Category Archives: Processes

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.


Adaptable Handful Dinner Bowls

As the only singleton in this motley crew of kitchen witches, you’d think I would be either subsisting on Cheerios and takeout all the time, or I would be obsessed with preparing the most elaborate dishes I could afford.

…well, I DO like Cheerios…

In all seriousness, my schtick is to cook things that are simple, but not easy, and yet still yummy. It curbs my urge to dirty up all the dishes I own, see, but doesn’t produce anything inedible.

My favorite thing to do lately has hinged on the fact that I’ve begun keeping two sealed bowls in the refrigerator – one full of brown rice and one full of shredded Brussels sprouts. Using these two things plus a small array of other ingredients, I can produce a delicious, filling, and I think even semi-nutritious meal in about twenty minutes. Here’s what happened with my latest one – and I am sorry I have no photos, but it was eaten much too quickly.

I sweated a small handful of chopped onion in some olive oil until it got a bit translucent, then added a tablespoon of minced garlic. Yes, I can and do chop my own garlic, but I don’t have anything against the jarred stuff, and that’s what I used here.

Once the garlic smelled fantastic, I tossed in a handful (see where I got the name?) of pre-cooked chicken breast pieces and a handful of snow peas. Those got stirred around until the peapods were a really bright green.

This is when I threw in some of the rice, a generous splash of soy sauce, and an egg. I was going for something akin to fried rice, and I wanted some serious protein because I started ballet class this week and I was feeling it.

Maybe next time I will put the rice in with the chicken and leave the peapods for a little later, because the peapods were a little limp by the time I was sure the egg was cooked.  I don’t mind limp peapods, but I know it isn’t optimal.

At any rate, I stirred the whole thing around until the egg was cooked, and then I tossed in a little more soy sauce and a handful of sprouts. The sprouts don’t need long – you don’t want them to get overcooked and vile-smelling. Really, two or three minutes should do it. You want them bright, a little crisp, and warmed through.

When you are as done as you want to be, scoop some out into a nice deep bowl and store the rest for lunch the next day. Eat like it is going out of style.

The great thing is that this is so adaptable. Use quinoa instead of brown rice. If you’re wimpy about sprouts, choose another hardy green, like bok choy or chard or cabbage. Instead of peapods, use asparagus spears or broccoli pieces or none of these things. I’m toying with the idea of toasting some pine nuts and throwing them in, if I can bring myself to buy them (are they made of gold? sheesh). I have often had my handful bowl without any meat in it at all, and most days I don’t use egg, either.

The idea is to experiment until you find what you like, and the key to all of it is to have at least two bowls of ingredient – one whole grain and one hardy, leafy green – on hand at all times. I do my prep on these Sunday afternoon while watching TV or listening to music. It takes maybe a half hour of my time to do it, and I find it is actually pretty soothing and it makes me feel good to have taken a firm hand in knowing what I am eating.

Which, all in all, is not a bad thing to do.

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