Category Archives: Big Plans

Tomato Soup

It’s Easter Sunday. We are done with the lunch and egg hunt that we attend every year at the Thomas Hub (which is what I think I will call our Aunt Judy’s house from now on).  Naturally stuffed on ham and other goodies, and completely exhausted from the day’s activities, we got home and wondered what we would do about dinner.  We wanted something simple and not too filling, mostly something to keep us from going to bed hungry.  So Aaron and I decided that grilled cheese sandwiches were the easiest answer.

We almost always have tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.  I didn’t understand this when I met my husband, but I certainly do now.  In fact, that’s just about the only time I eat tomato soup.  Sadly, we didn’t have any in the house (we usually get Campbell’s Select Harvest) but we did have a can of tomato paste.  So I decided it was time to experiment.

I used one can (six ounces) of tomato paste.  I added two tablespoons of butter, a teaspoon or two of both garlic and onion powder, and some basil paste I had in the fridge that I need to use up.  Now, if you were being a good little cook and not lazy like I am, you would saute one or two cloves of garlic with somewhere between a quarter and a half of a small onion.  When the onions were soft you would then add the tomato paste.  You would also use fresh basil chopped finely, and not paste out of a tube like I used.  But like I said, I’m a lazy cook.  I then added a few shakes of the Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste.  When everything was mixed well I added three cups of milk and kept it on medium high until it just started to boil.  At that point I turned the heat down just a touch and let it simmer for a bit, maybe another ten minutes.  Be sure to check and taste it from time to time to make sure you don’t need to add any salt, pepper, or other seasonings.

The kids dipped their sandwiches in it without too much argument.  I enjoyed it.  Aaron declared that we were never going to buy soup in a can again.  I guess that means he liked it.


Easter Cookies

It’s time to stuff baskets with goodies, and I wanted to treat my kids with something a little more special than the standard store bought stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, I bought candy, but that’s not all that’s in their baskets.

I went looking for a sugar cookie recipe (so I could make shapes, obviously) and went to my usual go-to resource for All Things Food.  When I did a search for sugar cookies on The Pioneer Woman’s blog, This Recipe   popped up.  The fact that they were decorated with a glaze instead of being covered in frosting appealed to me.  So, using the only spring themed cookie cutter that I own (a flower, which can also double as a snow flake) I baked a batch of lovely easter cookies.

I used blue and yellow for the glaze, mostly because those were the only colors I found in the pantry that were not green (Who said I was good at planning?)  I also did not have shortening, so I used butter.  Shortening would have probably made them a touch softer, but they are a rather pleasant texture with butter.  And I didn’t use the egg whites in the frosting.  If I were serving them today, or only eating them myself, I might have.  But the Idea of using raw egg on cookies that aren’t going to be eaten until Sunday made me feel icky.  A note on the frosting – if you’re going to forgo the egg white (I have no idea how it alters the frosting) be sure to let the frosting begin to set up just a bit.  I made mine a tiny bit too runny, and some of the flowers look like they are… um… pollenating vigorously.

But otherwise, aren’t they pretty?

Have a lovely week, whatever you celebrate.


Palak Paneer (sort of)

There is a dish that I would love to learn how to make properly.  It hasn’t happened yet, but we’re getting closer!  Tonight I made lentils and rice (rice cooker, one cup lentils, one cup rice, some turmeric, salt, and if you like, a little ground cumin) and the desire struck me to have something green and vegetable like on the table.  I went and looked up various recipes for Palak Paneer, and sort of winged it.

I have always been under the impression that this dish required yogurt, but none of the recipes I found listed it.  One called for sour cream, which I just found weird.  One called for heavy cream which sounded fine, but I didn’t have any and wound up adding whole milk.  I was also out of paneer cheese, seeing as how I still haven’t learned how to make it (must correct this soon) and I have yet to find a store near me that sells it.

I don’t have any idea how much of anything I used.  When I finally get the blasted dish right, then I’ll worry about measuring and writing down what I’ve done.  I know this doesn’t make sense, but it’s how I work.  I grabbed some garlic and put it through the press because it’s easier than chopping, and tossed it into some olive oil and cooked it a bit.  I also tossed in some chopped onion, ginger, ground coriander, cumin seeds, turmeric, and a touch of red pepper (I don’t know, it’s the stuff in my husband’s special Indian food spice kit).  When the onions looked clear I added all of the spinach I could find in my fridge and cooked it down until it just looked like I had hardly any spinach at all.  At this point I added a tablespoon or two of tomato paste.

I took everything out of the pan and put it into a food processor.  I poured in a bit more olive oil and hit the button.  After a few seconds I grabbed the milk and added a little at a time, pulsing the mix in between pours.  When it was just a little too thin I pulled it out and put it in a small pan to simmer for a bit.  When it had the right consistency (and a pretty close flavor) I pulled it off to let it cool for a bit.

Like I said before, I didn’t have any paneer cheese, so I used what was in the fridge.  What was in the fridge happened to be goat cheese.  I think this is where things when horribly wrong.  The goat cheese melted into the palak way too easily.  It also had such an overpowering flavor that it took over the whole dish.  Since I think goat cheese is wonderful and can do no wrong, this wasn’t entirely a problem for me, but it just wasn’t… right.

I still have not mastered this dish, but believe me, when I do, you’ll know!

Pizza for the first time

So Last night I snuck a kid free night over at Lissa’s (she being the only one amongst us without two tagalongs..though she loves ours enough to be partly responsible for them) and to celebrate my freedom and a few hours of relaxation before the new semester comes, I brought up the idea of a home made pizza and she jumped on it. Now she made the pie to go with the dinner so I’ll let her discuss that, but since I made the dough and we both agreed on toppings I’ll handle the pizza.

For the dough, we used Smitten Kitchen’s Basic Pizza dough which I doubled, because I like a good thick bread-y crust. The recipe by the way was great, easy to use and the only complaint I had was that she didn’t have  a temperature listed for baking but we found one on her pizza updated so all was well. For the sauce, we sauteed some garlic and onions, poured in crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper and oregano, and then left it to simmer for 20 minutes while the dough finished raising. For our toppings we used bacon, Brown sugar ham slices, basil leaves (which were chopped) and a ball of mozzarella.

Over all? It was a very yummy pizza! The sauce was a touch saltier than we liked, but that’s easily adjusted, and the dough was a great one for our purposes. I think we’ll try the updated one next time, just for a little bit of flavor to it, and perhaps another one down the line but we both really enjoyed it.

I think we’re going to repeat this one again, we talked about doing a white pizza last night and there are some more ‘out there’ ones that I enjoy that I would like to try. Liss is not down for the bbq pizza but I think that it would be a lovely one to try at home with the boys here.

Smitten Kitchen’s Pizza Dough

Really Simple Pizza Dough

Makes enough for one small, thin crust pizza. Double it if you like your pizza thick and bready.

1 1/2 cups flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Dump all clumps and floury bits onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a homogeneous ball.

If you are finding this step difficult, one of the best tricks I picked up from my bread-making class is to simply pause. Leave the dough in a lightly-floured spot, put the empty bowl upside-down on top of it and come back in 2 to 5 minutes, at which point you will find the dough a lot more lovable.

Knead it for just a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl (a spritz of cooking spray perfectly does the trick) where you had mixed it — one-bowl recipe! — dump the dough in, turn it over so all sides are coated, cover it in plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.

Dump it back on the floured counter (yup, I leave mine messy), and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, toss on whatever topping and seasonings you like. (I always err on the side of skimpy with toppings so to not weight down the dough too much, or if I have multiple toppings, to keep them very thinly sliced.)

Bake it for about 10 minutes until it’s lightly blistered and impossible to resist.


Our recommendations? work with the dough, push and knead it to get it where you want..make sure that you make it even, we had some thicker parts on the pizza that disrupted the even nature of it. Otherwise? delish!


A delicious kid free dinner