Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Meatless Mondays...Meatless Everyday?

This is Bodhi doing what Bodhi does best...enjoying long naps in his cozy bed of hay. You should hear him sigh contentedly, and you should hear the way he saws logs--puts my husband's snoring to shame.

Bodhi lives at The Gentle Barn an animal rescue farm that takes in severely abused animals and rehabilitates them with medical care, massage, acupuncture, good eats and lots and lots of love.

Perhaps you've heard a little about the The Gentle Barn from Ellen DeGeneres, who recently auctioned off a hunk of Justin Beiber's hair as a fundraiser for the organization. The winner paid $40,000 for the...um...memorabilia (?) and all proceeds went to The Gentle Barn.

Founded in 1999, by Ellie Laks (now married to Jay Weiner), The Gentle Barn seeks not only to rescue animals, but also educate children, especially those at high risk. Each week, groups of troubled kids visit the barn to interact with the animals and learn a little about the sanctity of life, treating others with respect (humans, animals and themselves), and responsibility. On Sundays, The Gentle Barn is open to the public from noon to 4, and folks can brush, give belly rubs and feed the animals for a $5 per person donation. There's a snack bar, and picnic tables where you can bring a (vegetarian only out of respect for the animals) lunch.

When we went on a recent Sunday, the kids fed the horses carrots in the barn...

And went to the gated area to feed and love the chickens, turkeys, goats, lambs, pigs, emu, peacock and more...

And we didn't leave before they hugged two adorable baby cows....

Everyone was encouraged to hug a cow that day. In return, The Gentle Barn received a $1 donation for every cow hugger, and we each got a bracelet that said, I hugged a cow at The Gentle Barn.

Shortly after our visit, our daughter declared that she didn't want to eat animals any more, though she did admit that quitting the bacon and sausage was going to be hard. I always make an effort to buy meat that is raised as humanely as possible, but I support her in this journey and had an inkling that her tender heart would lead her in that direction sometime anyway. And since we try to go meat-free at least a few times a week, this will encourage us to do it more often, which is good for us, good for the planet...and good for Bodhi and his animal friends too.

Last night, I re-instituted our Meatless Mondays with an incredible roasted tomato soup, served with grilled cheese sandwiches. My mom had made the soup earlier in the week, and said it was the best tomato soup she had ever had. She's right. The smell of the roasting veggies was enough to make me swoon, but their deep and earthy flavor lended a satisfying heartiness to a totally vegan dish. I've added this soup to the short list of favorites. And it's great to make with "off season" tomatoes (even ones from the farmers' market aren't that great this time of year), because the long and slow roasting brings out their richness and makes them taste....well, taste more like tomatoes.

So did my newly minted vegetarian daughter love this soup as much as I did? Not so much. In fact, she didn't like it at all. Sigh. This is going to be a long journey and an exercise of patience on my part--but that's parenthood, right?

I hope you can visit the The Gentle Barn and see all their wonderful animals in person!

The Gentle Barn
15825 Sierra Highway
Santa Clarita, CA 91390

Or follow them on Twitter or Facebook!

Roasted Tomato Soup
Printable Recipe

By slow roasting the veggies, this soup has an incredible richness and depth of flavor. Though I chose to top it with a bit of shaved Parmesan cheese, this soup is otherwise completely vegan...and completely fabulous. Though sugar wasn't in the original recipe (adapted from here), I added a pinch because my tomatoes were a bit on the acidic side. It was enough to take the edge off. I also added additional salt, because I used low sodium vegetable stock.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Yield: serves 6


3 pounds of Roma tomatoes, halved and seeded
2 red bell peppers, quartered and seeded
1 medium onion, quartered
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons, chopped fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1 (6 ounce) can of tomato paste
6 cups of vegetable stock
Pinch of sugar (optional)
Basil leaves, thinly sliced (for garnish)
Shaved Parmesan (for garnish)


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Place tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic and thyme on a sheet pan and toss them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Flip the tomatoes and peppers so they are skin side up and roast for 45-50 minutes until they are lightly charred and tender.

3. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large stock pot. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Scrape the veggies (and any juice) into the pot and stir to combine. Add the stock (I added 6 cups of water and 3 packets of veggie stock concentrate) and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Let the soup cool for at least 10 minutes. Blending hot soup is very dangerous, so do not skip this step. Transfer the soup in batches to blender (or use an immersion blender). The blender should only be about 1/3 full. Carefully vent the corner of the lid to allow steam to escape and pulse until the soup is blended thoroughly. Pour blended soup into a large bowl and continue blending the rest of the soup until it is all smooth.

5. Pour soup back into the large stockpot, and taste for seasoning. Add a pinch of sugar (if using), salt and pepper to taste. Heat the soup to warm through, ladle into bowl and top with basil and Parmesan cheese if desired.

1 comment:

Ktimm said...

I bought beautiful off season Plum/Roma tomatoes at Costco...I know unbelievable! I reheated this soup Thursday night for my BFF, Carol, grated some asiago, an along with the basil, I added some garlic courtons...amazing!! Mom