Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

I am so proud of my little garden. It is producing heaps and heaps of tomatoes. And I am happily scrambling to use them all in delicious recipes. This is one of my favorites: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup.

I've made this recipe before, but with store-bought Roma tomatoes and canned tomatoes. Using the tomatoes from my garden made it sooooo much better! It's rich and comforting and so very delicious! When James tasted this soup he declared it "The Best Tomato Soup" he's ever had. Heck yeah!

Here's my adaptation from Barefoot Contessa's recipe:

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

5 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut in half and seeded (I used a mixture of large and cherry tomatoes)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 quart chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet (I just threw them all in a large casserole dish) and roast for 45 minutes.

In an large stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.

Puree with immersion blender. You can also use a regular blender or a fancy food mill (like Ina does), but I LOVE my immersion blender for soups - it's just so easy to use. Taste soup for seasonings. Add cream if you would like.

Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches. Duh. As if I even had to say that!

Serves 4.


This One Totally Has a Moral

In California, where I used to live, there are 0.0002 bugs per capita. I totally haven't done any research on that. But I know. I KNOW. Here, in Iowa, there are 999 billion bugs per capita.

I've been pretty good about accepting it. Partly because now I have two impressionable kids and I don't want them to learn that the right way to react when seeing a bug is to run screaming from the room. Even though, obviously, that is the ONLY SANE way to react. I try to be brave. You know. For the kids. I like to think I've grown as a person because of it. But really, I'm kidding myself. I might be saying, "Look, kids! A Wolf Spider! Nature is so neat! Let's get a book and learn more about it!" Yeah, I might be saying that out loud, to my kids. But inside? Inside, my soul is dying. And I was just kidding about that "Let's get a book and learn more about it" crap. I don't do that.

So a few days ago I had to take some Piggy Bank Craft Kit pictures (I am the Plug-Freakin'-Master!). And since piggies belong outdoors, for the most part, I needed to take the pictures outside. I have not been appreciating our backyard lately for two reasons.

Reason 1: It's freaking hot, yo!

Reason 2: Japanese Beetles have infiltrated our county this year. Yay. For. Us.

Reason 1 I can deal with. Reason 2 gives me the creeps. Those things are everywhere. And while I do believe that pesticides are the answer to EVERY BUG SCENARIO, and we've sprayed our yard, they're still here. The correct way to spray for bugs is to attach that bug killer spray nozzle to your hose, and yell, Scarface-style, "Say hello to my little friend!" and open fire. I don't think my husband did it that way. And that might be why they are still partying in my backyard. (Nice try anyway, honey! Love you!)

I know the beetles can't hurt me. But they buzz. I find that buzzing insects are much more scary than the non-buzzing variety. You know what else Japanese Beetles do? They dive bomb me. I swear it. And just the other day I had the joyful experience of one embedding itself in my hair. Icky Icky, double ICKY!

So, back to my Piggy Bank photo session. I'm outside in the overrated outdoors. I'm trying to hurry because it's hot and I don't want a beetle to land on me. I don't like their little claws, either. Anyway, I speedy, speedy, speedy take the pictures and go back in the house. I'm safe at last. Make sure to go back and read that last sentence in an ominous tone. And add the "duh duh Duh!" you're-totally-doomed sound effect.

I'm in the process of hooking my camera to my computer when I feel something on my back. Something like little beetle claws. Of course. I reach back and try to grab/throw it off me. I'm quickly searching around on the floor but I don't see it so I start to freak out. And I instantly get all sweaty and icky and I'm wearing a spaghetti-strap flowy-type dress and I'm worried that the beetle got inside when I tried to grab it.

So I go into emergency-panic-mode and strip the dress off up over my head and go running half-naked through the house to the bathroom. Because I NEED TO MAKE SURE IT'S NOT ON ME! The front door happened to be closed, but it wouldn't have mattered at that point. PANIC-MODE! Who cares who sees you in your underoos when you're fighting for your life? I leap over my kids who have been oblivious to my emergency.
"Mommy! Why are you naked?! Where is your dress?! Why are you running?! What are you DOING?!"

And as I'm turning this way and that in front of the mirror to make sure that my soul is not being eating alive by a Japanese Beetle I realize something. At my age, you really cannot strip a dress off your body as fast as I did without pulling at least a dozen mini-muscles in your back and shoulders and arms and I really need to do some more yoga or something.

I guess the moral is that I might be too old to be scared of bugs. I should be more scared of pulling a muscle or breaking a hip.

Turns out, the beetle had landed under a chair. So we found it and killed it. Because it is NOT my responsibility to save stupid MF-ing bugs that make poor decisions.


And one more thing. Do you see what I just went through to create my Piggy Bank Kid Kit? Dedication, baby. Dedication.

Piggy Bank Kid Kit

This Piggy Bank Kid Kit has to be one of my favorite craft kits. It's cute and functional. And cute. Really, really cute.

This kit came about because of my sweet little boy (who just lost his first tooth! It's one of the middle bottom teeth). He had a blue piggy bank, and he loved it. He liked to put his money in. Take it out. Put it back in. Over and over and over. And then that little blue piggy bank broke. And he cried. And I was so sad for him. I wanted him to have one that wouldn't shatter. So we made one. His is a boy pig and it has blue camouflage felt:

And Ella wanted one, too. But hers had to be extra girly, so she chose sparkly red felt:

They are made out of a tissue box! Sweet repurposing bonus! And when I cut the top slots on our piggies for the money to go in, I cut them big enough for Peyton and Ella's little hands to reach in and get their money. Because I enjoy dirty, filthy coins all over the dinner table. *shudder*

But if you get a kit, you can torture your kid if you want and make the slot too little. That way your kid can never get to the money until piggy's full. And then you can have a special parent/child bonding moment when you slaughter piggy to get the money. Whatever. That's freaky. Make the money slot big, for crying out loud. Just do it.

This Piggy Bank Kid Kit makes one piggy. One is manageable. If you get more than one, and you let the piggies hang out together, I can't be held responsible.

Ours escaped from their pigpen and started messing around:

And showing off:

Then I think they started hittin' the sauce. And not the bbq kind for ribs, if you know what I mean. They must not realize that once a picture is on the internet, it stays on the internet FOREVER, because they decided to take this compromising picture:

And I'll bet you know how they ended up. Yep:

And that is why I can't be held responsible if you get more than one. All that bad piggy judgement because of liquid courage and a combination of the supplies that come in this box:

Happy Crafting!

Dumpster Diving for Wimps

I'm all about the coupons and the sales and the free, but I draw the line at looking through dumpsters. That is, I drew the line until yesterday. I didn't really step over the line, I just kind of nudged it with my foot a little. So I could get some stuff.
Because. Stuff. Is. Awesome.

Since I did it once, I'm obviously an expert, so here is my tutorial on Dumpster Diving for Wimps (like me):

1. Have neighbors who are wealthy enough that they only occupy the house on your street for a few months a year. The rest of time they live somewhere where it is probably not freezing freaking cold don't go outside or you'll lose a limb / burning hell hot with extra humidity for added sparkle.

2. Make sure this family sells their home AND make sure they are too lazy to take their usable stuff to Salvation Army; so they stick it all in the rented Waste Management dumpster in their driveway. (Seriously, there wasn't even any actual trash in that thing, it was all stuff!) I look at it as " coming to a neighborhood near you!"

You can probably see where I'm going with this:
3. Make sure your husband is sweet enough to go over and score you some free stuff.

Like an Army Helicopter Game that was STILL IN IT'S BOX:

And if you've always wanted your kids to have a Little Tikes Water Table, make sure to get one of those:

Especially if your kids think "water tornadoes" are the coolest thing ever:

And a cool backyard chair that can be painted and beautified later:

4. If your old swing set was knocked down and broken by some crazy strong backyard wind, make sure that the other neighbor (who also looked through the dumpster and who knew the family and I swear my neighborhood is not as trashy as it sounds) offers to call and ask if we could have their swing set! Hell, yeah!

It could use a fresh coat of paint, and the slide is teeny tiny, but Peyton and Ella love it! And we all know that swinging is Ella's favorite thing in the world. So she's as happy as can be because this sucker has all sorts of swinging possibilities.

Ella said, "We don't have to go to all the other parks because now we have our own!"

I have to say, though, that one of the highlights was telling James, "Seriously, we have enough bouncy balls in this house! We really, really don't need any more!" as he chucked this ball across the street into our front yard. And then hearing Peyton say, "Ella, look at this Bob the Builder ball! Daddy found it in the TRASH!" Awesome. Because in two weeks, when he starts kindergarten, and his new teacher asks what he did over the summer: "We got new toys out of our neighbors' garbage!" is not exactly how I'd like my family introduced.