Dinner, soups

Quick and Spicy Tomato soup

Lunch time at the office

We were away this past weekend visiting our friends in North Carolina and our flight home arrived just before 5 on Monday.  After eating great food all weekend and traveling we wanted something that was easy to make and also light. This recipe from our favorite Italian chef Giada fit the bill. Within a half hour we had a hot and hearty soup on the table.

As we move into the fall season we start to crave hearty comfort foods. For the reason we try to keep our pantry stocked with basic essentials.  The less trips to the store the better.  This recipe had all of the essentials and made enough to bring into work for lunch.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 – 26 oz jar marinara sauce
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the jar of marinara sauce, chicken broth, cannellini beans, red pepper flakes, pasta, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve.


Crockpot Chili

This is a staple in our house.  We make this a few times during the cold winter months.  It is a tasty recipe that goes together pretty quickly.  Combine this with a salad and a slice of hearty bread for a simple dinner.  And for easy cleanup..use a Crockpot liner.  Greatest kitchen cleanup tool invented.

2 pounds lean ground beef
2 medium green bell peppers, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
2 cans (15 oz. each) red kidney beans, undrained
2 packages (1.25 oz. each) chili seasoning mix
2 cans (15 oz. each) tomato sauce
2 cans (10 oz. each) diced tomatoes and green chilies
cheese and sour cream

Line a 5 – 6 quart slow cooker with a Slow Cooker Liner for easy cleanup. Fit liner snugly against bottom and sides of bowl; pull top of liner over rim. Set aside.

Brown ground beef, bell pepper and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until beef is no longer pink. Drain well. Spoon beef mixture into the lined-slow cooker. Add beans, seasoning mix, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and green chilies to beef mixture; stir gently with wooden or plastic spoon.

Cover and cook 6 to 7 hours on LOW OR 3 to 3 1/2 hours on HIGH, until hot and bubbly throughout.

Carefully remove lid to allow steam to escape. Stir gently using a wooden or plastic utensil. Serve food directly from lined slow cooker. Top with cheese and sour cream, if desired. Remove all food and cool slow cooker completely before lifting liner from slow cooker. Do not lift or transport liner with food inside.


Homemade Tomato Soup with Cheddar Cheese croutons

Last Saturday morning there was a little chill in the air and it looked like it was going to rain all day.  So we planned our menu based on the feeling of fall.  I made the Awesome Mac and Cheese and Hubby made this soup that we found the recipe on top of a can of tomatoes.  So quick and easy!  This will warm your soul and your senses this fall.

P.S.  Weather turned around and it was very humid by dinner time. 


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
2 (14.5 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 (28 ounce) can  crushed tomatoes with basil
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth

Cheddar Cheese Croutons 

1 loaf baguette, small
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese


In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until soft. Add flour; cook and stir until moist. Gradually add milk, cooking and stirring about 2 minutes or until smooth and bubbly.

Stir in crushed and petite diced tomatoes, basil, oregano and broth. Cover and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes. Stir frequently and do not allow mixture to boil.

To make Cheddar Cheese Croutons, cut baguette into cubes and toss with olive oil and cheddar cheese. Spread onto baking sheet and place into a preheated oven at 350 degrees. Bake until croutons are golden brown and cheese is melted. Top soup with crouton.


Tomato Soup and Roasted Garlic and Cheese Bread

A snowy Saturday morning with the Food Network on and instant inspiration for dinner! The Pioneer Women, Ree Drummond  has really become a family favorite these days.  She fixes simple and delicious meals. Ree is coming very close to become a family favorite along side Ina.

A simple supper of super souped up tomato soup and cheese bread was such a great meal on a cold Saturday night.

Tomato Soup 2.0

Three 10.75-ounce cans condensed tomato soup
1/4 cup sherry
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons pesto
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup diced fresh tomatoes
Drizzle of olive oil
A few fresh basil leaves, chopped, for garnish

Add the soup to a pot with 3 cups water and heat over medium heat according to the can instructions.

When hot, add the sherry, cream, pesto and Parmesan. Stir and heat through.

Serve up the soup in bowls and sprinkle on the tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, more grated Parmesan and some basil.


Roasted Garlic and Cheese Bread

8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated fontina
1/2 cup grated Parmesan 
1/2 cup grated Romano 
2 teaspoons chopped chives 
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
1 round artisan or sourdough loaf 
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Put the garlic cloves on a square of heavy foil, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Wrap it up and bake until the garlic is golden, nutty and mushy, about 1 hour. Let cool. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Mix the garlic together with the 4 cheeses, chives, crushed red pepper flakes and some black pepper in a bowl.
Cut the bread in strips in one direction, being careful not to cut all the way through the loaf. Rotate the bread 90 degrees and cut in the other direction. Stuff the cheese mixture in between the rows. Drizzle the melted butter all over the top.
Wrap in foil and bake for 25 minutes. Open up the foil and bake until the cheese is hot and bubbly, another 10 minutes. Serve immediately.


Quick and Spicy Tomato Soup

After a weekend away enjoying some great food and wine, one might want to make a just have a simple soup.  That is exactly what we did this past Sunday.  We had a great weekend in the Finger Lakes with our Foodie Friends.  Tasted some local wines, enjoyed the sites at a local state park and then ended our evening with a wine dinner at a local inn.  By Sunday Afternoon, we were a bit tired, still stuffed from the great food we had.  I remembered this soup we had made several times from Giada.  Very simple and delicious.  And the best part we had all the ingredients!  


3 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce (recommended: San Marzano brand)
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup orzo pasta (or any small pasta)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the jar of marinara sauce, chicken broth, cannellini beans, red pepper flakes, pasta, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve.

SERVINGS: 4 (MAIN); Calories: 430; Total Fat: 16 grams; Saturated Fat: 2 grams; Protein: 15 grams; Total


Dinner Club Assignment

A couple of weeks ago our dinner club got together after a long hiatus at Giada and her hubby across the street. The menu was reminiscent of their first dinner club dinner with a taste of Italy.  Our recipe was for soup that was a combination of each of their mothers recipe.  I feel honored to have been able to make this family recipe.
Our dinner club has been going on for a number of years with just one couple switch out.  We have tried a variety of recipes, cuisines and culinary explorations.  If I look back over the recipes it is hard to find just one favorite.  I guess I have to go with what our foodie friends said when I asked them to pick their favorite dinner – the first dinner each couple made.  For us it was  family favorite-marinated prime rib, for foodie friends it was their Thai dinner, Farm Boy and our southern artist friends would be the Creole Chicken and grits, and for Giada and her hubby a Spinach Lasagna with Sicilian Veal Rolls.  
This dinner featured a goat cheese and oil appetizer, homemade Ravioli from Melina’s fresh pasta, short ribs and polenta and Ricotta pie to go along with our authentic Escarole soup.  
Escarole soup with mini meatballs
(Serves 8 to 10)
For mini meatballs:
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
3/4 cups grated pecorino cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tblsp dried parsley or Italian seasoning
2 to 3 cloves minced garlic
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 small bunch parsley, minced
1 egg beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
For soup:
2 heads of escarole, core removed and torn into small pieces
8 to 10 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil
Small onion minced
2 cloves minced garlic
Make mini meatballs: mix all the listed ingredients in a bowl and form into s,
Mall size meatballs.  Chill for about 1 hour.
Heat olive oil in Dutch oven pot over medium heat, add garlic and onions, cook until lightly brown, taking care not to burn garlic.  Add escarole and cook until wilted, about 10 minutes.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium/low and add meatballs.  Allow meatballs to simmer until cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes, depending upon size.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
And now scenes from our dinner……
Main Course
Dressed dessert
Mrs Foodie!
My Wonderful Husband!

Beef Barley Soup

One of my favorite memories of growing up in the diner was my father’s soups.  I don’t remember him ever following a recipe.  He would just throw things together and the most delicious soup would come from that.  I have heard stories that at times he would run out of the soup well before lunch even started.  He had customers who were drivers from the highway department stopping in late in the morning after plowing snow and grabbing a bowl of hot soup. Dad would then have to whip up another batch for the lunch crowd.

There are three soups that I really remember well. The first is a very easy soup to make that doesn’t need a recipe.  He made cream of tomato soup ( using milk and not water) from the condensed cans, but then adding cooked elbow macaroni.  The end result was Tomato Macaroni Soup.  Then he made something called Chuckwagon Soup and I believe that was a beef based soup but was a combination of whatever he had as left overs.  My all time favorite soup and the focus of this blog post was Beef Barley Soup.  Now as I said, there are no written recipes from Dad so I had to find my own.  So I went to one of my favorite chefs Ina Garten for her version of Beef Barley Soup complete with Oxtails.  

I didn’t know what Oxtails were or what part of the cow it was from.  Thank goodness we shop at a store that has a great meat department and a good butcher to ask.  Our Oxtails were found in their freezer section and we picked the meaty ones.  Oxtail is the tail end of the cow if you haven’t guessed. 


  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 2 pounds beef oxtails
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch) diced carrots (4 carrots)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup (1/2-inch) diced celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 10 cups canned beef broth
  • 1 cup pearled barley


    Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Add the oxtails, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until browned all over. Remove the oxtails with a slotted spoon and reserve.

    Add the leeks, carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the fat in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to brown.
     Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen string and add to the pot along with the bay leaves.
    Return the oxtails to the pot and add the broth, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Discard the thyme bundle and the bay leaves, and skim off the fat.
    Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the barley. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, drain, and set aside.
    When the soup is ready, add the barley and cook the soup for another 15 or 20 minutes, until the barley is tender. Depending on the saltiness of the stock, the soup might need another teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Serve hot, with or without the oxtails


    Getting chilly, so we need some Chili!

    Happy Halloween! 

    Fall is finally here.  We have had it pretty easy up until recently and now it’s time to start gathering those cold weather recipes.  This one is perfect for those weeknights or busy Sunday afternoons.  When we had this recently our son said “Hey, we don’t have chili until Super bowl Sunday, how come now?”  The answer was easy – he had a ton of activities for us that day so when we left the house at 9:15, we put the crock pot on a timer and when we came home at 4:00 dinner was ready when we were.   Hubby prepped everything the day before and had it in the refrigerator all set in the crock pot liner.  One hint – don’t cut the onions up until you put in all in the crock pot or your refrigerator will smell like onions. ( A small dish of baking soda will take care of odor.)




    Slow Cooker Chili

    2 lbs. lean ground beef
    3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    1 onion chopped (save time by using one cup of frozen chopped onion)
    1 – 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, un-drained (or 2 – 14.5 ounce cans)
    1 – 16 oz.  can chili beans in sauce, un-drained (use hot chili beans if you like it spicy)
    1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
    2 tablespoons chili powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper

    In a large skillet, brown ground beef (I give the meat a sprinkle of salt and pepper), onions and garlic over medium heat until beef is cooked; drain.  Place beef, onion, garlic and remaining ingredients In 4- to 5-quart slow cooker.  Cover and cook on Low heat setting 6 to 8 hours.


    Split Pea soup for you!

    Happy New Year!  Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and Happy New Year!
    • This Christmas my mother-in- law hosted Christmas Day dinner.  Once she told us she was having a spiral ham my hubby requested the ham bone for Split Pea soup.  He had the peas already and his recipe pull out that he had made a couple of times before.  On Saturday morning Hubby was looking at the new Fine Cooking magazine that we had received the day before and low and behold a Pea Soup recipe was featured.  He can be adventurous and we had all of the ingredients, so why not try this one.
    Our daughter had a basketball game late Saturday afternoon. My sister had recently had surgery and is not able to drive quite yet had asked for a ride to the game.  She is a big fan of the kids basketball games.  We started the soup in the early afternoon and finished it up just before heading out to the game.  I called my sister and told her we would be a few minutes late because we were finishing up the Split Pea soup for dinner.  Hubby asked if she wanted some and her reply was ” I am not a big fan.  Can’t get past the color.”  I am shocked!  We grew up on homemade soups of all sorts.  My parents owned a diner and Dad made soup everyday!  So we filled a bowl for her and her husband to try and off we went.  I am happy to report that we got a text Saturday night that the soup was good!
    So if you are hankering for some soup and have a ham bone lying around…. (Or get some ham hocks from the grocery store), give this recipe a try.

    • Ham and Split Pea Soup

    • 1-1/2 lb. smoked ham hocks (1 or 2) (We used  the ham bone from Christmas dinner)
    • 1 lb. (2-1/4 cups) green or yellow split peas, picked over
    • 1 medium leek, white and light-green parts chopped
    • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme or 1-1/2 tsp. dried thyme
    • 1 large dried bay leaf
    • 1-1/2 Tbs. olive oil
    • 2 medium yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • Kosher salt
    • 3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 3 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • Pinch cayenne, more to taste
    • Pinch ground cloves
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    Rinse the ham hocks (ham bone) and split peas. Combine them in a deep 7- to 8-quart stockpot with 15 cups water. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam, and boil for 5 minutes.
    Lower the heat to a simmer, add the leek, thyme, and bay leaf, and simmer gently until the peas are falling apart, about 1-1/2 hours.
    Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring with a wooden spatula, until browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the carrots and celery, cover, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the carrots and celery are just tender, another 15 minutes.
    Transfer the ham hocks to a plate. Add the vegetables to the soup, scraping the skillet with the wooden spatula to release any browned bits. Stir in 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, the cloves, and the cayenne, and continue to simmer for 20 minutes to meld the flavors. Turn the heat off, discard the bay leaf, add the parsley, and puree the soup with an immersion blender (or in a regular blender, working in batches) until smooth.
    Cut the skin from the ham hocks, and then remove the meat from the bone, discarding any large pieces of fat. Dice the meat and add it to the soup. Reheat the soup over medium-low heat, simmering and stirring occasionally, until it’s the consistency of heavy cream and pours easily from a ladle, about 10 minutes. Thin with a little water, if necessary. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and cayenne. Serve hot.
    Make Ahead Tips
    The soup can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. It will thicken as it cools, but will thin again when heated. Reheat slowly, adding water as needed, to prevent the bottom from burning.


    Butternut Squash Soup and so much more…..

    Our foodie friends came over for dinner last week and brought us a butternut squash from their garden.  Your probably thinking, butternut squash, that is nothing spectacular, but this squash was huge.  

    The squash actually came from an area near their compost bed, probably from some discarded  seeds.  And it has more “friends” too.  They had a whole bucket full of squash, all very large in their garage.    So last Sunday we had my hubby’s mother over for dinner and I decided to make some Butternut Squash Soup.   With the leftover squash I gave a big chuck of the squash to my sister and saved another piece to make Roasted Squash for dinner tonight.   And guess what, we got another squash from them last night – about 15 pounds worth….

    So, if you you look back to last fall I posted the recipe for the roasted squash.  And here is the recipe for the soup I made last weekend.  Any ideas for my new jumbo squash waiting to be utilized?


    1 (2 to 3 pound) butternut squash, peeled and seeded
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1 medium onion, chopped
    6 cups chicken stock
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Marscapone (for topping)


    Cut squash into 1-inch chunks. In large pot melt butter. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add squash and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove squash chunks with slotted spoon and place in a blender and puree. Return blended squash to pot. Stir and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Place a spoonful of Marscapone Cheese on soup and stir. Serve.

    Serves 6

    Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/butternut-squash-soup-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback