Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year

Three years ago, in January 2010, I made the only New Year's Resolution I ever kept. I don't usually make resolutions, much less write them down, but that year I did and I found that piece of paper last night. I remember that year that I decided to try and make the resolutions sound positive and use the word "more" in each of them. Here's what I wrote…

For 2010, I will:
1. laugh more.
2. walk more.
3. cook more.

For #1, I started watching Modern Family. For #2, I started walking around the three-mile loop in our neighborhood more often. But #3 stumped me. I had tried this resolution before and failed miserably. That's when I saw the movie, Julie and Julia and the inspiration for how I would accomplish #3 hit me. It was a few short weeks later, after letting the idea fester in my brain for awhile, that I stumbled upon Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Cookbook and I knew that it was the key to accomplishing #3. So, I started to cook more. In 365 days, I cooked all 173 recipes in the book. I not only cooked more but I started this blog, taught cooking classes and became a Food Revolution Hero and then an Ambassador. While I still watch Modern Family and I am still walking that three-mile loop occasionally, cooking more has been a journey that outlived its New Year's Resolution status. 

So, for 2013, I hope you will resolve to spend more time in your kitchen. "More" can simply mean to eat out a little less or cook a new recipe with your family just once a week. Who knows, you might find out that it is the easiest and best resolution you ever kept.

Happy New Year!

Here's a yummy soup recipe to get you started. I made this just before the holidays. Try it and you will never buy tomato soup again!

Tomato Soup
Chunky Croutons
Crunchy Veggies & Guacamole
Sticky Prune Sponge Desserts

Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes pg. 78

  • 2 1/4 lbs ripe cherry tomatoes on the vine, red and yellow
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 fresh red chili 
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 ciabatta loaf
  • 2 small red onions
  • 4tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • A small bunch of fresh basil
  • A few dollops of créme fraîche or sour cream, to serve
  • A handful of mixed-color cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 fresh red chillies 
  • A handful of fresh coriander
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 limes
  • ½ bulb of fennel
  • 1 carrot
  • ½ cucumber
  • ½ a 125g pack of grissini, breadsticks or tortilla chips
  • Olive oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/4 canned prunes, drained with some juice reserved
  • heaping 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup soft dark brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 heaped tsp ground ginger
  • ½ level tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • Golden syrup and whipped cream, to serve

TO START: Get all your ingredients and equipment ready. Preheat oven to 425 and put a large saucepan on a low heat. Put the standard blade attachment into the food processor. 
TOMATO SOUP: Pull the tomatoes off the vines, but leave some of their green tops on. Quarter the larger tomatoes, then put all the tomatoes into a roasting tray. Drizzle over a good lug of olive oil and season. 
Halve and deseed the red chili and add to the tray. Crush in 4 peeled cloves of garlic. Quickly toss everything, then put on the top shelf of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes. 
CROUTONS: Get another roasting tray and rip the ciabatta loaf into 8 equal chunks. Add a good lug of olive oil, a pinch of salt and whack on to the bottom shelf of the oven. 
TOMATO SOUP: Peel and roughly chop the onions and put them into the hot saucepan with a lug of olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Turn the heat up to medium and leave to soften, stirring occasionally. 
PRUNE PUDDINGS: Get 4 cups that will all fit into your microwave at the same time. Tip the prunes into a bowl, then spoon 1tbsp of their syrupy juice into each of the cups. Divide all the prunes between the 4 cups. 
TOMATO SOUP: Stir 4tbsp balsamic vinegar into the onions and let it cook away and reduce down. 
PRUNE PUDDINGS: Put the flour, sugar, butter, ground ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a food processor and whiz. Crack in the egg, then add the milk. Let it whiz until smooth (you may need to scrape round the edge and whiz again), then divide between the cups (they should be two-thirds full) and put to one side. 
GUACAMOLE: Squeeze a handful of cherry tomatoes on to the biggest board you have, then finely chop up the flesh with 1 to 2 red chillies and a handful of coriander leaves, including the top part of the stalks. 
TOMATO SOUP: Take the tray of tomatoes out of the oven and add everything to the pan of onions. 
CROUTONS:  Check them  -  if they are crisp and golden turn off the oven, but leave them in there to keep warm.
GUACAMOLE: Halve and stone the avocados, then squeeze them over the board so the flesh comes out of the skins. Discard the skins, add a pinch of salt, squeeze over the juice of 2 limes and chop everything together until fine. Taste and adjust the flavors if needed, then use your knife to sweep everything to one side of the board. 
Cut the ½ bulb of fennel into wedges. Peel the carrot, quarter lengthways and cut into batons, then do the same with the cucumber. Sprinkle over a pinch of salt, then arrange the vegetables next to the guacamole. 
Put a handful of grissini into a glass and take them to the table with the board of guacamole. 
TOMATO SOUP: In two batches, carefully pour the vegetables from the saucepan into a blender. Add most of the basil, put the lid on, cover with a tea towel and whiz to a fairly rustic consistency, pouring the mixture into a large pan or serving bowl as you go. 
Once finished, mix well, season to taste and top with a dollop of créme fraîche, a few basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Take to the table with a stack of soup bowls and the tray of croutons from the oven. 
PRUNE PUDDINGS: Just before serving, pop the puddings into the microwave to cook on full power for 6 minutes. 
TO SERVE: Put a crouton or two in the bottom of each soup bowl. Ladle the soup on top, then dig in and let everyone help themselves to the guacamole. 
When the desserts are ready, bring to the table, drizzle over a little golden syrup, top with whipped cream and go for it (use a spoon to turn them upside down in the cups and you'll be in for a treat). 

Meals cooked: 15
Meals left: 35
Weeks left: 13


  1. Great post. It grieves me more than you know that I have been unable to live closer, and thereby benefit directly from this fantastic life calling of yours. Regardless, it's been great fun to watch you vicariously. Happy Near Year to you and all the Food Revolutionaries. xoxo

  2. Did you actually make the prune puddings? I haven't been able to find canned prunes around here anywhere. Prune juice? Sure! But not canned. I do love this soup though! One of my favourites.

  3. Kristin...agreed!! I wish you lived closer too :(

    luckiest1...I did make the prune puddings. I couldn't find canned prunes either and I looked everywhere. I used orange juice on the bottom in place of the juice that was suppose to be from the can. It was not a huge hit at our table. Every now and then I run into an ingredient that I feel must be pretty common in the UK but I can't find anywhere here. My current list is canned prunes, individual pie shells, vacuum packed beets. I agree, I love this tomato soup! Definitely one of my favorites!