Creamy Tomato Soup

A very mild tomato soup that you can have on the table in 30 minutes.  Serve with grilled cheese, of course!  Slightly adapted from The Food Nanny.

1 cube butter, softned
1 c. flour
4-5 c. chicken broth
4 c. half and half
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 1/2 c. marinara sauce
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, pureed
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook and stir for 5 minutes to slightly brown the mixture (it's sort of a dry, crumbly roux).  Whisk in 4 cups of chicken broth.  Increase the heat and cook and stir until thickened.  Decrease the heat to low, stir in the half and half and basil and simmer for 20 minutes. 

Stir in the marinara sauce and pureed tomatoes, and cook until heated through.  Add more chicken broth if the soup is too thick for your taste.  Season with salt and pepper before serving.  If you half the recipe, still use the whole can of diced tomatoes...it works great.  I added a little tomato paste from a squeeze tube for a little more tomato flavor. 


Fruit Dip

1/2 cup brown sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
2 containers vanilla greek yogurt
5 oz. mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream

Mix together sugar and cream cheese.  Add vanilla yogurt.  Add heavy cream and whip until holds and peaks.  Add chocolate chips.
Serve with fruit of choice.


Peanut Butter Bars

I've searched high and low for a recipe for the peanut butter bars of my elementary school days and finally, finally found one that is almost spot-on...maybe even a teeny bit better.  These are so delicious, they feed a crowd, and are simple to make.  Recipe slightly adapted from The Food Nanny.

1 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
3 tsp. vanilla
4 large eggs
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp soda
3 c. flour
3 c. regular oats

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream together the peanut butter, butter, sugars, and vanilla.  Add the eggs one at a time while mixing on low and mix until blended.  Stir the dry ingredients in a bowl and then add the dry to the wet one cup at a time until well mixed.  Press the dough into a 17 1/2 by 13 inch baking sheet with your fingers.  Bake for 15 mins.  Do not over bake.  Let cool completely, then frost with chocolate frosting (recipe below).

Chocolate Frosting:

4 c. powdered sugar
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. unsalted butter, softenend
1 TB vanilla
2 TB corn syrup
1/3 c. heavy cream

In a bowl, stir together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla and corn syrup.  Mix in the sugar mixture one cup at a time.  Mix in the cream, then whip on high speed for 3 minutes, adding more cream if necessary to make the frosting spreadable. 


Spicy Tomato Cream Spaghetti Sauce

This spaghetti sauce comes together really quickly but tastes like it cooked all day.  If you cook the noodles at the same time as the sauce you can do the whole thing in 30 mins, though I do like the sauce to simmer longer if I have time.  :)

1 lb. Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage
1/2 c. finely diced onion
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 TB tomato paste (from a squeeze tube is best but from a can works too)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 small pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional, depending on how spicy you want to go)
1/2 teaspoon coarse, kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
8-ounce can tomato sauce
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 c. heavy cream or half and half
1/4 c. part skim ricotta cheese
parmesan, for serving

In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook the ground meat, onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper, breaking the meat into small pieces as it cooks, until the meat is not longer pink.  Drain any excess grease.

Stir in the tomato paste, basil, oregano, thyme, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about a minute, until the mixture smells fragrant.  Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, brown sugar and soy sauce. Stir to combine.  Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes (or as long as you like/need).  Just before serving add in the cream and ricotta and stir until combined and hot.

Serve over hot, cooked noodles (or zoodles!) and top with parmesan. 


Oatmeal Cake

1 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

6 TBS butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded coconut

Pour 1 1/2 cup boiling water over oatmeal and let sit for 20 minutes.
Sift flour, soda, salt and cinnamon together. Cream 1 cup brown sugar, sugar, and butter together; beat in eggs. Stir in flour mixture, oatmeal mixture and 1 tsp vanilla. Turn batter into greased 12x8 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Melt butter in saucepan; stir in remaining brown sugar, cream, coconut and remaining vanilla. Mix well and spread over hot cake. Broil until topping is bubbly and lightly browned.

Delicious cake from my friend Heather B.


Thumbprint Cookies

2/3 c. butter
1/3 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs, separated yolks from whites
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. sifted all purpose flour
3/4 c. finely chopped pecans
1/3 c. strawberry or cherry preserves

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg yolks, vanilla, and salt and beat well.  Gradually add the flour, mixing well. 

Shape into 3/4 inch ball, dip them into the egg whites and then roll them in the nuts and place them 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet.  Press down the center of each cookie with your thumb.  Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes.  Cool slightly, remove from pan and cool on rack.  Just before serving, fill the centers fo the cookies with jam.  I warmed the jam slightly to make it easier to work with...it set back up as it cooled. 


Red-Apple Walnut Salad...

4 red apples chopped
1/4 cup orange juice
2 (16 oz. bags mixed salad greens)
1 (6 oz. carton Gorgonzola cheese)
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds or raisins
1 recipe candied walnuts
1 recipe winter salad dressing

One half hour before serving time, combine apples and orange juice to keep apples fresh.  At serving time drain off juices.  Place everything in a bowl and mix.

Candied Walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs. water
1 cup walnuts

Line a baking sheet with well-greased foil or parchment paper.  Place sugar and water in a small saucepan; stir to moisten sugar evenly.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook and stir until sugar melts and caramelizes to a rich brown color.  Watch carefully so it doesn't burn.  Remove from heat and add walnuts and stir with a fork to cover.  Place nuts on baking sheet in an even layer.  Let cool until caramel hardens.  This step can be made days ahead if needed.

Winter Salad Dressing
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup honey

In a quart jar combine all dressing ingredients.  Shake vigorously.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Dressing can be made a few days in advance if needed.


So Simple Instant Pot Saucy Meatballs


Frozen Italian Meatballs (I've heard the ones from Costco are great, but I just grabbed a bag from the grocery store)
1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray's Original BBQ Sauce

Dump meatballs in the instant pot.  (I filled my 6 qt. pot about 1/2 full.)  Pour 1 cup of water over the meatballs and then dump 1 to 1.5  cups of the BBQ sauce over the top of the meatballs.  Cook on high pressure for 8 minutes.  When it beeps and is done, turn off the Instant Pot and let the pressure naturally release for 10 mins.  Quick release the rest of the pressure and open the pot.  Stir the meatballs and serve over rice or mashed potatoes with a green salad and/or veggies.  You could also serve these as an appetizer without the rice.

If you were doing more meatballs you would want to add a little more water and more BBQ sauce.


Pork Lettuce Wraps

2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon ketchup
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red chili paste

3 Tablespoons sesame oil, or olive oil (This was a lot, especially using ground pork.  I would use 1 TB sesame oil and 1 TB of olive oil in the future.  I ended up draining a lot of fat off the pork before adding the onions, etc.)
1 lb. fresh ground pork, finely ground
1/4 cup shallot or onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup canned water chestnuts, diced  (I didn't have water chestnuts so I used matchstick carrots, roughly chopped)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

12-16 Butter lettuce leaves or Boston Bib (may use Iceberg)

Rinse the lettuce leaves. Drain well. Pat dry with paper towels. Place in a plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

In a small bowl stir together 2 Tablespoons sugar and 1/4 cup warm water until dissolved. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, lime juice, sesame oil and chili paste. Mix well. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium/high heat. Stir-fry the pork quickly in the oil breaking the meat up as much as possible. Add the onions, garlic, and water chestnuts and continue to stir-fry until the pork is cooked through and the onions are soft. Add the brown sugar, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. Should only take a couple of minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 8 as a side dish or 4 as a main dish.

** You can buy the chili paste at most grocery stores...Sambal Oelek Ground Fresh Chili Paste, Huy Fong Foods, Inc.


Thanksgiving Dressing

recipe from:  Epicurious


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter plus more for baking dish
1 pound good-quality day-old white bread, torn into 1" pieces (about 10 cups)
2 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 1/2 cups 1/4" slices celery
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 250°F. Butter a 13x9x2" baking dish and set aside. Scatter bread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until dried out, about 1 hour. Let cool; transfer to a very large bowl.

Meanwhile, melt 3/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add onions and celery. Stir often until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add to bowl with bread; stir in herbs, salt, and pepper. Drizzle in 1 1/4 cups broth and toss gently. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk 1 1/4 cups broth and eggs in a small bowl. Add to bread mixture; fold gently until thoroughly combined. Transfer to prepared dish, cover with foil, and bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of dressing registers 160°F, about 40 minutes. DO AHEAD: Dressing can be made 1 day ahead. Uncover; let cool. Cover; chill.

Bake dressing, uncovered, until set and top is browned and crisp, 40-45 minutes longer (if chilled, add 10-15 minutes).

Makes 8-10 servings

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups cooked and mashed red sweet potatoes
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/3 cube of butter (softened)
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together the above ingredients and place them in a greased baking dish.

1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cube butter (softened)
1 cup chopped pecans

Mix together and sprinkle over the top of the casserole.  Bake 350 for 35-45 minutes.  I like to make 1 1/2 x the crumb topping.  I like a large nut to casserole ratio!

Notes:  I peeled and cut two very large sweet potatoes into about 2 inch chunks and cooked them in a mesh strainer/steam basket on high pressure in my Instant Pot for 5 mins, did a quick release, drained the water and used a hand mixer to mash them.  This ended up being almost exactly 3 cups of mashed sweet potatoes. 


Corn Chowder

1 Large Onion, chopped
1/2 lb. bacon, diced
3 cups chicken broth
1 17oz can creamed corn
1/4 tsp. marjoram
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 cups grated, raw potatoes
1/2 c. butter
1 can evaporated milk
parsley (optional)

In a heavy kettle, cook bacon on low heat, but do not brown.  Add the onion and celery and saute' until golden.  Add grated potatoes and chicken broth and simmer until potatoes are done, stirring constantly.  Add corn and butter.  Stir in the evaporated milk.  Heat until warm, but do NOT boil.  Add marjoram and parsley.


Crockpot Ham and Potato Soup...

8 cups potatoes (peeled and diced)
1/2 yellow onion chopped
2 large carrots (peeled and chopped)
1/2 cup chopped celery
16 ounce cubed ham
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 cups chicken broth
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
grated cheese to top each bowl of soup with

In crockpot add potatoes, onion, carrot, celery, ham, salt, pepper, and chicken broth.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.  15 minutes before eating, Take out 1/3 of the potatoes and put in a bowl.  Mash with a potato masher and then add back into the soup.  Add cream and sour cream and stir well.  In a separate cup put 3 tbsp cornstarch and a little bit of water to make a smooth mixture.  Add to crockpot.  Cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Serve with a green salad and roll.


Egg Roll in A Bowl...

1 lb. ground turkey breast
1/4 onion
1 TBS. minced garlic
1 bag of coleslaw mix
3 TBS. soy sauce
2 tsp. rice vinegar
2 TBS. sweet chili sauce
salt and pepper to taste


Brown ground turkey then drain and set aside
Brown onion and garlic for 3 minutes and then add coleslaw mix.  Cook on medium until coleslaw is tender.  Add back in ground turkey and add in the rest of the ingredients.  Cook for a few more minutes.  My kids like to drizzle more sweet chili sauce on their bowl of food before eating.  You can serve with rice and mixed vegetables.


Cafe Rio Pork...

3 lb. pork roast
1 small can diced green chilis
1 package Frontera Red Chile Enchilada Sauce with Roasted Tomato and Garlic Pouch
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup coke

Cook roast for 4 hours with just some water in the crockpot.  Drain the water out and cut off any fat off the roast.  Then combine green chilis, enchilada sauce packer, and brown sugar in a blender.  Blend ingredients together until smooth.  Add to crockpot.  Then add the coke.  Cook on low or high until roast is ready to shred.  Shred meat and then put back in the crockpot with liquid.  Serve over salad or make a taco.