Saturday, February 27, 2010

Super Easy Tomato Soup

Picture this: You return home from a long day, and boy, are you exhausted! You enter your house from the cold, snowy outdoors, and your hands immediately begin to thaw from the freezing air. Tired and hungry, there is only one true solution: hot, steamy, tomato soup!

In a perfect world, we would all have bountiful gardens, holding plump tomatoes and lively bright green herbs merely feet away from our kitchens. However, we are all busy, and in the dead of winter the tomato crop does not fare too well. Canned tomatoes are the next best thing to fresh. They are packaged at the peak of their ripeness, and if you choose a type that has no added salt, you have control over the levels of sodium in your soup.

This robust soup takes around 30 minutes from start to finish, and is superb when topped with a liberal dosage of goat cheese, shaved parmesan and a few strong dashes of black pepper.

Super Easy Tomato Soup

4 15 oz cans of diced, no-salt added tomatoes

1/2 cup water

1/2 large yellow onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 dash cayenne pepper

pinch of sea salt

3 tablespoons almond milk (or regular milk)

2 tablespoons olive oil

big splash of balsamic vinegar

goat cheese and/or shaved parmesan (optional)

Heat olive oil in a big soup pot. Saute onions and garlic around 5 minutes, stirring to prevent burning. Pour in the cans of tomatoes, and add the 1/2 cup of water and the milk to the pot. Stir in the spices. Simmer for around 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
To serve, ladle into bowls. Top with cheese and grounded black pepper.
Eat and be warm!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Homemade Kombucha

After recently becoming interested in the process of fermentation in food, I am embarking on a project: making my own kombucha! A type of fermented tea that is often mixed with juice, I have been drinking kombucha for about a year. The fizzy drink is becoming incredibly popular in natural food stores, as it boasts great health benefits, and I usually drink a bottle a week at my local Co-Op. But after speaking with several individuals who make their own kombucha, I have not been able to get the thought out of my mind.

Below I outline the first steps in making kombucha, which takes around 3 weeks. In following posts I will divulge more information

To start the process you must first grow a mushroom-type object call a SKOBY. You will need:

1 large mason jar
cheesecloth and rubber bands
Organic white tea
1/2 cup Sugar (the kombucha will eat the sugar so don’t skimp!)
4 cups Water
1 store-bought bottle of raw kombucha

Boil a large mason jar in water for 5 minutes to kill any bacteria that may already exist. As with any canning procedure, everything must be kept very clean. In a large pot brew 4 cups of organic white tea. I used 4 tea bags. Boil the water for the tea no less than 5 minutes to insure cleanliness. Allow the tea to completely return to room temperature.

Pour the tea in the clean mason jar with the cup of sugar. Finally, pour the bottle of raw kombucha tea into the jar, cover the top with cheesecloth and secure it with a rubber band. Place the jar in a room-temperature location where it will not get disturbed for 3 weeks, until a disk-shaped SKOBY is formed.

The photo above shows a jar that I began last week, and you can see the growth forming at the surface already! Stay tuned for more!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gas Station Rant

After an extremely long car trip from Indiana to New Orleans and back, (talk about cramped legs!), my travel companions and I obviously had to stop numerous times at some of the finest gas stations the South has to offer.

Gas stations are peculiar places. Open 24 hours a day, at first they all seem different. The fancy ones cater to truckers, and contain spiffy knick-knacks such as pleather jackets and dragon dashboard sculptures. Some hold endless racks of hot-dog cylinders, slowly cooking the questionable-looking franks for undisclosed periods of time.

But after almost 26 hours of driving in one weekend, these gas stations began to blur together. The products and snacks found in the deserted aisles are identical. Hostess products dominate the endcaps; prime real-estate to catch the eyes of hungry drivers. Many products, (usually sweet confections and plastic wrapped baked goods), are labeled as allusions to the comfort of home and childhood, perhaps as a way to bring back the long lost memories of simpler times. But there is something strange and incredibly disingenuous to these products. My own grandma never packaged her cookies like Grandma's Vanilla Sandwich Creme Cookies does, and who is Little Debbie and why does she want to sell me her Honey Buns?

Food in gas stations is presented to Americans as more of a commodity than actual food, and it is just about as far removed from nature as possible. I recognize that when we visit gas stations we are often in a hurry, and not quite sure where we are, but is that excuse to completely sever our ties with our food's roots? If anything, gas stations have the possibility to feature local products from the region, in order to make each establishment something of a cultural site rather than a junk-food hell.

The endless rows of chemical-laden products do nothing to help our eating habits, and they are counterproductive to the healthy-eating practices, (for both our bodies and the Earth), that so many are trying to spread. For this reason, while the crazy food products are entertaining in their outlandishness, I suggest that you stock up on your own snacks before your next car trip.