Herbed Tomato Soup

I love tomato soup, but it’s a pretty recent discovery. It would have been a good recipe to use for last year’s post on Ingredient You Hated as a Kid. I’ve made it a few times before and have two tried and true recipes. One is for the crock pot and the other takes a least an hour. Both are delicious.

Obvi the point of the blog is to try new recipes. The recipe I used this time came from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook:

  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes or one 14 1/2-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, cut up
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon snipped basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon snipped thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • Dash pepper

In a large saucepan, cook onion in butter until tender but not brown. Add fresh tomatoes or undrained canned tomatoes, broth, tomato sauce, basil, thyme, and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Cool slightly. Press mixture through a food mill or put in a blender/food processor until smooth. Return mixture to saucepan; heat through. Makes 4 side-dish servings.

This recipe was super easy, but I’m not sure I’ll be making it again. It was fine. It was like basic tomato soup. There wasn’t anything special about it. I did, however, love using the tomatoes fresh from my garden.


To do that, I had to blanch the tomatoes. You just put them in a pot of boiling water until the skin breaks and then into a bowl of ice cold water.


That way, you have no skin on the tomatoes and can chop them up for the soup.


I was also able to use my fresh thyme and basil! (Thanks, Mom!)


September is not just tomato soup month…it’s also grilled cheese month! Thad and I found inspiration for these grilled cheese sandwiches last weekend in Wisconsin. The sandwich on the right uses Wild Rice bread we found locally made in Grantsburg, WI.


We also used this cheese from Burnett Dairy in Grantsburg. It is so good!! We added pepperoni to the grilled cheese too. Seriously so good.

Let me know if there are any must try recipes for this month!


15 Minute Tomato Sauce

Guys. 5 minutes apparently makes all the difference. Jk, kind of.

As I’m preparing to move, I found a Cooks Illustrated magazine and flipped through to see if there were any recipes I needed to try before throwing it out. Turns out, I kept it for a reason! There was a recipe for 15 minute tomato sauce. Make sure you keep reading, because this was the best sauce ever. Seriously.

Anyway, the last recipe I tried was called 10 Minute Tomato Sauce. I picked it because I really don’t see myself spending more than 10 or 20 minutes making tomato sauce on a regular basis. I wanted to try the Cooks Illustrated recipe for the same reason. Plus I had almost all ingredients on hand. Win win.

After making it, I thought Janine had to try it too. Both of our comments are below the recipe.


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Table Salt
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (the article recommends using Tuttorosso or Muir Glen brands)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Ground Black Pepper


  1. Heat butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until melted.
  2. Add onion, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in tomatoes and sugar, increase heat to high and bring to simmer.
  5. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
  6. Off heat, stir in basil and oil; season with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve

Lisa’s Comments:

For this recipe, I used one of the onions from my garden and just finely chopped it, instead of grating it as the recipe suggested. My grater is packed away and I can’t imagine it made much of a difference.

Also pictured are other veggies from my garden that I had to do a quick brag about…


This is the brand of tomatoes I used. It was the most expensive I could find. Although honestly, I only went to one store.


Ok, now time to brag about my parent’s neighbor’s garden. They have SO much basil. I was luckily able to use theirs. My plant wasn’t great this year.


I followed the directions almost exactly. I had a little problem browning the onion. It said to cook it in the butter about 5 minutes until the moisture was gone and the onion was golden brown. I couldn’t get the moisture to evaporate and the onion was almost burning, so I just added the garlic after about 5 minutes.


You guys. It was SO good. Like, probably the best recipe to come from this blog. I mean, it was easy, it was delicious, and the clean-up was fast. I will 100% be making this recipe again. Frequently.


I was thinking out-loud in the car with my mom today, wondering how I was going to get fresh basil in the winter. Sure, you can get it at the store, but it’s expensive. She suggested freezing it in ice cube trays with water. I’m going to take it one step further…on Pinterest I’ve seen that you can freeze herbs with olive oil in ice cube trays. HOW PERFECT will it be if I chop the two tablespoons of fresh basil in each cube slot and then fill with one tablespoon of olive oil? That way I can just add a cube at the end of the recipe.

Make a point to have spaghetti sometime soon and try this recipe. You won’t regret it.

Janine’s Comments:

I think this is a first for the blog, Lisa and I are collaborating on one post!

August has been super crazy for both of us, and I’ve been out of town.  But we’ve been discussing if I would have time to make another batch of red sauce.  The only other recipe that struck my interest takes 7 hours, and is just not doable this month!

So on Tuesday evening I get these Snapchats from Lisa, she’s going to make another batch of quick tomato sauce for dinner.  She starts absolutely raving about this recipe. Claiming its the best thing on the blog (though . . . she never tried the Mole I made back in the beginning).  We decide that I should try it out, too!

I was lacking in the picture department today, so sorry!


I did grate the onion with the largest slot on my grater.  For one thing, this made it much easier for me when prepping the onion.  Usually, by the time an onion is ready to be cooked, my eyes are burning and I can’t see.  I’ve tried running the knife under cold water, same with the onion, sticking a spoon in my mouth . . . most of the time I just make someone else do it.  I would definitely try the grater again.

Lisa and I had the same issue with browning the onion.  You’re supposed to let it cook on medium heat until the moisture is gone and the onion is browned, about 5 minutes.  Both of our onion browned, almost scorched, but there was still moisture.  I think I’d turn down the heat about 3 minutes in and let it cook slower for longer.



I really liked this recipe, though I wish it had a little more flavor. It may be that my oregano was old.  Or it needed salt.  I also think I forgot to add the pepper at the end.  I will definitely be using this one again!

Rustic Marinara, I guess?

I grew up on Prego. I’m sure my mom made homemade sauce at some point,  but I’m not sure what her go-to recipe was. I don’t have a go-to recipe either. When I make pasta at home, I go for low maintenance and quick.

This recipe was pretty low maintenance and quick, and pretty boring, too. This came from a Martha Stewart Food magazine from about 5 years ago.  I have a binder full of ‘found’ recipes that I turn to on occasion, or when I can’t find another option.  I probably should have done some more searching for this one.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 – 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes, crushed
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Heat up the oil, get the garlic and red pepper flakes fragrant.

I forgot to crush the tomatoes before I poured them in. I’ve also, apparently, misplaced the power half of my immersion blender.

I made do with this black tool and my hand crank egg beater.  That tool, by the way, is super useful when you’re browning ground meat and other random things.  Useful for this, too. It’s Pampered Chef and it’s apparently called a ‘Mix ‘n Chop.’

Heat it on a fast simmer for 15 minutes.

The sauce was super bland. I definitely need to spice it up. This made 4 cups so I’ve got about 3 more in the freezer that I can improve upon later.   (Not pictured: the cheese that was necessary to make this yummy).

Anyone have any tips or great recipes for marinara, please pass them my way!!   I’ve found a good one on Cooking Light that takes 7 hours instead of 15 minutes. I’m super intrigued!

10 Minute Tomato Sauce

I’ve been looking forward to this challenge. I think tomato sauce can be an easy thing to make instead of buy. It’s probably less expensive and tastes better than what you can buy. It’s so easy, though, to buy that jar of sauce for a quick weeknight meal. This was the perfect excuse to get out of my comfort zone.

The circumstances surrounding the first attempt were kind of perfect. Thad and I were planning to be gone for a long weekend and wanted to use up the food we had instead of going grocery shopping. We had an open box of pasta and half a jar of sauce. It wasn’t enough, but I had some tomatoes in the cupboard and remembered that I needed to try a recipe for sauce. Perfect, right?

I quick looked up a recipe for tomato sauce. I was a little worried that it would take a while, but I found Food.com’s recipe for 10 Minute Tomato Sauce. I knew it would take longer than that, but it didn’t require a lengthy simmer and it had good reviews.

First, you saute some onion and add spices and add garlic.


Then, add crushed tomatoes and sugar. I only had these whole tomatoes, but figured they would work.


Then, simmer for 10 minutes (see how it totally took longer than 10 minutes?). During that time, I had to help the whole tomatoes turn into crushed tomatoes. This hand blender is one of my favorite appliances. IMG_3846

Then you stir in olive oil and a few more spices.


It turned out really good! Thad and I found some pepperonis and a ton of cheese, so we decided to turn regular spaghetti into what Thad calls…spaghetti pizza. Spaghetti Pizza was also featured in Week 35 (Italian) of the blog last year.


Verdict: Homemade spaghetti sauce really can be fast and easy and cheap. For me, it will be especially easy because I almost always have the necessary ingredients on hand.




This month was by far the most exciting challenge. I didn’t have to deal with raw meat, it was an excuse to have some friends over, and I didn’t have to spend more than like 10 minutes in the kitchen.

I decided to make margaritas. Honestly, I didn’t go outside of the box too much, but I did try a new recipe.

I made a spicy cucumber margarita. It was so good and so easy. I definitely recommend it and will probably even make it again myself. It wasn’t that spicy…in fact, I’d probably turn up the heat a little bit next time. It also wasn’t overly cucumber-y.

You need:

  • 2-3 cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons triple sec (what is triple sec anyway?)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (I just used 3 juicy limes)
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced.

First, add the cucumber to the food processor and puree. Then, run the puree through a mesh strainer. You want to discard the pulp and save the juice.

Second, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on low until the sugar dissolves.

Third, combine all ingredients in a pitcher and refrigerate.

Fourth, Enjoy!!

The second margarita I made was a blackberry margarita. I basically created just a regular lime margarita, but added blackberry syrup.

Blackberry Syrup:

  • 1 pint fresh berries
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 a lime

To make the blackberry syrup I took the fresh berries, mixed them with the  sugar, and some lime juice in a saucepan. I cooked on low heat for 20-30 ish minutes. Towards the 20 ish minute mark, I started breaking up the blackberries to make the juice. Once they were broken up, I strained the blackberries with a fine mesh strainer (also used for the cucumbers above) and pressed the blackberries down to get the juice.

Both margaritas were really good, although I’m not sure the blackberry one was worth the cost of the blackberries. The cucumber was my favorite!

As you can see, I did a really great job taking pictures. I’ll be better next time!


State-Themed Drinking in July

This has obviously been my favorite challenge so far.  (Also, July was my birthday month, so more reasons to celebrate).

I’ve got two cocktails for you in one post!

Colorado Bulldogs

Lately, my friend Liz has been on a Colorado Bulldog kick.  I’m not sure what started it, but she’s been drinking them all summer long.  Sometimes I join, sometimes I pass. To me it’s not the most summery of cocktails, but it’s super yummy and very easy (almost too easy) to drink.

The basics:

  • 1 shot of Kahlua
  • 1 shot of Vodka
  • 1 shot of Half & Half (or cream)
  • Ice
  • Coca-Cola



Pour the shots over ice & top it off with Coca-Cola!  The cocktail might be something that would benefit from a martini shaker just to get everything really well mixed.  Though it could also make a big mess.


It’s a 1:1:1 ratio, so if you want to up the ante a little, just make sure you double the Kahlua, Vodka, & Half & Half in equal measure!


I def want to whip one up in the fall some time, or maybe toss in a scoop of vanilla ice cream? This is a cocktail that is designed to be doctored.

Recommendation; don’t drink through a straw, it goes down waaaaaay too easy!

Hawaiian Mimosa

I was looking for something a little more fruit-based for my second cocktail, and I stumbled upon this post: Hawaiian Mimosas.  It has 3 things I love: Prosecco, Pineapple, and Malibu.

(I’ll confess, 22 year-old me spent a summer drinking Malibu + Pineapple cocktails at crappy dive bars).

The details:

  • 1 shot Malibu
  • 2 shots pineapple
  • Top with Prosecco
  • Garnish (if you’re so inclined)


Chad & I were both so excited to try this one, it sounded delicious.


It was just, too sweet!  It might’ve been different if all the ingredients were well chilled (only the Prosecco was).  But I still think the Malibu & pineapple combo was just a little too much sugar.  You know something is sweet when you can feel it in your jaw.

I loved the kismet element of both these cocktails being state themed.

Any bartenders out there have tips on how to make these even more delicious?!

I’ll be back soon-ish with some red sauce.  In the meantime check out Lisa’s 10-ish minute red sauce recipe!



Friends, I kind of failed in June. I didn’t blog about either of my burger attempts. I did make two different kinds of burgers, though, in two different ways. Here’s the make up post:

Burger 1: I mixed half a pound of bacon in with two pounds of ground beef.


Oh, I added some cheese too!


I used the food processor to kind of grind up the bacon before mixing the bacon, cheese, and beef in a bowl. I also added the usual egg, breadcrumbs, and seasonings (I didn’t take a picture and a month later I don’t really remember what seasonings…I always just make it up as I go along anyway).


We were having people over!!! I didn’t just make 2.5 pounds of burgers for two people. But the part of making burgers that I need to perfect is the sizing of them. I never know what size to form the patties into because they always shrink when they are cooked. If anybody has a tip, let me know!

Anyway, Burger 1 was delicious. I don’t have a picture of it, but I added some diced jalapenos (that I froze from my garden last year!) to half of the batch and those were great too. If you’re looking to switch things up once in a while, I’d definitely try bacon, cheese, and jalapeno.

Burger 2: Like Janine, I’m a fan of the black bean burger. It doesn’t replace a regular burger in my mind, but it’s something different to have once in a while.


I followed this recipe and they were super easy and delicious. You basically mix most of the ingredients together in the food processor, stir in a few more, and then form them into patties. We tried grilling them, but they weren’t firm enough, so I ended up cooking them on the stove.


Ok, so they aren’t super attractive, but they are worth trying. That fish spatula that you see is also a must try. It’s my go-to spatula.

So, June is finally done. I’ll be doing another quick post at the end of July with some cocktails!!

Say it Ain’t Cilantro Burger (Actually, black bean burger).

OMG this burger is so good.  Just.  So. Good.

I first tried a black bean burger at a local restaurant, I never thought I’d like it, but it turned out to be something I’d crave from time to time.  When this month was burgers, I knew I wanted to give black bean a whirl at home.

The recipe I chose is super easy, but it involves lots of ingredients, and each requires at least one prep step.  I pulled the recipe from a great local cookbook (this one is from a local TV personality).


In my research I found that most black bean burger recipes are pretty labor intensive when prepping the patty.


The recipe calls for: onion (chopped), garlic cloves (whole), cumin. Into the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped


Plus: black beans, bread crumbs, and chopped cilantro.  Add these and pulse until it’s just combined.

Then toasted chopped walnuts, salt, pepper, and one beaten egg. Mix it up.  Into patties and then into the fridge for an hour.


While it was chilling I made some I topped it with some cilantro lime aioli with: mayo, Greek yogurt, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, salt & pepper.  The recipe calls for finely chopped cilantro, but I didn’t like the cilantro when chopped by hand, so I went after the mixture with my immersion blender.

The recipe called for cooking this on a grill pan for 4-6 minutes per side.  Since I’m grill-less I did some googling and decided that 6 minutes on my George Foreman should be good.

Things started to fall apart a little as I took the patties off the grill.  Next time I will pulse for longer, and maybe add another egg yolk to help keep the patties together.  Uniform sizing would probably also help.


Final burger included some guacamole on the bottom, burger, a little bit of feta cheese (I had it on hand), and the cilantro lime aioli.  Yum!

I’m a definitely adding these to the my regular rotation!


(also, fun fact, the titles for both my blog posts come from the TV Show Bob’s Burgers.)



The Say Cheese Burger

The weather ’round these parts is pretty nice right now, though, it’s been a little humid and my hair is frizzy.  The demon bugs that shall remain nameless (aka mosquitoes) are out in full force and my ankles are becoming well-acquainted.

Basically – it’s grillin’ season.  And with June being burger month, I demanded that Chad teach me how to make one of his most excellent cheeseburgers.


I got some meat, an onion, and some buns at the grocery store, the rest of his regular components he had on hand.


Chad kindly chopped up an onion for me.


Beef, onion, an egg yolk.  Apparently adding the white would make it more meatloaf-y.

Some Worcestershire, shredded cheese (Rob says this is a new addition) and something called ‘Brady’s Cheese Sprinkle’ from Penzey’s.

Then time to get my hands dirty, literally.  Mix it up, until it’s combined, but not for too long or it gets tough.


Into patties, with a little smush down at the center to help cook.

Then on the grill!  (plus some cheese, of course).


Dinner is served!

These make a super yummy burger.  I’d go for this combo if you’re ever looking for ways to doctor things up a bit.

Chad’s grilling word to the wise “It’s not about charcoal or gas, fancy or basic, you just have to know your grill.”




I want cheers

My original plan was to make the same pizza dough recipe, but try it with my stand mixer instead of hand kneading.  Over the weekend I spent some time with my friend Madeline and her two adorable kiddos.  Madeline’s plan was for us to make homemade pizza, so I decided I’d give you a blog post featuring those two adorable mini-chefs.

Madeline’s pizza dough recipe is pretty similar to the one I originally used.


She puts the yeast in the warm water to get it going.  Once it’s foamy she adds all-purpose flour, salt, olive oil, and honey.  (My original recipe called for sugar or malt syrup, and I used sugar).


Got it mixed up, and we kneaded with the combo of hand and spoon in the bowl.  This was different from my 8-10 minutes of kneading (and then throwing in the air like a fool).


Once it’s combined and stretchy, it goes into the oven to rise for awhile.


Chef Dane popped up onto his stool with cookie cutters in-hand, because when he sees Madeline with a rolling pin, he assumes it’s sugar cookie time.


Chef Dane spreads the marinara sauce, attempting the new technique of ‘sauce-under-crust.’

Chef Andren assists in artfully distributing the cheese on top of the marinara.

Spread some olive oil on the crust, pop in the oven, and bake til delicious!  Chefs Dane and Andren sample the cheese to ensure quality & deliciousness.

The dough was much better, more even, and not quite as tough or bread like.  I also preferred the traditional cheese pizza (my favorite, seriously) to the Margherita.

Madeline has always had a good ‘touch’ for cooking.  She makes delicious, simple foods with a little bit of flair and a lot of confidence. She just kind of wings it with some recipes, not worrying too much about being exact.  While making the pizza, the best part wasn’t eating it, but it was enjoying the experience of cooking and the help of our 2 adorable assistants, and who can blame her.

I’m sure you’re thinking: “Janine, that title is in no way relevant.”

Chef Dane enjoys the art of toasting.  Well mostly just the glass-clinking part, not the speeches.  Every 2-3 bites of pizza, he stops, raises his bottle of milk and announces “I want cheers!!”  Demanding that we clink glasses with each other before moving onto the next bite, it was probably my favorite part of the meal.