Simple Tomato Soup

tomato soup 5Winter in Southern California doesn’t exist. To attest to that, I’m currently wearing a tank top and sandals. I have jeans on too, in case you thought I was pantsless. But seriously, this just isn’t right. I saw on Instagram yesterday that it was snowing in New Jersey. I know you East Coast people are probably sick of the cold and can’t believe that I’d complain about the 80 degree weather we’re having today but still…. I’d like to experience a mild winter for once. Since “winter” in California isn’t really happening, I thought now was as good a time as any to share my simple tomato soup with you. This is great for lunch on a cold day (I don’t know much about cold days) or a quick dinner. And this must be served with a grilled cheese. It’s a requirement. At least with my soup. This makes a medium sized pot and is supposed to be an accompaniment soup. Yes, I’m very fancy that way.

Simple Tomato Soup

  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes (or crushed)
  • 1/2 small white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning (or 1 frozen basil cube)
  • 1/2 c. half & half
  • ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

In a medium sized pot, heat olive oil on medium. Once heated, add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Then add in the tomatoes (juice too) chicken broth, sugar, salt, pepper, bay leaf and the rest of the seasonings. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes. Remove bay leaf and then with an immersion blender, pulse soup a few times to thin it out to a smoother consistency. Turn off the heat and add the half & half. Stir and taste and add more pepper or more sugar if necessary. Serve immediately.

tomato souptomato soup 3tomato soup 2tomato soup 4tomato soup 6tomato soup 7I’m still holding out hope that a little bit of winter will arrive soon. That snow on New Year’s Eve was a total fluke and won’t happen again for at least another 10 years but I’m still wanting to get some use out of my boots. But for now, sandals it is.

Pasta with Creamy Pesto Sauce

With all of this holiday eating and cooking, making a big meal may not be your biggest priority right now. And you’re probably out of leftovers….. so, here’s a solution to still having a quick, easy, home cooked meal. It would take longer for you to call and order a pizza and wait for it to be delivered, than it would take to make this. This is a dinner we’ve had on our “Meatless Monday” nights. Yes, I’m aware it’s now Tuesday. But it’s great any time you need something fast.

Just be warned, I took pictures of this dish MONTHS and MONTHS ago. Like, almost a year. And I’ve just never posted it before. And the food was taken with my old phone. At night, when it was totally dark. So it’s really not the best picture you’ve ever seen. But make the food anyways, and you’ll see in person it’s much tastier looking than my crappy photography makes it out to be! 🙂

 

pasta ingredients

Don’t be alarmed by the date on the half & half. This is an old picture!

Pasta with Creamy Pesto Sauce

  • 1 lb. pasta, noodle type is your choice
  • 1/2 c. half & half
  • 1/3 c. prepared pesto sauce
  • 1 tomato, chopped

Cook pasta according to directions on box. In a small saucepan, add the prepared pesto and the half and half. Heat on medium low, until warm, and stir together. When pasta is cooked, drain and add to a bowl. Pour creamy pesto sauce over the top and add chopped tomato. Stir and serve.

It’s seriously that easy AND only 4 ingredients. Feel free to add some cracked black pepper or a little bit of grated parmesan but really, it has a ton of flavor already.pasta

Creamy Mediterranean Dip

cm dip 2I first tasted this dip quite a few years back when a friend brought it over to my house. Yummy! I had to have the recipe! Although it’s been quite awhile since I last had it, it recently popped in my head and I had to make it. It’s very creamy (hence the title) as well as crunchy, garlicky, and very fresh tasting. Great summer appetizer, but delicious at any time of year.

Well, my parents raved about it when they ate it. And my mom told me I must post it on my blog. I’ve altered the original recipe to fit finicky taste buds and along with that, gave it a new name because what used to be an “Italian” dip, now seems to me to be very much Mediterranean. Here it is!!

Creamy Mediterranean Dip

  • 1, 8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 large green onion or 2 small green onions, sliced
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 baby cucumber, diced small
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced small
  • 2 tbsp. red or white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. Italian dressing

cm dipIn a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, garlic, green onions and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Spread onto a plate to form an even layer. In another bowl, mix together the cucumber, tomato, onion and dressing with a dash of pepper. Spoon over the top of the cream cheese mixture in an even layer. Refrigerate until ready to eat. Serve with crackers or pretzel crisps.

P.S. Check out my vintage milk glass platter. This one happens to be my FAVORITE platter EVER. I’ve recently become over the moon for milk glass and am building up a collection. Best part is that these beautiful pieces have been gifted to me by loved ones!

Corn Salad

corn saladThis, my friends, is a summer staple! It goes great with Mexican food as well as good ole’ American BBQ food. With bright colors and fresh flavors, it’s the perfect side dish to serve at your next gathering.

Corn Salad

  • 2, 15 ounce, cans of corn, drained
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped (or 4 romas)
  • 2 tbsp. red onion, chopped (I used white because I didn’t have any red)
  • 2 avocados, chopped
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
  • half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp. prepared teriyaki sauce
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • pinch of salt

Add the first five ingredients into a bowl and squeeze some lemon over the top. In a separate bowl, add the remaining ingredients and whisk until blended. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix together. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

corn salad 4corn salad 3corn salad 2Now, I know it’s not summer just yet. But where I live, it’s already starting to feel that way. Hope you’re enjoying the weather, wherever you may be!

When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!

I have three young children, so it’s no surprise that we like pizza in this house. But ordering out and having it delivered can become quite spendy in the long run, so I turned to making my pizza at home. Not with a premade crust, but with homemade dough, and oh does that make the difference! We still order out occasionally, but I really do prefer to make it at home, and once you try it yourself, you’ll understand why.

I do have to say that pizza making in my house is not an exact science. As I’ve mentioned before, I do not like to measure, and pizza is the perfect example of cooking using a method, rather than a recipe. Making your own concoctions to suit your individual tastes, and also the tastes of your family. However, the pizza dough DOES need to be measured and you do need to follow a recipe for that. As for the sauces and toppings, that’s up to you.

I’ve made plenty a pizza, and here are some helpful hints I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Use a pizza stone! I received one as a gift and I absolutely love it. It gives your crust a great crispness to the bottom and a more authentic taste. It is definitely not necessary though, any baking sheet will work. But that stone does elevate the pizza.
  2. Cornmeal! I always sprinkle cornmeal on my stone or baking sheet before I place the dough on it. The cornmeal helps to slide the pizza off the sheet easier and also adds a slight crunch.
  3. Use parchment paper to roll out your dough on. This makes it much easier to transfer to your stone or sheet. All you have to do is flip the dough onto the stone/sheet, and peel the parchment paper off.
  4. Sprinkle just a little bit of flour on your pizza dough rolling surface (parchment!) and also on top of your dough. This will help the dough roll much easier and also won’t stick to your rolling pin.

Onto the magical dough. So this is by far the best pizza dough I’ve ever used. I’ve tried a few different recipes and this is THE ONE! I knew it after my very first bite. You can find the original recipe over at Lauren’s Latest. She’s got some really great pictures and tips for making pizza dough so please check it out. I’ve adjusted her recipe to work better for my family size, so if you have a slightly larger than average family, this is the one for you.

Pizza Dough (serving size- 2, 14 inch pizza crusts):

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
4 cups all purpose flour, give or take half a cup

In a large mixing bowl, preferably that of a stand mixer, stir yeast and honey into warm water. Sit for 5-10 minutes or until bubbles form and mixture starts to foam. This tells you that the yeast is alive and kicking. Pour in salt, oil and half the flour and mix. Once that flour is incorporated, start adding flour in bit by bit until you get the pizza dough to the consistency you want: slightly tacky, but when you touch it, it doesn’t stick to your hands. Once you reach this stage, knead for 3-6 minutes. The dough should be smooth and easy to work with. And the bowl should be clean! Lightly grease the bowl & the dough so it doesn’t dry out, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise 1-2 hours. Now it’s time to make pizza!

I’d just like to note, you do not need a stand mixer to make this dough. So if you don’t have one, never fear, your two hands are near! Yes, manual labor it is for you. Follow the recipe, except you use your hands to knead the dough, simple as that. I used this method for a long time before I bought a stand mixer.

Now, onto the pizzas I made. The first was a “kid friendly” pizza, which included red sauce, pepperoni and mushrooms. Like I said before, pizza making is a method, so I’m not going to give exact amounts but just tell you how I made it. The amount you want on your pizza will likely differ from the amounts I like on my pizza. Here goes….

  • pepperoni & mushroom pizzaOrganic tomato sauce went onto the dough first, sprinkled with garlic powder.
  • Then came shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Next was pepperoni and sliced baby bellas (one of my favs!).
  • Last, I sprinkled Italian seasoning all over.

I baked this at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. My oven cooks very slowly, so yours may be done faster than mine. You can tell it’s done when the crust starts turning brown and you can also lift up the crust a bit and peek at the underside. It should feel crisp, and not soft.

Time for the “adult” pizza! I did my version of a “margherita” pizza. Except instead of using basil though, I used kale. kale & tomato pizza

  • First, I spread my homemade softened basil garlic compound butter (see recipe for butter below) all over the crust.
  • Then I sprinkled a light amount of shredded mozzarella cheese over it.
  • After that came thinly sliced tomatoes.
  • Finally, some torn kale and cracked black pepper.

I also cooked this at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. Give pizza making a try. It’s not hard, and the results are worth it!!!

This is great in pasta, on potatoes, pizza, the possibilities are endless!

This is great in pasta, on potatoes, pizza, the possibilities are endless!

Basil Garlic Compound Butter

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 3 tsp. frozen basil (remember those cubes I’ve talked about?)
  • 4 garlic gloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until blended together, scraping the sides as necessary. Scrape butter onto a large piece of plastic wrap, roughly into the shape of a cylinder. Wrap the butter up, twisting the ends of the plastic wrap. Can be stored in the fridge or freezer.