Roasted Tomato Soup 

On a cold winter night, not much satisfies the comfort food quota quite like tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. It is possibly the perfect food combination… outside of chocolate and peanut butter, that is.

Like most of us, I grew up on the Campbell’s tomato soup in a can. I still like to keep cans in my cupboard to throw dinner together when the comfort food mood strikes.  The thing with the canned soup, like most canned foods, is it is full of preservatives.  I’m not super strict about that sort of thing, but it is something I try to control whenever I can. That’s why I love this recipe so much. It really isn’t difficult to make your own tomato soup from scratch and of course it is much better when you make it yourself.

Another fun fact about this recipe? I got it from the one-and-only KELLY KAPOWSKI! That’s right, my tens of readers, the love of Zack Morris’ life and eventual wife, the cheerleader we all wanted to be (except when she cheated on Zack with Jeff, that creepy older guy from the Max! Ugh, that was the worst!).  Tiffani Thiessen (no more “Amber”) has a pretty great show on The Cooking Channel. She makes food for all her famous friends and has some delicious recipes. I came for the nostalgia factor and stayed for the yummy recipes. Seriously, if you get The Cooking Channel, you should check it out.

It really is very easy:
(original recipe found here)

4 pounds plum tomatoes (I used Roma), halved and seeds removed
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoons sugar
6 sprigs thyme
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup heavy cream (I just used regular milk)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or about half that amount of dried)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, lay out your tomatoes in single layer. Drizzle the tomatoes with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper, and sugar. Scatter the thyme sprigs. Roast until soft, about 1 hour.

Let cool slightly, until they are cool enough to handle. Discard the thyme and peel the skin off the tomatoes.  This is actually a lot easier than it sounds!

In a large pot, add the rest of the olive oil, the onions, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown a bit on the edges. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, and bay leaf. Simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes.

Turn the heat down to low and add the cream (or milk) and chopped basil. Let simmer for another 5 minutes or so. Remove the bay leaf and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can ladle the soup into a blender and puree it that way. Make sure to do it batches and not overcrowd your blender. Season with more salt and pepper if you need to.

The best way to serve this is with grilled cheese, of course. I think it may be some sort of law. Delicious perfection, right here!

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Thai Peanut Chicken Stir Fry 

So, here’s my thing about Thai food: it makes me nervous. For some reason, I never think I’m going to like it, but I always do. It’s weird, but it’s just one of those things.My first ever experience with Thai flavors was the Thai Chicken Pizza at California Pizza Kitchen. I know that is in no way actual Thai food, hence why I referred to it as Thai Flavors. For some reason, my senior year AP Biology teacher got us CPK for the class. Maybe it was after the AP test? I don’t really remember, but what I do remember is my friend Joey ordered the Thai Chicken Pizza and let me have some. It was so yummy and to this day, that’s what I get whenever I go to CPK.

Fast forward many years later, when my friend Bon took my husband and me to a place called Wild Thai. That was the only time I’d ever had actual Thai food. He ordered us chicken penang curry (I think I spelled that right) and it was absolutely delicious. We went back a few times after that.

I don’t eat Thai or make it often (though I did a really delicious shrimp dish on this very blog), but I do love the flavor combinations. The sweet and spicy, salty and citrusy. Thai cuisine really does have a great flavor profile.

I found this recipe in my Vitamix cookbook. Have I not sung the praises of Vitamix enough? I love it almost as much as my slow cooker…

Anyway, it is very easy to throw together, is actually quite healthy, and can be altered to your liking. I used chicken, but you could probably use shrimp, and you could put all different kinds of veggies in it. You could probably put only veggies in it and it would be delicious as a vegetarian option as well.

I added more vegetables than the recipe calls for. Also, according to my husband, it could have used more spice, but he has an unnatural tolerance for spice. I thought it was perfect, but you could probably add more jalapeno or even hot sauce at the end if you want. I even had my kids give it a try and they liked it, so who’s going to say no to that?

The recipe also says to serve over rice, but I served it over those spinach noodles I made. To each his own.

Recipe from the Vitamix Cookbook

16 oz can coconut milk
2 Tablespoons soy sauce (low sodium)
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed
1 cup cocktail peanuts
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in small cubes
1 bell pepper, cut into small pieces
Any other veggies you want
cooked rice or pasta for serving

In a blender (I forgot to take pictures of the blender, but I’m sure you’ll get it just fine), add the coconut milk, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, brown sugar, sesame oil, jalapeno, and peanuts. Blend until smooth. (If using the Vitamix, set to Smoothie program and let finish).

Chop your veggies and chicken.

Put the vegetable oil in a hot skillet and add the chicken. When almost cooked through, add the veggies and saute until soft.

Add about a cup of sauce to the pan and let simmer to warm through.

Serve with rice or noodles. You can add more sauce and chopped peanuts to the top.


This is really, really good!  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to heat up some leftovers!

Homemade Spinach Pasta 

If you remember, my hubby got me a pasta maker for Christmas. The first time I made pasta turned out pretty good, but not great. I think the problem was I left the fresh rigatoni in a pile and it stuck together. I also don’t think I cooked it long enough, so it was a bit chewy. My dough didn’t look quite right using the recipe from the instruction manual, but the flavor was good, so I don’t know what the exact problem was.I decided to give it another try, but this time I made spinach spaghetti. I used this recipe from Williams-Sonoma as a guide. Since this recipe was for a different type of pasta maker, I just used the dough, but not the steps that followed. Even if you don’t have a pasta maker, I think you could probably still use this recipe. Just make sure your dough is rolled out thin enough and then cut it out how you want.

I admit I was a little bit concerned about how this would taste. It uses a pound of spinach and I was afraid it would taste too spinachy. My fears were totally unfounded. This pasta was so good! It wasn’t too spinachy at all, it tasted great and I let it cook a lot longer than the rigatoni, so it wasn’t chewy at all. The only problem was I let it get stuck together. I made little piles of the pasta as it was coming out of the machine. Literally, the only reason I did this was because that’s how Aziz Ansari made his pasta on Master of None and I thought that was a thing to do with fresh spaghetti. Either I did it wrong or I should not take lessons about pasta making from a comedian. I think I did it wrong, though, because I just Googled “fresh spaghetti” and there are lot of little spaghetti nests out there.

Fresh Spinach Spaghetti

1 pound fresh spinach, stems removed
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour


In a large skillet, add the spinach and cover. Let it cook for about 3 or so minutes until wilted down. It will look like a lot at first, but when it wilts down, it will be just over a handful.

Put the spinach in a sieve and run cold water over. When it is cool enough to handle, ring it out in a towel until mostly dry.


Add the spinach to a blender or food processor with one egg and blend until combined.


 On a cutting board, pile up your flour and make a crater inside. To the crater, add your spinach mix and the second egg (slightly beaten). Using either a fork or your hands (I used my hands), mix the egg and spinach into the flour until well combined, working the ingredients into a solid dough.



If using a pasta machine, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for making the pasta of your choice. If not, roll out the dough and make the pasta shape of your choice.


I served mine with a chicken and veggie stir fry in a Thai peanut sauce and it was really such a delicious and healthy meal. I will absolutely be adding this to our arsenal!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie 

My sweet tooth will be my downfall, dear readers. If there is any candy or chocolate or cookies lying around, I’ll definitely be sneaking nibbles here and there… and here again. Ice cream in the freezer? Forget about it. It’s a wonder I’m not a 500-pound diabetic.

My husband, however, is the opposite. As far as sweets are concerned, he can take ‘em or leave ‘em. He’ll have a bite or two every so often, but his self-control is admirable. And possibly inhuman. I’ll have to check into that.

Since I love sweets and I love to bake, him not really caring one way or the other makes it a bit difficult when I want to make something. Sure the kids can have some too, but I don’t want them scarfing down sweets all the time. Usually, it means my co-workers benefit. I make sweet things, leave them in the breakroom and watch them disappear. Nothing goes to waste and I get my fix of both eating the sweets and making them.

That being said, I did not take this pie to work. It stayed in my fridge while I took bites out of it here and there… and here again. It was so good. Like really, so good. You know what, just try it for yourself. You’ll see. But don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Chocolate cookie crust (you can make your own, but I bought mine. Still amazing.)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter
1 8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a chilled bowl, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Remove it from the bowl and set it aside.

Back in the mixer, combine the cream cheese, peanut butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until combined and creamy.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. It will now be almost like peanut butter mousse. In fact, that is what it will be called going forward because doesn’t that sound marvelous?!

Pour the peanut butter mousse into the prepared pie crust and smooth out.

Put it in the fridge to set up for about 30 minutes or so.

Now, at this point, I melted half a bag of chocolate chips and poured it over the top. This was big mistake and I felt it as soon as I poured the chocolate. What I should have done was heat up some heavy cream and add some chocolate chips and make a ganache.

How I did it, ended up with a thick, hard, chocolate shell that made it difficult to cut and was way too rich. After the chocolate hardened, I ended up just removing the shell. I just popped right off.

You can always drizzle chocolate over the top or make a real ganache, but honestly, the pie was better after I took the chocolate off the top. The peanut butter mousse filling was heavenly and the chocolate crust was plenty of chocolate to complement the peanut butter.

I’m thinking this mousse would make a really good cake filling too. Or you know, just in a bowl with a spoon….

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp 

Ah, New Year’s Eve. It’s a young man’s game, and while there was a time when I looked forward to getting all dressed up and going out, that time for me has passed.

Don’t get me wrong; I still love to get dressed up and go out, but just not on NYE. There are always way too many people, it’s freezing (even by SoCal standards), and everything is always overpriced.

The last few years, my husband and I have just stayed at home and still had a great time. The kids are in bed by 8:00 and we put on our jammies, watch movies, pour ourselves a cocktail (or two… or three…) and have a great time. We always turn on the Times Square coverage and watch Ryan Seacrest welcome us into the new year, but we are usually in bed shortly after that.

Every time I watch the people in Times Square, it just makes me tired. Those poor people are standing out in the cold from 8:00 am until well past midnight. You can’t leave for anything. You are stuck there all day long. That really does not sound like fun to me. And in other “How Old Are You Again?” news, I had absolutely no idea who most of the singers who were doing the concerts were. Carrie Underwood? Check? Pentatonix? You got it! But not too many more than that. We saw a bit of the concert done by Jimmy Buffet and our immediate reaction was “That’s where we would be!” First of all, who doesn’t love Jimmy Buffet? Cheeseburger in Paradise, amiright?! Second, they were inside, warm, WITH SEATS… and BATHROOM ACCESS!!

There are two ways to do NYE in NYC: That Jimmy Buffet concert, or pay thousands of dollars to get a nice hotel room with a balcony overlooking Times Square. Not down in the thick of it all, I don’t care what Jenny McCarthy says.

Since we stay in, another tradition that has developed is I try to make a nice dinner. I couldn’t decide what specifically to make this year, so we had a bit of a seafood sampler. It was super delicious. We thought about adding a steak and making it a surf and turf, but I’m glad we didn’t because I was STUFFED after eating all the food. We headed over to Bristol Farms and picked up some lobster tails, crab cakes, shrimp, and asparagus (because you gotta have a veggie!). I just boiled the lobster and seared the crab cakes, but for the shrimp, oh baby, I wrapped it in bacon and it was heavenly. And really easy!

½ pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails off
bacon, cut in half (my ½ pound of shrimp gave me 10 shrimp, so I used 5 pieces of bacon since you half a slice on each shrimp. Just do the math for however many shrimp you get)
¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wrap ½ piece of bacon around each shrimp. You can secure with a toothpick, but I didn’t feel like I needed to. Lay them out on the baking sheet.

In a bowl, combine the brown sugar and cayenne pepper. Rub a little bit on each side of each shrimp.

Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes, turning halfway. (I actually forgot to flip mine at the halfway point and they were fine. The bottom bacon wasn’t quite as crispy as the top, but it was still fine.)

These were so good! They were a little sweet, a little salty, with just a hint of spice from the cayenne. These would be perfect for a cocktail party appetizer!

I hope you are all have a great New Year so far!

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I don’t know why this photo won’t upload the right way, but sideways photo or not, the bacon wrapped shrimp was out of this world.

Chili

I’m sure you were all on the edge of your seat after my previous post, so I thought I would let you know the good, oh-so-important news: I did get my slow cooker. My mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas (see? I was right about that box I saw!) and it is every bit as glorious as I hoped it would be.

You can use the insert on the stove top to cook anything that may need to be precooked beforehand (like ground beef or searing meat), it has a timer you can set so you really can set it and forget it. No more “Wait, what time did I start that again?” Also, once the time is up, it automatically switches over to the “warm” setting so it stops cooking! It’s pretty magical and I highly recommend it to any and every one.

Of course, I had to use my new toy as soon as possible, so we had some friends over for game night and I made a big pot of chili. It was perfect for the cold El Nino weather we’ve been having.

There seems to be at least 7,000 recipes for chili out there. Everyone has their own special twist to it and most are really good. I don’t think even I make it the same every time, but this one is a pretty basic recipe that was warm, comforting, and delicious.

Here is my basic chili recipe. It makes a lot, so be prepared for leftovers, which is perfectly alright with me! It also freezes really well.

1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground beef
2 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained
2 15 oz cans water

In a skillet (or the insert of your crockpot, if you can), heat up the olive oil and add the pepper, onions, and garlic until almost soft. Then add the ground beef and cook until brown. Drain off rendered fat. (Fun fact: I forgot to do this step, so after it was all cooked, I had the fun task of skimming it all off the top. It worked out, but man that was tedious!)

Put the meat and veggies in your slow cooker, and add cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and beans. Mix together. Then fill up one of your 15 oz cans with water twice and add it to the mix.

Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6.

Top with some shredded cheese or your favorite chili toppings and make your favorite cornbread recipe (here is mine).

I don’t have a “final” picture because right as game night was getting started our power went out! We ate chili and played Cards Against Humanity by candlelight. You’ll have to trust me that food looked and tasted quite delicious!!

Garlic Knots 

For months I had been not-so-subtly hinting to my husband that I wanted a new slow cooker. A nice one. One bigger than I have already, with a timer and an insert that you can use on the stovetop. The one I had my eye on was way too expensive to just buy, so it would have to be a Christmas present. When Christmas rolled around, I just knew my husband had come through for me. He had it delivered to his mom’s house and I saw the big box from Williams-Sonoma in her living room. There it was. The slow cooker that dreams are made of. I had to pretend it wasn’t there every day when I picked up my daughter.

A few days before Christmas, my husband said he was going to his mom’s house to wrap my gift and bring it home to put under our tree. I came into the living room, looked at the tree, all lit up and filling our house with Christmas joy.

The box was too small. What? There is no way that the slow cooker of my dreams was in that box.

Hmmm…. I was puzzled. I couldn’t figure it out. Like the Grinch when Christmas came anyway, I puzzled and puzzled until my puzzler was sore.

Christmas morning arrived and we opened our gifts together while the kids opened their stockings. I couldn’t wait to see what was in this now mystery box. And oh, he did not disappoint.

He got me a pasta making attachment for my stand mixer! You guys, this was just as good as what I was expecting, but even better because I wasn’t expecting it!

We’d been talking about making our pasta for so long, but we never got around to actually doing it. A couple days after Christmas, I did make some pasta and it was really good. I’m not going to share that recipe today because it wasn’t great and I’d like to do some tweaking to make it actually work a lot better than it did. I watched a video of someone making pasta dough and mine looked nothing like theirs, so I’m going to work on it a bit more. But really, fresh pasta is so good!

Anyway, when I made my pasta, I just did a plain rigatoni with a tomato-meat sauce. I decided to serve garlic knots on the side because who doesn’t love garlic knots?   These are really easy too. I got the recipe from Pillsbury.

You just need:

1 tube of Pillsbury breadstick dough
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried basil*
½ teaspoon dried parsley*
salt and pepper

*You can use fresh, like the original recipe calls for, just increase the amount to 1 teaspoon. I was out of fresh and I always have dried herbs and spices on hand.

In a bowl, combine the butter, olive oil, garlic, basil, and parsley.

Open the tube of dough and unroll it. Separate each breadstick (there should be 12). Stretch each one out a little bit and twist it into a knot shape. My hubby wasn’t home at the time I made these, so I couldn’t really capture how to do it, but it was really easy and there is a perfect photo on the Pillsbury website.

Put the knots in an ungreased 9” round baking dish and pour the butter mixture over the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.



  I think mine could have cooked a little bit longer, but they were sooooooo good! I’m going to make these whenever I make pasta now!