Tomato Basil Pesto Soup

The snow is falling and who knows how much snow we will end up with.  The forecast calls for anywhere between 10 to 16 inches!  We have been very fortunate this winter and most storms have missed us, but not this one!  This area is known to lose power during storms and high winds, so I wanted to make sure that I had things I could heat up on the wood stove.  We have had extremely high winds the past couple of days with no power loss – so hoping that is a good sign, but better to be prepared.

I made this soup with canned diced tomatoes, so I will try and translate it as close as possible to store bought items as I can.  This soup is forgiving so a little extra or less of something I don’t think will make a huge difference!

I came up with idea as I was thinking about how much Stella had been wanting my 7 ingredient tomato basil soup and since basil is not in season, what could I use instead.  The light bulb went off – I have basil pesto cubes in the freezer!

Tomato Basil Pesto Soup

Tomato soup done


8 – 10 cups canned diced tomato with juice (you could use canned stewed or diced tomatoes)
1 medium sized onion, diced
2 – 3 cloves of garlic, diced
2 Tbl lard, coconut oil or olive oil
4 – 6 Tbl basil pesto
1/4 – 1/2 cup cream or half and half (optional, but recommended)

1. Dice your onion and garlic and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.

2. Heat lard, coconut oil or olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add onions and saute for about 5 minutes, add the garlic and saute for another 2 – 3 minutes.

Tomato soup onion garlic

3. Add the tomatoes to the pot.  (Ok – my pictures show cooking the onions and garlic in a pan and adding them to soup pot.  I got ahead of myself and poured the tomatoes into the soup pot, not thinking!)

Tomatoe soup tomatoes

Tomato soup onion added

4. Add the pesto, stir and let the soup simmer for 2-0 – 30 minutes.  You really want the flavors to mix together.

Tomato soup pesto

Tomato soup simmering

5. If the soup is too thick you can add some warm broth.  I had enough liquid and did not have to add any broth.

6. Using a stick blender or blender puree the soup.

Tomato soup blending

Tomato soup blended

7. Add the cream or half and half to the soup, blend and serve.

Tomato soup cream

I had Stella taste the final soup and she immediately asked for a bowl and then seconds!  Glad I make a big batch!

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I Love Me Some Corn Bread!

Corn meal was used thousands of years ago by the Native Americans. When the European settlers arrived in the New World they were taught by the Indians the many uses of corn in meal preparation.  The European settlers created recipes for using cornmeal in breads similar to those made of grains available in Europe. Cornbread has been called a “cornerstone” of Southern United States cuisine and that is probably when I fell in love with cornbread.  I lived many years in the South and cornbread was a staple of many meals at friends homes and out at restaurants.

A toasted corn muffin with slathered butter on top is a true comfort food for me!  The other day I had a conversation with a friend and in turned to comfort food, well my mouth got to watering and I had to have a corn muffin.  Home I went and got to baking.

Corn Muffin

corn muffin


1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar (if you want sweeter use up to 2/3 cups)
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/3 cup corn kernels (fresh,frozen or canned – thawed and dry) – Optional

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Melt the butter.

Corn melt

3. In a medium sized glass bowl, combine the butter and the sugar, mix well.  Beat in the eggs.

Corn sugar egg

4. Add the baking soda and the nutmeg and then slowly add the buttermilk.

Corn nutmeg

Corn buttermilk

5. Add the cornmeal – mix well.  Add the sea salt and flour, mix well.

Corn cornmeal

Corn flour

6. Stir in the corn. My corn was from some that I had put up this past summer.

Corn corn

7. Spoon the batter in a prepared muffin tin.

Corn in the pan

8. Bake for 20 minutes until the tops start to brown.

Slather with butter and enjoy!

Corn served

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Make Your Own Ranch Dressing

Stella just LOVES ranch dressing and when she was on her salad making fix we were out of ranch dressing – but no fear!  My aunt has shared this recipe around the family and many make it and we all love it – so much better than store bought.  I had never made it, but we needed dressing and we had all the ingredients in the house – so a making I did!

This dressing is so creamy and full of flavor – it compliments anything you put it on – salad, carrots, broccoli…  One of Stella’s friends was over and we made pizza and she asked for some ranch dressing to dip her crust in – she couldn’t believe that we had made the dressing!

Ranch Dressing

Ranch done


1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup real mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbl dried parsely
1 Tbl dried dill
1 1/2 tsp dried chives
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Dash hot sauce (optional)
1/4 – 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk (for desired consistency)

1. Mince garlic, sprinkle with salt and mash into a paste with a fork.

Ranch garlic

Ranch crushed garlic

2. In a bowl combine garlic, mayonnaise, sour cream and all seasonings.

Ranch ingredients

3. Add the buttermilk to desired consistency.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Ranch mixed

4. Chill for a couple of hours before serving.

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Kids Can Cook: Soft Pretzels

I had been doing some baking and Stella said she had really been wanting to bake – well I had just the recipe for her.  As I was going though cookbooks and on-line recipes looking for a particular recipe that I could tweek I found a recipe in a cookbook from my elementary school!  The recipe was for soft pretzels, it looked easy and like a fun thing to make.  I shared the recipe with Stella and she was all for it!  It was getting late and dinner still had not been put on the table, but she wanted to start NOW!

As she was finishing up with her nightly chores I got all the ingredients out and since this was her first time making a bread like recipe, I did supervise.

Note: We were having so much fun rolling out the dough that I forgot to take any photos during this process, sorry 🙁

Soft Pretzels

Pretzel done 1


1 1/2 cup warm water
1 package OR 1 Tbl yeast
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbl sugar
4 cups flour (we used 2 cups organic white and 2 cups organic spelt)
1 egg, beaten
Course salt (we used both Himalayan Pink Salt & Course Celtic Salt)

1. Measure the water into a large glass mixing bowl.

2. Sprinkle the yeast and stir until it is mixed and looks “soft”.

Pretzel yeast

3. Add the sea salt, sugar and flour – mix well.

Pretzel flour

4. Flour a surface and turn the dough out onto the surface to knead.  You don’t want the dough to be sticky, but not also not too dry.

Pretzel knead

Pretzel dough

5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

6. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

7. Breaking off small balls of dough, roll and twist into pretzel shapes, mustaches, letters, glasses or whatever.

8. Place the pretzels onto the greased cookie sheet, brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with salt.

Pretzel on tray

9.Bake for 12 minutes, parts will be golden brown.  Take off the sheet and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Pretzel done 2

These are great warm, room temperature, plain or dipped in mustard!

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A Really Good Mayonnaise

I recently posted a recipe for mayonnaise and I had been using that recipe for years, but I just started using a new recipe which I think is even better!  This mayonnaise recipe is just as easy and delicious, but it “holds” better and does not separate when used in baking – yeah!!! Mayonnaise is so easy to make and once you start you will never go back to store bought again.  Now with store bought it lasts longer, wonder why, but with the recipe (which makes about a cup) it will last in your fridge for about 2 weeks – I think you will run out before the 2 weeks is up!

“Real” Mayonnaise (thank you Aunt C!)

Real Mayo on spoon


1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 – 1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 – 1 cup olive oil (can use light olive oil or expeller-expressed sunflower oil)

1. In a food processor, blender or a jar using a stick blender, place egg, egg yolk, mustard, salt and lemon juice.

Real mayo first

2. Process until well blended – about 30 seconds.

Real mayo first mix

3. Slowly pour oil in while the motor is running.

Real mayo oil

Taste and check seasoning – you may need to add more salt or lemon juice.

Real mayo all whipped up

Don’t you just love the color?!  And the taste – yum!!!

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Knitted Headband

I was looking for a fun, quick knit and in my searching for patterns I came across this headband.  I liked that it looked braided, but was really just cabled.  I changed the pattern just a bit, first because I did not understand what she was saying about how she cast on and the second – I didn’t have any super bulky yarn in the house.  Now I could have gone out and bought some, but I made a deal with myself that I needed to use up some of  (ok, a lot of ) the stash of yarn I already have in the house.

I did try one using size 13 needles and a much smaller yarn – it turned out ok, but not as tight as I would have wanted.  Then I tried size 11 needles and a thicker yarn – loved it!

Knitted Headband

Headband 1

Items Needed

Size 11 knitting needles, or size needed for your yarn
Bulky yarn (or your choice – the thickness of the yarn will determine the width of your headband)
Cable needle
Darning needle


C6F: Cable 6 front (slip three stitches onto your cable needle, hold in front, knit next three stitches and then knit the three stitches from your cable needle)

C6B: Cable 6 back (slip three stitches onto your cable needle, hold in back, knit next three stitches and then knit the three stitches from your cable needle)

Let’s Get Knitting!

1. CO (cast on) 11 stitches.


Row 1: K11

Row 2: K1, P9, K1

Row 3: K1, C6F, K4

Row 4: K1, P9, K1

Row 5: K11

Row 6: K1, P9, K1

Row 7: K4, C6B. K1

Row 8: K1, P1, K1

Continue knitting rows 1 – 8, until your headband measures about 18″.  You want to bind off on Row 7, following row pattern.

Headband almost

Sew your seam together and weave in all ends.

Headband seam

This is a pretty fast knit and pretty easy pattern to follow while you are watching your favorite show or listening to a great book on tape!

Stella was quite the poser for this photo shoot – here are just a few!

Headband 2

Headband done 3


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Oatmeal To Go!

Breakfast is my most favorite meal of the day and I could eat it anytime of the day!  Some mornings we are a bit rushed and I like to have items on hand that I can “make” without standing over the stove!  I am a big make ahead person and do many breakfast items: breakfast burritos, pancakes, waffles to name a few and now oatmeal to go!

“To Go” Oatmeal

Oats to go filled


1 cup raw buckwheat groats (not kasha)
1 cup steel cut oats
5+ cups water
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla 
1/2 tsp cardamon
Pinch of sea salt
Toppings (fresh, frozen or dried fruit, nuts, seeds, coconut

1. In a large pot, bring water and all ingredients, EXCEPT syrup and toppings, to a boil.  Once it has come to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.

Oats to go spices

Oats to go start

2. Remove from heat, stir well.  If it is too thick add some additional water. Cover and allow to sit overnight.

3. Before getting ready to fill your jars, mix in some syrup to sweeten if desired.

Oats to go soaked

Oats to go syrup

4. Taking your mason jars (either pint or half pint, preferably wide mouth) fill with some oats and layer with your toppings.  I did two layer of toppings and then a few toppings on top.

Oats to go filled1

Oats to go filled2

5. Once you have filled all the jars, cover and refrigerate.  These will keep for at least a week in the fridge – depending on what toppings you used.

I take them out of the fridge the evening before and leave on the counter.  In the morning I fill a pot with water and put the jars in – let the water boil and heat the jars as we are getting ready.  Be careful taking jars our the water when ready to eat or take with you!

I filled pint jars and it seemed to be 2 serving for us.  Next time I will use half pint jars.  I found myself eating about half in the morning and the other half for an afternoon snack.  Really filling and stays with you!

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Make Your Own Dishwasher Tabs

I already make my own dishwasher detergent, but when I saw this I wanted to give it a try.  With my dishwasher detergent I also use a citric acid liquid to help get the glasses to sparkle – this recipe had citric acid and vinegar – so it should really make my glasses and dishes shine!

This recipe is much more labor intensive and it take some effort to pack it into the ice cube trays – but it is so worth it – my glasses and dishes sparkled!

Dishwasher Tabs ( I found this recipe off Higher Perspective)

Dish done

Items Needed

2 Cups of Washing soda
1 Cup of Baking soda
1 Cup of Citric acidDish ingredients
1/2 Cup of Kosher salt
1 Teaspoon of Liquid castile soap
1/2 cup of White vinegar
15 – 20 Drops of  Lemon Essential oils (optional and your choice of oils)
Ice cube tray (2 to 3)

I ended up using 2 1/2 ice cube tray, making 41 tabs.  After figuring out the cost these come out to less than $0.10 per load if you are using a full tab.  You can half the tabs for smaller dishwashers or smaller loads.

1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large, glass bowl.

Dish dry

2. Gradually pour in the vinegar, just a little bit at a time. Some fizzing will probably happen and will get lumpy – but don’t worry.

3. Mix in the castile soap and essential oil if you choose to use it. I liked the lemon scent and figured if it made my kitchen smell this good while making it – that it would also making it smell good when washing my dishes.

Dish mixed

4. Pack the mixture into icecube trays. Make sure they’re well compacted. I used a spoon to help me really pack it in.

Dish in tray

Dish packed

5. Set the trays out in a warm, sunny spot, allowing them to dry for about 24 hours.

6. Take the tabs out of the trays and store in a tight-lidded container.


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Snowing? Make Snow Ice Cream!

This was originally posted on February 14, 2014, as part of our Food Stamp Challenge month.

With so many getting snow this week and us having snow forecasted for the weekend, thought I needed to re-post and share this again! Stella has been waiting to make this the next time we get a good amount of snow – maybe Sunday.  She even wants me to buy some ice-cream so I can re-use the container for snow ice-cream and we can keep a bunch in the freezer, ready to indulge!

Snow Ice Cream



photo-111 cup whole milk (raw if you have it)
1/3 cup organic sugar
1 – 2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
8 + cups fresh snow


1. In a bowl combine the milk, vanilla, sugar and salt.  Whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved.


2. Stick the bowl into the freezer.

3. Go outside and fill a bowl or two with fresh snow.


4. Take the bowl out of the freezer and add the snow, cup at a time, and mix.  You want the consistency to be firm enough to be scooped and the looks of crumbled topping.



5. Scoop into a bowl, add some sprinkles and enjoyed!  Really delicious – smooth, sweet, cold and tastes like ice cream!!

snow cream enjoying

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A Soup For Mushroom Lovers!

I have mentioned before that I so want Stella to like soups and eat them more, well I found one that she just loves!  Me not so much.  Stella had this soup over at a friends house and just raved about it – so of course I asked for the recipe.  It is not specific on the mushrooms to use – so since I am not a huge mushroom fan I used the only mushrooms I really like – portobello, in hopes that I would like this soup.

Stella has pretty much eaten this for a week straight, adding either some homemade rye bread or pizza toast.  She just can’t get enough of it.

Mushroom Soup

M Soup done


3 Tbl butter, preferably grass fed
2 Tbl olive oil
3/4 cup onion or shallots, chopped into small pieces
2 lbs. mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tsp thyme (fresh preferably)
Sea Salt & Pepper to taste
1/3 cup organic cream
3 Tbl organic flour
3 1/2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup whole, organic milk (preferably raw)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup organic sour cream

1. Prepare your mushrooms and onions or shallots.

M Soup sliced

M soup ingredients

2. In a large soup pot, melt butter with the olive oil.

3. Add onion or shallots and saute for 2 – 3 minutes.

M Soup onions

4. Add the mushrooms, thyme, sea salt & pepper.  Cook until liquid is rendered.

M Soup m added

5. Add cream – mix well.

6. Stir in flour, cook for 2 – 3 minutes.

M soup flour

7. Add broth and simmer for 15 minutes.

8. Lower the heat and whisk in the milk.

9. Add the nutmeg and sour cream – mix well.

Serve and enjoy!

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