Homemade Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Today, I wanted to share a soup that’s become a staple at my apartment.  I originally learned about the recipe from Chrissy Teigen’s insta {Christine’s unite!}, who actually got it from celebrity chef, Ina Garten {The Barefoot Contessa}.  It’s her Roasted Tomato Basil Soup.

This is hand’s down the best tomato soup I have ever had, and I’m pretty much convinced it’s the best that I ever will have.  It’s definitely a soup to make on a Sunday afternoon when you have some time.  So throw on some good music, and get to cookin’.

Side note:  My favorite cooking music is Pandora’s station, Carolina Beach Music.  It’s actually the only reason I still use Pandora.  We used to listen to it all of the time at La Famiglia {where I worked in college}, and it brings back some of the best memories.

{this was also a great opportunity to use my new cameraaaa}

Below are the ingredients (info taken from the link above):

3 pounds of ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup AND 2 tablespoons of good olive oil
1 Tbsp of kosher salt
1 1/2 tsps freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsps unsalted butter
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-oz) canned plum tomatoes with their juice
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 quart chicken stock or water

Instructions:

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

and then viola…

While the tomatoes are roasting, chop the remaining ingredients as needed

I loved how much fresh basil was used!


In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.

and then about 40 minutes later you’ll get this…

I don’t exactly have a food processor, but my Ninja worked just fine for the job.

This will make about 6-8 hearty servings of tomato soup.  Like with any food, if you’re eating it repeatedly for days in a row, it’s easy to get burnt out.  With that being said, I normally freeze some.  In addition to the thickness making it extremely filling, it also allowed Jimmy and me to get creative with it.  A few days after making it, we used it as sauce for Chicken Parm {Jimmy makes a mean Chicken Parm}.  Having this soup as the sauce made the chicken extra delicious!

It’s going to be a dreary week in this part of the Carolina’s, so some homemade soup will do just the trick to pass the weathery blues!

Have any of you ever made this soup before?  What are some of your favorite homemade soups?

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Feel Better Tea

It’s that time of year.  Everyone around you is getting sick.

On Monday morning, at least four of my coworkers that sit immediately around me came to work complaining about sore glands, throats, noses, heads, etc.  After staying as far away as possible {bye Felicia}, I decontaminated my area.  Unfortunately, around lunch time yesterday I was feeling a little…off.  You know, when you’re not sick {yet}, but from the eyes up you can feel your head getting foggy.

Dun, Dun, Duuuuuuuun.

I refuse to be sick.  On top of that, I refuse to hastily reach for Nyquil when I’m not feeling my best.  It’s au naturel for as long as possible.  That means teas, extra sleep, vitamin C, and yes, garlic cloves.

Haven’t you ever heard the saying– Swallow a couple garlic cloves, put on some red lipstick, and throw yourself together?

Pretty sure that’s how it goes.

Whenever I’m not feeling well I will always make this tea as a cold remedy.  There are plenty of variations of this all over the web.  I’m not sure where it originally came from, but below are the measurements that I use.

8oz {a mug full} of hot water
2 Tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp of Raw Honey
The juice of one lemon
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 green tea packet or 2 Tbsp of loose leaf green tea

It wasn’t until I put everything together to take a picture that I realized that I might have a Trader Joe’s problem {but is it really a problem?}

Each one of these ingredients helps heal the body in a variety of ways.  The apple cider vinegar alkalizes the body to help kill bacteria, cinnamon is an effective antiviral, the raw honey is full of anti-oxidants and nutrients {vs. other shelf honey because it has not been pasteurized yet, which kills all kinds of important benefits}, and then hot tea/lemon water help boost the immune system and loosen ya up.  I prefer green tea when you’re feeling under the weather.

In addition to the tea, make sure you’re getting tons of rest, drinking lots of water, sweating it out {ahem..exercise!}, and properly nourishing your body– even if you’re craving starchy foods or have lost your appetite.  {Say no to starchy foods!!!}

Of course, if you’re truly, disgustingly on your “death bed”, go to the doctor.  I’m not a medical professional.  However, I like to do everything I possibly can before booking that appointment.

Also, Hot Toddy’s work.  But let’s be healthy here.  Try the Feel Better Tea first.

What are some of your favorite natural wellness recipes and tricks?

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A Very Grinch-y Recovery Drink ‘N Other Festive Shakes

After a nice, long, and unseasonably warm 5 mile run yesterday, I came up with this incredibly tasty recovery drink.  It’s Christmas in your mouth.

Below are the ingredients:

1 cup of coconut water
1 banana
1 Tbsp of cocoa powder
2 Tbsp of Almond Butter
1 Tbsp of Flax Seeds
1 Handful of Spinach
1 Candy Cane {or a few drops of mint extract}

Did I add cocoa powder, peppermint, and spinach {for the green-effect} in my Ninja just so I can say it’s a “Grinch Themed” bev?

Yes, yes I did.

Keeping in line with the holiday spirit, I’m quickly reminded of the two other smoothies that I created last year while writing the Marshall Rec blog…the Peppermint Mocha Protien Smoothie and the Cranberry Salad Protien Smoothie {yes, inspired by Grandma’s Cranberry Relish Salad}.

Another seasonal drink I’ve been interested in trying was recently posted on Fabletics’ Insta a few days ago.  Doesn’t this Gingerbread Smoothie looks to die for?

The ingredients:

1 cup almond milk
2 pitted dates
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1.8 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup ice

What do you guys think?

Any holiday smoothies/bev’s your currently crushing over right now?
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Nutty Soup && Christmas Vacation

Last night I rushed home from work because I had BIG plans.

My frat bros and I were going to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at 7pm.  Always all about that Christmas spirit.  First, I wanted to make sure I squeezed in a quick workout, so I hopped on YouTube and completed the Tone It Up Kettletoning workout that I talked about a few weeks ago.

{Yep, there’s a little sneak peek of my headboard!  I’m obsessed with it, but to be honest I want to wait until I have better pillows so the pictures turn out all pretty…gotta wait until it’s in the budget}.

Then it was time for dinner.  I was initially inspired by a post from the Women’s Health Insta account earlier {blogger, Keri Glassman, took over for the day}.  Knowing I wanted a warm but hearty meal, I decided to heat up some organic creamy tomato soup from Trader Joe’s, but with a twist.

Flax seed and nuts for added nutrition!  Right now I only have these cashew pieces, so I added a handful {1/4 cup-ish} of cashews and a tablespoon of flax seeds to the soup while it was warming.

I also sauteed the rest of my brussels sprouts with a little garlic, S&P, and raw honey.  It was deeelish!

Top the soup off with some fresh parsley and you’re good to go.  This was the first time I’ve ever added anything like this to soup, but I was incredibly please/shocked/full with the new addition.  It will definitely be something that I will continually add to my soup in the future.

As I’ve said before…I have no pretty bowls, but I have tons of pretty mugs.  So we’re gonna mug the soup today {for the pictures sake}.

And that about sums up my night…cashew infused soup, honey brussels sprouts, water, wine, Christmas Vacation, and a pine scented candle.  Pretty much everything I wanted last night in one picture.

What did you guys have for dinner last night?  What are some of your favorite Christmas movies?

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Healthy Cranberry Relish Salad

Since it’s my first time back to the blog since the weekend, let me first start out by saying…We Are…

CHAMPIONS!

Wahoo!  After an at times stressful, nail-biting, almost get a noise complaint from your neighbors type of game, I can proudly say that The Thundering Herd are CUSA Champions!  I was freaking out, jumping up and down on the couch and running around my apartment like a crazy person after the W.  Not to mention, I was riding such an adrenaline high that there was a solid thirty minutes of my life where I was about to drive up to Huntington for the night {both Jimmy and Andrew went up for the weekend}.  Long story short I didn’t go, but I’m still so proud of the Herd.  Ready for the Boca Bowl on the 23rd…

Today I wanted to share a healthy holiday family recipe, passed down from my grandmother.  It’s one of my favorite holiday sides, and extremely simply to make.  There isn’t a holiday where I don’t remember this being on the table.  If you’re not a cranberry person, this thing will change your perspective the festive fruit.

Prep pic from Thanksgiving

Ingredients:

\\ 1 bag of cranberries, washed
\\ 4-6 {organic} apples, diced
\\ 1 can of unsweetened, crushed pineapple
\\ 3-4 cups of Red Seedless grapes, halved*
\\ 3/4 cup-1 cup of walnuts, chopped*

*amount adjusted to your own personal preference

Directions:

1.  In a food processor, grind cranberries until fine.
2.  Chop apples and halve or quarter the grapes.
3.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

See!  Super simple, and not to mention delicious.

And here’s a much prettier picture of the salad…

This holiday season, make sure that this side makes it to your table.   This is just one of my grandmother’s many amazing recipes.  She was such an incredible woman {and not to mention cook} and I’m proud to be able to share this with you all today.

Happy Holidays, from my family to yours.

What are some of your favorite holiday sides?  Any family traditions out there?

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Spaghetti Squash How-To

Spaghetti Squash in the house!

Thought I would stop in today and leave a quick little how-to on some spaghetti squash.  It’s going to pop up on the blog more than a few times, so I decided to get this out of the way so that it can be a quick reference throughout space and time.

Spaghetti Squash {also known as Winter Squash} is the perfect alternative to any spaghetti noodle/pasta dish.  I always remember my mom making it growing up, but I never realized how “health forward” it was until I found this to be my passion as well {healthful living, that is…not so much spaghetti squash}.  Coming in at about 30 calories a cup and virtually zero fat, you’d be foolish to not give it a try…and it’s super easy to make.  Typical to my “make ahead” mentality, even if I don’t have a plan to cook the squash for a certain meal, I’ll make it in bulk and have it on hand to use as a base for any meal throughout the week.

Here are the basic steps to making Spaghetti Squash:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 and fill a 13×9 baking dish with water about half way.

2.  Slice the squash in half “long ways” and scoop out the guts {seeds, insides, etc} and sprinkle with any combo of spices that you want.  For a basic squash I use garlic salt, pepper, onion powder, and Italian seasoning.  Then flip the squash, open side, down.

and thennnn….

3.  Bake upside down for 40 minutes, remove from oven and pour out the water/flip the squash halves right side up and let cool.

4.  Once they have cooled, use a fork and scrap out the meat.  To every first timer’s shock and awe, the squash will shred and resemble that of noodles!  Serve as a dish with any marinara, pesto, meat veggie combo or store for later use.

When I’m making it in bulk, I’ll just put it all in a Tupperware container so I can pull out one, beautiful 31 calorie a cup at a time for a meal.

Two recipes in a row?  Who’s blog is this?

Hope you guys enjoy this basic how-to, and spaghetti squash as much as I do.  Just a head’s up, while this is a great substitute, taste wise, this won’t exactly resemble the carb-ey goodness of pasta.  However, if you’re considering spaghetti squash, that’s probably not the top priority on your list anyway.

Have you ever made spaghetti squash before?  What are your favorite ways to serve it?

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Make Ahead Egg Frittata

Today’s recipe will help you ‘Daylight Savings Time’ your morning…okay, so it won’t give you an extra hour…but it will definitely save you some time once the rooster crows.  The basic recipe here is for an egg frittata, but the beauty of it is, you can mix and match any veggies/meat that you want!  This recipe is made for a small, cast iron skillet.  For this particular frittata, I believe I used red onion, red bell pepper, asparagus, a handful of spinach, and maybe some yellow squash.  To be honest, I eyeballed the amount of veggies that I used…basically enough to fill the pan 1/4 to 1/2 of the way full.

Here are the few, basic instructions for this simple frittata.

1.  In the cast iron skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of coconut oil and cook the veggies until they are completely cooked through.  Also, make sure you spread the coconut oil around enough so that the skillet is coated on both the bottom and the sides {allowing for the frittata to slide out of the skillet easily when the time comes}.

2.  Once the veggies are cooked enough, add 6 scrambled eggs into the pan, and cook over medium heat on the stovetop until the the sides of the frittata have cooked through and start to separate from the skillet itself.  While this is all happening make sure you’re heating the oven up to 375.

3.  Insert frittata in the oven {skillet and all} for about 10 minutes {keep an eye on it, based on how “cooked/browned” you want the eggs…people have their preferences}.

4.  Once it is cooked to your liking, remove from oven {grab an Ove Glove…anyone remember those?}, and let cool.  Slide the frittata out of the skillet and cut into slices.

Obvi you can eat this ASAP, but I like to make this ahead of time and have a slice for breakfast for a few days in a row {pair with a healthy muffin or some chia pudding and you got yourself a nutritious b-fast}.

Look at the eggy-goodness.  When I went to Huntington for the Jimmy Buffet concert in July my friend Jess made a frittata with sweet potatoes and spicy sausage…it was unreal.  I love frittata’s because the options are basically endless.

Have you ever made a frittata before?  What ingredients do you like to use?

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Costume Dilemma

Started the morning off with another round of spin class and a smoothie.  I was craving something sweet but I don’t have any berries/sweet fruit on deck…so I settled with this:

1 Banana, 1 cup of almond milk, 2 Tbsp flax seeds, 1-2 handfuls of organic spinach, 1/2 an avocado, 1 Tbsp of raw honey, 1/4 cup of shredded coconut, and a few dashes of cinnamon.  A surprising combination of ingredients that is actually a creamy, dreamy breakfast smoothie.  It almost tastes like a “healthy” batter, if you can believe that.

Now, on to the hard stuff.

I don’t know what to wear for Halloween this year.  Don’t tell anyone….but I was thinking about not dressing up as anything at first {gasp!}.  I absolutely love Halloween and dressing up, but as of last week I didn’t have any set plans so I didn’t know if it was worth it.  Since then plans have been made and one of my best friends from high school, Ali, is coming to town to visit….now making it costume crunch time.

I should mention that I take Halloween Costume-ing very seriously…check out the Christine Halloween Archive…

Street Sign in 2011 {w/ my friend Dem…who was a 10-yd field marker with her boyfriend…he was chained to her ankle about 10 yards away, dressed identically}…and I’m assuming that was a real street marker.  I found it in the attic of my old college house.

Chef Boyardee in 2012 w/ my second Italian Fam…love those guys.  I miss that job every day.  Also, I didn’t tell anyone except for my close friends that I was dressing up like this.  No one recognized me, it was pretty interesting to just roam the streets of Huntington that night incognito.

As Walter White w/ my friend Jess {as Jessie} in 2013 {say my name…}

See.  Christine don’t play when it comes to Halloween.

Ali and I have been going back and forth on what we should do…she sent me this pic last night for a “candy rapper” costume {not sure where she got it from}.

Get it?  Candy…on a rapper?  Candy Rapper?  I still have no props or clothing for a costume yet, but mark my words I will have something by the end of the week.  I had fun browsing the Internet today, and checking out some options.  Are you still short on costume ideas?  Check out these links below:

Her Campus:  16 Funny Halloween Costume Ideas

Refinery 29:  11 Costume Ideas No One Else Will Have

Mental Floss:  55 Awesome Halloween Costume Ideas

What do you guys think of the Candy Rapper idea?  What are you dressing up as for Halloween this year?

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Build Up Your Blog Inspiration

After another sweaty 5:30am RPM class, I started today off with a little veggie scramble…eggs/egg whites, asparagus, spinach, and red onion with a little bit of the organic seasoning salt that my Aunt Susi sent me.  Would you believe me if I said that this is all I have in my fridge right now?  Weekend trips really cut into my grocery shopping process.

Today I wanted to share a recent motivational step that I’ve taken in a blogging sense.

Recently, I’ve been finding myself at a crossroads for the blog.  I want it to grow and take it further, however I’ve been feeling like I’m on a stationary bike…going through the motions, pedaling, pedaling, pedaling {or in this case, writing, writing, writing}…but where is it exactly that I’m going?  In addition to my crazy schedule and time constraints, I haven’t been able to give it the attention that it deserves, and before I know it, days have gone by before I’ve done anything productive {in a blogging sense, I mean}.

This kills me.  Between spending the past two-ish years building and writing the Marshall Campus Rec Blog, as well as starting my own since moving to Charlotte {heya, Skinny Fingers!}, I know that this is something that I’m passionate about.  The fact that I’ve been unable to focus on something that makes my soul happy has been weighing on me heavily, to the point where I wasn’t sure where to even start anymore.

Enter The Fitnessista’s Build Up Your Blog, ebook.  I first learned about this ebook’s recent release while browsing through one of my personal favorites, Peanut Butter Fingers, blog.  I was hemming and hawing on whether or not I should download it for a few days.  Then I bit the bullet yesterday morning and purchased it, thinking, “if not now, when?”.  It is a 70 page ebook full of great blogging advice, and I’m so glad I got it…I’ve already read it cover to cover!

Small tip:  While I loved this ebook, if you don’t have a blog or no interest in starting one, this might not be the book for you….but who knows, if you’ve been sitting on your hands about the whole thing, maybe this will inspire you to get started!

Check out ‘Build Up Your Blog’ here!

On top of the fact that I love Gina’s blog, I also love the fact that she addresses the book as advice from a friend.  Filling it with tips and tricks that she wishes she would have known from the start/advice from one blogging friend to another.  It has given me so much inspiration, and a better idea of what changes I need to make, that might not only help me feel better in terms of how I’m treating my blog, but how to make it grow.  I have absolutely nothing on the agenda this upcoming weekend, so I plan on relaxing and taking some time to work on my bebe.  After two back to back weekends of traveling, I can’t think of anything more that I would want to do.  {but I do really miss my fraaandss!}

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Have any of you read Gina’s book?  What are some other blog-inspiring sources of info for you all?  {blogs, books, ebooks, newsletters??}  Let’s share the blogging love!

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Make Ahead Experiments

Before we get started today, check out this guilty pleasure that I sprung for at Trader Joe’s.

Not vodka…pumpkin spice coffee.  I’m all out of coconut creamer {apparently everyone is loving it as much as me…it’s always out of stock}.  For now, I’m just using unsweetened vanilla almond milk with my coffee.  I love the Coffeemate Pumpkin Spice Creamer (it’s basically candy), but since it has dairy, I try to avoid it and only use it every now and then.  This coffee still gives me that warm, fuzzy, holiday feeling, sans dairy {doesn’t taste as “candy-like”, just FYI, but it’ll do}.

As my schedule continues to adjust, I am starting to get less and less time in the mornings.  This means less time to take my time cooking breakfast, blogging, and getting other things done before heading to work {like watching Live!  With Kelly and Michael}.  This also means getting home a bit earlier {aka between 8 and 9pm}, which is inconvenient as well because 9pm is not a time to cook dinner.  At the rate I go, it won’t be done until 10, and I don’t want to eat dinner and go straight to bed.  So I decided to test out some make ahead meals a while back and I wanted to let you in on how they went {both recipes from PaleoOMG}.

Action shot

Make ahead meal 1:  Stuffed Acorn Squash {for breakfast…two meals}

Click the link for the full recipe {only 5 ingredients!}

While this one still took a little cooking in the morning, I followed every step except when I had to bake the half of squash with the egg.  When it came time to eat, I pulled out the squash, baked the egg inside it and viola!

Hint:  Since you will be keeping these in the fridge over a period of time, zap the half of the squash in the microwave before cooking {learned that the hard way the first time}.  It will take forever for the egg to cook otherwise because of the “cold” squash.

Make ahead meal 2:  Pumpkin Cashew Coconut Curry over Coconut Rice {4-5 meals}

Sometimes at work they buy us lunch if we’re busy so we can keep working.  Most of the time it’s pizza and pasta {and by the time I get to it, it’s cold}.  On top of the fact that I don’t want to eat it anyway, it also makes me feel like a pile of doodoo for the rest of the day, and counterproductive.  To avoid this, I pack my lunch on the busy days.  This was also nice to have once I got home in case I hadn’t eaten dinner yet.  I could just grab and grub.

Here’s my lunch at work.  Man, does this recipe reaffirm my love for cauliflower rice.  I’ve never really liked rice that much anyway {except for fried rice…doesn’t count}.  But cauliflower rice is something that I can get on board with.

If you’re in a time crunch like me, these make ahead meals are sure to save you on time, your wallet, and the scale.

Have you guys tried these recipes before?  What are some of your favorite make ahead meals?

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