Friday, December 15, 2006

Winter time souping

Cold clear winter weather is something I have always enjoyed. The sun sitting low in the horizon makes colors on our local mountains something special. It also is one of my favorite times to schuss the slopes on my snowboard. During this time of year, I also often get the urge to make soup. One of my favorites; a good nutritional balancing food, that provides an ideal energy boost while out hiking skiing or even just doing the holiday shopping, is Roast Red Pepper soup.

Red peppers have been show to have a myriad of health benefits; are a great source of antioxidants, help reduce the risk of heart disease, eliminate free radicals, help respiratory systems, and are one of the few foods that contain lycopene. See the following online article for more information:

My recipe for Roast Red Pepper soup follows
2-4 tbspn olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped carrots
Salt & pepper
1-2 tspn chopped garlic (you can add more if you like garlic but don’t go beyond 1/2 a clove – as another option try roasting the garlic instead of chopping before adding to add a different sweetness – in that case half to even one whole clove wont be too much.
6 large red bell peppers, roasted, cleaned and chopped
4 cups vegetable stock (you can use whatever stock you prefer – best of course is to make your own but there are a variety of very nice stock on the market but keep in mind this is the base of the soup so be sure its good quality stock)
pinch of honey or sugar (optional)
1/2 lemon for juice

To roast your peppers first cut in half and clean out the seeds cut out the stem and any inedible parts, then half the peppers again.

Place on a baking sheet and rub with a light coat of olive oil. Add a bit of salt over the cut and oiled peppers. Place in preheated 400-450 degree oven. Roast until tender (35-45 min approx). It is okay if the skin gets a little blackened on some pieces.

Add 2-4 tbspn oil to deep saucepan or cooking pot on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onions, celery, and carrots. Saut̩ for about 2-3 minutes, the onions should start to go opaque. Stir in the garlic and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to saut̩ for 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Using a hand-held blender, or by transferring into a traditional blender in small amounts at a time, puree the soup until smooth Рmake sure you thoroughly puree or you may find a stray piece of carrot or such not a bad thing just not what we are after. After cooled to edible temperature add in salt and pepper to taste. Also squeeze in the juice of 1/2 a lemon Рit helps to brighten the flavor. If you find your peppers were not as ripe or sweet as you like add just a pinch of honey or sugar to taste as well. Stir then enjoy Рyou will find it a hearty but lightly sweet and bright soup that really opens up the olfactory senses and gives good fuel to the body.

I often serve with sprigs of uncut chive so that people can cut and add if they wish or with lightly pan toasted bread that has been pre-brushed with olive oil that can be dipped in or just eaten with.

Interestingly I also find while I like it fresh off the stove I really enjoy this soup after it has been frozen and reheated. It reduces some of the soup but intensifies the flavor. I do find when reconstituting it I often need to add some water or it gets to a thickness I don’t prefer.

Happy souping and schussing!
Joel Strimling
Associate Dean of Student Services

Monday, December 04, 2006

Decorating For the Holidays With Aromatherapy

We’ve been spending the weekend stringing lights on the house, garlands on the fireplace mantle, hanging stockings “by the chimney with care” and otherwise making the house look festive for the holidays. Another important aspect of creating a warm and inviting ambiance in the home is scent. There are many scents we associate with the winter holidays; anise always reminds me of the anise cookies my mom would bake this time of year, and of course the scents of orange and clove bring back memories of making pomanders as a child. There are many wonderful ways to incorporate Aromatherapy into your holiday decorations; here are a few of my favorites…

Scented Pine Cones
We place a decorated basket of pinecones (harvested during summer camping trips) by the fireplace. To give them more of a “piney” scent, I place a drop of pine essential oil on each pinecone (up to ten drops). The scent lasts for several days, and I add a few more drops of essential oil each week (or right before company comes over) to freshen the scent. In addition to its refreshing aroma, Pine (Pinus sylvestris) is an immune system stimulant and has been shown to be effective against the bacteria that cause pneumonia. Its disinfecting and cleansing properties also have emotional and spiritual benefits, helping to cleanse unwanted or negative thoughts from the mind, making room for the positive.

Yule Tide Diffuser Blend
This is a warm, inviting, spicy scent for the holidays. It contains Cinnamon, Clove, and Nutmeg, which are “warming” oils to the body and spirit, and have very powerful antiviral properties as well. Sweet Orange is uplifting, and helps dispel the stress of the holidays that we can allow to overwhelm us at times. Frankincense and Myrrh give the blend a spiritual, meditative quality, and help us to stay grounded in the midst of the busy holiday season.
10 drops Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
8 drops Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
8 drops Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
5 drops Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
10 drops Frankincense (Boswelia carterii)
5 drops Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)
Put in diffuser, or add to 4 oz. distilled water for a room spray (shake well before spraying; do not spray on wood surfaces)

Fir Sachet for Artificial Trees
Although we currently purchase a real (sustainably farmed) tree each year, many families are opting for artificial trees in order to save the earth’s resources. For those with artificial trees, you can still enjoy the scent of the “real thing” by hanging these fir sachets from the branches of your artificial tree. Fir is grounding, increases intuition, and helps bring clarity to mind and spirit. Hang the sachets on the back of the tree or inside near the trunk if you don’t want them to be visible. For those who are creative and crafty, the muslin bags can be dyed, painted, and decorated to blend in with the other ornaments.
Muslin tea bags
Flax seed or white rice (use white rice for crafts, brown rice for food)
Fir Needle (Abies canadensis) essential oil
In a small bowl, blend two to three tablespoons of flax seed or rice with 15 to 20 drops Fir oil. Scoop the mixture into the muslin bags and pull the drawstrings closed. Hang on a tree branch. When the scent begins to fade, you can freshen the blend by pouring the flaxseed/rice out, and adding more essential oil and returning the mixture to the bag.

Candles add a special warmth and “glow” to the home. However, the synthetic fragrances in most commercial candles can contribute to headaches, asthma, and other health problems. You can use unscented candles and add your own favorite essential oils. Remember that essential oils are flammable; never add essential oils to a burning candle. To safely add essential oils to an unscented candle, burn the candle until there is a pool of wax, and then blow it out. Add the essential oils (up to 10 drops) to the melted wax and allow the wax to harden. Trim the wick to ½ inch, then relight the candle and enjoy.

For Kids:
Cinnamon Ornaments
Children love taking part in the decorating, and these are fun and easy to make, and will give off a wonderful spicy aroma. One year the cinnamon ornaments we made were inadvertently packed away with the rest of the ornaments; when I opened the box the following year, they still smelled strongly of cinnamon!
¾ cup applesauce
1 jar (4.12 oz) ground cinnamon
Mix until a stiff dough is formed (One to two drops Cinnamon essential oil can be added to increase the scent). Roll out to ¼ inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to make stars, bells, trees, or “gingerbread” men. Use a pencil to make a hole at the top for ribbon. Place on drying rack to air dry for several days, turning daily. When dry, place ribbon through the hole and hang on your tree. Makes six to twelve ornaments.

Visit the Apothecary Shoppe to purchase pure, Aromatherapy quality essential oils, diffusers, and spray bottles.

From our home to yours, we wish you all a Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Saturnalia (and if you are like us, more than one of the above).

Deborah Halvorson, Dip. Aroma, RA