Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Search for the Perfect Tomato Soup pt 1

It should be no secret that I love tomato soup.


I ate the condensed Campbell's soup as a child (and in college...although I often added chili powder at that point).  I loved the Progresso Tomato Basil in high school.  Safeway has an amazing Creamy Tomato Bisque with just enough spice to make my nose run a little bit.  And most recently I have been grabbing these little Campbell's Tomato Parmesan Bisque drinkable soups- they are great for lunches at the hospital when I sometimes only have 10 minutes to eat.  Or on a day I needed to run an errand and ended up carrying my handy-dandy soup with me.

There are just two sticking points to this handy lunch plan:

  1. High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Now, as I have said in the past, I am not against this nutritionally...I am more against the pervasiveness and sneakiness with which this ends up in an appalling number of products.  
  2. Cost.  These handy meals (or parts of meals- this is not enough to call lunch alone) are around $2 each.  More than I prefer to spend on something I will eat every day.  That is $10 of our weekly budget for only a portion of my lunches.
So I am launching into a quest for perfect tomato soup.  Soup that tastes just as good as what I have found in a can/cuppy thing/plastic container from Safeway but that ends up being cheaper and better for me.

This is my first attempt:

It was from Mark Bittman's book: How to Cook Everything.  This was a recent purchase and I am very excited about many of the recipes therein.  Unfortunately....this soup didn't do it for me.  It was theoretically sound.  Saute some tomato paste, then saute some onions and carrots, add in canned tomatoes, then some chicken stock (homemade- hoorah!).  Then I added some Parmesan and some plain Greek yogurt for creaminess and blended that business up.  

It looked delightful.  And I thought it tasted pretty good when I dipped my finger in to test the amount of Parmesan and yogurt I was adding.  But it just didn't end up good.  Which is disappointing.  This recipe made 5 slightly-less-than-1-cup portions for lunches plus an additional 3.5 cups which I froze for later.  And I have to admit that these will probably all end up getting dumped down the sink.  Because, unfortunately, I just don't want to eat them.

Soon I will psych myself up enough to try another recipe.  Specifically, this one, from Eat Live Run.  She claims it will win over any Campbell's condensed hold outs.  I will be withholding judgement until after the first lunch attempt!

On the plus side:
Tomato paste in a tube!  THIS IS A REVELATION!  No more using 2 tbs from one of the tiny cans and then wasting the remainder!  I will never go back...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Five Books

There are a lot of blogs that I read.  On a recent sick day I was catching up on some of these and read a post on  eatliverun about the 5 books you can't live without.  And this got me to thinking.  What are my essential books that I go to over and over and over again?

  1. The Belgariad and the Mallorian by David Eddings.  This is clearly cheating because, all told, this is approximately 11 books.  And I would count Polgara in here as well.  But the fact remains that I have read these books over and over again through the years.  Probably every few months I will suddenly feel the need to immerse myself in the amazing world that Eddings created and to reacquaint myself with my old friends: Garion, Ce'Nedra, Polgara, Belgarath, Silk, Barak, Hettar, Mandorallin....Dad read these books to me when I was a child and I truly cannot wait until I can read them to my own children.  I even got Andrew hooked on this series- he is rereading them right now for the umpteenth time.
  2. Sunshine by Robyn McKinley.  Now THIS is a vampire book.  There are no sparkles here.  Just a cinnamon roll queen getting thrown in the the darkest Others.  The heroine (Sunshine) is spunky and snarky (she calls herself a bitch) and discovers an unfortunate affinity for vampires after spending her entire life being blissfully normal.  The vampire has a certain level of sex appeal, but also is very clearly a predator who is just as uncomfortable with his association with Sunshine as she is.  I love everything about this book except that there is no sequel.  And probably will never be because Robyn McKinley writes with integrity and won't write a sequel unless it will be just as good as the original.  
  3. Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  Yup- a nonfiction book.  And a book that has truly changed how I look at the world.  This book is the reason I started a garden and the reason I became interested in simple, local food.  Yes, I still eat McDonald's and yes our garden was woefully neglected this year, but I have grand plans for when my life is not being eaten by vet school.  Plans involving a garden and backyard chickens.  It is also a book that just makes me feel happy when I read it.
  4. Arrows of the Queen/Arrow's Flight/Arrow's Fall by Mercedes Lackey.  A pure sugar series that is the epitome of escape fiction.  I am not particularly proud of this choice, but my well-worn copy of the first book in this series will likely gather many more dog ears before I need to purchase a replacement.  Because I love it.
  5. Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King.  Truly, this entire series should be on my list, but the first book is my favorite.  This is the story of a young girl in the early 1900s who meets the retired Sherlock Holmes and ends up becoming his apprentice.  It sort of sounds a bit lame.  But it totally isn't.  This series is pure awesomeness wrapped in amazing.
And now it is time for some audience participation: what are your top 5 books?  Are you like me and trying to shove some extra books into your "end of the world necessities" kit?  (so help me, I WILL fight for the entire Belgariad and Mallorean).  Can you narrow it down to just 5 (ish)?  I feel some series lacking in my list even as I write this.  Specifically: The Pern Books by Anne McCaffery (especially Dragonsdawn), the Elenium and the Tamuli by David Eddings (not quite as awesome as the Belgariad and Mallorean, but running a close second), Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey (more escape fiction that plays into my own fantasy world rather nicely), Harry Potter (for obvious reasons), and probably many more.  I will stick by my top 5 though.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sick sick sick

The past three weeks I have been sneezing.  No biggie.  Actually somewhat unusual for me.  I have lived my life with sinus issues (thanks mom and dad!) and they generally manifest themselves somewhat further back in my head.  Recently everything has been up front in my nose- hence the trigger to sneeze.  But I felt fine.

Friday night that suddenly changed.  It was a gorgeous day (50 degrees = tropical madness) and I got out of the hospital before 6:00p (miracle of miracles!!) and celebrated by taking Luna up to the park.  I came back, sat on the couch, and suddenly realized that everything that had been happening in my nose was now settling into its proper home: my sinuses.  Not.  Good.

Enter Saturday.  Saturday I am definitely feeling more and more sinusy.  I sort of just want to lie down because clearly my sinuses have been draining all night and now my ears and throat hurt.  But we were too busy on St. Patrick's Day to actually celebrate (we ordered pizza) and Andrew really wanted to have people over and make some corned beef on his one day off.  So we cleaned the house (well, Andrew cleaned and I picked some things up and then had to sit down for a while).  And I begged Andrew to make the Irish Soda Bread for fear that my sinuses would be contagious and I would enviral the delicious buttery goodness of the bread.

Chris and Dave came over (and later, Chance and Chance's twin brother and Laura joined us) and we partook of fattening traditional foods.  And it was good.  And we watched Iron Chef America and then started a marathon of Ghost Adventures (when Andrew discovered what I had turned the channel to, he actually almost fell over because he was rolling his eyes so hard).  And although I was still not at my full game, I was ok.

And then I suddenly realized that I was feeling much much worse.  Much worse.  And every single joint ached.  Including my hips.  And since I had to get up and go to the bathroom anyway (in Soviet Russia, fluids force you!) I went ahead and took my temperature just for kicks.


Not an impressive temperature per say.  Except that I haven't actually had a fever since Jr. High.  Whenever I feel like I might be feverish, the thermometer usually tells me I am actually in the 97 range.  Very frustrating in High School by the way.  So this is an honest to God fever in my world.  And enough to make me feel like death warmed over and then smeared with poo.  And then punched in the face.

So today I am going to recoup and hopefully not have to take a sick day tomorrow.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Procrastination...makes it happen?

This is a post with a very specific purpose.  That purpose is to delay the "productive" part of my day.  I am avoiding this list:

  • Catch up on dishes
  • Do a load of laundry
  • Clean out on dishwasher-load worth of disgusting containers from the fridge
  • Take out the trash
  • Clean one out of three litter boxes (I don't want to push it)
  • Go grocery shopping
  • Make tomato soup
  • Clean out the drawers in the bathroom
  • Pack one bookshelf
  • Clean out the freezer
I think that was the entire list.  Yesterday I was able to cross off "start a good will box" and "activate debit card."  Although to be fair, I also did a dishwasher load of dishes yesterday.  But since I specifically wrote "catch up on dishes," I can't actually check anything off yet.

So instead of getting cracking on that mondo list of doom, I will now give you a brief update on my life.
  • I have had one job interview.  Conclusion: no.
  • I have two more interviews to set up.  One I may have come across as too desperately eager by trying to arrange for this weekend.  The other is a 24 hour clinic where the expected hours are midnight to noon.  
  • I have expanded my job search to include Montana, Idaho, and Oregon.  I am toying with expanding that list to "everywhere but the south."  And probably also excluding the midwest (sorry Grandma).
  • I am still considering specializing in oncology.  I am also including clin path on my list of potential specialties based on how excited I was to stay late at school on a Friday to look at some lymph node aspirates.
  • Andrew got a raise, a move to full time, and benefits at his job in Spokane (yay!!) and they are hoping that we will move to Spokane after graduation.  Unfortunately, I haven't found a vet clinic in Spokane which is hiring yet.
  • I am now obsessed with Greek Yogurt.  Specifically: this kind.  Because it is too yummy to be believed.  Unfortunately it is also expensive.  Stupid Greek Yogurt....
  • I am really really hankering to play D&D.  Unfortunately, I am about to start my Orthopedics rotation which is looking to be insanely busy and may eat my life.  Dang.

**UPDATE:  In spite of the impressive level of procrastination I have been engaging in, I have still managed to: 
  • Empty a load of clean dishes out of the dishwasher
  • Replace that emptiness with a disgusting load of dishes from fridge
  • Take out the garbage
  • Take out two more garbage bags filled with disgustingness from the fridge containers and disposable crap from the fridge
  • Empty out a garbage bag worth of odds and ends from the bathroom drawers
  • Do a load of laundry (currently drying)
  • Empty a litter box
  • Pack 3 boxes of books