Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese

There’s nothing like hot soup on a gloomy day. Though it isn’t quite winter in the mountains yet,  it is certainly feeling close as soon as the sun disappears every evening, sniff sniff.

Despite the sunny weather we have been enjoying, sometimes a girl just needs some soup – in this case, the recipe has been hanging out on my bookmarks for far too long and I needed to make it and be done.

I used and slightly altered the recipe from my favorite South African-born spices (and more) company, Nomu. Here is the original for comparison, note to self to try the grilled cheese French toasts one day.

Roasted Tomato Soup (serves 2 with lunch leftovers or 4 without)

3 lb ripe tomatoes (I used Roma)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

3 carrots, chopped fine

1 celery stalk, chopped fine

4 cups of vegetable stock (chicken or beef works fine as well if you aren’t fussy)

salt to taste

small handful of sugar

basil, chopped to serve

 

Grilled Cheeses

4-8 sourdough slices (depending on bread size)

4-8 thick slices of smoked Gouda cheese (or any of your choice)

black pepper

sea salt

olive oil spray

 

-preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

-halve the tomatoes and remove the core (only if very juicy, I left mine in)

-place tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt

-roast for 20-30 minutes until tomatoes have softened and look slightly caramelized

-heat olive oil in a pot and saute the onion, carrots and celery until softened but not browned

-add roasted tomatoes and prepared stock and bring to a boil

-reduce heat, season with salt and sugar, simmer for 20 minutes

-while the soup simmers, assemble the cheese sandwiches, garnishing the cheese with black pepper and spraying either side with olive oil

-broil in the oven on a tin foil lined cookie sheet until cheese melts and bread browns (2-3 minutes)

-use a handheld immersion blender to liquefy soup to taste, I like to leave some chunks in mine (beware the bottom of the pot here, I shed a few tears when I saw the scratches my blending left on mine)

-garnish soup with basil and black pepper, serve with grilled cheese sliced into halves

Roasted Tomato Soup with Crispy Grilled Cheeses

Roasted Tomato Soup with Crispy Grilled Cheeses

 

 

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Peach Cobbler

And here would be the reason I neeeeeded to make almond paste in my previous post. I decreased the quantity of the recipe from the original in Bon Appetit, mainly because I bought too few peaches for the full 3 lb called for.

I love cobbler and crumble type desserts in the summertime because the delicious fruits of the season do all the hard work for you. Served with whipped cream or ice cream, these dishes have all the extravagance and presentation of a fancy pie without the hours slaving over crust and assembly. Though I do still love a good pie when I have the time and energy!

Peach Cobbler

Filling:

1.5 lb peaches (can substitute with any other ripe stone fruit eg. plums, nectarines)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp flour

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 tbsp fruit brandy eg. cherry (optional – I did not have this on hand but really want to try it next time)

Topping:

1/4 cup flour

3/8 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1.75 oz almond paste (I have a digital scale, this was probably about 1.5 tbsp but don’t quote me on that)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1.5 eggs (like I said, I halved the original recipe, I ended up using 1 egg plus the yolk leftover from the almond paste and it worked great)

1/4 cup almonds, chopped as fine as you like with a Magic Bullet/food processor

 

-slice the stone fruits into wedges, roughly 6-8 wedges per fruit

-toss all the filling ingredients together and place mixture in a square baking dish

-preheat oven to 350 degrees F

-whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl

-in an electric mixer, beat the butter, almond paste and sugar until it is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes

-add eggs, beating to blend

-mix in the dry ingredients

-drop dollops of this batter over the fruit filling and sprinkle with almond topping

-bake until the topping is golden brown and fruit juices are thick and bubbling (if your dish is very full, you may want to place the dish on a cookie sheet to prevent the filling from bubbling over and burning in your oven), about 50-60 minutes

-let cobbler sit at least 20 minutes before serving with whipped cream or ice cream

 

Peak of summer decadence - bubbling fruit cobbler

Peak of summer decadence – bubbling fruit cobbler

 

 

 

 

 

Homemade almond paste

Usually when I see a recipe that calls for almond paste, I scrap it and move onto the next idea. This is prompted by the first time I wanted to bake with almond paste, made the mistake of getting all my ingredients before arriving at the baking aisle to find a whopper price of $8 for a tiny can – on special!

This time I decided to google alternatives for the paste since I really wanted to make the peach cobbler from Bon Appetit.

Imagine my surprise to see that almond paste is easy enough to make at home. There are a lot of recipes online, I slightly adapted this one from Bob’s Red Mill.

Almond Paste

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup granulated or caster sugar

1 egg white

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/8 tsp salt

-Use a Magic Bullet or small food processor/coffee grinder to make the sugar finer. Original recipe called for powdered sugar which I seldom buy and this worked perfectly – plus some bloggers have mentioned that powdered sugar makes the paste too, well, pasty.

-Place sugar and rest of ingredients in bowl of your mixer and mix on medium speed with the beater attachment until it clumps together into a paste

-wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate – it should keep for 10 days though some recipes say 3 weeks. And some claim you can freeze it which I will possibly try if I don’t use it in the next week.

Almond paste block - less than 10 minutes to make!

Almond paste block – less than 10 minutes to make!

Lemon zest French toast with berries

If I had my way, every day’s breakfast would be an extended affair – waffles, pancakes, french toast, grilled cheeses…Though I am not a fan of eggs (I wish I was, as omelettes chockful of toppings really do look rather good), French toast is one of my favorite dishes to make when time allows. Of course that is totally illogical, loving French toast but turning my nose up at the texture of omelettes – but there you go.

This small twist on the regular technique is adapted from a recipe by South African cook Alida Ryder and her blog Simply-delicious-food.com. (original recipe here: http://bit.ly/1k8FJG2). I made this for myself (clearly I was starving), but the recipe can easily be doubled or more.

2 large eggs

2 tbsp milk

zest of half a lemon

2-4 slices of bread (sizes vary, I used some leftover brioche with smaller slices, so I used 4 slices)

to serve – maple syrup, sliced berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries to taste)

 

-in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest and milk

-soak the bread slices in the mixture

-heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and coat thinly with butter or oil

-fry the bread for 1-2 minutes each side until golden brown and just crisping

-serve the French toast with a drizzle (generous, of course) of syrup and sliced berries

Bon appetit!

French toast with lemon zest and berries - a breakfast treat

French toast with lemon zest and berries – a breakfast treat

Live your own design

The move in is as complete as we could hope for it to be – all rooms of our new house are habitable and cardboard boxes sprouting their contents to inquisitive eyes have been minimized. Not that there are that many inquisitive eyes, mostly it is my own sanity I am saving by pursuing neatness.

It is amazing how moving makes you realize the sheer amount of unnecessary junk we accumulate as human beings, intent on building our “nests”. M & I have only been living together for 3 years, yet the junk we have boggles my mind. I am on a quest to banish the fear of saving objects for a rainy day or the ever-distant ‘future’ – if I have doubts about your usefulness, off to the thrifty store you go!

Seeing our parents’ houses and how cluttered and mismatchy they are, as a result of years of life and by no means meant as a criticism; I want us to live differently. I dream of travel and experiences, less of material possessions. That said, there are advantages to creature comforts and homey spaces… hence I want to aspire for fewer, yet higher quality purchases. Let’s see how long that mentality lasts on me, shall we?

I recently read an article which sums up an attitude that I really want to maintain in my life, that of living to my best potential, designed in my own way. Not following the path that is drummed into us by society as the one we need to be following – college, career, house, family, etc etc…

http://bit.ly/1k8Eg2l

The link above leads to an article by David Cain on FilmsForAction, putting in words the feeling many of us (at least I hope it’s not just me!) have of just getting by, no matter how much we earn and spend and acquire – there is always another rung on the ladder, another mold we want to try fill.

Here’s to being aware of the shackles that the “norm” can bring – let’s be inspired to design our own destinies!

 

Hunting for wildflowers and butterflies

In aid of our training for the Grand Traverse trail race we are planning in August (Crested Butte to Aspen), M and I did our longest run yet this weekend. At almost 3 hours, it does not sound like too mammoth a task but it certainly felt strenuous!

We climbed up the Cougar Ridge trail out of Minturn until it joined the Grand Traverse bike trail on Vail Mountain, then along Game Creek Bowl to Eagle’s Nest for quick water break; and back down to Minturn on the Game Creek Trail.

Quick breather on what is left of Lions Head Rock - looking down on Minturn

Quick breather on what is left of Lions Head Rock – looking down on Minturn

My name for this post is a little bit of a misnomer – though we saw fields of wildflowers and ran through clouds of butterflies (attracted by our bright shirts probably), I failed to capture any photos. I blame M as he bolted off in front of me with my camera phone in his pocket. A major high point of the day is that he loved his new running vest/pack from the Salmon S-Lab series. Apparently it fit like a dream and there was no bounce. It also meant I had nothing to carry myself and plenty of water from his two chest bottles – winning! I have ordered a vest too – once it arrives, the review will follow.

Heading down Game Creek Trail from Eagle's Nest

Heading down Game Creek Trail from Eagle’s Nest

We started a little later than I would have liked, on the trail at about 8.40am. It was sunny and warm (which becomes unbearably hot really fast when you are puffing your way up a mountain!) with no hostiles all the way up to Vail Mountain. On our way down, however, we ran into about 3 groups of hikers, 2 of which had barking dogs off leash. This is quite a pet peeve of M’s and it is beginning to annoy me too now that I see how obnoxious people can be. The last group had a barking Australian Sheepdog in our faces that was absolutely out of control. They had to yell to make themselves heard over his barking that he “was friendly”. Certainly didn’t act that way.

After our busy morning, I kind of wished we had headed to the pool to enjoy the summer’s day. But, there were Soccer World Cup Finals to watch (Germany just beat Argentina, boo) and cherry pies to bake… tough life!

 

Summertime happiness

M and I went on a post Independence Day bike ride to enjoy the summer sun. Judging from the sunburn streaks on our arms and the loss of what felt like half my body weight in dripping sweat, we may have started a little late in the day!

Nevertheless it was oh so beautiful. We rode up Vail Mountain and took a water break at Eagle’s Nest. With it being the middle of the day on a summer Sunday, plus the new ziplining, trampolining and who knows what other activities available, we escaped the crowds there rather quickly.

Onwards and upwards: the Grand Traverse bike trail wraps around Game Creek, Sun Down and Sun Up Bowls to end up at PHQ. It is a medium difficulty singletrack with some really fun parts to gain some speed on the way back.

Mountain biking in the Back Bowls

Mountain biking in the Back Bowls

Don’t let those clouds deceive you, the day was a scorcher! After we reached the tippity top and spent far too little time admiring the view (and far too much time panting over our bike handlebars); it was back to Eagle’s Nest to try and make it back down the mountain to have a snack before the Farmer’s Market closed. We missed it but M did manage to snag a pulled pork sandwich from Kirby Cosmo’s as they were packing up – delish!

Afternoon rainclouds were looming

Afternoon rainclouds were looming

I felt a little like Michael McIntyre, the best comedian ever, British of course – if you have not watched him, do yourself a favor and do so immediately, preferably in a marathon form – as we whizzed by other riders still pedaling their way up the Grand Traverse trail. He has a scene he does where he refers to the glee you feel when you pass road traffic stopped at a standstill as you travel in the opposite direction; then as you drive further away you pass cars speeding to their unforeseen (read: road rage) doom. This description does not give it justice. Watch it.

There really is nothing like an ice cold beverage to end off a grueling adventure. Once I got home and extracted myself from the sweaty layers, my new favorite Stella Artois Cidre tasted like heaven. Pretentious name – yes. Closest taste to Savannah Dry from back home – YES.

 

 

Moving on up

So we survived moving day on Monday, just. What a brutal time that was. Of course the day we have to move, it is the hottest day of the year so far. Even with some help from friends and the U-Haul trailer we rented, there were way too many trips up and down the stairs for my liking. The sweltering heat did not help. But we succeeded – now we wait until we close on our house and move out of storage and into our new home. The plan is no further moving for a while!

When we thought back, this is the third time we have moved, once a year like clockwork in search of a better place to live in the valley. Well third time lucky – now we are exactly where we want to be for trail and mountain access.

Last night I took a beautiful run from North Trail down to Buffehr Creek. Loving the late sunsets of summertime. Tomorrow the Vail Running Club (meets at http://www.vailvitalitycenter.com/ on Thursday at 5.30pm) is pre running the Vail Hill Climb course, part of the Vail Rec District’s Summer Trail Running Series. See the calendar here – http://www.vailrec.com/sports/trail-running-racing

The last race I ran in the series; I won my age group and scored a voucher to purchase some La Sportiva shoes. They arrived yesterday and of course I had to immediately dust them up on the trails. So far I love them – they are light and springy yet have good grip on the soles for rocky terrain.

La Sportiva Women's Bushido

La Sportiva Women’s Bushido

 

Week-end Thoughts

Moving weekend is looming, how wonderful. TGIF does not have quite the same ring this week for me, more like “Oh Dreadful, it’s Friday.” I stuffed another two boxes before work this morning but the remainder still daunts me.

With the Independence Day celebration of next weekend approaching, I am debating hosting a party at M’s parents’ house where we will be staying while they travel to Europe. An outside barbeque with perhaps a fruit filled dessert served with whipped cream sounds heavenly to me. But inviting and hosting guests leaves my introvert self in a tremble. Thinking…

I did see this wonderful advert today, poking fun at the Americans for their holiday, while also mocking the British. I just love how it alludes to some norms of this country that I always rail to M about – outrageously priced healthcare, outspokenness and silly sports jargon.

Here it is for your viewing pleasure –

On a more philosophical branch, I like to think that the pursuit of experiences over that of material goods is more worthy and admirable. Truth be told, my daydreams tend to center on travel experiences; surrounded by a plethora of material goods that my daydream self can afford to buy herself.

But this ambitious forecast of life in 2030 and how brands will have changed their offerings and people’s appreciation of those offerings did strike a cord. Who knows, this could be the first trigger for my grand business idea that births an empire. That makes me rich. To buy all the material things I could want – of course.

Read it here –

http://bit.ly/1mDW3xg