Comfort and Joy


I can’t believe it.

Christmas is almost here and with it, the end of another year. I, like a lot of folks, become very reflective during this time of the year.

There were the highs, like The G-Man and I celebrating our five year wedding anniversary:

On the very roof where we said, "I do" 5 years ago. A perfect night then and a perfect night now.
On the very roof where we said, “I do” 5 years ago. A perfect night then and a perfect night now.

Meeting new friends, like Robert and Donna of The Gourmet Goombahs food truck:

The Chief Goombah and chef, Robert, with The G-Man. Robert's cannoli are off the hook! (for locations follow them on twitter @GGoombahs)
The Chief Goombah and chef, Robert, with The G-Man. Robert’s cannoli are off the hook! (for locations follow them on twitter @GGoombahs)

And of course,  one of my favorite things about Christmas-the opportunity to play Secret Santa to children in need, thanks to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree and the CMPD/107.9 The Link’s joint effort for Santa’s Link to Kids:

Merry Christmas, kids. Santa loves you :)
Merry Christmas, kids. Santa loves you 🙂

 

Of course, there’s the tree, which always makes the house feel so festive and cheery:

Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree!
Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree!

And we can’t forget about Santa’s reindeer:

Coco always dreamed of joining Santa's team...She may be small, but she's scrappy...
Coco always dreamed of joining Santa’s team…She may be small, but she’s scrappy…

There have been family outings, the Black Friday weekend hilarity with my Mom and Sis-all of the fun and laughter that to me are the things that really make the holiday season special.

But with all the joy that the season heralds, I cannot help but feel an overwhelming sadness.

I hurt for the families that lost loved ones in the tragedy in Newtown.

The day after, I prepared lunch for my husband, who was laid up with a hurt back. I wanted to cook something special to make him feel better. I guess it’s an Italian thing. When someone is hurting, physically or emotionally, we cook for them. When I am troubled or have a bad day, I cook and it makes me feel better. I decided to come up with a recipe for a creamy tomato soup, partially because he loves tomato soup and partially because the ritual of making a pot of soup provided something that made sense. As I chopped, prepped and measured in the quiet kitchen, I felt a sense of peace and order. I thought of the kids and teachers who lost their lives trying to protect them.

I wept.

I prayed.

I wept some more.

And I thought of my husband, who was hurting in a different way, and how this simple pot of soup would be a comfort to him. Would it take away the searing pain in his back? No. But it would give him a sense of warmth and comfort knowing that the person he loves most in the world was doing everything she could to make it better.

Creamy, Dreamy Tomato Bisque
Creamy, Dreamy Tomato Bisque

Creamy, Dreamy Tomato Bisque

 The Badass says: “Nothing beats a nice hot bowl of homemade soup on a cold day. Try this one with grilled cheese sandwiches for a complete meal that will chase the winter blues away!”

Here’s what you need:

4 TBS butter

2 small onions, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, finely minced

1 tsp salt

½ cup Arborio rice (this is the thickening agent-cool, huh?)

1 cup white wine

2-28 oz cans crushed tomatoes

2 cups low sodium chicken stock

½ tsp white pepper (fresh cracked if you can)

1 TBS pureed basil leaves (you can find basil paste in the produce section of your grocery store)

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

dash of Tabasco

3 tsps Worcestershire sauce

1 ¼ cup light cream, heated

3 TBS butter, cubed

You’ll also need:

A large pot (at least 4 quarts)

And here’s what you do:

In the large pot, melt the 4 TBS of butter on high heat. Add the onion and salt, lower heat to medium and cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until soft and light golden. Add the rice and garlic and cook for another minute or two, stirring constantly, until rice is golden. Add the wine, cook for a minute and then add the tomatoes, chicken stock, pepper, basil, Tabasco and cheese and cook on medium for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and puree until smooth. (The easiest way to do this is with an emersion or stick blender right in the pot but if you don’t have one, you can transfer the soup to a blender and puree-just be careful and be sure to cover the cover of the blender with a kitchen towel and hold it down as you puree to prevent any spattering.)

When the mixture is smooth, heat the cream (about 1.5-2 minutes in the microwave should do the trick-you want the cream to be hot, but not boiling).

Now, using a ladle, carefully add a ladleful of the tomato mixture to the hot cream, mix thoroughly and then add the cream mixture to the pot. Stir to combine. Add the 3 TBS of cubed butter and Worcestershire, stir and lower the heat to low. Let soup cook for another 30 minutes and taste. Add salt to taste if needed. **Total time, including prep is about 90 minutes. Makes 3 quarts**

Comfort comes in many forms. It’s not a magical band-aid that “makes it all better”. But it does let someone know that you care. That if you had a magic wand, you would make it all better.

Everyone has something special-a “magic wand” of sorts that they can share to help bring comfort to others in need. Some folks have the gift of music. Some know just the right words to say. Others can dance or are amazing artists. For me, it’s the ability to not only feed the body, but to also feed the soul through my cooking. Whatever your “magic wand” may be, I challenge you to share it with someone who needs it.

Use your light to overcome the darkness.

Share comfort and experience joy.

This year, more than ever, I am so very thankful for all I have. Nope, my life isn’t perfect. Most days, the house is out of order and I come home from the day job too exhausted to write, sometimes even to cook.

And sometimes I wonder if the dreams I have for my life will ever come to fruition.

But then I  think about all I do have.

An amazing family.

The love of a truly good man.

And the new friendships I’ve formed through this blog.

All of that makes me so very blessed and so very grateful that it makes the other stuff I worry about seem so small.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season. And to the folks of Newtown, you are in my heart, thoughts and prayers. May you all experience healing, comfort and joy this season and beyond.

Much love and many blessings,

a

xoxoxo

 

 

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