Mmmmm….Yummy! Rich, creamy, tangy and hearty. This soup is a what comfort food is all about. Last week when the weather suddenly became cold (warm again now!) we enjoyed making Tomato and Red Lentil Bisque. I love soup and it is definitely a thing to look forward to with cold weather, and so along with premature fire making, we made soup early too. Elle is my official garlic peeler, she will sit and carefully peel the garlic paper from the clove – and then ask to do another one, and another, and another. Both the Girls enjoy cooking, and each seem to have their favorite tasks. By having them help me cook our evening meal it keeps me happy as they are constructively occupied, and it also means they grow up learning to cook – something everyone should do.
I want to share this recipe with you – but please keep in mind, I made this soup up as I went along and so I am not exactly sure of the quantities. All measurements are approximate so you will get the gist, but remember to use your own judgement. I was inspired to make a tomato soup as Nina gave us a large succulent tomatoes from her garden. The big fat juicy tomato on our window sill was begging to be roasted. I like homemade roasted tomato soup very much, but to feed the whole family tomato soup it takes a lot of tomatoes. I had only five large tomatoes, which is not enough, so to extend the soup I decided to add red lentils (here comes my lentil plug), lentils of course give us protein, and so we could easily eat them every day. Lentils are good for so many reasons, but mostly we eat them for protein and iron. Lentils are a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, they are also a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only do lentils help lower cholesterol, they benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. Lentils also provide good amounts of six important minerals, and two B-vitamins—all with virtually no fat – unlike meat! (spoken like a true vegetarian!). Go lentils!
So here is my tasty recipe, a great way to use up those summer tomatoes, and enjoy a health and balanced meal!
Tomato & Red Lentil Bisque
5 large ripe tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 celery ribs
1 small onion
1 cup of red lentils
salt & pepper
1/2 cup of water
cream to garnish
Wash and halve tomatoes and put them in a baking dish – I line the tin with baking paper. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Bake at 420˚ for about 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are looking nicely roasted. While tomatoes are roasting, prepare the lentil soup base. Dice celery and onion. Sweat the celery and onion with olive oil in a medium saucepan. When it is slightly golden, add a cup of red lentil and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water and the bay leaf. You only need enough water to cover the lentils just – you don’t want this to be to wet as when you add the tomatoes it will make it more soupy. Let the lentils cook covered for about 10 minutes – or until tender. When the lentils are coked, most of the water will be absorbed. at about the same time as the lentils are cooked the tomatoes should be roasted. Using a sieve, press roasted tomatoes into the lentil base. You are basically juicing the tomatoes be pressing out the liquid. By doing this you are able to discard the skin and seeds and avoid an overly piquant flavour to the soup ( I would use a metal sieve if I had one – but for now I am still using this horrible plastic one!). Also add the oil/juice remaining in the pan left over form baking. Combine the tomato juice and lentils. You can leave your soup this way and have a textured soup, or you can do as I do and puree the soup with a hand held cuisnart. When mixture is smooth, add salt and pepper to taste, and finely chopped fresh basil, stir in and serve. Garnish with a dash of fresh cream.
This morning Maya and I sat down and had a good talk about what she might like to be for Halloween. We have been throwing around ideas of a family theme, but the reality is Halloween comes around quickly and we do not want to spend a lot of money on buying specific outfits, and so we need to work with what we have. With the contents of our dress up box in mind, Maya decided she is going to be a rainbow. At first she was thinking rainbow fairy, or rainbow princess, but I suggested we drop the (much over used) fairy princess theme, and just be a rainbow! Maya liked this idea and said “I can have a crown that has sun and rain on it!”. I loved hearing her ideas, and thought that she should do a drawing of her costume. Maya set to work designing her rainbow costume, and this is what she came up with. Rainbow has been an ongoing theme in our lives, and she has gotten much wear out of her rainbow tutu that she first wore for a Ballet Recital, and then wore for her Rainbow Sparkle Birthday Party. In addition to the rainbow tutu I will make her some fun rainbow accessories, based on her design. 5 weeks until Halloween – I had better get started!
With Autumn Equinox this week we felt that it was time for apple picking. Once again we went to Masker Orchard, in up state New York, about an hour from New york City. Last year we went apple picking a month later than this, which was the end of the season so the Orchard was winding down. This past weekend though was prime apple picking and we, along with hundreds of others frolicked on the hillside between rows and rows of apple laden trees. It was quite the contrast to our previous visit when on a cold cold day in October we were the only folks out picking apples. This visit to Maskers found us milling in a large crowd with a country fair atmosphere. The combination of the mid apple season date, and the beautiful warm sunny weather brought large numbers of people out to enjoy this festive Fall activity.
The Orchard was open to full capacity, which meant we were able to drive our car up the hill and park it high over-looking the valley. By doing this we found the very old apple trees all thick and gnarled with age. Admittedly these trees do not produce the best apples any more, but they are great for climbing.
We lay out a picnic blanket in the shade of a tree and enjoyed home made muffins, sandwiches, tea and apples! Growing all around the base of the trees were wildflowers, and so along with apple picking we made little flower bouquets. The air was infused with the sweetest scent, and I could not work out if it was the flowers, or the apples, or a mingling of both. The aroma was light and fresh and smelt like the way apple blossom honey tastes.
After lunch we picked a basket full of apples then loaded back into the car and drove around the farm a little. When we reached the highest point of the road we then headed back down toward the exit. We parked the car at the base of the hill near the barns where there was a petting zoo, live music, apple cider, apple donuts and a shed full of apple type souvenirs. The place was alive and bustling, and we decided that even though it had been a lovely day out, we like apple picking when the farm is quiet and empty, and so will plan on going at the end of the season next year- or maybe even try and find a smaller organic farm.
This week we have enjoyed apple crumble, and apple muffins and on Sunday I plan to make a batch of apple sauce. Looking forward to apples simmering away in the big red pot, the kitchen being warm and steamy and our home smelling like cinnamon. Come on over friends!
Summer, where did you go? Oh, you are still here you say? Yes, tis true, for one more day, but while I am standing on the edge of the season, I feel like my back is to you with good reason. But before I jump, I must say one last thank you, from this edge, this precipitous place, I must be grateful for all you gave. So this is it, my Summer dear, one last sun kiss, while you are near. Goodbye Summer time, you were such fun for all, goodbye, goodbye, before I Fall.
Cozy days have arrived – Autumn has come early this year, and for us it could not have come too soon. The first signifcantly cooler evening last week was a chance to light our fireplace – and we have done so nightly since! I was a little nervous about lighting it for the first time – I did not want to be disappointed. There is an art to building a fireplace and chimney and many a home have fireplaces that do not work well. I know this first hand, as during my childhood we moved around a lot in various rented houses. Mum would always choose houses with fireplaces – and of all the houses we lived in, only one house had a fireplace that actually worked. I recall sitting with my Mother making a perfect fire, that then became a room full of smoke. Which of course is the adverse outcome of fireplace ambiance. I do however have great fireplace memories too, as my Grandparents and Aunt’s and Uncles all built wonderful working fireplaces, that I have spent many hours sitting at.
I tell the Girls all about Grandpa’s fireplace that he designed and built. It had a large seat as part of it, and it had vents below that warmed your feet, and up above, that were perfect for hanging pajamas on to warm. As a girl I would run from the bath in a towel and stand on the seat ledge to dry off in front of the fire. I would then put on my hot toasty bed clothes that had warmed while I bathed. The Girls thought this all sounded good for them also.
Thankfully our new (very old) fireplace works beautifully, and Maya and Elle will have great fireplace memories. There is something very special about sitting around the hearth, making and tending a fire together, watching the wood burn, the flames leap, dance and die. We are all mesmerized by it, and it brings a wonderful calm to our nightly routine. The Girls sit quietly and fire gaze, listening to the burning pine cones crackle. Last night Maya said “The coals are like jewels, they are glowing like rubies!”.
I never tire of collecting kindling, building a fire and cleaning the fire place. I love every aspect of it, it is earthy, and makes me feel alive and connected. Fire was before so much, important to mankind. It is rewarding to see the source of heat, and know that is does not come from gas or electricity, and that we can create heat in our home in a fundamental way. I am enjoying teaching the Girls the process of making fires and I now have two very good paper scrunchers. Building a fire is a ritual, it makes our home feel warm and cozy, and calm and gentle at the same time. It is very nice to come out of the kitchen and see the Girls curled up and snuggling by the fire, and lovely to see Cam relaxing by it after a day of work. I am looking forward to long cozy Sundays this Winter when the fire rages all day.