The realization that I am a delicate Southern flower who requires thick, humid warmth to survive was not a gradual one for me. I remember vividly the exact moment that confirmed it.
It was my junior year of high school and I was sitting in my first period French class. Our class was held in a portable classroom (read: drafty old trailer) and the door was still open to welcome arriving students. And oh my ever-loving goodness, il faisait froid.*
*It was cold, y'all.
I was sitting in my desk, hunched over and hugging myself in an attempt to protect my vital organs from the piercing morning cold. Despite my efforts and the fact that I was wearing a winter coat (which, as you'll learn, is basically miraculous for me), I was pretty sure I was dying of hypothermia.
As discomfort gave way to alarm, I wondered how much longer I should wait before raising my hand and asking to be carried into the main building, preferably by burly seniors in puffy coats. I looked around to see if anyone else was on the verge of death. A few people were chatting. A girl was shuffling around in her backpack. Ms. Moran was looking over some papers. Hm.
I began to calculate the distance I would have to walk upright -- with vital organs relatively unprotected! -- to pull the door shut in one last effort to save myself.
It was during this hellacious class (actually, I wouldn't have minded a little fire just then -- hold the brimstone, though) that I knew I would die if I were ever forced to move to any northern state. I remember realizing that at that very moment, people were walking around and going to work and surviving in, like, Vermont. I was aghast.
Since then, I've realized a few things. For instance, I've realized that I almost die each winter because I don't wear enough clothing. I'm not running around in culottes or anything (you guys remember culottes?), but I have an aversion to layering my outfits. I end up pulling and tugging at things all day to get comfortable. Give me a short, lightweight sundress to slip on any old day.
As a result of my layering troubles, I'm often exposed to the elements. I'll pat myself on the back for wearing a sweater, but then neglect to wear a coat over it. Or I'll grab my coat on the way out the door, but decide not to worry about scarves or mittens. Or, like, real shoes.
I may or may not have been that person in college wearing rubber ducky flip-flops in the snow.
Anyway, I'm generally bad at cold weather, but I'm not totally hopeless. I may be dressing wholly inappropriately for the temperature, but at least I'll be eating appropriately. When it's cold, I start to crave oatmeal, warm drinks, chilis, stews, and soups.
This Roasted Tomato and Onion Bread Soup has been on a regular rotation at my house this winter. Something about serving piping hot soup over a toasty, buttered slice of bread feels rustic and satisfying to me. Best of all, each 1 cup serving of soup is full of veggies and has a little over 200 calories, making this recipe ideal for all the resolutioners out there! When I know I'm having a bowl of this with my dinner, I look forward to it all day long. So grab your snuggies, bundle up, and enjoy!
What are the temperatures like where you live? How do you brave the cold?
Healthy Roasted Tomato and Onion Bread Soup
Recipe by: Adapted from Eating Well
Yield: 6 1-cup servings
This bright soup is served piping hot over a slice of buttered bread. The result is splushy, hearty, and warms you to the soul. I sometimes make a batch of this soup and eat it for several days. When I'm ready to eat a serving, I toast a slice of bread while reheating the soup and then assemble as usual.
4 cups thinly sliced onions
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I halved most but left some whole)
1/2 cup thinly sliced garlic, plus 1 whole clove, peeled and halved
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
6 slices hearty bread of your choice
2/3 cup chopped fresh basil
6 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese
butter for bread
dash of red wine vinegar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add thinly sliced onions and top with another tablespoon of olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Toss the onions to coat. Caramelize the onions my cooking them, stirring occasionally (but not constantly, so they can caramelize on the heat) for about 30 minutes or until they're rich and brown.
In the meantime, I usually chop my tomatoes and garlic. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray and add the tomatoes, garlic (except the halved clove), the last tablespoon of oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss tomatoes to coat. Roast these in the oven until the tomatoes are starting to fall apart and brown in spots, about 20 minutes.
When your onions are caramelized, move them to a big stockpot. Deglaze the skillet by pouring the chicken stock into it and bringing it to a simmer. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the stock into the stockpot with the onions. Add tomato and garlic mixture to the pot as well, mixing gently to combine. Bring this to a simmer. Remove it from the heat, salt and pepper to taste (sometimes I add a dash of red wine vinegar at the end for a little zing), and cover it to keep it warm.
Meanwhile, line your bread up on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake it for about 10 minutes until it's toasted (full disclosure: I just toast mine in the toaster). Rub a little butter over it and rub the halved garlic cloves on it while it's still warm (full disclosure: I use jarred minced garlic here instead for more intense flavor). To serve the soup, place a slice of toast into each bowl and ladle a serving of soup on top. Top with 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese and a sprinkle of fresh basil. Serve immediately.