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August 13, 2018

Tomato Soup | Back to School

And just like that, we're not spending the day baking donut cakes in the kitchen.  Emma's at school and here I am in a quiet house working on my computer.  This scenario seemed impossible just last week.  There were points in the summer that I would've gone to great lengths to have a quiet morning sitting at my computer with my entire brain to work with.  And now that it is here, I'm wishing it was still summer break and the only thing on our agenda was going for a bike ride and heading to the pool for lunch.

The other side of the story is that I love my work.  Last year when kindergarten started, I reclaimed a real workweek for myself that I hadn't had since she was born.  I truly enjoy my time working alone at home and after a breezy summer I'm glad to be at the grind again.  I also love the routine of the school year.

This morning after Mr. Darcy and I went on our long, leisurely stroll, I sat down to my desk brimming with ideas for the new season.  I have so many things I'd like to share - ideas for easy weeknight dinners, to-go lunches for working parents, tips for streamlining household chores, and of course, new products to make it all happen.

We spent much of our summer in the garden at The School House.  (Above, Emma's lemonade stand.)   About once a week Emma and I would venture out there and collect a basket of tomatoes, an armful of zinnias or hydrangea and fistful of basil.  We would walk down the road and pick up peaches from the neighbor's farmstand and whatever else we needed to fill in the gaps of our menu.  I'd like to think Emma's summer was filled with the tastes and scents of summer produce... mixed with the smell of chlorine and ice cream.   I want to bottle that up for her.  (Not the chlorine - ha!) I wanted to turn our garden tomatoes into something she could enjoy while at school and maybe she would be reminded of our carefree, wonderful summer spent in the garden.

One of Emma's favorite meals is "red soup and bread."  It started when we would frequent our favorite cafe, Bella Napoli, when she was little.  On a really cold day I would order the minestrone for myself and a bowl of red sauce for her.  She would eat it with a spoon and dip an entire basket of bread in it.  And so it started - Red Soup & Bread.

Navy Fleur Block Print Napkins, $34 for 4

It is one of her favorite lunches to take to school.  I send the soup in a small thermos and a bag of sliced baguette.  Since we had an abundance of tomatoes this summer (from our 16 plants!!) I made some big batches of homemade "red soup."  (I also made Garden Tomato Sauce, recipe here >)

I portioned them out into the small and medium plastic containers (here) that come in my set of Plastic Kitchen Containers.  This is the lunch I'll turn to when I haven't been to the store in a couple of days and we're out of all of the normal lunch option.  I'll be able to pull one of these out of the freezer... instead of having to shop by school and pick up a lunchable on our way (which we've also done several times)!

"Red Soup" (Tomato Soup) Recipe

8-10 Tomatoes** (or 3 x 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes)
2 carrots, minced
1 large white onion, diced
1 stick of butter
4 cups of chicken stock
2 teaspoons of sea salt (more to taste)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/2 cup of cream

Begin by sautéing onion and carrots in the butter until slightly softened.  Add tomatoes**, chicken stock, salt and thyme.

**If using fresh tomatoes, remove the core, cut into quarters then blend until liquified in a blender or food processor.  If using canned, just pour them right in!

Cook for 1 hour until reduced.  Remove from heat.  Cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  Transfer to a blender with a ladle until blender is half way full.  Put lid on, but remove steam/pour lid and cover loosely with a towel.  The hot liquid will cause the lid to want to pop off if left sealed.  Blend until smooth.  Add the 1/3 of the cream and blend until creamy and smooth.  Pour into freezer containers.

I don't worry about removing skins or seeds - the entire thing goes in and gets blended up.

Since this was my first day back at "work" I decided to make myself a grilled cheese to go along with the soup for the photos.

Freezer Tip : One of my favorite short cuts is to always make an extra and throw it in the freezer.  Even for leftovers, if we have an entire portion of something leftover and no one wants it for lunch the next day, it goes in the freezer.  I can't tell you how many times that has saved me from having to go get takeout.

Someone is saying, "really, freezing a pre-assembled grilled cheese? aren't those easy to make fresh when you want them."  Yes, but sometimes we're out of bread and sometimes we're out of cheese.  So, because it is just as easy to make two as it is one, now I have an easy dinner/lunch in the freezer for Emma on a busy night if the fridge is empty and Mike and I have dinner plans.  Otherwise, we'd be running through Chick-Fil-A...

Happy Back to School!!  xoxox

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