Fresh Summer Tomato Soup with Fresh Basil

The tomatoes are so ripe and delicious this season and I always look foreword to making a fresh kettle of tomato with basil soup.  So today I have brought a kettle of water to boil and placed tomatoes in the boiling water for 1 minute then plunged them into a big bowl of ice water and slipped their skins.  After coring each one I cut them into sections and with my thumb pushed out all of the seeds placing only the remaining flesh into my 4 quart measure until full to the top!

Next I went outdoors and picked a nice bunch of basil and brought it into the kitchen and rinsed the leaves well as I pulled them from their stems.  I picked enough to make 2-3 tablespoons after slicing.

Ingredients for Fresh Summer Tomato Soup with Basil:

4 C. fresh tomato, peeled, seeded, and chunk-ed
2-3 fresh shallots sliced thin
2 cloves fresh garlic chopped finely
2-3 T. fresh basil leaves sliced thin
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. sugar
1/2 t, baking soda (keeps the soup from curdling when the cream is added)
2 C. chicken stock
1-1 1/2 C. heavy cream or milk
6-8 slices crisp cooked bacon as garnish, optional

After harvesting and preparing the tomatoes and basil set them aside.  Place the butter and olive oil in a heavy bottomed non-reactive kettle over medium heat.  Add the shallots and sweat for a minute and add the garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, salt, pepper, baking soda, sugar, and stock. Simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes until the tomatoes are very soft.

You can leave on simmer until just before serving of complete the recipe by adding the cream and pureeing in the blender or using an immersion blender.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Serve with a couple of slices of crisp bacon as garnish if desired.  Yield 6 servings.

Optional step:

Note:  If you would like the soup thickened mix together in a small bowl with your fingers 2 T. butter and 4 T. flour until all of the flour is absorbed into the butter and is a thick paste consistency.  Whisk into the hot soup until completely melted and smooth and the soup has thickened.

Easy Cheesy Potato Casserole

This makes plenty and even after everyone has a generous serving they are great reheated for another meal. We had 7 for dinner and devoured better than half of a very large and deep 9" x 13" casserole.
This recipe is adapted from a recipe of my sister Linda's and has been a big favorite with our entire extended family.  It is ALWAYS  requested family occasions.  Our daughter-in-law asked for these or twice baked potatoes for her birthday dinner last Sunday.  These are way, way easier to make!  I will confess I had trouble getting it to come out right the first few attempts because I did not initially THAW the potatoes....bummer!  You need to either set the out ahead of time or thaw them under hot water before mixing them up and they will be delicious as well as E-A-S-Y.   This dish easily serves 12.

Ingredients for Easy Cheesy Potatoes:

32 ounces of frozen square cut hash browned potatoes thawed
1 can undiluted cream of chicken soup
2 C. sour cream
1 pound shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and black pepper to taste
3/4 C. melted butter divided
2 C. corn flake crumbs or butter cracker (example, Ritz or Club) crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Generously butter the baking dish and set aside.

Using a large bowl combine the first 5 ingredients and mix thoroughly.   In another bowl stir together the crumbs and 1/4 cup of the melted butter.  Set this aside.  Stir the remaining 1/2 cup of melted butter into the potato mixture.  Dump the potatoes into the prepared casserole and spread evenly.  Sprinkle with buttered crumbs.  Bake in preheated oven 50-60 minutes until browned and the edges are bubbling.  Serve immediately and be prepared for complements!


Sourdough bread from my "NEW" 1847 Oregon Trail Starter AND I Resume "The Slow Carb Diet"

Adaptation of The Doctor's Sourdough Bread.

It's Friday evening at 9:30 PM. and I took my jar of sourdough starter out of the refrigerator and set it out to come to room temperature at around 4 PM.  I had also saved the excess potato water from Brian's mashed potatoes Wednesday evening in a clean mason jar and set it out at the same time.  I just finished adding a cup of the potato water and a cup of bread flour and stirring it well, using a glass or plastic bowl, not metal.   Now it is sitting in my gas oven alone but for the pilot light covered with a clean damp tea towel.  For the record I am using water that has been through our reverse osmosis filtering system and King Arthur bread flour.  More in the morning!

Saturday morning and as I read on I need to add 2 C. warm potato water and 2 1/2 C. bread flour and just to give her a kick I also added 1 T. sugar and 1 T. apple cider vinegar and mixed well.  It says to leave again overnight  in a warm place covered with a damp cloth.  Until I get home from Church Sunday it can stew away.

I also took 2 cups of the starter after feeding and before adding the ingredients above put a cup in each of two mason jars and deposited them in the deep freeze for another day long term or to share.  There was one more cup of starter left and I returned it to the refrigerator for another day short term.

I have adapted the recipe somewhat but it did beautifully!  It yielded four one pound loaves.  I will give you the recipe the way I made it but the original directions as well as the starter can be found at the following link:

Adaptation of The Doctor's Sourdough Bread:

1 C. Sourdough Starter
2 C. Warm Filtered Water (90-95 degrees)
2 C. Warm Milk (90-95 degrees)
1 T.  Butter, Melted and Cooled
1 Scant Tablespoon or 1 Pkg. Active (I used Instant ) Yeast*
NOTE:   I purchase yeast by the pound and not by the package so I always use a scant tablespoon when replacing a pkg. of yeast.
1/4 C. Honey
7-9+ C. Bread Flour
1/4 C. Oat Bran
2 T. Sugar
2 t. Salt
2 t. Baking Powder

3 Evenings before planned bread baking perform paragraph 1 above.  Next day perform paragraph 2 above.  The third day proceed as follows:

The following morning mix the butter with the warm milk and stir in the yeast whisking until it is dissolved.  Add the honey and continue whisking until it too is dissolved.  Add 2 C. of the flour and the oat bran stirring together well.  Sprinkle the sugar, salt, and baking soda over the mixture.  Gently press it lightly into the dough with the back of a wooden spoon.  Cover with a damp towel and allow to stand 30-50 minutes until it is bubbly.

At this point I emptied the mixture into a large (7 quart) stainless mixer bowl, although the recipe continues by hand.  Using the dough hook starting a low speed add the flour to the dough UNTIL THE DOUGH CLEANS THE SIDES OF THE BOWL AND FORMS UP THE HOOK.  Just increase the speed to medium and sprinkle the flour a bit at a time until the sides stay clean.

Either turn onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or knead by machine for 3-5 minutes until it has a silken texture.  I machine kneaded 5 minutes.  Meanwhile generously butter 4 one pound bread pans, 9" x 3"and set aside.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and form into loaves.  Place each formed loaf into a prepared pan.  Cover and let rise in a warm place 2-3 hours until doubled in size.  

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and place a pan with 3 cups of water in the bottom of the oven as it heats.  Bake in a hot oven 400 degrees for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake for 20 minutes more until thoroughly baked.  Remove from the pans and cool on racks.  Butter the tops of the loaves if you wish to prevent hard crustiness..or not!  Yield 4 one pound loaves.

When cool you may wish to double wrap and freeze as I have done for later use.   The rule of thumb as I have been taught is baked goods are good for up to 3 months in the freezer when wrapped well.
Too recap I have 1 C. fresh sourdough starter in the refrigerator that will need to be fed weekly, 2 mason jars each with 1 C. starter frozen for long term keeping, and 4 loaves of sourdough doubled wrapped for the freezer.

My Diet:

And by the way, I resumed my diet of a couple a years ago, THE SLOW CARB DIET, a week ago Monday.  I will have to have both knees replaced in the foreseeable future although not immediately and it will be in my best interest to "lighten my load" Ha Ha.  This is my thinking anyway!  On this diet you can have anything and I do mean anything you want one day a week .  Restrictions are the other days.  I will be enjoying this bread on Sunday next.  If you are interested in this diet  (IT WORKS FOR ME) here is the link     It was originated by Tim Ferris who also sells his book and has lots of info and recipes and support on his own website.