Nothing says the holidays like Christmas tree croutons!


Jazz up the holidays with basil Christmas tree croutons.

Nothing escapes the red and greening of the holidays in my house … including soup!

And roasted red pepper soup with Christmas tree-shaped pesto croutons is about as festive as you can get in the soup world. While soup may not be on your typical holiday menu, this velvety red potage from the Food Network is perfect for a cozy meal after a hard day of shopping at the mall or even better after an afternoon of shoveling the snow.

You say tomato. I say salsa. Hey, mistakes happen!

Mistakes happen … especially in the kitchen. And here at Soupalooza, we are not immune to the occasional “Holy Cow! What just happened here?”

Last week, I was invited to speak at the Vernon Hills Library on soup-making. I offered to bring samples, figuring there might be 20 people there. To my surprise (and delight), 90 people had signed up and there was a waiting list. (People love soup, what can I say?)

In any case, I decided to go with a pot of split pea and a pot of tomato — both would be easy to make and relatively inexpensive, considering the quantity. Off I went to the grocery store to buy canned fire roasted tomatoes, the killer ingredient for homemade tomato soup.

Soup or salad? With tomatillos and avocados, who cares?

This soup is really a salad dressing that never made it to the greens!

I don’t know if you’ve ever made something you liked so much, you started eating it right out of the mixing bowl, even before you finished preparing it.

That’s what happened when I made this tomatillo avocado salsa salad dressing. Yes, I know, this is a soup blog. However, I think this dressing is so healthy and scrumptious that it makes a great chilled summer soup.

In other words, it never made the journey from the food processor bowl to the salad greens!

Sprinkles on the cupcake? Yes or no?

Is is worth it to add that little something extra in your recipes?

Soupalooza’s most recent column in the Daily Herald focused on sprinkles on the cupcake. No, not real cupcake sprinkles! We are talking about the little extra something that can be found in some soup recipes.

You know, the ingredient you have to run to the store to buy and might be a tad on the expensive side.

One of the soups we focused on was an Apple, Onion, Cheddar Soup that called for calvados, an apple brandy from the Normandy region of France. A small bottle was $24 at the local liquor store. We tried the recipe with the calvados and we tried it without.

Give peas a chance. Part 2

Snap peas make a delightful summer soup, especially when you add Marmite.

My soup and yoga mentor, Catriona, gave the split pea soup a try and here’s what she had to say:

I was so enthused by the green pea soup, I made a batch of it this afternoon!  The caraway seeds make such a difference.  I also put in 3 bay leaves and, because I know they would be the first words Bob’s would ask,  I chopped up a couple of slices of ham.  Exceedingly yummy.

Give peas a chance

Pea soup doesn't need a hambone to have full flavor and richness.

Soupalooza published its second column in the Daily Herald  … this time we focused on split pea soup, admittedly a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. As a matter of fact, Daily Herald Editor John Lampinen wrote on his facebook page:

There are two phenomena I never will understand: 1) People who can smoke one cigarette every couple of months. And 2) people who will eat split pea soup without a gun pointed at their heads…. But if somehow you’re part of the latter phenomenon, our soup columnist has a creative suggestion for you.


Let’s hop on the beet bandwagon!

If you are new to beets, borscht is a good place to start.

I am a latecomer to the whole beet thing. It’s not that I didn’t like them. I just didn’t know them.

Turns out I am not alone. According to The Salt, National Public Radio’s food blog, 2011 was a pretty good year for beta vulgaris.

 Daniel Zwerdling writes:

 Some farmers markets say beet sales have surged since January, and they’ve doubled over the past few years. And it seems like every restaurant across the country serves beets these days — especially the ubiquitous beet salad.

Welcome Daily Herald fans!

Use canned roasted tomatoes for a soup that is mmm-mmm good.

This is a big day for soupalooza. The Daily Herald is running our column once a month on soup. We decided to start with a favorite …. cream of tomato soup. We showcase a great recipe from our guru Mark Bittman of the New York Times (you can never go wrong with Mark).

Soupalooza tinkered with Mark’s recipe a tad by using canned roasted tomatoes and it is awesome …. even better than the kind in the red and white can. Really!  Hard to imagine, but it is almost as easy and twice as yummy. Check out the column in the Daily Herald. We are so excited!

Swiss Chard Redux

OK, so every time I make this soup, it turns out differently. But it is delicious each and every time.

Here’s my question for you, fellow soup savants:  Why is it when you  remake a tried and true soup recipe, the end results can turn out so differently?

I know. I know. We soup lovers like to make soup because, well, because it’s a little more free flowing than, say, baking puff pastry.  Add a little here. Adjust. Toss in some more water. A splash of lemon , a pinch more salt …

In the Soup with Picasso

Picasso's "Le Soupe" is currently part of "The Steins Collect" exhibit.

Once I started thinking about soup, I started seeing soup everywhere.

Even in an art museum.

On a recent trip, I decided to take in “The Steins Collect,”  an exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It’s an amazing landmark collection of the holdings of Gertrude Stein and her two brothers.  The Steins were great patrons of the Parisian Avant-Garde and collected Picasso, Matisse and Cezanne, to name just a few.