Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Tortellini

Let me start by saying that I’m not a food blogger. Nor am I a food stylist or a food photographer. But everyone has to eat; and I have a few favorite recipes that are worth sharing. So I bring you the first food post on my new blog. Hopefully, I’ll figure out a bit more of the food styling/food photography stuff as I go, but I’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Tomato Basil Soup

There’s no better place to start than with comfort food. This time of year, I pretty much want to eat soup every night. And when the soup is this good, it might be possible. I’m not really one for inventing recipes; but I do take a good recipe and play with it until I make it my own. This is my version of the Summer Tomato and Basil soup found in the Nordstrom Friends and Family cookbook (I think it may be out of print now, so I’m holding on really tight to my copy), but you can still find a few floating around on Amazon.

Tomato Tortellini Soup

A couple helpful tips when you’re making this soup:

  • The original recipe calls for low-sodium chicken broth, but I think the regular broth tastes better in this recipe.
  • Please, please, please be careful when puréeing your soup. There’s one kitchen ceiling in a California apartment that still wears the proof of the Blender Explosion of 2009. Seriously, this hot soup can knock the lid right off your blender. And I promise you, there’s nothing worse that hot soup flying all over your kitchen and body, so work in small batches, use the pulse button, and hold on tight! 
  • This recipe also works great with other types of pasta (orzo, farfalle, etc.) so use whatever you like. It’s also great without pasta. 

Creamy Tomato Soup

Here’s the recipe:

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Tortellini
The perfect comfort food for brisk fall days.
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Ingredients
  1. 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 5 carrots, peeled and chopped
  3. 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  4. 1 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
  5. 2 cans (28 ounces each) whole Italian-style tomatoes
  6. 2 cartons (48 ounces each) chicken broth
  7. 2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
  8. 2 cups heavy cram
  9. 1/2 tablespoon garlic salt
  10. large package of cheese tortellini
  11. Kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Cook the tortellini according to package directions, drain and set aside, or refrigerate.
  2. In a large stockpot, over medium heat warm the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot.
  3. Add the carrots, onion, and dried basil.
  4. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened. (about 20 min.)
  5. Drain the tomatoes, and add to the pot.
  6. Add 1 1/2 cartons of chicken broth (save the extra for later so you can adjust the consistency).
  7. Add tomato sauce and garlic salt
  8. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat & let cool for 20 minutes.
  10. Working in small batches, purée the soup in a blender or food processor.
  11. Return the pureed soup to the pot
  12. Add the cream
  13. Place over medium heat until heated through.
  14. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
Notes
  1. To make ahead: Make the soup, puree and stop before adding the cream. Put in a container and refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, return to heat, add the cream and proceed with the directions.
  2. Tip: I like my soup a bit thicker, so start slow with the chicken broth, you can always add more to make the soup thinner.
  3. Important: If your soup is still a bit warm when you purée it, make sure to use the pulse setting on your blender. And go slow! The hot soup can blow the lid off the blender. So hold on tight!
Adapted from Nordstrom Friends & Family Cookbook
Adapted from Nordstrom Friends & Family Cookbook
Christina Williams http://christinawilliamsblog.com/
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Meet the Maker: Sora Designs

I’m excited to introduce a new series: Meet the Maker. Every month, I’m interviewing one of my favorite makers. We’ll get a glimpse into their creative process and what inspires them to keep creating. First up, my friend Wen of Sora Designs.

Sora Designs

I first met Wen at the Kindergarten drop-off/pick-up. I noticed her right away, because she’s got this fresh, effortlessly-cool style. Just standing next to Wen, I knew I wanted to be friends with her. Pretty soon our sons became good buddies (their birthdays are even a day apart!) and then we followed suit and became friends, too. Wen makes the most gorgeous, fun jewelry and sells it all in her Etsy shop, Sora Designs; and she does frequent markets and shows in the Bay Area (and beyond). I’m lucky to call Wen my friend, and I can’t wait for you to get to know her, too.

Sora Designs

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Wen and I make colorful jewelry out of my home studio in the sunny San Francisco Bay Area. In my previous life, I was a senior research analyst working at the Judicial Council of California. Five years ago, I quit my day job and worked full time for my business, Sora Designs.

How did you get started making jewelry?

I knew from a young age my path in life should be in the arts, but opted for a career in academics. I came to the United States for graduate studies and eventually got my Ph.D. in early intervention from the Joint Doctoral Program at U.C. Berkeley and San Francisco State University. While in the graduate school, I started making jewelry as an innocent creative outlet for my mom, sisters and friends. My hands would always be busy sewing or knitting or wire wrapping or baking goodies if not working on my dissertation.

Sora Designs

Was it scary to take the plunge into selling your jewelry full-time? 

You bet it was very scary to switch tracks. However, my Etsy shop was getting momentum and I couldn’t keep it as a “side job” anymore. In addition, my son was only three years old at that time, so a flexible work condition was very attractive. Luckily, my husband was very supportive of my decision. Or maybe he already know where my heart was. He couldn’t really stop me anyway.

Describe a typical day at your house.

My schedule is really revolved around two things: Sora Designs and my 8 year old son. I think American school system is not designed for households with two working parents. There is constant pick up/drop off and school holidays. Someone needs to be there for the children. I feel so lucky that my schedule is flexible even though I put more hours into my work than when I was working for someone else (ha ha). So our typical weekday is: wake up at 6:45am, make breakfast, pack lunch, get my son to school by 8am, walk 30 minutes and stretch for another 15 minutes, check emails and answer customer questions, print orders and make to do list. I have two part time assistants help me on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday by making and packing orders. Having help is a huge improvement for my business so I can have Tuesday and Thursday working on new designs and finding materials. All packing has to be done by 2:40pm. Then I go pick up my son at school and go to the post office to drop off all the orders. We do some grocery shopping or go to his piano lesson or tennis lesson depending on the day of the week. Then we go home and make dinner. I usually have to check Etsy convos and answer some more questions in between. I might catch some Japanese drama online after Tomi goes to sleep at 9:00pm.

Sora Designs

What inspires you?

I draw inspiration from almost everywhere, but there are some central themes that are pretty constant. The first theme is floral and fauna. There is nothing like wandering through wispy branches, sculpted shrubs, and layers of blooming color and texture. I could lose myself in a garden or field for hours. They are the perfect juxtaposition of art and nature. You can see those components in my 3-D garden collections and all the critters and creatures in my designs. I also draw my inspiration from the hustle and bustle of city life. The walks in the park, cooking with family, shopping, stuffing my face with food from a new cafe in town, and always enjoying people watching. These have all inspired and shaped me to become the person that I am today. 

Sora Designs

What are some things you like to do with your family?

I like to cook with my family. I also like the fact that I am home when my 8 year old comes back from school. He also likes to make his own little craft projects while I am working on orders. The house feels so harmonious when both of us are working quietly on our own projects. On the weekend, I like to go hiking with my family and hang out at the coffee shop. We read our own books and doodle on napkins.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Believe it or not, I like to play with different materials for new designs in my spare time. I find I become stressful if I don’t have the time to just doodle on designs and experiment with findings. 

Not only is Wen an incredibly talented artist, and a beautiful person, but she’s got the kindest heart I know. She threw the most thoughtful going away party for me and the kids. Her son is this darling ball of sunshine. He’s smart and funny and so polite. We miss them both very much. Take a look at Sora Designs, and I know you’ll find a piece you can’t live without; Wen truly puts her heart into every single piece she makes. Thanks, Wen,  for giving us a glimpse into your creative process!

Find Sora Designs here:

EtsyFacebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest

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EYE like you

Eyeball Rings + Printable
I found these darling eyeball rings at the party store the other day, and I just couldn’t resist. I have a hoarding problem with wiggle-eyes. So when wiggle eyes are combined with plastic jewelry, I’m out of control. After the party store, I went next door to Michael’s and found the same thing, only tinier. Naturally, I had to grab some of those too. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them; I only knew that I needed them. I needed them like peanut butter needs jelly; like milk needs cookies; and like bloggers need top knots.

Eyeball Rings + Printable

Then we got the invitation to Charlotte’s preschool parade, and that was my solution. The eyeball rings will not go unused this Halloween season! Last year, some of the parents passed out goody bags while the kids were parading through the halls of the building. Being our first year at a new preschool, I had no idea of this parent-involved phenomenon, which left me feeling like a deadbeat mom. Never again, I say! Eyeball rings all around! Every Queen Elsa and Ninja Turtle that crosses my path will get a wiggle eye ring if it’s the last thing I do. I show my love by sharing my wiggle eye stash. That’s big.

Printable Halloween Tags

In previous years, we’ve taken little goody bags over to our cousins and best buddies who live too far away to trick-or-treat at our house; and the eyeball rings are definitely making the cut for this year’s swag bags. I also love that this is a non-candy surprise. Because the last thing any kid needs on Halloween is more candy. Right? I made a little printable, because that’s what I do. So go grab yourself a bag full of eyeball rings, print out some tags and spread some googly-eyed giggles. Click on the image above to download and print your eyeball tags.

Rings

These would be cute prizes for your class parties, birthday parties, or even a lunchbox surprise. I’ve been really into lunch box surprises lately. But this would be a good one. And just for the record, I know I used the same line last year: “EYE hope you have a Happy Halloween.” I really need to come up with some new material. Maybe next year. You can see last year’s tags on my old blog. But we’ve got a whole new set of friends this year, so there’s no harm in recycling, right?

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Stitched Ghost Napkins

Stitched Ghost Napkin

For my Friday Favorites post this week, I wanted to take it all the way back to 2009 when I made a little embroidered ghost onesie for my own Halloween baby. This time, I took the same ghost, added some wiggle eyes and put it on some dinner napkins. It was a really simple project. I made an entire set one night while catching up on my DVR queue.

Stitched Ghost Napkin Supplies

Want to make some embroidered ghost napkins? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • ghost pattern – draw a ghost on paper, and cut it out.
  • white chalk
  • small embroidery hoop
  • white embroidery floss + needle
  • scissors
  • black dinner napkins
  • wiggle eyes with shanks


Chalk Outline - Stitched Ghost NapkinsStep 1: Cut out the ghost pattern, and place it in the desired location on the napkin. Trace around it with chalk. Don’t worry about perfection. Ghosts are supposed to be a little wonky, right?

Stitched Ghost Napkins | Christina WilliamsStep 2: Secure your embroidery hoop around the ghost and get started. Follow the INSIDE of the ghost tracing for the most accurate pattern.

Note: I was going for uneven stitches for several reasons: 1) ghosts aren’t supposed to be serious and 2) I’m a little rusty and this is the best I could do. Although, if I weren’t riveted to the latest episode of New Girl, maybe my attention to detail may have been a bit better. So maybe we should just call these “stitched” ghost napkins rather than “embroidered” ghost napkins because that needlework is a travesty and really shouldn’t be called “embroidery” under any circumstances.

Stitched Ghost Napkins | Christina WilliamsStep 3: Attach the wiggle eyes. Just plop ’em on there and sew ’em down.

Step 4: Freehand a mouth. Don’t be afraid, just go for it. Unless your stitching is better than mine (likely) and then you can probably come up with something better. However you do it, just make a mouth. Or don’t. They’d be cute without a mouth, too.

After you’ve tied off your floss, use a damp cloth and dab off the chalk from the ghost outline. Or wash them. I’m not that confident in my stitching skills. I’m certain I’d end up with a pile of string and some wiggly eyes laying in the bottom of the washing machine, so I’m not going to risk it.

I think these would make an adorable hostess gift, or maybe even a cute way to “BOO” your neighbors…a fun alternative to delivering sweets. So there you have it! A set of goofy stitched ghost napkins for all your Halloween dining needs.

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