Fall into Soup

I have a love/love relationship with Fall.  Sure, I am sad to see this go…

but warm comfort meals?  I’ll take you any day.   Once Fall his, I am a soup queen.  I can’t get enough soup, for realz.  Luckily, there are way many more varieties of soup than I can make, so I need not worry.  Fall is barely here, and already I’ve been whipping up:

smitten’s winter squash soup I have tried many a butternut squash soups are this is hands down the best.  I think you really do need that cream to make it.  I also always add cinnamon, and sometimes add chunks of ham, and you can’t go wrong.

pioneer woman’s corn chowder with chilies This is the first pioneer woman recipe I have ever tried and oh my gahhh.  The smell of this soup is reason enough to make it, but it is Ah-mazing.  I just made a batch for lunches this week.  Try it.  you must.

styleberry’s classic tomato soup I didn’t like tomato soup for 25 years.  Then I tried this soup.  And I couldn’t stop eating it.  Only thing I have to say about it is that when I tried to freeze it got all funny :(.  But to make it for dinner one night….perrrrrfect.


salsa crisis: averted

do you like cooking for other people?

i love standing in my kitchen, whipping up new and favorite meals.  But when I have to cook for other people, I get sooo nervous.  Today, it was just the family.  Over the normal “cookouts” that we’ve had every weekend, we decided to do a “fiesta” themed family picnic this year.  I volunteered to make the guacamole, and some hot fresh salsa.

I make fresh salsa and guacamole all the time, and in fact, today we were talking about how really, fresh salsa and salsa from a jar are really like two different foods.  I always use some basic ingredients:



red onion



lime juice

Today, I was making a GINORMOUS batch.  I cut up (tiny), 6 tomatoes that were good sized, a whole red onion, about 4 gloves of garlic, a few splashes of lime juice, 1/4 of fresh cilantro and some salt.  And then, I decided to spice it up.  Just like the last time I made this a few weeks ago, I added 1/2 a habanero (have you ever tasted these babies?  they are hottt).  But, for some unknown reason, this pepper was about 5 TIMES SPICER than that one.  BAH!  I now had about 4 cups of heart-burning salsa.  So, you know, I did what anyone else would do.  I flipped out.  Then, when calm, I added 3 more tomatoes, some lime juice, and a sweet red pepper.  I was so scarred from the experience that I didn’t even want to take it out when we got there, so you can imagine my excitement when it was gobbled up!  I received compliments left and right!  phew!!!!

And, then, there was the guacamole.  If I could eat avocado all day long I could.  But, alas, at 1.99 a pop a whole foods, this is not exactly in the stars.  Anyways, everytime I make guacamole, I fall in love again…

love love love

Anyways, my philosophy with guacamole is the same as salsa.  Add a few signature ingredients and taste until perfection.  For guacamole, avocados, red onion, garlic, salt, lime juice and cilantro and the necessities.  You add significantly more of everything except avocados than you do in salsa.  Let those avocados shine!!  Things to remember:

the avocados should not be hard and not soft, they should have some pull.

to stop the guacamole from turning brown, make it right before you serve it, or cover the top directly with plastic wrap to stop air from getting to it.

Make more than you think  you will eat.  You will eat it all!!

Dessert was best.

Last night I was feeling all hopped up on energy that it was Friday.  Not to mention a 3 day weekend whoohooo!!!

Really, I LOVE cooking.  It de-stresses me, and I love spending time doing it.  Two days ago, a friend made gazpacho that I then tasted and HAD to have, so I had to make it.  My three part meal was pretty good:

1.  Panko crusted sesame ginger chicken:  okay, better as cutlets I think

2.  Gazpacho:  YUM

3.  Chocolate raspberry ganache cupcakes: SLAMMIN!

I love to experiment with desserts, because there are just endless possibilities and it is just almost impossible to really screw something up.

Chocolate Raspberry Ganache cupcakes

One of my dessert secrets is that I always have a box of cake mix in the house.  I rarely make the whole box and usually split it up into two.  That’s what I did today, and used Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Dark Chocolate Cake Mix. I find that with flavors like dark chocolate, it tastes less out of the box.  But don’t worry, this won’t anyways 🙂  With dinner, I baked 6 cupcakes and let them cool while we ate.  Shortly after dinner I did the assembly.  I spooned a hole in the middle of each cake.  Then, to make the ganache, heavy 1/2 cup heavy cream on your stove, and stir in some semi-sweet chocolate.  To the hole in each cupcake, scoop a tiny amount of raspberry jam (<3 homemade), fill up with ganache, and drizzle the side.  Throw some fresh raspberries on top and you have a delectable dessert 🙂

Penne a la vodka

There are certain meals that I keep tucked away in my stash, and only come out on certain occasions.  They are a little more special than normal meals, but most of all, they are sooo good that they are just that special.

Yesterday, we were stuck with a conundrum:

Tomatoes, tomatoes EVERYWHERE!!  We had already canned and made a TON.  So, already in a romantical (yeah, I made this word up), mood, I looked at the juicy tomatoes before me and decided it was a perfect night for penne a la vodka.

It was amazing.  Hit the spot.  After devouring both of our plates, BF exclaimed that it was perfect.  YUM!

Penne a la vodka (makes about 4 servings)

3/4 pound of pasta

salt for pasta water

7 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups of fresh, crushed tomatoes (I use most with skins off, but leave some on and use a mixture of whatever is in the garden)

crushed hot pepper

1/3 vodka

1/2 heavy cream

1 1/2 TB parsley

Start boiling your pasta water from the beginning.  Then, in a skillet, heat up 1 TB Olive oil.  When its hot, add the cloves of garlic.  (I usually smash them or break them up a bit before I do, but it depends on how I feel).  Cook the garlic gloves for 2 mintes.

When they start to get golden, add in your tomatoes and hot pepper.  At this point, season with a bit of salt and pepper too!  Let these come to a boil for a minute or too and add in your vodka.  Keep this going for about 5 minutes, on a low simmer, until your pasta is ready.  When it is, add in your cream and parsley and turn off the heat.  I usually add another little olive oil and salt then and taste for your flavor (we like ours with a kick with the red pepper, but no everyone does.  Pour pasta in a bowl, top with the sauce and mix.  DELIC!!

Amazing with some parmesan cheese and garlic bread.  And wine, oh course!!

Flipping amazing tomato soup

Two things inspired this greatness:

1.  I have been on a blogging kick lately and when I saw this picture of styleberry’s tomato soup, my mouth literally started watering.  Which is completely insane seeing as I don’t even like tomato soup and that stuff that you scoop out of a Campbell’s can and pour water in makes me not want to eat for days.  That aside, for some reason, 26 has completely changed my taste in food (BIZZARE!) and things I used to love (Lipton Pasta Sides, Alfredo), I cannot stomach.  It’s bizzare.

2.  Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes.  Our garden is throwing them at us, and as soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I could substitute and create the same greatness with these fresh babies.

So, I followed styleberry’s recipe exactly, expect for the fact that I substituted fresh tomatoes for the canned ones.   I used a variety of whatever was ripe.  I also added just a tad of crushed red pepper as we like things with a little kick.  It was great!!  I ate it up and I seriously NEVER eat tomato soup.  I even brought it for lunch again today!!  I can’t wait to make this again on a Fall or Winter night.