Cozy Comforts – Easy Tomato Bisque

The temperatures are cooling off here in NC as we head into fall. Our ten-day forecast doesn’t have a single day over eighty degrees–a big change from the sweltering heat of summer.

The refreshing change in weather and the lovely apples and fall vegetables at the Farmers’ Market have me thinking of one of my favorite meals for a chilly day (or even a hot summer day): a rich, creamy Tomato Bisque. 🙂IMG_4332

I used to use a lot of fresh ingredients in this, but I have tweaked it over the years so I can make it almost completely out of my pantry.  I keep a storage baggie of Mirepoix in my freezer, and add any extra chopped onion, celery, or carrots from other recipes.  This way,  I always have some mirepoix in the freezer (though the ratio of carrots to onions to celery is sometimes off) and I don’t have to chop anything for a quick meal like this.

Pantry-friendly ingredients

Pantry-friendly ingredients

Just a note: I have subbed in pureed tomatoes or a can of tomato sauce for the crushed tomatoes, and it still turns out great!

Sauté the Veggies

Sauté the Veggies

Add the tomatoes

Add the tomatoes

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add rice or pasta (optional)

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add rice or pasta (optional)

Stir in some cheese and cream.

Stir in some cheese and cream.

Serve with some crusty bread. I used this recipe, and added some herbs and garlic to one loaf.

Serve with some crusty bread. I used this recipe, and added some herbs and garlic to one loaf.

Easy Tomato Bisque

  • Servings: 2-4
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Ingredients

1/2 Cup Mirepoix (Fresh or Frozen)
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Tablespoon Dried Basil
1 Can (14-15 oz.) Crushed Tomatoes
1 Can (14-15 oz.) Diced Tomatoes
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1/4 Cup Cream or Half & Half
1/4 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese

 

Optional (for Tomato Orzo Soup)

1 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 Cup Uncooked Orzo or White Rice

Instructions

  1.  Sauté Mirepoix (chopped Carrots, Onions, and Celery) in Olive Oil over Medium Heat until vegetables start to tenderize (about five minutes).
  2. Stir in Basil and cook an additional 30 seconds, stirring.
  3. Add tomatoes and stock. (If using Pasta or Rice, add all of the stock.) Bump temperature to medium-high, and bring to a slow boil.
  4. Add Pasta or Rice (if using).
  5. Drop the temp and simmer for 10-15 minutes (if using pasta or rice, simmer until it is cooked through).
  6. Remove from the heat. Add cheese and cream, and stir until combined.
  7. Enjoy!

This soup is great topped with an extra drizzle of cream or with some croutons.

Tomato Orzo Bisque

Tomato Orzo Bisque

I tend to add the rice or pasta for dinner, but leave them out for lunch. I almost always double the recipe, then freeze half in individual portions for a quick weekday lunch. Perfect with some crusty bread or a fresh salad! 🙂

An old Instagram shot of this soup without the orzo. Still awesome! <3

A really old Instagram shot of this soup without the orzo. Still awesome! ❤

What is your favorite soup? Do you have any cooking shortcuts to help cut tome on your favorite recipes? Any pantry-only recipe favorites? Please share! ❤


Summer Comforts: Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy

Over the weekend, Hubby and I were discussing the end of summer and the rapid approach of autumn (my favorite season). He commented that the thing he was most looking forward to about the cooler weather was the hearty comfort foods.

In particular, he was really hungry for meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie.Pie

Pumpkin Pie? Sold!

I was planning on steaks for dinner (filet mignon, at that), but I popped them in the freezer in favor of meatloaf mix. Not normally a tradeoff I would make, but we cooked steak almost every weekend for months, and I was up for a change.

We usually do bigger Sunday dinners, and Hubby’s favorite part is that Sunday dinners always come with dessert. When I was on my baking hiatus, that was typically ice cream, but the homemade desserts are so much better.

I zipped up a pie after lunch, and popped it in the oven. Yum! (If you haven’t seen my pumpkin pie recipe, there is a thin layer of cheesecake hidden under the pumpkin. Heavenly!)2015-08-16 19.28.16

By the time dinner was done, my house smelled amazing! Meatloaf, Redskin Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions, Sautéed Carrots, and Corn.

I have to be honest, I was never a big fan of meatloaf, but I experimented with different versions over the years and have a couple of recipes I like. This one is my husband’s favorite. It has caramelized onions and mushrooms mixed right in with the meat making it extra moist, although it is really good without the mushrooms, too, if you prefer it without.

Meatloaf and Mushroom Gravy

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

1 lb Meatloaf Mix (usually  a mix of Ground Beef, Veal, and Pork)
½ Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
¼ Cup Standard Breadcrumbs
1 Egg
½ Cup Milk
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp. Heinz 57 sauce or BBQ Sauce
2 Tbsp. Stone Ground Mustard
2-3 Tbsp. Ketchup
1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning
10-12 oz. Mushrooms, Chopped, Sautéed, and Cooled
1 Large Onion, Diced, Sautéed, and Cooled
3 Tbsp. Butter
3 Tbsp. Flour
2 Cups Chicken or Beef Stock
¾ Cup Red Wine or Beer
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive oil (to sauté)

Instructions

    1. Sauté Mushrooms and Onions in Olive Oil. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
    2. Preheat oven to 375 Degrees.
    3. Mix Meat, Breadcrumbs, Egg, Milk, approx. 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce, Heinz 57 sauce, 1 tablespoon of Stone Ground mustard, Ketchup, and Italian Seasoning in a large bowl.
    4. Add in 2/3 of the mushrooms and onions, and mix.
      1. If the mixture is too wet (it won’t hold its shape), add more bread crumbs.
        **I almost always have to do this.
      2. If the mixture seems dry, add a bit more milk.
      3. Optional: Make a small (approximately 1-inch) patty of the meat mixture, and cook it in a small skillet to taste seasoning. Add salt and pepper as desired.
    5. Form the Meat mixture into a loaf-shape and place on a baking sheet or place meat in a loaf pan. If desired, more ketchup can be spread on top to caramelize. Bake for 1 hour.
    6. Remove from oven. Use a meat thermometer to make sure meat is at least 165 degrees. Let meat rest on a platter while you make the gravy. (It will firm up a bit in this time, making it easier to cut).
    7. Add remaining mushrooms and onions and the butter to a large skillet over medium-high heat.
    8. When the butter is melted, add the flour. Cook one minute.
    9. Add the wine or beer and stir. Cook until thickened (1-2 minutes).
    10. Add the stock and the remaining tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce and Stone Ground Mustard. Whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, five minutes.
    11. Slice the meatloaf into 8-12 slices. Serve with gravy.
    12. Enjoy!

2015-08-16 19.28.00This was a hearty, yummy dinner that gave Hubby a night off from grilling (with enough leftovers to give us both a night off of cooking later in the week). 🙂 Not normal summer fare, but a nice change of pace.

Don’t forget desert! I served it with a bit (or a lot) of fresh whipped cream. Perfect end to a yummy Sunday dinner!

2015-08-16 21.14.11

Do you make Sunday Dinners? Have another tradition for a day of the week with a bigger, special meal? What is your favorite comfort meal? Please share! 🙂


Broccoli Cheddar Stuffed Potatoes

Years ago, one of my favorite lunches was a fast-food baked potato topped with broccoli, cheese sauce, and bacon bits.  I gave up the bright-yellow cheese sauce and the salty bacon substitute, but I still love the flavors of bacon, broccoli, and cheese.

I didn't even make it halfway through the steak or the potato! Hubby was thankful for the steak when he got steak and eggs for breakfast the next morning! ;-)

I didn’t even make it halfway through the steak or the potato! Hubby was thankful for the steak when he got steak and eggs for breakfast the next morning! 😉

Enter these twice baked potatoes stuffed with chopped broccoli, crumbled bacon, sour cream, and cheddar cheese. Yum! 🙂

Almost ready for the oven!

Almost ready for the oven!

These are the perfect side dish to a nice, juicy steak, or all on their own as a hearty lunch.

Ready to cook!

Ready to cook!

Broccoli Cheddar Stuffed Potatoes

  • Servings: 3-6
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Ingredients

3 Russet potatoes
1 head Fresh Broccoli, finely chopped
4 slices Bacon
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 cup Shredded Cheddar
1/4 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

 Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Scrub Potatoes. Puncture with fork, and wrap each potato tightly in foil.
  3. Bake for approximately 1 hour, until tender.
  4. Meanwhile, place bacon on a baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes until crisp.
  5. Cool bacon and potatoes for about a half hour.
  6. Slice the top off of the baked potatoes. Using a spoon, scoop out most of the potato into a large bowl, taking care not to tear the skin.
  7. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes. Add the sour cream, and continue mashing until smooth. Add more sour cream if needed.
  8. Crumble the bacon. Add bacon, broccoli, and cheddar cheese to the potatoes, and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I used the masher to make sure everything was incorporated).
  9. Stuff the potato mixture back into the potato skins. This will be heaped on top.
  10. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top.
  11. Bake for 30-45 minutes until warmed through and cheese is browned.
  12. Enjoy! 🙂

I like a half potato as a side, or a whole potato as a meal. To rewarm, I just pop it in the oven for about a half hour until it is hot. Enjoy!

Cheese, bacony goodness!

Cheese, bacony goodness!

Do you have a favorite potato dish? A yummy side dish that takes you back to childhood? Please share! ❤

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Chicken, Corn, and Rice Chowder

It is freezing cold in NC, with a forecast low for this morning of 17 degrees.  Brrr. Maybe we should have moved further south? 😉

2014-10-28 14.27.14Days like today just cry out for soup. I made this one for lunch with a friend a friend a few weeks ago.  It is a great use for leftover chicken and rice, if you have some on hand.  I used white rice last time, but cooked brown or wild rice works, too.   Just be sure it is fully cooked before adding it to the soup. Read More


Chocolate Chip Cookies

Most people who love to bake had one recipe that made them fall in love with baking, something that made them want to try new and exciting things. For me (and many others, I suspect), that one recipe was Chocolate Chip Cookies.IMG_0525 (2)

Like most people, I started with the recipe on the bag of Chocolate Chips. In my late teens, I found the recipe was fun and easy. It quickly became my go-to recipe if I needed to take something to a party.

Back then, the only thing I did to change the recipe was to add M&M’S to add a bit of color. 😉 (This is still a fun idea, just don’t leave out the chips completely.) Read More


One-Pot Wonder – Roasted Garlic Chicken

The first time my dad invited Hubby and I over for 40 Clove of Garlic Chicken, we almost said no.  I love garlic, but 40 cloves is a lot, even for me!photo I am so glad we decided to try it, because it has become one of my favorite meals! I have quite a few friends who have said that this is their favorite thing I make. It was also my husband’s suggestion the first time I cooked for new friends after moving to NC (and they seemed to love it, too).  🙂 Read More

Meatless Monday: Spinach, Artichoke, and Tomato Risotto

Hubby and I love fresh vegetables, and try to have at least one or two meals a week where the veggie get to be the start instead of the protein.  Risotto is one of my favorite (mostly) vegetarian dishes (I prefer chicken broth to vegetable broth).Spin Art Risotto

Once you have the basic technique for risotto down, the combinations are almost limitless.  I love grilled asparagus or green beans in a risotto, and it is easy to add in some fish or meat, too.  For something a bit different, try substituting barley for the Arborio rice.

Read More


Lemon Drop Cupcakes

IMG_2268I love to cook with lemon in the summertime. It is such a versatile ingredient–it works great in both sweet and savory dishes.  Plus it is one of both my mom and my husband’s favorite flavors. 😉

I made these cupcakes the first time about a year ago.  I came across this three-layer cake recipe on Pinterest and really wanted to try it, but I needed cupcakes for a picnic.  Since I love filled cupcakes, the recipe for the cake and the filling worked well with some minor tweaks, although I did use a different icing. Read More


Comfort Food: Fresh from the Garden Spaghetti

I love comfort foodmacaroni and cheese, shepherd’s pie, pot roast, and, or course, spaghetti.

IMG_1416

Spaghetti is my go-to meal for a variety of occasions ranging from nights I just don’t want to cook to nights I am feeding a large crowd.  It is tasty, filling, inexpensive, and easy! Add a salad and maybe some garlic bread and dinner can be done in as little as 20 minutes! 🙂

Yup, 20 minutes, even if I am making the sauce from scratch! Read More


It’s Pumpkin Season: Paradise Pumpkin Pie

My mom didn’t cook very often when I was a kid, and she almost never baked.  It wasn’t that she wasn’t able–she is actually a very good cook.  But, she doesn’t really enjoy cooking, where my dad does, so he took the cooking duties.

The holiday meals were the one thing she did enjoy cooking, and this pie always topped off our Thanksgiving dinners.  This is one of my absolute favorites, although I have taking over the tradition of making it.

I have actually made it twice already this year, although Thanksgiving is still over a month away, and i am sure I will make it a few more before the holidays are done.  I get a lot of requests for the recipe, so I decided it is time to share.  🙂 Read More