Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Mexican Soup…the Perfect Meal at the End of a Long Ride Down the Highway

Day 335

On a highway. In the middle of Mt. Hood National Forest. Our car was in park. The engine off. And even though there was a line of cars behind us, as far as I could see, in the same predicament, it was strangely quiet. Dark. The snow gently falling all around us. Those big luscious feather-like flakes. I thought about how a little over 10 years ago I was parked here as well. Going the other direction. My 11-year old was a baby and we had just rung in the 2000 New Year. I was in a panic about whether to take him out of his car seat to nurse him. Never sure when the line of cars would start moving again. I sang Raffi songs for the hours we were parked on the highway to entertain his sister because that was back when I was even more of a glutton for punishment than I am now. Back when I thought children should not have electronic devices in the car but instead, should gaze out the window and let their imaginations run wild. As I looked at my three children, now, lit up by the glow of the movie they were watching…with headphones…in the quiet, quiet car, I thought, “Thank goodness, I came to my senses.”

Day 321

We were headed to Sunriver in Central Oregon. Our yearly destination for Thanksgiving. Nana and Papa, aunts and uncles and a gaggle of cousins were waiting for our arrival. But here we were, stopped on this oft-traveled highway. A highway that was a means to an end. A highway I’d traveled on my entire life. A highway that was like an old-time movie. Little bits of memory from my life flickered by in my mind as we made our way down the road. The spot I handed off the baton on my one and only Hood to Coast race. The little church in which I sang “One Hand, One Heart” at the bride’s request. (Poor thing should have had me stick to just playing the piano.) The end of the Glade trail. Our back door way to get off the mountain from all-night New Year’s Eve skiing. The turn-off for Timothy Lake where we survived the Dust Bowl ’03 camping trip which rendered our children so covered in dirt, they looked like extras from the set of Grapes of Wrath.

Day 338

A few hours later, a few more miles down the road, we’re stopped again. I’m under the car dealing with chains and cursing myself for not taking the forecast for snow more seriously. My hands are covered in grease. I think of the times, as a teenager, I had to put chains on our Toyota and how often I had put them on the wrong tires….front instead of back. Or was it back instead of front? Not far from here was the road marker I somehow backed into and blew out the back window of our car in 100 degree weather. Not sure what to do about it in the middle of nowhere, I kept driving. The cat howling. The eldest children, preschoolers at the time, crying. My sweetie still raises an eyebrow no matter how many times I say to him, “Cross my heart, hope to die, I never saw a road marker. It came out of nowhere.”

Moving again, we pass the turn-off for the short-cut into Maupin. Where I hit a rabbit. At 1 in the morning. In my ’73 VW Bug. Back when my sweetie and I were newlyweds. I’m still sad about that rabbit.

On and on down the road we go, and on and on plays the grainy film of my life.

Day 330

A week later, the 10 hour drive and Thanksgiving behind us, we strike out onto the highway again. Headed for home. This time we opt for the more southern pass but the same grainy movie plays as we drive. Sisters Coffee Company we stumbled upon last summer. Camping under the stars and fly-fishing in Camp Sherman back in college. Driving a golf cart around Black Butte Ranch back in high school. Wondering if that rope swing stills hangs there on the edge of Suttle Lake all these years later?

I felt as if I was in an old silent movie house as these little scenes played out. Only the sound of the clicking of the film, as it went round and round the reel, could be heard. It made me think that this is how life works. We keep driving down the highway and life happens. Scenes are filmed.

Day 319

The snow gave way to rain signaling that we were almost home. We pull into our driveway, just in time for me to make dinner, and go inside. It takes me awhile to shake the feeling that I’d just left a dark movie house and stepped out into bright light. The film wound down. The clicks coming more and more slowly, as I pulled ingredients from the pantry to whip up a quick Tomato and Red Pepper soup. By the time I sat the bowls down, sprinkled with sharp cheddar, tortilla chips and cilantro, the movie was over. I was back to creating new scenes. Scenes that would eventually be sliced into the grainy film of my life played out again on some long, snowy drive down a highway.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Mexican Soup
Passed on to me by my sis

This recipe is so so fast. A great one to keep handy as you’re getting ready for the holidays and don’t have much time to cook. The salsa you decide to use can really change the flavor of this soup. The last time I made this soup, I found a tub of salsa in the back of my fridge crying to be used. It happened to be a fresh, medium salsa made by Whole Foods. Was perfect. I served it with some homemade guacamole and sliced pears because that’s what I had in the house, but you could also whip up a little green salad or just serve it as is. For a vegetarian version, simply omit the chicken.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 boxes (32 oz.) of Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup (I’ve found this at Trader Joe’s and my local grocery store.)
1 can of corn or 1 small bag of frozen corn
2 c salsa
2 c (approx) chicken breasts, grilled, poached*, leftover from a roasted chicken OR 1 lg can of white chicken

Possible toppings:
grated, sharp cheddar cheese
tortillas strips or crushed tortilla chips
chopped cilantro

Directions:

Heat your olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add your onions and garlic and saute for about 5-10 minutes or until your onions soften and start to become translucent. Pour in your roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Add your corn, salsa and chicken. Bring to a boil. Then, turn down the heat, simmer, serve.

Ladle into bowls and top with cheese, chips and cilantro, if you’d like. Enjoy.

*The last time I made this soup, I poached a couple of boneless skinless breasts and they were delicious in this soup. Basically, I sprinkled my chicken with salt and pepper and put them in a small pan. I covered them with some chicken stock that I needed to use up but you could use water or a combo of the two. Sprinkled in a teaspoon or so of Herbes de Provence. Tossed in a bay leaf. Put the lid on. Brought it to a boil. Then, lowered the heat and simmered with the lid on for 15 minutes. The chicken was cooking while I put together the rest of the soup. The timing came out perfectly.

Yield: One big pot-full

Conclusion to the Turkey Saga…..
In case you were curious about my turkey dilemma, I thought I would let you know that I survived. I ended up going my own route and had the turkey cut up into pieces before we left town. I gave it a salt rub the night before. Then, pulled it out of the fridge for 45 min before roasting. Rubbed it with butter, more salt and pepper. Surrounded it with herbs from my garden (rosemary, sage, Italian parsely, oregano) and garlic cloves still in their “paper”. Then, put it in the oven at 425 degrees for an hour and a half. Smelled delicious and tasted delicious. The only thing I would do differently next time is check the temperature of the meat at about the one hour mark since the breast were done a little more than I prefer. All in all, I’d say it was a success. But, if I may be completely honest with you….here’s what I learned through this entire process: Call me crazy but I don’t even really like roasted turkey. Where’s the grilled salmon? I just don’t feel the turkey love.

Calendar Update….
My Etsy shop where you will be able to purchase the 2011 La Pomme de Portland calendar, should be up and running later today. I will send out an official announcement tomorrow. Thank you so much to those of you who have sent emails and so forth letting me know you’ll be ordering one or two or…six. I am so excited about this project and the thought of helping out two great organizations. Cheers!

All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010

Comments

  1. Courtney Cook Hopp says:

    Love the film imagery. Isn't is so true, life is spliced pieces of film creating an ever growing story.

  2. Strawberry Cake says:

    Great memories, and recipe. I had to giggle at your comment about you ideals of kids never having electronics in the car…..I was that mom too…where'd she go? Oh well can't beat um join um!

  3. Perfect soup for a chilly winter night. I always love your post, so beautifully written.

  4. Thank you, Courtney, Maria and Sheila.

    And, yes, Sheila…funny how we start off so strong and they just wear us down over the years and our resolve goes out the door. :)

  5. I'm with you & Shelia! I too have caved and given in to the electronic era…does make for a quieter car!

    Loved the photo of the icy branch with the lone red Japanese Maple leaf! Stunning!

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