Heirloom Tomato Soup: Cheap and Guiltless

Heirloom Tomato Soup

As the weather gets cooler I find myself craving warm comfort. I’ve said it before and ill say it again, soup is the starving artist’s secret weapon: low cost, high yield, mega satisfying. Lately I’ve been eating my stress, which is never good. This weekend I decided I needed to make something warm, satisfying, and completely guilt free. I had grilled cheese on the brain (more on this in another post) and so I naturally thought of tomato soup. I tell you I was tempted to buy a box of Trader Joe’s tomato soup. Like, whatever, I just want soup, I don’t care. And then I came to my senses and realized that for a few more dollars I could make a big pot of my own soup that would knock the pants off of TJ.

So here is what I purchased:

  • 1 package of TJ mini heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 24 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 box vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 cup of chopped fresh basil

And here’s what I used from my own pantry:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt, crushed red pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sugar
  • Tomato paste (in a tube in my fridge)
  • 2 tsp dried basil
Heirloom Tomato Soup
Heirloom Tomato Soup

All I did was get my big enamel soup pot over medium high heat with just enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Toss in the heirloom tomatoes and let them heat up while you dice half the red onion (be sure to stir them around occasionally). Once the tomatoes have been heated for 8-10 minutes, add the onion with a good pinch of kosher salt, a few pinches of crushed red pepper, and the dried basil. Once the onions soften, use a garlic press to press in two cloves of fresh garlic right into the pot. Then add a good squeeze (about two tbsp) of tomato paste. Stir and cook for one minute then add the two cans of tomatoes, about 2 cups of the vegetable broth, bay leaves, and about two teaspoons of sugar. Bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, add the fresh basil, and use a stick blender to puree to desired consistency. Feeds 4-6 people easily. Delicious, healthy, and totally homemade.

Serving suggestions/variations:

  • Adding a can of fire roasted tomatoes will add a new dimension of flavor to your soup
  • Using diced carrots along with the onions will contribute to sweetness and add more flavor
  • Try topping your bowl with some sliced avocado. Or, if you’re feeling indulgent, some grated gruyere cheese. Mmmmmm.

What’s in your Groceries?

Is the still shot above making you a little sick? It should. That pile of goo will soon be hotdogs…

Remember how I was talking about the fine print on food labels in my last blog post? And do you remember how I was saying that, regardless of what you believe to be a healthy diet, we can and should all unanimously agree that we all need to be responsible for knowing what is in our food and where it comes from? I recently came across a buzzfeed article entitled 14 Things You Really Don’t Want to Know About Your Groceries. It’s a list that will open your eyes, peak your curiosity, and churn your stomach all in one fell swoop. The article led me to the video I’ve embedded above, which I guarantee will make you never want to eat another hot dog again. And what’s surprising is that it’s narrated and scored with such cheer – like we’re watching and episode of Say Yes to the Dress.

Now I’m not usually one for scare tactics and I promise I’m not turning this blog into a rant-driven political forum. But, sometimes we just need to see what the hell is going on. I believe that what we put into our bodies is the only thing we really have control over when it comes to our health – it’s a sacred thing that we should be giving our full attention. New title for that buzz feed article: “14 Alarming Things You Absolutely Need to Know About Your Groceries”

And now it’s time for a weekend full of not eating hot dogs….

Happy Friday!!!!!!!!!!!

Fine Print

20131001-191031.jpg

Look at this picture. Do you see the fine print? I noticed this the other day when I was at Chipotle getting a salad before rehearsal. My immediate reaction was: what DOES it contain? Then I started to think of how many people come through the line and either don’t notice or don’t question that fine print. They just fill up their cups and suck it down, oblivious. If you’ve been a long time follower of this blog, you know I’m a huge proponent of plant based lifestyle – pure, natural, whole foods you get from fields and trees, not boxes and freezers and instant powders. It has worked so well for me and I’m convinced its the real way to live. But even if you don’t buy into this (which is totally fine), surely we can all agree that we need to educate ourselves and really be aware of what we’re putting in our bodies. If you see that the juice you’re about to drink doesn’t have any juice in it, you should be alarmed. Always question the fine print!

At the Shop House

Shop House Kitchen
Where the hell is the Sriracha?

Have you been to Shop House yet? Have you even heard of it? Well, if you’re a fan of Chipotle (i.e. all of the human race), then you’re going to pee. The founder(s) of our favorite environmentally conscious burrito chain have taken their world-dominating dining formula to Southeast Asia. That’s right, Shop House is Chipotle gone stir fry. And when I say Southeast Asia, I mean these people WENT to Southeast Asia, lived there, studied the cuisine, and brought it back to make this restaurant. It totally shows. Stand in the all-too-familiar assembly line and choose every layer of your bowl, from the variety of rice or noodles, to the selection of locally produced meat, to the expertly cooked veggies, to the one of two delicious curry sauces. There are endless combinations, but I usually stick to the salad bowl (made with shredded cabbage) with tofu, broccoli, green beans, green curry, papaya slaw, cilantro, peanuts, and garlic. I’m not gonna lie, it’s kind of the best thing ever. If you’re not a vegetarian you should definitely try the pork and lamb meatballs – phenomenal. And what makes it five stars for me is that it’s more than starving artist friendly. If I get my tofu bowl with just one veggie and bring my own water bottle, I get a hot, spicy, satisfying meal for less than $8. For that price I could do it three times a week and keep it way healthy (aside from the tremendously high salt content).

I frequent the Sunset/Vine location, which is generally pretty quiet, so it’s nice for a date or to treat yourself out to a good meal and some reading/blogging/crying time. I’m also fairly certain this location is a cruising spot since the percentage of clientele that are alarmingly gorgeous lingering gay men seems exceptionally high… but that’s probably not a bad thing… The staff and service are beyond friendly, like, “omg we’re a new restaurant and we REALLY want you to LOVE us so we all snorted uppers” kind of friendly. It’s only mildly unsettling and let’s be honest, I love people who will entertain my banter (see photo above).

In short, Shop House has definitely become my new addiction and with friendly staff, low prices, and seriously good food, I have no doubt it will soon be yours. Next time you think Chipotle, make it Shop House – you won’t be sorry.

Shop House – Southeast Asian Kitchen
6333 Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
www.shophousekitchen.com

Click HERE to read my review on YELP.

One Pot Pantry Raid Pasta

Pantry Raid Pasta

Last night I had one of those nights where I didn’t really want to go out, nor did I want to buy more groceries, nor did I particularly care to be overly healthy. It was a night where the starving artist looks at what he has and figures something out: pantry raid.

As I stared forlornly at my cabinets I came across a ziplock bag full of bow tie pasta that had been sitting in there for roughly two years. I rarely eat pasta anymore, hence why it has been kicking around for so long. Of course I love it, but it’s just too easy. Too easy to cook an entire pound and eat all of it in one sitting. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. I decided it was time – I was simply in the mood. And it turns out there was just enough pasta for one (three) servings. I was put even more in the mood when I realized I had grated Parmesan in my fridge. Destiny.

Here’s how it went. Boil 2 cups of pasta in heavily salted water according to package directions. I just used my two quart saucepan with lid. While the water heats up, use a strainer to rinse two cups of frozen peas under very hot tap water until they soften. Set the strainer over a bowl to let the peas dry off while the water boils. When the pasta is cooked, strain thoroughly, do not rinse, and return back to the hot pot you just boiled it in. Add two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pasta. Stir to melt the butter. Using a garlic press, mince one or two cloves of garlic directly into the pot along with the peas, 1 cup of grated Parmesan, two teaspoons of Italian seasoning, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine all ingredients. Add more cheese, butter, and pepper to taste. Devour immediately directly from the pot using the wooden spoon you used to stir the boiling pasta. Starving artist class.

There are of course 10000 variations you could do for this dish. And the best part is that I made it entirely from ingredients that were already in my kitchen. If you’re not in the habit of keeping frozen peas in your freezer, you should start. It is one of my top go-tos when making meals on the fly. And if you happen to have leftover chicken or sausage in your fridge that would send this quick humble little dish right over the top. And for you heat-lovers, try some crushed red pepper flakes mmmmm.

Raid your pantry. Tell me what you find.