I can't breathe. I can't swallow. I can't sleep. My ears keep popping and I'm certain my head is going to explode from the sinus pressure building up between my ears and don't even get me started on the allergies and asthma. Let me just say this : it's a scary thing when you can't breathe out of your nose or your mouth. Yips. This past weekend was a sickly one and being the stubborn woman I am, I still packed my sleeping bag for a family + Justin camping trip that we've had planned for a few weeks. I was feeling lousy to begin with, so spending the weekend being outdoorsy when the pollen count exceeds three thousand probably wasn't one of my brighter ideas, but I was too excited at the prospect of star gazing and marshmallow roasting with my boy to throw in the towel so easily.
Well, let me tell you, there was zero star gazing, no marshmallow roasting, no leisurely strolls through the woods. There was Benadryl, Albuterol, Visine-A, anti-viral tissues, DayQuil, Afrin, a lot of hot tea and the potential to claim the nickname Weezy for my own. The entire weekend was not without humor, as is typical for my life. Take for example, the sleeping arrangements. There was my Dad's version, then Justin's version. Then there was the sleep shouting. Two nights in a row, Justin woke the entire camper up with a rant about softball fabrics, a fall off the bed that shook the entire RV, and an arrest he dreamed up at two a.m. that involved him shouting, "Hey, buddy! You can't do that, buddy!" Seriously, does he ever stop working?
By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around and I dragged myself into my air-filtered, hypo-allergenic room with scrubbed furniture and washed bedsheets because Dear God, please make the pollen go away, I'll do anything, I was a total wreck. I couldn't taste anything, which for me is the cruelest form of torture, and I felt hungry but hey, why eat if you can't taste? I was starting to get that nasty too-much-medication-not-enough-food feeling, and the spare ribs and super rich macaroni and cheese in the fridge would've been tempting any other day, but not this time, this sort of dilemma calls for soup.
A friend from work got this recipe from a friend of hers and passed it on to me some time ago and it found it's home at the bottom of my recipe stack with a lot of other worthwhile ideas that I seem to forget about on a regular basis. It's not laziness, but when a recipe doesn't come with a picture or I've never tried it before, it's hard for me to muster up the ambition to venture into the unknown. The title, Second Date Soup, comes with it's own slightly scandalous story, or so I'm told. As it goes, this recipe was concocted by a guy who uses it as his go-to recipe for scoring second dates - he offers to make dinner for the little lady and serves up this soup with a side salad and shazam! Women are falling in love all over the place.
I can't account for the falling-in-love affect of this soup, mostly because when you're sniffly and snotty the last thing you're thinking about is love, but it was perfect on a sickly Sunday afternoon when you're pretty much down the the count. I imagine it's rather good for you, too, with spinach and tomatoes and veggie broth (and vegetarian now that I think about it) and the entire pot comes to a steaming simmer in less than half an hour, which is perfect for those of us who keep eyeballing the sofa and wishing to be one with it.
Second Date Soup
(or Cheese Tortellini with Spinach and Mushrooms)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
2 cans chicken or vegetable broth
9 oz. cheese tortellini *
A few handfuls baby spinach
6 or 7 fresh basil leaves, chopped finely
A few glugs of good olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, to serve
In a large saucepan over medium heat, swirl the olive oil around the pan to coat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a separate pan, saute the mushrooms until golden brown, set aside.
Add the diced tomatoes, juices and all, and the broth and bring to a boil. Once it boils, add the tortellini, baby spinach and mushrooms and reduce heat to a simmer, stirring it until the spinach wilts. Give it a taste, add salt and pepper as needed, then try to ignore the fact that your lips are burning because it was way too hot.
Let it simmer for about 5 minutes just to let the flavors marry together, then turn off the heat, stir in the basil and ladle into bowls. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and serve with baguette toast, if you're feeling fancy.
* I used fresh tortellini, the kind that are in the refrigerated section of the deli, so they only need to be heated through, which happens rather quickly. If you use frozen, add the tortellini in with the broth and tomatoes so they have enough time to cook.