Thursday, January 21, 2016

Soup for a Storm

For Christmas dinner this year, we decided that since the kids are all vegetarians, rather than cook 2 meals, we should just celebrate with some delicious vegetarian options.  Maryanne always makes a huge batch of stuffed shells, so we asked Molly to choose something else - preferably without pasta.  Looking through recipes that have been saved from long ago email lists (and PLEASE, if this is your recipe, please let me know), she chose this soup.  Between the 2 households, we have made this at least 6 times in the last month.  It is that delicious.  You need a large (2 gallon minimum) soup pot for this - or alter the recipe to make a smaller batch.
It freezes beautifully, is acceptable to most special diets, and is very hearty.  I make it with a lot of cayenne, Maryanne uses a lot less.  I add other spices, she does not.  Versatile.  We like that.

It's about to dump a lot of snow here (maybe), so I'm putting together another batch to have on hand.

Here's the recipe:

Spicy Tomato Lentil Bean Soup
1 large diced onion
1 or 2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 nice big sweet red bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 large cans diced tomatoes
1 large (48 oz) carton chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups lentils, (pre-cooked - I simmer them in water while cutting up the onions  and peppers... maybe a little longer.)
2 large cans of any kind of beans (kidney, romano, garbanzo, butter, whatever you like - well rinsed
1 bunch kale (or collards)
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T olive oil
2 bay leaves
1  to 3 tsp. cayenne
Parmesan cheese
for garnish/flavoring
Heat olive oil in large soup pot.  Add diced onions and cook 2 minutes to soften but not brown.
Add garlic and stir, cooking another minute. 
Add diced red peppers and cook 5 minutes, stirring often.  
Add tomatoes and juice.  Cook and stir...
Add in broth and bay leaves.
Add cayenne, stir.
Add lentils and beans, stir well.
Add in the balsamic vinegar.
Chop the well rinsed kale into bite-sized pieces and add that to the pot and stir.
The mixture should be at nearly a boil, so lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Remove bay leaves.
Use stick blender or regular blender to puree about 1/3 of the soup.
I have pictured canned beans, tomatoes, and broth.  By all means, if you prefer dried beans, your own canned or frozen tomatoes, and your own homemade broth, please use them.  Just know that there's a chance that you'll love this soup so much that what you've stored away will not last very long :-)

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Lavender Scented Bookmarks

I discovered a few handmade bookmark tutorials that I thought would be perfect to make for my mother’s Christmas present. I decided I would rework a few of them to include herbs inside the stitches so with each turn of the page she would have a whiff of lavender. Here are two ways I learned how to make lavender (or any herb, really) scented bookmarks.

Tie Bookmark (with or without charm)

This is a nice one because you can dress the bookmark up or down depending on your or your gift recipient’s needs. There is a little sewing experience necessary but if I can manage I’m sure you can make a stunning literary accessory!

You will need:
Lavender flowers
Needle (thin is best if the tie is silk so you avoid tearing)
Thread (again, thin)

15 or 20 minutes

Cut a section, about four to six inches, from the thinnest part of the tie. Sew one end shut. I use a back stitch so it will be a stronger seam without tearing.

Use a normal stitch to reinforce the stitch where the ends of the ties meet in the middle so your lavender buds don’t fall out.

Fill the tie with lavender, as much or as little as you would like.

Sew the other end with the back stitch.

Optional Charm Attachment:

Use ribbon or embroidery thread to attach the charm on one end and sew the other end to the tie’s end. I used old jewelry pendants.

Voila! Now you have a sweet gift for the literary enthusiast in your life!

No-Sew Bookmark

If you haven’t noticed I am not the best seamstress but I continue sewing despite protests from my loved ones. If you are as talented as I am with a needle and thread or simply do not have the supplies available here is a no-sew solution.

You will need:
Lavender flowers

About ten minutes


Cut where the tie becomes thinner toward the other side of the garment, about 14 inches from the tip.

Tuck in cut edge so it will not fray.

Fill tie with lavender buds. I used about 2 tablespoons but you will want to use your own discretion so it does not overwhelm you with the scent.

Once it is filled tie the cut side into a knot.

Now you can enjoy a relaxing lavender scented afternoon with a good book!

Posted by Molly Sams