Friday Recipe Exchange: Hearty Tomato Soup and Recipe Fails

JeffreyW’s tasty tomato soup and grilled cheese

Since we witnessed a 70-degree temperature drop here yesterday, soup had to be on the menu.  And since I have a counter full of ripe tomatoes, tomato soup sounded good.  This is not your basic canned soup and grilled cheese.  These recipes are tasty, hearty and easy to whip up.  And the flax cookies are addictive. If you’re using an Instant-Style Pot, I have instructions for that at the bottom of the soup recipe.

On the board:

  1. Hearty Tomato Soup
  2. Totally Awesome Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, recipe here
  3. Flax Cookies, recipe here

Hearty Tomato Soup

  • 28 oz canned or fresh tomatoes*
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 8 oz carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 green onions, including greens
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ¼ tsp oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour

2-quart saucepan, blender

In a blender, mix tomatoes, garlic, carrots, celery & onions. Blend until smooth. In saucepan, combine tomato mixture with spices, heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let bubble (don’t let boil or use high heat, it will scorch) for 5 minutes. Add flour to cold milk, blend until smooth, add to soup. Let bubble again, reduce to low heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Instant Pot instructions In a blender, mix tomatoes, garlic, carrots, celery & onions. Blend until smooth. In the instant pot, combine tomato mixture with spices. Cover and cook on soup setting for 10 minutes.  In a measuring cup (or use blender) add flour to cold milk, blend until smooth,

Use the quick depressurize method, soup should still be bubbling.  add milk mixture to soup and whisk in until thickened.  If you need to bring it back up to temperature, I use the saute feature, stirring constantly until thickened (about a minute), don’t let scorch. Turn heat off (or to warm setting) and cover until ready to serve.

*you can use fire-roasted tomatoes for added flavor. I have fire-roasted tomatoes tucked away in the freezer for future batches.

These Flax Cookies are addictive

(This menu and recipes are featured in my cookbook: What’s 4 Dinner Solutions Cookbooks: Summer into Fall)


What’s on your plate this weekend?

I had a request to ask if you wanted to share your biggest recipe disasters. Did you serve it anyway or just toss it?

I’ve had a couple of notable failures, including pulling out the powdered sugar instead of potato starch to thicken a spicy veggie soup. Sigh. No way to save that one.

Hit the comments with your recipes, meals, and disasters…

Here’s one of my favorite recipe fails, the end is priceless:


Roasting, Cleaning and Freezing Chiles: Pueblo Hots


In late summer, a wonderful smell begins in Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Soon enough, parking lots everywhere are filled with folks selling fresh chiles and roasting them in rotating “barrels” over propane jets. The smell of the copious smoke clouds that puff up is incredible: a smoky, vegetal, clinging stench with lots of bitter and char. The popping and crackling of the skins and seeds, the hiss of the steam from blasts of water, and the roar of the propane are the sounds of the season.

A few weeks ago, I drove to Colorado and returned with a small bag of fresh Pueblo Hots. There are different types of chiles and they are grown in different areas. Like all agricultural products, the soil, sun, wind, and water have a strong effect on flavor and texture. The most famous chiles – from New Mexico – are primarily Hatch, which is where they are grown. I’ve also has Socorro chiles, and they were also divine.  In Southern Colorado, Pueblo is well-known for farms and for great chiles, the Pueblo chile. It’s a different chile than the New Mexico chiles, and has a slightly different flavor, a bit more bitter. They aren’t as long as the New Mexico chiles, and they have the more classic “chile” shape used in advertising and such.

Needless to say, they’re all good, but I’m especially stoked to have some true-blue Pueblo Hots. (Hots as compared to Very Hots or Mediums – I need my ass to be a non-burning issue, so I didn’t go crazy!)

Chiles prefer hot, dry days and cool nights. In a normal year, there would be heaps of Pueblo chiles, but there were just a couple of baskets. When I was rung up at the farm store, they advised me to come early in September because the harvest was the worst ever and they would run out very early. The cause of all of this – too much rain! It’s raining multiple times a week and many fields aren’t getting enough chance to dry out and it’s causing mildew and other moisture-related issues they normally don’t worry about. This is yet another example of climate change seeming beneficial at first glance, but proving to be a change that threatens agriculture. In this case, extra rain in an arid environment that depends on irrigation for crops means that best practices, infrastructure, and localized plant stock are threatened.

Ok, enough background, let’s get cooking!

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Garden Fresh

Oh, boy, recipes two weeks in a row, we might be starting something here.

I spent the afternoon taking care of some fresh veggies that had been sitting on my counter all week. I love this time of year, when the garden provides harvest every morning. But it is difficult to keep up. Today I fire-roasted tomatoes, pureed and froze for soups and sauces this winter. I also did refrigerator jalapeno pickles to use up a few of the many jalapenos.

JeffreyW does some amazing recipes with his peppers, here are two: Candied Jalapenos (here) and Hot ‘n Sweet (here)

Tonight’s menu takes advantage of all the garden-fresh ingredients available now.  I really like this one because it’s a quick skillet taste treat that elevates a weeknight meal.

On the board tonight:

Skillet Lasagna (recipe below)
Patty Squash Sauté (recipe here)
Italian Bread

Skillet Lasagna

  • 6 oz Mafalda (mini-lasagna noodles) or bowtie pasta
  • 1 lb lean ground beef****
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ green pepper chopped
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce (or 1 lb fresh tomatoes, chopped or pureed)
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 4 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz grated parmesan


In saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions, cooking to al dente (slightly chewy), drain well.  Meanwhile, in skillet brown beef, onion & pepper. Add spices, garlic, carrot and sauté for 1 minute.  Add sauce, paste, stirring well into meat mixture.  Add pasta, stirring gently to mix.

Mix together ricotta and spinach, spoon evenly into the mixture (do not stir in, you want to create little cheese balls), top with mozzarella, cover and let simmer on low until mozzarella is completely melted.

Serve with parmesan.

Just a note, this menu and recipes are from my Summer into Fall Cookbook.

That’s if for this week. If I get a chance to upload the roasted tomato photos this weekend, I’ll post them here. What’s on your plate this weekend?

Hit to comments to share your recipes.

Otherwise, open thread.

****ETA: Thanks to Ohio Mom for reminding me I was going to say, you can easily omit the beef. I have substituted zucchini and or mushrooms and left the meat out entirely. It’s a great vegetarian dish.

Field Canning: Useful Technique For Camping, Emergencies, Etc.


Today I want to teach you a bit about canning, and about a simple technique that can help preserve food or keep things water/vermin proof when you don’t have normal storage or preservation available.


The Basics of Canning

Canning is a simple concept – you put things in a jar, put a lid on it, and, using a variety of techniques, draw air out of the jar so that a slight vacuum is created inside, which keeps the lid snug and the things inside air-and-contaminant free. Well-processed canned goods can last decades without spoiling.

Normally, this involves a water bath canning setup, for most fruits and veggies, and occasionally calls for a pressure canner for meats and some fruit and veggie products. Note – this is because you can get to a higher effective temperature with a pressure canner and so you can ensure that your meat/tetchy-fruit/veggie contents are safe.

A water bath canner is just a large wide pot in which you boil water and put filled jars into, in order to heat them to boiling temperature and get the residual air in the jars to expand and force itself out through the not-firm seal. The heat affects a sealant on the lid that helps it adhere ever-so-slightly to the clean glass as the escaping gas causes a vacuum in the jar. A pressure canner is just a large pressure cooker; mine is like 13 inches high and 12 around. I left my dedicated water bath canner in Colorado when I went “wagons-East”, but my pressure canner suffices for both purposes, I just leave the lid off except when initially heating the water.

Lids and rings are the two other pieces of the canning puzzle. Both are sanitized before use (I boil them in a saucepan and keep it on a low simmer) and the lids have a design that means that once they seal, they permanently deform when opened so they cannot be used to re-seal a jar in a canning setup.




Field Canning

The idea for field canning came when I was camping and I wondered if there was a better way to deal with half-eaten contents than just putting a lid back on a jar. I did some research once home, and voila – field canning. It is not hygenic-per-se and does not result in safe food – it just seals a jar with a light vacuum seal.

Field canning is useful whenever you have a need to seal a jar and don’t have proper canning equipment. It requires – a semi-full jar of something, some wax paper, some foil, a lighter/match, a non-used lid (i.e., a new or not used to vacuum seal lid extra from the jar), and, ideally, the ring for the jar lid.


From here, it’s quite simple:

  1. Make sure your lid is clean and unused; this technique will not work with an already-used lid.
  2. Take a small piece of foil and make a small “boat”, nothing ornate. This will protect the jar contents from flame and ash.
  3. Take a small piece of wax paper and roll it into a wick. When I put it in the jar, I try and and bend it into a “U” shape to ensure it sits with the burning end sticking.
  4. Put the foil boat into the jar and adjust its edges so that wick/ash won’t fall.
  5. Wipe the jar edge with a clean, very slightly damp paper towel or cloth and make sure the lid and ring are ready.
  6. Light the wick and put it on the foil.
  7. As quickly as you can, carefully stuff the burning wick down a bit and put the lid on the jar and press it down gently but firmly. The flame will sputter and keep burning for what seems like forever; in reality it’s just a couple of seconds.
  8. Screw the ring on snugly to ensure the lid isn’t jostled; depending on your altitude and how much burning there was after you closed the jar, the vacuum seal on the lid may be delicate.


At this point, the jar is sealed with a light vacuum seal and there is little-to-no oxygen inside. The contents are safer from spoilage than they would be just with a closed jar, though they may have a slight smoke flavor from the wax paper.

This is NOT a true form of canning – because the contents are not brought to boiling, you’re not making the food inside safe. This technique is only one for sealing for temporary preservation, where you want no air in the jar, or want the stuff inside staying waterproof (in case of a flood, for example). It can be great when camping because you can open and reseal a large jar repeatedly, only limited by the number of unused lids you have.


An afterthought is that you’d more likely keep the graham crackers in the jar so they don’t get moist than the marshmallows, but they were at hand.


Thus endeth the lesson.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Summer Grilling

strawberries over pound cake

Nobody says the sliced strawberries can’t be served over pound cake. Photo by JeffreyW

I finally finished the first of four cookbooks, so I thought I’d start the recipe threads again. Since I have the menus already formatted, it’s easy enough to copy and paste them into a thread once a week.  I’ve had a few requests to start posting again, if only so everyone has a place to share recipes. Seems like a good idea these days.

On the board tonight: Santa Fe Chicken and Black Bean Salad

Santa Fe Chicken Breasts (recipe below)
Tortilla chips
Black Bean Salad  (recipe here)
Sliced Strawberries

Santa Fe Chicken Breast

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 cup Picante or salsa (Fresh Salsa recipe here)
  • 4 oz sliced Monterey jack cheese

Reusable plastic container

Add chicken, vinegar and cilantro to reusable container and marinate 1 hour or overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade and slice each breast in a butterfly cut (slicing in half horizontally, but leaving attached at one edge, so it folds open like butterfly wings).

Fold open and grill or broil until cooked through (as little as 5 minutes each side, depending on heat and thickness).

Don’t let dry out.  Use a meat thermometer – remove at 165°

On one half of each breast, add 1 oz cheese and 2 tbsp or more of Picante/salsa, fold other half over and heat until cheese is melted.

Serve immediately.


That’s it for this week. What’s cooking in your kitchen? Go ahead and share your favorite recipes and tips.  Otherwise, open thread.