Category Archives: Soup

National Soup Month

January is National Soup Month! It’s gotten colder here, so soup is the perfect go to meal for us. I love soup so much I wrote a book about it.

The recipe is at the end of the story.

It is featured on Library Sparks’ activity calendar for January which you can download for free here. (Did you know it’s also Happy Get Organized Month and Happy Brainteaser Month? I bet you didn’t!)

Soup Day was inspired by my son, Jamie. I created Snowy Day Soup (the recipe of which is at the end of the story) to get him to eat his veggies when he was a toddler. We’d choose the vegetables together at the market, and I’d let him cut the soft ones like the mushrooms, with a plastic knife (with my help).

Here is an old video of us making it together!

Back in 2010!

Back in 2010!

And here is a video of it being read on Story Time Castle. 🙂

Another favorite soup of his is Zucchini Soup, and we have it regularly. It is so easy to make, even he can do it by himself! I illustrated a version of it which I submitted to They Draw and Cook. Here’s the art and the recipe:

Zucchini Soup Melissa Iwai 2016 72

Zucchini Soup

1 lb. zucchini sliced

1 cup chicken broth or other broth

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Slice zucchini into rounds. Steam. You can either steam on the stove or in the microwave, covered with saran for 8 minutes.
  2. Careful transfer the cooked zucchini and juices into a blender. Add chicken broth and seasonings. Pulse several times on low, and then blend at high until completely smooth.
  3. Heat and serve.

Happy Slurping! 🙂

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Filed under Books, Children, Soup, Soup, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Jamie’s Soup and My Society 6 Store

jamie'ssoup

I did a similar soup post way back when when I created this creamy green soup.  This one, however, is even easier, and I recently taught my ten year old to make it by himself!  It is his favorite soup these days, so I make it a lot. And now he can do the honors.  This is a good thing because I am so busy these days with MATS A and other work!

All you do is cut 2 large zucchini into slices.

cutting

Then you steam them in the microwave for about 6-8 minutes.

Place steamed zucchini into a Vitamix along with 2 cups of broth and season with some salt and pepper if you like.  Blend and serve!  If you want it warmer, just heat it a little for about 30 seconds.

Drinking the green yumminess!

Drinking the green yumminess!

This is what I did in my class last week– I designed a collection of ceramic plates:

MELISSA_IWAI_BEARANDBUNNY_4A_WK2REV

To read about the process, you can go here.  It was quite painful!  But all good. 🙂

Also, I just reopened my Society 6 store. I’ve been hesitant dipping my toes in the waters — I don’t know why….  But I made my first sale!  To myself!  ha ha.  I bought a pillow that has my bunny head design on it.  It is nothing really, but exciting to me, because it’s such a novelty for me!  There is a SALE in my store right now for $5 off everything plus FREE shipping until 11/9, so check it out!  🙂

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 3.53.01 PMJamie’s Zucchini Soup

2 zucchini

2 cups of chicken broth or other broth

salt and pepper to taste

1.  Cut zucchini into slices.  Place in large bowl and cover with saran.  Microwave for about 5-7 minutes until soft (it depends on your oven).  Alternatively, you can steam in a steamer on the stove for 8-10 minutes.

2.  Blend cooked zucchini and broth and seasonings in a Vitamix or blender until smooth.

Makes about 4 large bowls of soup.

 

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Filed under Soup, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Perfect Broccoli Soup

Look at the beautiful color of all those nutrients!

Look at the beautiful color of all those nutrients!


Oh dear, January was National Soup month and I didn’t even post a soup recipe!!

I will make up for it by introducing one here.  You can make it from start to finish in about 10-12 minutes.  Prep time is about 3 minutes.  Take some broccoli, wash it, cut the ends off, trim the sides, cut into pieces. Then cut the stem into slices and divide the florets into smaller pieces.  Steam the broccoli in a steamer on the stove for about 8 minutes.  You could also probably do it in less time in the microwave.  Then  throw the cooked broccoli into a blender, pour in some chicken broth and blend until smooth.  Add more broth to reach the consistency of your liking.  Reheat if it is not hot enough. Eat!

The cooked broccoli gives the soup a natural thickener — much like cooked potato.  And the broccoli is full of nutrients and fiber. It really is a perfect veggie.  This soup is one of my favorites, and it is so effortless to make.  I’ve been eating it a lot this winter– so warming and comforting!  See recipe at the end of the post.

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On the work front, I’ve been very busy with book projects, some freelance work, and a new addiction– taking classes at skillshare.com!  My friend introduced me to a lettering class there taught by Mary Kate McDevitt, who is awesome!   I couldn’t get enough of these great classes, and I kept signing up for more, because there are so many skills to learn!  Also, if you refer a friend, you BOTH get $10 off.

I recently took a Typography class and a Pattern Making class and have signed up for a few more.  I told you — I’m addicted!  The great thing is that it is something you can do at your own pace.  Also, the forum is excellent.  So far, I’ve been very happy with the instruction — I have learned SOOOO much.  These classes can be intense, but only if you want it to be.  It’s up to you. You go at your own pace.  I took my time with the assignments and tried to really absorb the information.   With the pattern class, I found I had to watch the video tutorials more than once.  (Maybe I am just a slow learner…)

I find that the best way to learn a new skill is to just do it, and keep practicing.

I decided to do the Valentine’s Day Challenge given by the Typography and Pattern class.  The challenge is to design a greeting card and a complimentary gift wrap paper pattern.  Here is what I came up with — I call it “Bunny Love” — I’ve been obsessed by bunnies lately. 🙂

card

wrapping paperex

I really love making patterns, and I want to do more of it!  I also like making these cards.  It’s a different way of thinking, and it’s been fun to experiment.  I had to learn a lot more techniques in Illustrator, so it took awhile to finish the course.  The repeat pattern class was really a great resource for this!

In May, I am going to attend Surtex 2014 at the Javitz Center!  For those of you who don’t know, Surtex is a major international licensing conference.  Buyers from around the world come to buy or license work from artists and designers.  I will be helping Victoria Johnson with her booth.  Check out her work — it is so great–she is uber talented!  She also writes about her process on her blog.  I always love reading about how other artists work.  You have probably  seen Victoria’s beautiful designs in stores already. Some of her clients include C.R.Gibson, WHSmith, American Greetings, Tigerprint, Hallmark and Marian Heath. I’m really looking forward to meeting her and working in her booth along side Flora Waycott — another talented designer!

Perfect Broccoli Soup

One or two large stocks of broccoli

2-3 cups of chicken broth or other stock

salt and pepper to taste

1.  Prep broccoli by trimming ends and coarse parts of the stems.  Slice stems into rounds.  Cut florets into pieces.  Steam in steamer for 8 minutes.

2.  Transfer about 4 cups of cooked broccoli to blender (I used two stocks and saved a lot of the stem pieces for another use).  Add about two cups of chicken broth.  Blend.

3.  Add salt and pepper to taste and blend again.  You might also want to add some more broth if you prefer a thinner consistency.  Reheat if necessary and serve.

Makes about one quart of soup.

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Filed under Art Related, Soup, Soup, Vegetarian

Broccoli Sweet Potato Soup for Lunch and B is for Bulldozer Release

broccoli sweet potato soup


I can’t believe I’m saying this, but summer has passed by quickly!  I’ve been busy with a lot of new work that I can’t talk about here because it’s not published or it’s not official yet, but stay tuned…

One thing is for certain is that an old favorite of mine has been re-released as a board book and will be out next month!

B is for Bullldozer_cover3

It’s been a perennial favorite among  young construction vehicle lovers.  It is also a fun way to learn one’s ABCs!  There is another “story” taking place in the background about two friends and their puppy.  The puppy becomes a dog, and the construction site becomes a… we’ll you’ll have to get the book to see….!

I based the dog on Tilly, my brother’s family’s sweetie, whom we just visited in June.

tilly

Here are some samples of the interior of the book:

A is for Asphalt

A is for Asphalt

C is for Crane

C is for Crane

I illustrated B is for Bulldozer long before Jamie was born.  I think the original came out in 2002!  It’s still in print and available in bookstores, and I’m very thankful for that.  I remember when I was painting it, I amassed a huge collection of construction toys.  I used the toys as models for the vehicles, because I wanted a simplified version of the real thing. I also like using interesting points of view in my illustrations, so having a 3-D model was useful in figuring out how things would look at different angles.  Lucky for Jamie when he was a toddler, he inherited all of my trucks and bulldozers.

I’ll be doing a book signing and reading of B is for Bulldozer September 28, 2013 at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn at 11 am.  Please stop by and say “hi”. 🙂

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With school starting soon, I’ve been collecting ideas from friends about what to pack for lunch.  I haven’t had to pack a lunch for the last three years because Jamie would eat at school.  Next year, they have the option of bringing a lunch or eating the school lunch.  The lunches at his sch0ol are really great, so I have a lot of competition!

I was approached by Live In Nanny about camp lunch ideas.  I think they would be great for school lunches too.  Check it out here.  My favorite is the Lunch Kit idea.  NannyNet also has a roundup of 18 blogs with tips on saving money on lunches and how to make lunches more interesting.  I especially like the tip about getting your child involved in making their own lunch, which is something I am planning to do.

There are so many amazing bento blogs too.  I can’t look at them often, though, because they kind of wig me out — I feel like I should be making these — and then the pressure is too much!  Check out these adorable Despicable Me inspired rice balls!

Jamie’s lunches will not be as labor intensive.  But I did buy a cute panda bento box for him today.  So look out for future bento meals. 🙂

One of his favorites is soup.  When it gets cooler, I will be sending him to school with a hearty, nutritious  soup like this Broccoli Sweet Potato Soup.    Steam veggies, add broth, puree.  So easy and fast, and so good!

 Do you have any good tips for healthy kids’ lunches?

broccoli sweet potato soup2

Broccoli Sweet Potato Soup

3 cups chopped broccoli florets and sliced broccoli stems (about 3 stalks of broccoli)

1 small sweet potato

2 cups chicken broth (or other broth you prefer)

salt and pepper to taste

grated parmesan (optional)

  1. Poke holes into a sweet potato and microwave on a plate in microwave for about 5 minutes.  Cool a bit before handling.
  2. Steam broccoli until tender in steamer, about 8 minutes.
  3. Peel sweet potato when cool enough to handle and cut until cubes, about one cup.
  4. Pour broccoli, sweet potato and chicken broth into blender and puree in batches, being careful not to fill blender more than half way.  Remove center cap and cover lightly with a towel while blending.
  5. Garnish with parmesan if desired.

Makes about 4 cups of soup.

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Filed under Art Related, Soup, Soup, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Not Normal

Meditating Lion 2013_iwai

Still not back to normal around these parts… but hopefully soon.  This project has dragged on and on, and I have been overwhelmed with the work, I have had no time to do anything else.  I am truly exhausted.  My family has been so supportive. I don’t know what I would do without them!

Here is a painting I did while waiting for ginormous files to save, export and upload.  I am donating it to my son’s school auction.  It’s called Meditating Lion, and it’s pretty much the place I want to be in!

Will be back with recipes soon.

Here’s a good one that  I was introduced to by the person I’m working with.  It’s so simple I was able to  make while waiting for my computer to restart:  Take a whole, rinsed chicken. Chop it up into pieces so it can fit into a large pot.  Fill pot with water to cover chicken pieces by about an inch or two. Add some salt.   Boil for 90 minutes.

When it’s done, you have amazingly tender chicken that can be used for soup, burritos, tacos, salad, etc.  And you have AMAZING broth.  I strained it and chilled and skimmed off the fat (which people would be horrified by — the schmaltz  gives it the rich flavor).  It is very soothing, and I think helped to stave off an oncoming cold.

I made this soup and used the chicken broth and added the shredded cooked chicken at the end.  I didn’t have time to take a picture, but it was excellent, and the broth makes all the difference! It looked like this, but I put cooked rice in it instead of noodles.

soup-2

By the way, my book, Soup Day, was released in Korea recently!  I love how they incorporated the soup spoon in the title in Hangul.

cover72

I only have to sell about 600 more copies before I can start on the sequel!  If you want to help me out, please do!  It is in stores and here.
Thanks for your patience and support ….  be back soon!

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Filed under Art Related, chicken, Soup

Broccoli Sweet Potato Soup and 2012 in Review

soup

Happy 2013 Everyone!

Have you all made your New Year’s resolutions?

I have to say, I have not.  I find that the label, “New Year’s Resolution”, carries too much weight, fraught with emotional baggage–my own craziness.  So my work around is to make goals at other times of the year. 🙂

One art related goal I made back in November is to draw from life every day.  I bought a beautiful Moleskin sketchbook which I LOVE because it’s small and easy to carry everywhere.   It’s really hard to draw in public without anyone noticing.  Hopefully I’m getting better at it.  Here are some samples:

Tim Horton's

Tim Horton’s

Easier to draw strangers when they aren't looking at me!

Starbucks.  It’s easier to draw strangers when they aren’t facing at me!

Jamie on Denis' phone

Jamie on Denis’ phone

In flight

In flight

j an d d

A lot of people make health oriented goals at New Year’s.  I guess the combination of holiday indulgences and pants getting more snug (I’m guilty of this as well!) and the promise of a new year — a clean slate– is part of the appeal.  With the frigid winter temperatures outside, a hot bowl of soup is a great remedy for the winter chill as well as the tighter waistbands!

soup close

We’ve been enjoying this nutrient dense, filling, and comforting Broccoli Sweet Potato Soup recently.  I’m happy to say that even my 8-year old loves this one so much, I don’t have to “hide” what’s in it!  It’s so easy to make too if you have a good blender.  See recipe at end of post. Served with cheese toast or a salad, it makes a delicious, comforting, healthy, guilt-free, New Year’s Resolutions compliant lunch!

Thanks to you all for making 2012 such a great year for this blog!  Followers and views doubled from 2011!  The most popular post of 2012 was Monthly Lego Build and Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Secret Ingredient, one of my favorites. Check it out!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 78,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

soup

Broccoli Sweet Potato Soup

Two small heads of broccoli florets chopped, or about 4 cups chopped broccoli

One small sweet potato

1 3/4 cups to 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Steam broccoli in steamer on stove for about 8 -10 minutes.  Alternatively, steam broccoli in a bowl covered with saran in microwave until cooked, about 4-5 minutes, depending on microwave

2.  Prick holes in sweet potato and cook in microwave for 4 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, peel and remove flesh.

3.  Place broccoli, sweet potato, and broth in blender and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add more broth and reheat if you want a thinner consistency.

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Filed under Art Related, Lunch, Soup, Soup, Vegetables

Pea Soup Andersen’s Inspired Slow Cooker Pea Soup


It’s getting colder each day here in New York — you know what that means:  Perfect soup weather!  It’s our favorite thing to eat this time of year.

Jamie’s favorite soup – vegetable soup with alphabet pasta – inspired me to write and illustrate Soup Day.

The recipe is at the end of the story.

Other tasty soups to warm you in cold weather:

French Onion Soup

Roasted Tomato Soup

Creamy Green Soup

Butternut Squash Harvest Soup

Last week I was going through our pantry to collect food to donate to areas in our neighborhood which had been had been hit hard by the hurricane.  Among the things I came across was a half filled container of dried peas. I had no idea which presidential administration they were from– perhaps the Clinton era?  I decided to risk it and try to make some pea soup in my slow cooker.
A lot of recipes I came across called for a ham hock thrown in, but I was too busy to go on a hunt for one, so I used 1/2 cup chopped apple smoked cured nitrite free bacon from Trader Joe’s.  It was about 4 slices, and I trimmed off the excess fat.

I based my recipe on this one, because it mentioned Pea Soup Andersen’s – a beloved roadside restaurant in the Central Coast of California where I am from.

Jamie and I posing as Happea and Pea-wee in the parking lot.

It didn’t call for ham hock or bacon, but I decided to throw in some bacon just the same.  I also used 4 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of water instead of all water, and I decided to cook it in my slow cooker instead of on the stove.

The resulting soup was smoky, flavorful, and creamy — just as good as its inspiration!  The amount of dried peas I used cost about $.75, so the whole batch cost about $3.25!  It made about ten generous portions, half of which I have stored in our freezer for future winter days.

If you are ever on the Central Coast, though, tootling along the 101, do stop by and check out Pea Soup Andersen’s.  It’s not just the soup and sharp cheddar sold there that are  great — the whole atmosphere of the restaurant and gift shop is unique.  Just a few miles away is Solvang, a town filled with restaurants, toy stores, bakeries, and gift shops built in the traditional Danish style of architecture.  It is kind of like walking into part of an amusement park–kitschy but cute.  (I think it is the reason why I never had a phobia of dentists — my childhood dentist had a practice there and I loved visiting all the gift stores and eating Ebleskevers afterwards!)  🙂


Pea Soup Andersen’s Inspired Slow Cooker Pea Soup

4 slices smoked bacon trimmed of fat and chopped up, about ½ cup

2 cups dried peas, rinsed and cleared of debris

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1 celery rib, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 bay leaf

¼  teaspoon dried thyme

salt

pepper to taste

  1. Pour everything into slow cooker.  Cook on low for about 8-10 hours or high for about 6-8 hours.  Check to see how soft the peas are.  I cooked mine for low on 2 hours, but they didn’t seem to be getting soft and I knew they were really old!  So I cooked them on high for the next 4 hours.
  2. Remove bay leaf.  Puree soup in batches in blender until smooth (only fill blender half-way and leave an open vent at the top, either covering with a towel or using a lid with a vent – alternatively, use an immersion blender instead!).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Reheat and serve.

Makes at least 10 generous servings.
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Filed under Soup, Soup, Travel

National Soup Month and Soup Day Giveaway!

I can’t believe January is almost over!  Did you know January is National Soup Month? I’ve been making and eating soup all month with my new Vitamix that my wonderful husband gave me for Christmas.

The cool thing about the Vitamix is that you can throw in a bunch of veggies and liquid into the canister and “cook” the soup as you blend.  The powerful motor is four times as strong as a regular blender and can run for five minutes on high.  This causes friction which creates the heat to “cook” the soup.

I’ve been doing a hybrid of stove top cooking and vitamix “cooking” to make my soups. I love to put caramelized onions and/or garlic in my soups, and I find that cooking them on the stove first with seasonings and then blending makes a tastier soup.

Here are some of the soups I’ve been enjoying and tinkering with:

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

Creamy Cauliflower Zucchini Soup

White Bean and Shiitake Mushroom Soup

I am celebrating National Soup Month by giving away a personalized autographed copy of  my book, Soup Day (which includes a recipe for Snowy Day Vegetable soup).

To enter the Soup Day book giveaway, do one or all (to increase your chances) of the following:

1.  Leave a comment and let me know what your favorite soup (recipe) is.

AND/OR

2.  Tweet (Hey everyone enter the @meliwai Soup Day giveaway! http://wp.me/pNxYO-tW) about this giveaway and follow me on Twitter

AND/OR

3.  Follow me on Facebook and leave me a comment about it.

4. Post about this giveaway on your Facebook page with my link (http://wp.me/pNxYO-tW).

Contest is open until February 6, 2012, midnight (EST).
Tuesday, February 7,  I’ll choose a winner using a random number generator and it on the blog.  🙂 I will also email the winner.  You’ll have one week (7 days) to respond to my email or another winner will be chosen. Giveaway is open to anyone in the world.  🙂

Soup Day is also available in stores and online.  I have already written the sequel, and am required to sell a lot of copies of it in order to make that happen! Thanks for your support!

And now, on to the recipes:

Garnished with roasted acorn seeds and crushed pepper.

1 small roasted acorn squash

½ small onion, sliced thinly, about ½ cup

½ teaspoon oil

pinch of kosher salt

1 cup chicken broth (or other broth you prefer)

¼ cup milk

½ teaspoon curry

½ teaspoon cumin

1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Roast acorn squash and toast seeds.  To see how to do this, check out this post.
  2. Cut roasted acorn squash in to large cubes.
  3. Heat oil in sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and sprinkle with salt.  Saute until soft and translucent.  Add acorn squash, chicken broth, milk, and spices and simmer for about 10-14 minutes. (Alternatively throw everything in Vitamix including parmesan and blend on high for five minutes.  Serve.)
  4. Blend soup with immersion blender or process in blender in batches, being careful not to fill blender more than half way.  Remove center cap and cover lightly with a towel while blending.
  5. Serve garnished with toasted acorn squash seeds.

Creamy Cauliflower and Zucchini Soup

Garnished with grated parmesan and crushed pepper.

1 half head of cauliflower (about 12 oz.) cut into florets

1 small zucchini (about 6 oz.), cut into slices

½ teaspoon oil

1 small onion sliced thinly, about 1 cup

salt and pepper to taste

Dash of dried thyme

2 cups chicken broth (or other broth you prefer)

1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

  1. Steam cauliflower and zucchini in microwave for about 4-5 minutes or in steamer on stove for about 6-8 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and sprinkle with salt.  Saute until soft and translucent.  Season to taste with thyme.
  3. Add steamed cauliflower and zucchini and broth and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  (Alternatively throw everything in Vitamix including parmesan and blend on high for five minutes.  Serve.)
  4. Add parmesan and blend with immersion blender or blend soup in blender in batches, being careful not to fill blender more than half way.  Remove center cap and cover lightly with a towel while blending.
  5. Garnish with extra parmesan if desired.

White Bean and Shiitake Mushroom Soup

Garnished with whipped cottage cheese, shiitake, and multigrain cracker.

This is a very thick soup – the consistency is that of condensed mushroom soup.  If you want a thinner soup, use 1/2 the amount of beans.

5 g of dried shiitake mushroom or other dried mushroom such as porcini

1 can of white beans (1/2 can if you want thinner soup)

½ teaspoon olive oil

Dash of kosher salt

Dash of thyme and marjoram

1 small onion sliced thinly, about 1 cup

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 ½ cups chicken broth or more for thinning

  1. Place dried mushrooms in a medium sized bowl and pour about ½ cup boiling water to cover.  I usually place a smaller dish or bowl on top to keep the mushrooms submerged.  Let sit for about 10 minutes. Drain mushrooms, but save the soaking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile rinse beans in colander with water to remove excess salt and drain.
  3. Slice softened shiitake into thin strips
  4. Saute onion in olive oil over medium low heat until soft.  Season with sat and spices.  Add shiitake soaking liquid and braise for until liquid evaporates.  Add garlic and sauté until softened.  Add shiitake and sauté for a few more minutes.
  5. Reserve about ¼ cup of sauted mushrooms and onions and set aside.
  6. Add broth and white beans to pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for about fifteen minutes.   (Alternatively, throw everything into Vitamix and blend on high for five minutes. Add reserved shiitake and onion and blend for a few seconds on low to combine.  Serve.)
  7. Blend with immersion blender or transfer soup to blender in process in batches, being careful not to fill blender more than half way.  Remove center cap and cover lightly with a towel while blending.  Add reserved shiitake and onion and pulse to combine.  Add more hot broth if you want to thin soup out to desired consistency.
  8. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche, sour cream or whipped cottage cheese.

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Filed under Art Related, Soup, Soup, Vegetables

Brooklyn Museum Children’s Book Fair and Roasted Tomato Soup

It’s steadily getting chillier these days.  This means it’s great soup weather.  What’s more comforting than coming home to a toasty kitchen and a hot bowl of goodness?

I’m doing more book events this season to promote my book, Soup Day, which takes place during the cold winter months.  This coming Saturday (November 19) I, along with more than 30 local Brooklyn authors, including Peter Brown (Children Make Terrible Pets), Tad Hills (How Rocket Learned to Read), my friend Kate Hosford (Big Bouffant), will be at the 5th Annual Children’s Book Fair at the Brooklyn Museum from 12-4.  Please come join us if you are in the area!

Last year when Soup Day was released, I mentioned that I had written a sequel that hopefully will be published once I sell a certain number of copies of the book (this provision is an indication of how difficult it is to sell a picture book manuscript these days!  About five years ago this wouldn’t be an issue).  Well, I’ve heard from my editor that I’m only a couple thousand copies away so I’m asking you all to help me reach my goal!  Please support my cause by buying a copy of the book for a budding chef in your life!  it is a great way to introduce young kids to the joy of cooking.

“Back at home we wash the vegetables. Then Mommy chops everything into different shapes. The celery and onions become tiny squares. The carrots become circles. The potatoes become cubes. The parsley becomes confetti.”

The book was designed so well by Patrick Collins at Henry Holt.  The pages are slightly thicker than regular paper and the cover and pages have rounded corners which are perfect for young children — such a thoughtful touch by Patrick!  It also has a lower price point ($12.99 v.s $16.99) than a traditional picture book.

I leave you with a new soup recipe I developed — Sweet Roasted Tomato Soup.  Roasting the vegetables brings out their natural sweetness.  I added carrots for flavor and texture — they are  a great natural thickener packed full of vitamins and fiber.  A dash of sugar at the end and optional heavy cream stirred in rounds out the flavors.  I also made Parmesan Croutons with an old baguette.  Enjoy!

Sweet Roasted Tomato Soup

6 Roma tomatoes, halved

2 medium carrots, sliced into ½ -inch slices

kosher salt and pepper to taste

5 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 large onion chopped, about 2 cups

3 cloves of garlic mashed and minced

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

14 oz. can of diced tomatoes

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1-2 teaspoons sugar

¼ cup heavy cream (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss tomatoes and carrots in 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread in a single layer on baking sheet lined with foil.  Roast tomato halves cut side up.
  3. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, stirring carrot pieces halfway through.
  4. Remove from oven and set aside.  Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in large soup pot on stove over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and season with a bit of kosher salt, basil, and oregano.  Saute until onions are transparent, stirring often.
  5. Add roasted vegetables to pot along with canned tomatoes and broth.  Bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Alternatively, blend soup in batches in a blender (never fill blender more than half full), while covering lid (remove plastic center first) with dish towel.  Hold lid down while blending on low speed. Blend until soup is completely pureed and lump free. Return to pot after blending to reheat.
  7. Add sugar and salt and pepper to taste.  Add heavy cream if desired and stir to incorporate.

Makes 4-6 servings.

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Filed under Art Related, Children, Soup, Soup, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snack and Miso Soup

True story:  A few months ago at our local Trader Joe’s, I spied a young woman sitting on a bench at the entrance of the store in a trance-like state eating something from a hurriedly ripped open green package.  With a faraway look in her eyes, she was munching on thin sheets of roasted seaweed, one after another without stopping.  I glanced at her two shopping bags propped up in front of her.  They were filled to the brim with the same green packages–perhaps 20 per shopping bag?  I was intrigued.

They come in paper thin strips.

I grew up eating seasoned roasted seaweed.  My relatives from Hawaii would send large canisters of it every year.  My family never seemed to finish all of it, and most of the strips would always turn soft in defiance of the little white packets of desiccant that came in the container.  I believe they were loaded with MSG so it is probably just as well we never ate the entire batch.

“Was there something different about the Trader Joe’s roasted seaweed?” I wondered.  I decided to see for myself.

What I discovered is that these strips are less salty than the ones I have had in the past, and they are made of only natural ingredients (seaweed, safflower and sesame oil, and salt).  And because they come in a small container of two servings, it is easy to finish it in one sitting with another person when the seaweed is at its peak of crunchiness and freshness.  I have to say that these seaweed snacks are addictive.

Though I don’t sit eating them trance-like, I do love them.  It has even caught on with my son who previously would never eat dried seaweed.  He eats these seaweed strips by the stack full like potato chips.

Recently he’s taken to combine them with his other favorite foods, creating truly Asian-American fusion meals.  He urged me to post it on this blog.  Hee hee.

I present to you — Jamie’s Pizza Sushi (pizza piece rolled in seaweed):

This one is his latest:

Open faced PB and seaweed sandwich

Believe it or not, these inventions of his taste really good!

I’m more of a purist though.  My favorite way to eat them is with hot rice.  The clean flavor and combination of crunchy and soft and sticky textures brings me back to when I lived briefly in Japan.

Paired with a freshly made hot bowl of miso soup and salad, it makes a nice light meal.

Miso Soup

Note:  If you want to make the dashi (Japanese stock) from scratch, kombu (dried kelp) and katsuo boshi (dried bonito flakes) can be found in Asian stores.  You can also make dashi using instant dashi powder– just add water!

Kombu (dried kelp), Wakame (dried seaweed), Katsuo boshi (dried bonito flakes)

Dashi:
4 cups water

1 to 2-inch piece of kombu

Large pinch of katsuo boshi

1.   Heat water and kombu in a saucepan.  Just before water boils, remove kombu and discard.  Add katsuo boshi.  Boil for 30 seconds.  Turn off heat.  Let flakes settle to bottom on pan.

2.  Strain liquid into a bowl or measuring cup (I use the same one I used to measure the water), pushing down on solids to remove as much liquid as possible.

Makes 4 cups.

"shiro" (white) more mild than "aka" (red) -- the darker the miso paste, the stronger the flavor

Miso soup:

4 cups of dashi

4 tablespoons miso paste

Pinch of wakame (dried seaweed — also found in Asian stores)

1 ounce of tofu cut into small cubes

1/2 scallion, finely sliced

1.  Pour about 1/4 cup dashi into a small bowl.  Add miso paste to bowl and whisk until mixture is free of lumps.

miso whisked in a bit of dashi

2.  Pour remaining dashi into sauce pan.  Add whisked miso slurry to pan.  Add tofu, wakame, and green onions.

wakame, tofu cubes, and sliced green onion

3.  Gently heat miso soup over low heat until it is ready to be eaten.  Do not let it boil or simmer.

Makes about 4 servings.

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Filed under Children, Condiments, Lunch, Sides, Soup