easiest homemade tomato soup ever

easiest homemade tomato soup ever

I am finally done dealing with this years tomato crop. I brought the last of the red-ripe ones in the other day and then happened to catch an episode of The Chew where Daphne Oz made Creamy Tomato Soup and since the few I brought in weren’t enough to bother processing to can or freeze, I figured I might as well make them into soup.

The variety of large tomatoes I grew this summer were Rutgers, an heirloom tomato developed by, as the name suggests, Rutgers University in the 1930s. The variety became THE favorite for the canning industry and Campbell’s preferred it for their tomato soup.

And now I totally get why. They made superb soup. This variety is a keeper. High yield, disease resistant, good for eating straight up and for cooking. Thumbs up, Lyman Schermerhorn.

My house is a cave not meant for food photography. Those bit in the soup are wedges of cheesy, heavily toasted bread (oversized croutons).

Here’s the recipe via The Chew ….sort of? On that episode, Daphne used fresh tomatoes. And I don’t think she peeled them. I know I didn’t.  My “pantry anarchy” take on it was to sub half and half for heavy cream and I used veggie stock instead of chicken. I had both onions and garlic from the food pantry and fresh thyme and basil from the garden. Also, I pureed in the regular blender (the one sent to me by one of my readers, Rose! Thanks again, Rose🙂 )


I’m fine,just busy

I made a deal with a friend that I will start blogging here daily. She says I can’t just write a post about having electric and internet shut off notices and then be quiet for days after. I need to at least post a thing. Anything. “Even if it’s a stupid inspirational quote or to say how much the latest season of Arrow is not going as well as you’d like!”

Ok,so the good news is – I have electricity and Internet. I was just really busy trying to get my 80,000 lbs of tomatoes canned and winterizing the house. Winter is coming. I’m not happy about it but I’m dealing.

This is typical of what I’m pulling out of the garden every day now. I can’t even tell you how many herbs I’ve been able to harvest. It’s been too much to keep track of. I’m set for herbs for the rest of the winter, both culinary and medicinal. I still transplanted some into pots to keep inside for the winter. It helps to brighten my mood during the winter just to see them and smell them. And obviously it’s just awesome to be able to cook with fresh herbs all year long.

I forgot how water intensive canning is and ending up having to freeze a lot because of our water shortage here. I officially have no more room in the freezer, especially now that there’s ¼ deer in there (Thanks, Bruce). I saw a chest freezer(working) offered on Freecycle this morning but couldn’t arrange a truck to go get it. I think we’re going to need another freezer. Husbeast will hopefully get a deer of his own soon and I still have  more coming out of the garden.

I am honestly amazed that I come across people in the comments on Facebook who claim they work a full time job plus still “grow all their own food”. Either they’re lying or they don’t eat much. I’m working at home part time and not growing anywhere near ALL our food requirements. It’s really time consuming and a lot of work, especially when you throw in family life with kids.
(Psst: I think they’re lying or at least exaggerating profusely)

But anyway…that’s the gist of what’s been happening here. I’m fine!

Other good things that happened this past week/weekend:

  • My daughter came home from college for the long weekend.
  • I scored 2 bags & a box of clothes for the 6 yr old on Freecycle. The woman offering said they were “nothing special but good condition”. They turned out to all be really nice…and they’re all fall/winter clothes. Usually this time of year, the clothes offered are summer as people clear out for fall/winter
  • I took a huge garbage bag of clothes to our food pantry’s exchange closet. It always feels good to get rid of stuff. I brought home two nice and heavy blankets.
  • we went to the Mall to get things that daughter needs at college. Stopped in at Old Navy on a whim to browse their clearance rack. Found a pair of shoes for kidlet (this kid and shoes is a whole story in itself) that was marked $8.99. Got to the register and they rang up as 97¢. They were $1.01 with tax. I can’t even find beat up second hand shoes at the thrift store for that.
  • Other college-daughter (the one who lives at home) started a new job.

The bad news on that last bullet point is that now we won’t get SNAP after this month. Grr.



daily links: affordable veganism and other foodish things

The Economics of Veganism (+ Proof A Fine Vegan Meal Can Be Made Cheaply) – I promise even if you’re a skeptic of veganism ,you won’t hate this piece. Gena Hamshaw gives plenty of recognition to the high cost of produce and lack of accessibility for some while also showing some good idea of how it can be affordable. Gods love her for stating some of the flaws in SNAP challenges,too

In some of our leaner times, we’ve become what I termed “accidental vegans” and as a general rule we eat a lot of vegetarian meals because plant based proteins are so much more affordable. I feel like the disadvantage many might have making veganism work on a low budget is that time is a huge factor in preparation, and it does require a bit of food and cooking knowledge beyond the basic.

Fall Chili, Soups & Stew Recipes and Learn How to Make a Freezer to Slow Cooker Meal ~ Weekly Round-Up – 31 days of soups and stews. I say it all the time…soups and stews are some of the most inexpensive meals you can make and you can stretch a pot through the week . My other tips is to substitute beans if a recipe calls for meat you can’t afford.

21 Budget-Friendly Recipes Starring Rice — Recipes from The Kitchn – essential reading for me this week. Oh,boy.

33 Bowl Recipes to Keep Your Belly Full and Life Easy – I made one of these recently for myself to eat during the week for lunches. Really ideal if it’s just you or you and your partner and maybe one or 2 non-picky kids that can deal with their food not touching .

The Middle-Eastern Cookie That Caused a Panic in Pennsylvania– I’m glad the recipe is included in this article because I immediately knew I had to have some but didn’t want to create hysteria by having something written in Arabic hanging around my house.Heavens no..


I have an enormous bag of chickpea flour to use up, so I’ve been making things like this (basically pakora) . I might make this one this week but commit some pantry anarchy by using a buffalo wing sauce my local produce guy gave me as a free samples.

daily links::a food waste cookbook!, news on teen hunger, and more


There’s a cookbook called Amazing Waste with recipes entirely devoted to cooking with scraps,leftovers,etc. I haven’t had a chance to look through the entire thing yet but this looks like the kind of cookbook I would write. Am writing. These kinds of recipes are great for food pantry users (at least my food pantry) where you might end up with produce that is not the prettiest or freshest.

The entire cookbook is available for free RIGHT HERE.

Thanks to my local food waste reduction -anti hunger group Friendship Donations Network for passing along that info.

·:   Five Questions with JoAnne Berkenkamp, Food Waste Expert and Advocate  – there’s a lot of food waste going on but it’s getting better thanks to mainstream recognition and initiatives to reduce waste

:· some new research reveals some sad information about teenagers living in homes with food insecurity  . Even if teenagers do have access to programs that give them food,they’re too worried about what their peers will think to use them openly but also they are underserved by programs like The Backpack Program, which focuses on elementary aged kids. This is something touched on before here when one of our readers was trying to develop a program for older kids.

As a result, in households where hunger was most acute, teens reported engaging in all kinds of risky behavior to obtain food, including: shoplifting food directly, selling drugs for cash and/or engaging in “transactional dating,” i.e., engaging in sexual relationships with older adults in exchange for food and money. In a few communities, some teens even viewed going to jail as a viable option to ensure regular meals. The report also revealed the degree to which hungry teens look out for each other and for their younger siblings, often forgoing meals or sharing their food with those also in need.

Here’s a summary of the full report: Impossible Choices

My teenager’s high school made school lunch available for free to ALL students, regardless of income. If high schools did that widely, this would eliminate so much of these issues. Her school also has Free Food Friday where food donations picked up from a local rescue agency is available in the school lobby for anyone to take home. My daughter very rarely gets anything because it’s completely gone by the time she has a chance to check it out. Even when she is there on time, it’s difficult to get anything. No one is shy about taking food home. Now I have to wonder why these students have no reluctance to take free food. The school is a small charter school that focuses on sustainability and social justice (nope, don’t go off on me about how awful charter schools are) . Is it just that the culture of the school is centered on taking care or others and being stewards of the earth? A lot for me to think about there. I asked my daughter what she thinks and she says it’s because the school works hard to be a safe space for everyone and “no one judges people for things like that”.

Meanwhile in my community, the school district just expanded their Fresh Snack Program to include another school so that it now serves 1,200 elementary students. The Youth Farm Project (which one of my older kids worked at and let em tell you…that’s an AMAZING program) and other local farms provide a weekly snack to be served with the intention of expanding food horizons and food accessibility. It’s awesome.

My 6 year old was very critical of the yellow watermelon mentioned in the article linked above. He spent his summer growing his own watermelon, so he’s an expert now.

He’s a super proud watermelon farmer.  I think we actually have a couple left to harvest. I plan on making this watermelon pie. YESSSSSSSSS.

new food stamp amount: $221/month for a family of 5

We reapplied for food stamps at the end of May and finally got a decision this week. We were denied but then also approved in the same decision. Because I’m self-employed, they said the amount I made in May put us over the qualifying limit by $87 but then averaged the past 3 months of my income as a guideline of what I might typically make and that put us under the limit.

The other thing that changed is they do not include our twins on our SNAP case because they are full time college students who are not employed at least 20 hours a week yet. So, we’re on paper a family of five but I’m still buying groceries for a family of seven.

I’m confused about some of the rules for when someone is going to college. I was told by one person that if the twins are working at least 20 hrs/week this summer ,then they can be included on our SNAP case but then someone else told me that yes, BUT their income will also count as household income and that would probably put us over the qualifying limit. I’m guessing the latter is how that actually works.

Anyway, as it stands now we were approved finally and our amount will be $221 a month. That’s just short of 2 weeks of groceries for us. The USDA “Thrifty Family Meal Plan” guidelines say we should be spending about $970 for our family size per month but my food budget has been about half that for the past 6 months, sometimes even lower. It’s totally impossible without going to the food pantry every other week.

On the gardening front, things are slow but happening. We’re in a drought-like spell. I have no hose hookup at this house and I’m watering the garden by hauling jugs from inside the house. It takes forever and it’s not the same as a good soaking rain. Fortunately we know people who know how to do things and a friend is going to put a hose hookup in for us soon. This sounds like a much easier solution than my daughter’s suggestion of building an aqueduct or elaborate irrigation system.

So, adding to my $88 worth of rhubarb, I now have chives and chive infused vinegar.
15 oz dried chives-$28 (I arrived at this price by looking at the bulk spice prices at 2 local markets plus what’s available online)
16 oz of chive infused vinegar – $10
several bundles of fresh chives -$8

My husbeast has been fishing a lot lately,too. Having terrible luck catching anything worth keeping but this week another fisherman gave him a nice bass he didn’t feel like cleaning. That was a nice free dinner. I have no idea what a whole bass costs. A 12 oz package of sea bass is $23 where we usually shop but this isn’t exactly sea bass.
I need to remember to add the cost of his fishing and hunting license into my food production expenses tally. So far without that figured in, I’ve spent $120 on seeds,tools,and other gardening things.
I need to keep better track of time spent in the garden. Once I have a good idea of this,I’ll start putting a monetary value to that time,too. Two separate rates – migrant farm worker wage and living wage.






how i’m measuring garden successes

While weighing my rhubarb haul the other day, I started to think earnestly about what the best way is to measure success in the garden. I was weighing the rhubarb mainly out of curiosity. At the grocery stores here,  fresh rhubarb is currently around  $4/lb. I was just wondering what the dollar value of my rhubarb would be.( $80 so far, in case you were wondering,too)

Weighing what comes out of the garden seems to be the most used method for measuring food production success. We see it all the time on homesteading blogs and articles. “This family grew 2,000 lbs of food in their backyard!”. Totally an actual headline. But here’s what I’m thinking…is that really as impressive as it sounds? I mean, does that weight have pumpkins and tomatoes happening in it or is it a lot of  romaine lettuce and snap peas?

My rhubarb is valuable dollar wise and rhubarb is awesome to have. I have lots of plans for it but my family isn’t going to subsist on rhubarb alone. Spinach,though…. that’s something we eat a lot of. Spinach leaves are light. 8 oz costs around $3 here. It’s more expensive than rhubarb and more practically valuable for us but it’s never going to add a whole lot to any weight total. If I manage to grow even 5 lbs of spinach, that’s worth a confetti and streamers celebration to me.



Potatoes. We eat a lot of them,too. I decided not to grow a large amount of potatoes this year though because I can buy them pretty inexpensively from my favorite local produce vendor. Less than $10 for a 20 lb bag. If I was measuring my success by pounds, I could use the weight of potatoes on my side.

Weighing the garden harvest for just the sheer weight total feels disingenuous to me. The entire reason I am personally growing food is to alleviate the financial costs of feeding my family. It makes more sense for me to put dollar amounts on this. That’s weird for me because I hate equating dollars with value & success but here it will make sense.

I think stating the weight of garden wealth is also somewhat of a slap in the face to those who are growing with obstacles. Like very limited land or just balcony or patio space. Growing 12 oz of herbs might be a huge success, even if it’s not hefty. For that matter, everything we manage to grow can be a very huge deal.



rhubarb bonanza

I probably mentioned this already but the town historian tells us that years ago before the property we’re living at became neglected, this house had the best vegetable garden around for miles. She pointed out to this overgrown field near the pond as the former site. It’s so hard to believe looking at it now. When we moved in it was nothing but goldenrod and stupid scrubby bushes & prickers. Now that it’s spring and the field is renewing I’m finding few signs of what it formerly was.I’ll find a clump of daffodils or lillies coming up among dried stalks left behind by the goldenrod.

Monday I stumbled upon a beautiful row of rhubarb. A perfect row, a long ago gardener as it’s architect.


I started harvesting what was ready. I filled a clothes basket full.


Now I’m at the full on chopping stage, freezing and preserving most of it but looking forward to strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert tonight and apple-rhubarb muffins for the boys’ school snacks. My grandmother used to make rhubarb syrup that I loved. I’ll can some of that.
There’s plenty to share,too.



My multi-tasking media today:
::watching:: The Family. I started watching a few days ago, then found out yesterday it’s been cancelled but I’m in too deep now. Damn, Andrew McCarthy is great-creepy in this.
::podcast:: Season 2 of Serial. The general reaction from most people has been “meh. It’s not as good as season 1” but I’m into it so far.
::music:: Painted Shut, Hop Along