Monday, March 28, 2011

Homemade Tomato Soup

In my quest to less dependent on pre-made foods I decided to make my own tomato soup. It's one of my favorite soups to pair with a sandwich. We had ours with a turkey club. Yum!

2 can diced tomatoes, undrained (or use fresh tomatoes diced)
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 tsp. minced garlic or 2 cloves minced
2 dashes salt
pepper to taste
2 dashes basil
1 dash parsley
1 1/2 dash celery seed
2 Tbs. sugar
2 c. milk
2 dashes onion powder
more salt and pepper to taste

Combine 1st eight ingredients in large sauce pan. Heat on medium-low heat, uncovered, 30 minutes. Process through a food mill or food processor for creamier soup (omit step for chunky soup). *I prefer using a food mill because it will remove the seeds and skins rather than chop them up like the food processor.* Return to pot and add sugar. Cook until sugar is blended on medium-low heat. Add milk and remaining spices, heat through.
If using this as a freezer meal, don't add the milk or other spices. From frozen, let thaw, add milk and spices and heat through.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Exploring the Natural State

Well I'm finally getting around to sharing the rest of my spring break adventure. My husband's parents have only been to Arkansas a few times and have never been able to really get to see much other than our house. So we took them somewhere different every day and had a blast. I'm a little exhausted but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. So you already know we went to Altus. Here is the rest of our Arkansas Adventure.

Day 2: Mt. Magazine State Park
We ate lunch at the Lodge and walked around for a while.
Mt. Magazine Lodge
View from the top

Day 3: Historic Fort Smith
We walked along the Riverfront Park, visited the Judge Parker Museum, and stopped by the Fort Smith Museum of History for an old fashioned soda at the 1920's soda shop.

Day 4: Petit Jean State Park
We hiked down to Cedar Falls and had a lovely picnic lunch by Lake Bailey.
Cedar Falls at Petit Jean
I have so much more planned for the next time the In-Laws come to town. Living out of Arkansas for a while has made me appreciate all the fun things to do here and made me remember why I loved them so much as a kid. I am so excited to be able to share many of the same memories with my little bear.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wine Country

The In-Laws are in for the week, their spring break, so I decided to show them a side of Arkansas most people don't know exists: Arkansas Wine Country! We went to the one and only Altus, Arkansas. If you haven't ever been to Altus I highly recommend it. If you enjoy free wine tasting and seeing a little bit of Arkansas history this is the place for you. We visited three of the wineries: Wiederkehr Wine Cellars, Post Familie Vineyards, and Mount Bethel Winery. All three vineyards are family owned by the original Swiss and German families who immigrated to America in the 1880s. You can go to free wine tastings and tours. Each one has its own "highlight." Here are mine for each:
Wiederkehr: the restaurant is located in the original hand-dug wine cellar and you get to see the two original casks the founder brought from Switzerland.
Post: a great variety for tasting (Wiederkehr's has 5 pre-chosen samples), you get to pick what you want, and they offer samples of their grape juices (i.e. something fun for those not able to participate in the wine tasting)
Mount Bethel: the tasting is done in the original 1880s root cellar that was converted in the 1950s, and we got to chat with Peggy Post, one of the many offspring of the Mrs. Jacob Post. Peggy told us all about the family, some fun memories she had of the many grape festivals, and her rather large family of more than 90 first cousins! Very fun experience.

Probably the best thing about the local wineries is Muscadine Wine. Muscadines are a grape almost exclusively grown in the south. Their skins are much tougher than normal grapes and have a unique, woody flavor. As kid I used to find these growing wild on our property and they always remind me of home.

If you are ever in Arkansas, stop by Atlus and try a little muscadine wine!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Creamy Yogurt

So last year I started straining my yogurt. Sounds strange I know but it makes for extra creamy yogurt. Simply line a colander with 1-2 coffee filters and place it inside a larger bowl. Then dump your container of yogurt (usually plain or vanilla) in the colander. Place in the refrigerator for a few hours. Depending on how much excess water is in your brand of yogurt you'll either be left with a puddle of water in the bowl or just wet coffee filters. Pour your extra creamy yogurt back into its original container and enjoy your better, creamier yogurt.