May 23, 2010

Blood tests | Tomato-artichoke soup | Free bread

I'm a difficult draw. And I don't mean with a pencil. I'm referring to getting a blood sample out of the teeny tiny veins in my arm. Every so often a technician will need to call for assistance to get the job done, but there's always been someone at whatever lab I'm at who could just go right in and collect a sample with one try. Recently, I had an unpleasant (HA! understatement) experience at a lab, where, after trying repeatedly to draw blood from both arms, the first technician turned me over to her partner. Tech #2 tried in both arms and failed. She asked if I just wanted to give up and leave but I said no, I wanted to get this required blood test done. Seriously, I try to stay calm and friendly during these sessions because I don't want to be a negative influence on the proceedings, and make things worse, but sometimes it's sure hard to maintain composure in the face of ineptitude. I was keeping calm as best I could when I glanced at Tech #2, and observed her shaking her head. I looked at her fingers, tapping away at my arm, and they were shaking, too. At that point I said, "OK. I think I'm done." And I left. Sheesh.

On Saturday I was finally ready to give it another go at a different lab, and as I faced my first technician, I gently and calmly told her what she was up against, in case she wanted to bail. She was confident, and I liked her. I had to fast for 12 hours for the test but I had drunk lots of water because that's supposed to help in situations like mine. The technician gave me even more water to drink, and she put a hot pack on my arm. I was beginning to worry. After one unsuccessful poke, she called an associate, and I smiled on the outside and cried on the inside, as I met my new tormentor. This woman, bless her, immediately found a vein and got the sample. I got her name and the hours she works, and when I need blood drawn again, I'm making a beeline for her lab.

It's weird that this post is ultimately going to be about tomato soup. I wasn't thinking about the color connection before I started writing but, there it is. It's a little disturbing to me but I hope you'll take it in stride and try this soup. :) I've been wanting to make tomato soup ever since I had a stellar version in a small café on Bainbridge Island, and I think I figured out the special flavor in that soup — artichoke hearts. I was going to wait for fresh, summer tomatoes to make it but it's just too long to wait. (If you use fresh tomatoes you might want to remove the skin and seeds.)

For the tomatoes I used Bionaturæ organic strained tomatoes with no salt added, which comes in a glass bottle, but I don't see why regular canned tomatoes or tomato purée wouldn't work. This tomato purée is very thick. (I started using jarred tomatoes when I became aware of the the dangers of BPA in the can linings.) The artichoke hearts were quartered and packed in water, but, if you don't worry about extra fat, oil-packed ones would probably be even more delicious. I rinsed the artichokes to reduce the sodium a bit, but you don't have to. I used basil for my dried herb but I think rosemary or savory might be good options.

Tomato-artichoke soup (very fast, easy and delicious)
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 24 oz. tomatoes (mine were strained, puréed, no salt, bottled)
  • 2-1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth, or regular vegetable broth
  • 1 cup jarred artichoke hearts, drained and quartered (mine were packed in water)
  • up to 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (to taste)
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 teaspoon dried herb of choice
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  1. In a soup pot, sauté the onions in a small amount of olive oil until translucent, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally so they don't burn.
  2. Add the tomatoes, broth, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, artichokes and frozen corn.
  3. Blend with an immersion blender until the vegetables are uniform but the soup isn't completely smooth. It should have a bit of texture but no chunks. (You could also use a regular blender.)
  4. Heat until hot. Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste, and more lemon if needed.

Free bread (for me AND for you!)

Wendy McClelland, the marketing manager at Silver Hills Bakery in Abbotsford, BC. was kind enough to send me a coupon to try a free loaf of their bread. According to Wendy, "Our organic bread is made without flour – when we get our grain (from a farm run on wind energy) we sprout it in a unique 36 hour process. This sprouting increases overall nutrition, triples the fiber and improves the digestibility. We have been making bread this way for [more than] 20 years, and still believe it is the healthiest way."

I found the bread at our local food coop but there was only one loaf left, so I didn't have a choice of which kind to try. I really liked the flavor and chewy texture; it was just the way I prefer bread to taste — not too sweet, not too salty, with a full grain presence. My only complaint was the bread didn't seem particularly fresh, and was a little dry. I don't know how often it's delivered to the store or how long it had been sitting on the shelf. I'd have to try it again before making a judgement.

My solution was to toast it, and it made a great accompaniment to the tomato soup we had for supper. If you'd like to try a free loaf, Silver Hills will send a coupon to anyone who takes simple online survey. I took the survey before offering it to you just to see what it was like, and it's easy and unobtrusive. You can find the survey here. Check their Web site to see if the bread is sold where you live. In addition to the sprouted wheat bread, they also make a gluten-free loaf.

Full disclosure: I was given a free coupon to try the bread but was under no obligation to write about it favorably, or at all. All opinions are mine.


  1. Yikes, that sounds like a horrible experience. I can handle needles to an extent, but I think that would have been too much for me. I'm glad someone was finally able to get it done though.

    Your tomato soup sounds good! I'm definitely making this soon. I love tomato soup and I love artichokes. This one sound like a winner.

  2. Ugh, there for awhile I had to get monthly blood work done and I, too, am a tough draw. Thankfully early on, one of the techs tried twice, looked at the other arm and asked could they try the back of my hand. It's supposed to be more painful (meh, not that bad) and bruises more (usually I don't)... but it's only ever taken anyone ONCE to get it there. =) I like those odds! heh I have occasionally run into someone who doesn't seem so confident doing it, so I just ask for another tech. I refuse to even let them try my arms anymore.

    The soup looks yummy! I'll have to give it a go! The bread... I miss. I bought SH in AK and WA, but once I moved to the midwest, I'm out of luck. Just one more reason to move back west!

  3. I feel your pain, Andrea...quite literally. I too am a tough draw, and as a person with various medical issues, that is really NOT fun! I always warn the tech/nurse that I am a tough draw and my veins are small and they roll and that people usually end up in my hand. But, inevitably, the person thinks that, of course, *they* are the best ever and will be able to get it. Multiple pokes, techs/nurses, and big huge bruises on both of my arms later, they do end up in my hand...just as I suggested in the first place. Sigh. I always dread lab work.

    Your soup sounds fantastic! I love artichokes--they are seriously my favorite food (tied with watermelon, that is) :-) Too bad it is 90 and muggy, humid and gross here and I don't have AC...once it cools down, though, I will have to give it a try! Hopefully that will be soon!


  4. I can't wait to try that recipe! I love making tomato soup and it's always nice to have something to spice it up a bit..artichoke hearts it's perfect—i'll take any excuse to add more vegetables to soup anything.

    I have the same problem with blood samples...I've learned to just laugh and try and make the lab technician feel comfortable, but it can be a real pain and sometimes they send me home with a "better luck next week," line. And it's so hard to fast when you love food!

  5. Hi Andrea,
    Glad you made it through "the draw." If it's any consolation, you're not alone in that experience. Here's to all the "difficult draws" - hopefully it's for a good reason somewhere down the line!

    Thanks so much for posting all your yummy vegan recipes. We've linked your site to Vegan Vietnam (in Vietnamese language) for those readers who can read English.


  6. I hate getting blood taken too. I have a really big looking vein on my left arm, but it's a tricky one. It's actually too deep to reach, despite looking perfect. Some pathologists listen to me about it, but others insist on jabbing at it 4 or 5 times before finally conceding that I am right and that they should take blood from my right arm :/ So infuriating!

    That soup however looks like something to mend with. Yum!

  7. I'm the same with veins, so I really feel for you. After having had nurses "blow" my veins repeatedly, I made a note of where the best spot was, and on which arm, and always direct them there. As it is, they often have to use a child size needle!

    That soup looks amazing and I'll try it. Did I mention I made your lentil/rice soup and we loved it?

    I'll check out that bread. Right now we just tend to use Trader Joe's Country Multigrain bread when I haven't baked anything, and it makes good sandwiches.

  8. I second what Wingraclaire says. After a test that ended up looking like a massacre scene, I finally got someone to use a butterfly needle (used on infants), and I only use my left arm.

  9. I guess I should feel lucky that nurses have never had a problem drawing blood from me. I used to really hate it but have since built up a tolerance. Having regular blood tests and making sure all your levels are normal is just part of being vegan.

    The soup sounds great. And I know the bread is too. I tried it in Vancouver before and really liked it. If I wasn't moving every week, I'd put in for a coupon!

  10. All,
    I never realized so many others faced this same problem. Thanks for sharing. I always request a butterfly needle, though most technicians already know to use one, and I always offer my left arm as the best option. The skilled techs proceed to get a sample on the first try. The others always want to see the right arm, then end up poking both. Maybe at the point they ask to see the other arm, I should ask to see another technician!

    I love artichoke hearts, too.

    I suggested my hand but unfortunately no one was interested in trying that.

    I dread lab work, too. You're the second person to suggest the hand, but for some reason none of the techs wanted to do that.

    I'm having trouble imagining "humid and gross" since it seems perpetually cool and rainy here, but hot and humid is sounding appealing to me at the moment. You could try making gazpacho with artichokes as one of the ingredients. I'm going to do that this summer.

    I do try to keep cheerful but after the fourth poke or so it gets more difficult to keep smiling! :)

    Thanks for your comment. And thanks for the link!

    WHY DON'T THEY LISTEN? I think medical personnel in general need to listen better to their patients.

    I'm glad you like the lentil-rice soup. The tomato soup was really good, but even better reheated the next day.

    I know what you mean. I was once left with a huge purple bruise — even with a butterfly needle!

    Moving every week sounds exciting but exhausting. Your diet must be extremely varied and interesting!

  11. Andrea, Jane is exactly the same and is also very squeamish - faints at the mention of blood. She went through exactly the same thing. Holding a hotwater bottle to her arm helped to produce a vein. Before that they'd even tried getting it from her feet! The poor wee soul was like a pincushion!

    The first time I had blood taken I couldn't eat tomato soup for weeks! Your recipe looks great. We, too, avoid tinned tomatoes now, because of the leakage. I always buy passata in a glass bottle now.

    Hope everything's OK, healthwise?

  12. YIKES! I'm so sorry to hear about your blood drawing situation. That doesn't sound pleasant at all. I'm glad it all worked out in the end, though.

    I'm the opposite of you. I have VERY visible and large veins, especially in the crook of my elbow on my left arm. There is one vein that is right on the surface and always bulging. I swear, nurses see it and they make a beeline, just desperate to poke it with a needle! Eeeek!

    Onto a much more appetizing topic, your soup looks phenomenal! So creamy and rich!

  13. Penny,
    Poor Jane. I know how she feels, except I don't get faint or squeamish.

    I was just reading that all canned vegetables and fruits were testing high in BPA. We tend to use quite a few cans of prepared beans, because they're so convenient. I may have to go back to cooking dried beans, and freezing them in BPA-free containers.

    You must be a lab tech's dream client while I'm their nightmare. :)

  14. Andrea, Come on over to my blog. I have a prize for you. :-) Dated May 25th.

  15. That soup looks delicious and I like that you add artichokes. yum!

  16. Blessedmama,
    Thank you so much. I'll get to this as soon as I can!

    Thanks! I think artichoke hearts and tomatoes are made for each other.

  17. I usually don't have any problems getting blood drawn but I do get giant bruises after it's all done. My parents are a different story, I always tell them to ask for the senior tech, they're the ones with the experience to get it on the first try.

    Awesome idea with the artichoke hearts, the soup looks delicious! :-)

  18. Lab techs can never find my veins either.

    Your soup looks so good, the combination of tomato and artichoke hearts is always a good one.

  19. Chow vegan,
    I always ask for the most experienced tech but unfortunately they're not always as skilled as I need. :(

    The artichoke hearts did add a nice zing to the soup, thanks!

    What is it with the lab techs? It must be a high turnover job with lots of new people coming in. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes, trying to get blood out of people like me.

  20. Talking about blood on a food blog? Disgusting.


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