
4 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
Zest of 1 Lemon, grated
1 Whole Egg + 1 Tablespoon Water, whisked together = egg wash
1-2 Tablespoons Raw Cane Sugar

Prepare crust.  I prefer making pie crust in a food processor.  In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar.  Pulse several times to combine ingredients.  Add very cold butter and vegetable shortening and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds.

With food processor running, slowly add ice water in a steady stream until the dough starts to form a ball.  You do not want the dough to be wet or sticky.  The amount of water needed can vary each time dough is made.   It is best to add water slowly and tablespoon by tablespoon until the dough starts to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape in a round, flat disk.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before using.

An hour later…

Preheat oven to 375°F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into a 13 inch round about 1/8 inch thick.  Transfer dough to parchment lined baking sheet and place in fridge until needed.

In a large mixing bowl, carefully toss together blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries with sugar, flour, and zest of 1 lemon.

Remove rolled out pie crust from fridge and pile berries high into the center of the crust leaving a 2 inch border for the crust.  Carefully fold up the sides of the crust, making pleats and pinching together the edges as you go.  It doesn’t need to be perfect – the more uneven the better!  Brush the egg wash onto the crust and sprinkle with raw cane sugar.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

 

 

 

One a Day…Week #2

Week #2.

06-04-2012…Dinner at Lola’s Monday night.  Great way to start off the week!  I really wish I had snapped a picture of East 4th…those twinkle lights that drape across the street just…well, I can’t explain it, except to say they make me smile.  Big smile.

 

06-05-2012 – Looking for Venus.  I never found Venus.  I Googled it instead.  Google found Venus.  and…my nose is a tad crooked.  Uh.

 

06-06-2012 – I joined a local CSA (community supported agriculture) – Fresh Fork Market.  Our first summer bag was this week.  I was impressed to say the least.  There were radishes, garlic scapes, greens, a few more greens, strawberries, a whole freakin’ chicken, and then some….

 

06-07-2012 – With those above mentioned strawberries, I made strawberry handpies.  Reminiscent of those Hostess pies mom would stuff in our packed lunches for field trips…stuffed next to a can of Faygo pop wrapped in tinfoil.  I miss those tinfoil wrapped cans of pop…or I just miss the field trips.

 

06-08-2012 – I live with this monster…A kitten, turned cat, turned lion, turned flying squirrel.

06-09-2012…I spent Saturday in the kitchen.  With my apron on – I meant business!  Finally made that tomato soup I have been craving!  And the evening was spent at Melt Bar and Grill…I love their menus.

06-10-2012…Oh Lordy..there are two pictures of my cat this week.  Heaven help me.  He wanted to play on the computer too.

 

Chai Sugar Cookies

Wanna know something crazy?

With all this warm weather and blinding sunshine, I should be craving grilled foods and fresh fruit, right?  But I am still craving cold and rainy weather food.  I am also craving those cold and rainy days, but that is nothing new – that is just how I am wired.  Fair skin and clouds, we are a match made in heaven.

I have been praying for tomato soup to appear in the cafeteria at the hospital.  So far, my pleas have remained unheard.  So I eat salad.  I made a stew for dinner last night.  It was in the 70′s and I was simmering a large pot of stew on top of the stove.  So what if I am acting like an 78 year old.

I am stuck somewhere between October and April.  Minus the extreme cold moments.

I am craving bread or rice pudding for dessert, not grilled fruit with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I am craving red wine, not summer cocktails.  I want to spend my afternoons baking bread and heating up the house…which would be downright unbearable in the heat this is just around the corner.  Even my wardrobe is faltering.  I can not let go of the cardigan.

These cookies are pretty much a late fall day in a bite size treat.  When you feel the need to wrap yourself in a cardigan and sit with your feet pulled up to your chest, make these cookies.  When you feel the need to pour yourself a cup of piping hot coffee on a sweltering hot day and you are silently dreaming of a cold and rainy day, make these cookies.  If you are experiencing a rainy day, literally or figuratively, make these cookies.

Tonight I will pray for tomato soup and a rainy day.  And if those remain unanswered, I’ll just eat a cookie and pretend.  Man I need to live in the northwest somewhere.

Chai Sugar Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen

Adapted from My Baking Addiction

Ingredients

2+3/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Light Brown Sugar, tightly packed
3/4 Cup White Granulate Sugar
2+1/2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 Teaspoon Ground Cardamom
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice ( I have also used pumpkin pie spice mix when I couldn’t find allspice…totally worked)
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
2 Sticks Butter, unsalted, room temperature
1 Large Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In another medium mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, and black pepper.   Whisk until well combined.  Reserve and set aside 1/4 Cup of mixture to roll dough in later.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar/spice mixture until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla extract.  Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Shape cookie dough into balls ( I used a small cookie scoop) and roll cookie dough in reserved sugar/spice mixture.  Place dough balls on ungreased cookie sheet (and I prefer parchment paper lined, but it isn’t necessary) and bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to finish cooling.

Store in airtight container.