Anniversary dinner

Hey! We didn’t actually end up having pasta! We had soup! That I made from scratch! And it was yummy!

So, allergy season is mid-swing now and Justin’s having a heck of a time, like I mentioned yesterday. (Look at me, posting two days in a row!)  We’re at a forecast pollen level of 9.4 (out of I’m not sure, 12?) and the top culprits are oak, juniper, and elm. The oak trees are trying to kill him. The juniper are working their way up to me, but I’m so far putting up a fight.

Anyway, yesterday he was head achy and draining and sneezing. Today he’s got awful gunk in his lungs and he’s miserable. He slept most of the day. (No classes today, so he didn’t skip anything.) We cancelled our chiropractor appointment because he wasn’t going anywhere and I didn’t want to go by myself. Which means we didn’t go to the grocery store or get tempted to get dinner on our way home. When he did finally decide that he was getting hungry, he said that what really sounded good wasn’t the frozen fish that we’d discussed, but a really creamy tomato soup with vegetables and noodles in it.

Well, we don’t have any cans of soup right now. But we do have a lot of other stuff, including a half bag of red potatoes that needed to get eaten. So I looked up a few recipes online, extrapolated a few concepts, and made up a pot of tomato soup from the stuff we had in the house!

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons sweet unsalted butter
  • 6 oz bag of chopped carrots and celery (left over from the last time I made soup and stored in the freezer)
  • 1 young sweet Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-ish pounds red potatoes, chunked
  • 1 small can of no salt added tomato paste (less than 1 cup, the tiny little can)
  • 1 big can of no salt added petite cut tomatoes (but whatever type you like would work just fine) (this was the biggest can we had in the house — 3.5 cups)
  • 4 cups no salt added chicken broth (or stock)
  • Optional: pasta, cheese, milk or heavy cream
  1. I melted the butter in a big skillet on a medium heat and added my frozen carrots and celery and let them cook for a while. It would probably go faster if they weren’t frozen, but I didn’t feel like doing it differently. Meanwhile, I cut up a small sweet Vidalia onion into small bits, and then I added that to the pan. It got pretty watery as the veggies melted, but I just kept giving it a stir now and then. And I crushed one clove of garlic into the pan with all the rest. I let this go until the onion was translucent and the other veggies seemed like they were getting pretty soft and the water had evaporated.
  2. While that was cooking, I scrubbed and cut up my red potatoes into small chunks and put them in a pot of water on the stove to boil.
  3. Into the pan with the carrots/celery/onion/garlic, I added the can of tomato paste and turned up the heat to a medium-high for just a little while, just to get the sauce bubbling a lot, and then I brought it back down to medium and let it reduce for a while, stirring it constantly to keep it from burning and sticking. I have no idea how long this took, but pretty much until I was bored and then again half as long. Once it got pretty thick looking, I removed it from the heat and set it aside.
  4. I put my big pasta pot onto the burner and added the carton of chicken stock (the carton was 4 cups, so I just put it all in there) and the big can of tomatoes, with all the liquid from the can, and then ground a bunch of a spice that Justin recommended and I can’t remember right now — I’ll find it later and tell you. And then I turned that up to medium and let it boil for a while. It’ll get a little bit foamy on the top as it boils. I was still waiting for the potatoes to boil at this point anyway, so I just worked on cleaning up the kitchen and let them bubble away. I don’t know how long that was — maybe 10 to 15 minutes? Not longer than that, I’m sure. Once the potatoes were done, I removed them from the stove, drained them, and set them aside for a little bit.
  5. After letting the tomato/chicken broth mix boil for a while, I added in the tomato paste/carrots/celery/onion/garlic mix from the first pan into the pasta pot and stirred that in for a while. (I kept on cleaning the kitchen.) Once it seemed like everything was integrated nicely, I turned the temperature down to a simmer and let it cool down a little bit.
  6. Since Justin had barely eaten all day and he’d mentioned wanting noodles in his soup, at this point, I set a pot on the stove with some pasta to boil so he could add it to his soup. I didn’t want the pasta in mine, so it didn’t get added to the big pot in the end, but he added it to his and said it was good that way.
  7. Once the pasta pot of soup had cooled down a little, I took out half of it (roughly) to another container, making sure to get a bunch of the solid vegetable bits. Then I used my immersion blender (Thanks, Mom!!) and blended all the rest of the soup in the pot, making it all creamy and foamy. Remember: you can always add the vegetable bits back in, if you decide that you’ve taken out too much. But you can’t take them out once they’re blended!
  8. Then I took about half of the potatoes and added them to the pasta pot and blended those into the soup, too. By this point, it was looking nice and thick and creamy. So I went ahead and put back in the rest of the soup that I’d removed but not blended and the rest of the potatoes and mixed it together to make a nice chunky, but still thick and creamy soup, and let it simmer just a little longer.

Justin put more spices into his bowl, along with the pasta and some cheddar cheese and probably a splash of milk. I didn’t want the calories, but adding some heavy cream or milk at the end of this would definitely make it even more creamy.

I thought it was delicious as it was and I’m very pleased about it! Even after we each had a big bowl of it, there’s still 5 cups of it in the fridge. So I’m definitely calling it a 6-serving soup. And if I’ve entered everything into MyFitnessPal.com correctly, 1/6 of this recipe comes in around 212 calories. (This is excluding the pasta/milk/cheese, just to be clear.)

Nutrition Facts
Servings 6.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 212
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7 g 11 %
Saturated Fat 5 g 23 %
Monounsaturated Fat 2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 20 mg 7 %
Sodium 136 mg 6 %
Potassium 951 mg 27 %
Total Carbohydrate 30 g 10 %
Dietary Fiber 6 g 23 %
Sugars 8 g
Protein 6 g 12 %
Vitamin A 76 %
Vitamin C 57 %
Calcium 5 %
Iron 13 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

 

So I’m feeling very accomplished! And Justin is feeling, I hope, well fed. He went back to bed about half an hour ago, poor thing. I need to head to bed myself in order to prepare for getting to work at stupid 6:30 in the morning.

Did you know that there’s an actual word for the mix of carrots and celery and onion that was the start of this soup? It’s a French word: mirepoix. I think that’s nifty.

Minestrone Soup

Oops! Time got away from me again. I even had things to write about because I could have written about what we did for my birthday (8-mile hike on Hilton Head Island) or Valentine’s day (fancy dinner at a Chinese buffet).

But I didn’t. And now I don’t really want to write about those things. So instead I’ll share this recipe with you.

I read a bunch of blogs, some of which are food blogs, looking for interesting ideas. Because it’s still wintry out, I’ve been in the mood for soup, and this one was easy to make, easy on calories, and good on nutrition. Most of it was stuff we already had in the pantry. And it’s been absolutely delicious. I think I’m on day 3 of having it for lunches and it’s been great.

I got the recipe from Center Cut Cook: Easy Minestrone Soup. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, adding some stuff, using less of others. I think that’s one of the great things about soups — they’re usually pretty flexible.

So, read the link above to see what the original recipe says. And see all the pretty pictures.

This is what I did. I don’t have any pictures.

In a soup pot, I warmed up 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Into that, I put the following:

  • 1/3 vidalia sweet onion, chopped fine (about 3 oz)
  • 3 or 4 stalks of celery, sliced thin (about 3 oz)
  • 2 big cloves of garlic, sliced thin

And let them warm up on medium heat until the onion was translucent.

Then I added the following to the pot:

  • 1 small can (61g / 0.88 cup) no salt added tomato paste
  • 1 medium can (2 cups) no salt added diced tomatoes (Or stewed… They might be stewed. Use whatever tomatoes you like.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil

And let it warm up on medium heat until the tomatoes were bubbling.

During that time, I realized my pot was too small for the rest of everything else going in. So I got out my bigger pasta pot and added to that pot, on medium heat:

  • 4 cups unsalted chicken cooking stock (one container of the lowest-sodium broth I could find)

When the tomato mix was warmed up, I VERY CAREFULLY poured it into the pot with the chicken broth. And then I turned that up to high to let it boil. Once it was boiling, it went down to medium again and I added the following:

  • 3 or 4 pealed and sliced carrots (about 4 oz)
  • 1 can no salt added green beans (drained)
  • 1 can reduced sodium dark red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 4 oz Rigati pasta (the last of an open box of those straight hollow noodles)

And let that warm up on the stove until the pasta was done al dente. Since I planned on the soup taking me several days to get through, I didn’t want the noodles to get too well done. I expect they’ll get more and more soft as the soup get older.

I probably could use more actual FLUID in this soup. As is, it’s got a lot more substance than it does soup. And I don’t think it’d effect the flavor much to add a little more water or chicken broth. But I really don’t mind much that all my beans and vegetables are all sitting above the level of the broth. Just be warned that if you do follow this the way I did it, you will end up with more of a super chunky stew than a soup. It really barely counts as soup.

And you probably noticed that I used a lot of no salt or low sodium options and didn’t add “salt and pepper to taste.” One of my biggest frustrations with store-bought soups is the sodium content. They are all SWIMMING in salt! This one is not. And since I’ve been low-sodium, as much as possible, for a couple years, I really appreciate that this has very little salt.

I’m not really sure how many servings I’ll get out of this, but when I put it into a container, it was just above 8 cups. So I figured 1 cup was a decent serving size (most soups are about that size, I think). When I put it into MyFitnessPal.com to figure out the calories, it looked like this:


Nutrition Facts
Servings 8

Amount Per Serving (% Daily Value *)

Calories 172

Total Fat 2 g (3 %)
Saturated Fat 0 g (1 %)
Monounsaturated Fat 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat (0 g)
Cholesterol 0 mg (0 %)
Sodium 162 mg (7 %)
Potassium 460 mg (13 %)
Total Carbohydrate 30 g (10 %)
Dietary Fiber 7 g (26 %)
Sugars 6 g
Protein 8 g (16 %)

Vitamin A 68 %
Vitamin C 13 %
Calcium 8 %
Iron 13 %

* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.


And that looks pretty awesome to me! And it’s delicious, which is really the kicker. I look forward to having this soup, with a little round of Babybel cheese for my lunch. It’s warm and savory and it makes me happy. :)

And since I didn’t really know what else to do with the rest of the bags of celery (I don’t end up eating it raw, to the dismay of the several moldy stalks I’ve thrown away in the past, plus this batch was already getting a little droopy) and carrots (raw carrots have started to make my lips itch), I took the time while the soup was cooking to chop them all and put them in baggies which are now in the freezer. They’ll be perfect for the next time I need chopped vegetables later.

Let me know if any of you end up giving this a try! And send me your favorite soup recipes so I can give them a try before the weather gets too warm for soup. :)

Things that have delighted me lately

The city has started working on the intersections at the top of the north and southbound ramps for the interstate that I have to go over to get to and from work. They’re going to install traffic lights! They’re also going to start widening the road that goes from my work campus up to that road, I believe to add a dedicated right-turn lane, which will also help speed up traffic to the one currently existing light. When they finish the lights, traffic will have to slow down enough on the section of road that worries me so much that I’ll be able to walk it to get home. The shoulder is really very large on that road, so as long as people aren’t driving like maniacs, it’ll be fine. I’m thrilled!

We made chili for dinner Friday and instead of making corn bread or mashed potatoes to go with it, we put it on top of mashed SWEET potatoes. I don’t think I’ll ever go back. The flavors were very complimentary and absolutely delicious! If you make chili with mashed potatoes, I’d recommend you give sweet potatoes a try next time.

Yesterday was fantastically beautiful. We went to our chiropractor adjustments, and then went for about a 4-mile walk on the beach. The wind was a bit chilly, but it was still really lovely. From there, we went to Atlanta Bread Company, but I got to chat with Erica for a while before we went in for a late lunch/early dinner. And then we wandered around Barnes & Noble before heading home. It was a delightful afternoon.

I am losing weight! I really don’t want to talk about it much, but the stuff I’ve been doing is apparently working and that is delightful.

Also, this beautiful little elephant:

View post on imgur.com

Stuff & Things

“Stuff & things” is a pretty general answer to the “What have you been up to?” question. In this case, it covers quite a lot.

  • I worked 57 hours this week to try to get a project put together for Monday that I didn’t know was due Monday until Wednesday. And I’m not entirely finished, mostly because I need input from one of my coworkers who said he saved a file but I couldn’t find it and he was out of the office.
  • I got my permanent crown put on my back tooth and it went just fine. While I was there, I asked them to check on my filling, which they’d replaced a week before that, because I couldn’t floss between a couple teeth and it was hurting a lot and rubbing oddly. The rubbing was apparently what was causing the pain and the flossing problem was a bit of the sealant stuck in between my teeth. Now that the filling has been smoothed down a bit, everything feels just fine. And I can floss normally. Interestingly, to me, my new filling is the same color as my teeth, so even though I had all this work done to my teeth, they don’t look any different. In fact, they look better, because the silver filling is gone. It’s also textured like my teeth, instead of mostly flat like it was before. My teeth feel different to my tongue, but they look normal. It’s a little odd.
  • Justin and I are working on running again. I can run 20 minutes solid, but most days, I’m following the Couch to 5k program on my phone. I can run a mile in that 20 minutes, thankfully, but I’m not entirely sure how much further. And the scale is not showing much progress for me losing weight, but I haven’t been tracking my food much, so I’m not entirely surprised. Mostly, it feels good to be able to run at least a little bit again.
  • Spring has officially blossomed all over everything. There are boxes of tissues all over the house, and the trash cans are overflowing with crumpled up discards. I’ve given up on trying to wear my contacts for a while. I’ve gave upon makeup the last couple days, too, since I just rubbed it all off by the end of the day Thursday. We finally broke down and picked up a box of generic Claritin yesterday. Justin is feeling better today, but he hasn’t stepped outside of the house yet today, either. He refuses, on the basis that “there’s pollen out there.” Our street and the apartment complex are completely surrounded by pine trees. I hate pine trees.
  • On Fridays, we’ve been taking our running clothes when we head up to Bluffton for our chiropractic appointments and heading out to the beach to go running before we head home. It makes for a nice change of pace than running around the pond behind our building (0.2 mile each loop) and it’s a nice surface for running on. The added wonderful bonus is that there’s pretty much guaranteed to be wind blowing in off the water, meaning it’s blowing in fresh, clear air from the ocean and there’s not any pollen from all the dreadful trees. It’s quickly becoming a highlight of my week. Once it gets more busy at the beach, and the pollen settles back down, we’ll probably swap to running on a trail in the woods that we used to go running on when we lived in town.
  • This past Friday, it started raining heavily when we were running on the beach. It had been going really well up until then, but I don’t like running in the rain because I don’t like getting water in my eyes (I’d have been better if I’d brought my hat) and I don’t like getting chilled, and it was a chilly rain. And, weirdly, as soon as the rain started, Justin’s allergies kicked up. So we headed back home, and got stuck in traffic when a crash on the only bridge off the island reduced progress to a single lane during the home-going rush. It took us an hour to go what should have taken us 15 minutes.
  • I have not made any progress on the craft I want to make for the kids, for a variety of reasons, none of which are terribly good. I hope to have them done before Mom & Dad get here, though, so they can deliver them when they drive around. Of course, we’ll have to mail the ones to the TN Fritz kids.
  • I’m excited for Mom & Dad to visit! I have to figure out if there’s anything exciting happening in town that day.
  • Tomorrow is our seven year anniversary. We have no idea what we’d like to do to celebrate.
  • We finally bought the part that’s been missing from the bread maker for about 2 years. The little paddle attachment at the bottom got tossed out with a bad loaf of bread. Turns out, they’re only about $10 on Amazon. We’ve had a lot of bread in the last couple weeks. Deliciousness! And since our grocery budget is having to stretch pretty thin, it’s been a cheap way to do some meals.
  • I’ve donated platelets three times now and I’m scheduled to back again on April 18th. It turns out my platelets count is very high and they love having me come in. This last time, I asked to do whole blood at the end, since I’m O neg, and they actually said no. That they’d rather I just do platelets, since my count is so high and I can come in more frequently if I don’t do whole blood. They said they have enough people coming in to donate blood, but not enough for platelets.
  • I actually got an email from the Red Cross regarding my donation on the 27th of February saying that after finding out that there was enough supply locally, my donation was sent up to hospitals in Atlanta. I thought it was cool that they let me know that it had been sent out.
  • After my last donation, last Saturday (21 March), I ended up sleeping most of the day after getting home. It’s not the same type of tired after donating whole blood, but apparently I needed some sleep afterward. I felt fine the next day. As long as that’s the only side effect I get, and my platelets count doesn’t go down below 300k/mcL or something, I’ll keep doing platelets every three weeks or so.
  • There’s a Tractor Supply Co. on our way into Bluffon that opened a few months ago, I think. It’s like a smaller Farm ‘n’ Fleet, if I remember correctly — it’s been a long time since I’ve been in Farm ‘n’ Fleet. I’d heard that they had inexpensive rain boots and I wanted to check if I could find some that were either ankle-high or wide enough to fit over my calves. (Did I ever tell the story about getting stuck in a garden boot at Lowe’s?) They didn’t end up having any that fit great and were in our price range, but they did have a lot of fun other things that reminded us, once again, that we really wish we were country-living folk instead of apartment dwellers. They had a lot of tools and some cute shirts and things. And then they also had chicks. And baby ducks. And Justin just stood there by the ducks while I wandered around the store. It was like when he took me to the San Diego Safari Park and left me at the elephants for a while. Happiest I’ve seen him in ages.

I should go get dinner started. I’ve babbled on enough to make you all bored, I’m sure. :) Justin and Kay are both on their computers, playing games online with people, but not each other. I’m the only true introvert in the house and I’m waiting for my Nook to charge up enough that I can keep on reading everything ever written by Robert Asprin — I’m on book 12 of the M.Y.T.H. Inc. series. But they’re only about 100 – 150 pages each, so that isn’t much of an accomplishment, really.

And I’m babbling again instead of making rice. And dinner’s getting later and later. Time to go! Have a great day!

And the house is empty again

Well, Justin and I have the house back to ourselves again, so I figured I’d take a few minutes to write about what’s happened over the last couple weeks.

Is it already the 14th of January? Dang.

Okay, Justin’s grandma (Rose) got into town late in the evening on December 18th. We spent the days leading up to that getting the house all ready for her visit, which included cleaning and decorating, but also included making bookshelves and a bed and actually setting up a guest bedroom (another post about that yet to come — with pictures!) for her to use while she visited.

Justin’s mom (Wendy) and his sister (Jess) flew into town the next day. Jess had gone home for a few weeks after her classes let out for the holiday. And since Jess has her own apartment in Savannah and her roommate was out of town for the holiday, Wendy spent her time down there mostly — which worked out really well because everybody got a bed! Well, until Jess’  roommate came back, but for most of the time, anyway.

It was a pleasant visit with people. Wendy and Jess came up to Bluffton a couple times, and Rose, Justin and I went down to Savannah a few times. Wendy spent a lot of time helping Jess with her apartment — repainting the treads on the stairs, revarnishing the kitchen table, weeding the yard — so we got to keep Jasper, Wendy’s Bichon, so he’d stay out of the way.

Everybody came up here for Christmas day, and I already wrote about that. I did another spatchcocked turkey and it was once again delicious. It’s not a super-easy thing to cut the backbone out of a turkey, but our 10 pound turkey cooked in about 2 hours and was amazingly tender. Can’t say anything bad about that!

And, honestly, the rest of my vacation (2 whole weeks!) was a bit of a blur.

New Years Eve was tame — Justin played video games and I roasted marshmallows over a fire in the backyard.

Our friend Becky stopped into town on her way from Kansas to Florida, where she’s spending this half of the winter and start of the spring. So we spent some time with her. Girl’s day out shopping at the thrift stores! Yea!

Rose hemmed the pants that Justin got for Christmas that were too long and adjusted a pair of his pajama pants. We chatted about sewing projects and things. We had hopes to work on other sewing projects, but never managed to find the time.

There was a lot of baking. I ended up making 4 batches of banana bread with bananas that kept going overripe before they could get eaten. Rose made a small mountain of chocolate chip cookies. Justin is a very happy man.

Justin helped Rose with her iPad, making it more accessible and fixing some problems that were going on with it, which made her very happy.

I saw several movies — Walking with Dinosaurs and Frozen with Julie at the drive-in, the Hobbit in the theatre with Becky and Julie, Frozen and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Becky and Julie again at the drive-in, Silver Linings Playbook with Rose and Justin here at home. (Justin and I actually went to the drive-in together this past weekend so he could see Frozen and the Hobbit, since he hadn’t seen either one yet. I do, in fact, have huge amounts of that delightful little cartoon memorized now.) I like movies.

And Wendy fought with the weather and the airlines to get back up to Vermont. It turned out to be really good that she brought the dog because Tony (Jess’ dad) got stuck near work for 3 days when the arctic vortex came through — work actually put a bunch of people up in hotels so they wouldn’t have to drive. But the dog would have been stuck at home alone. This way, he got to spend time in the warm southern weather with all of us. And for a 15-pound dog that pooch is an impressive bed-hog.

So Wendy was supposed to fly out on the 31st, but called to put that back a few days so she could finish up work on Jess’ apartment . . . or actually take a few days to relax, I’m really not sure which. Her new flight was supposed to be on the 4th but then there was trouble with the dog getting onto the flight and because of flights being grounded with the cold. She finally managed to get on a flight on the 7th, after trying unsuccessfully every day after the 4th. (Just in case you’re wondering, that’s 19 days, but originally was going be 12 days.)

I had to go back to work on the 6th. It’s always a little brutal getting back into the 5:00 A.M. wake-up schedule again after spending many days staying up late and sleeping in. Rose is actually a night-owl like us, so there were nights spent sitting at the dining room table, just talking, until we realized it was after 1:00 in the morning. So we’d all go to bed and not get back out of bed until after 10:00. It was great!

5:00 A.M. is not so great after that.

Rose flew back home on the 10th (that’s 24 days). And suddenly, after more than 3 weeks, we are alone in the house again. Which means it’s not nearly as tidy, for one thing. But it’s also really quiet. I enjoyed Rose’s company. We chatted a lot about her family growing up and about Justin’s growing up and other bits of news and ramblings. There was a lot of time spent not talking, too, just sitting and reading or working on little projects. It was very nice.

But now it’s back to two of us. And I’m back at work — starting out the year with long hours and frustrating problems already.

We’ll take down the Christmas tree this coming weekend. We stopped watering it after the new year and it’s getting more and more odoriferous as it dries up. There’s this curtain of PINE!! smell as you walk into the house. It’s kind of impressive, actually.

And sometime soon, I guess, we’ll figure out what 2014 is going to be all about! Justin and I have several trips we’d like to make this year and plans and projects to map out. I think it’s going to be a good year!