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This recipe came from Martha Stewart Living via She Wears Many Hats.  I made a few changes (like swapping 6 T of butter for olive oil and leaving out the Cognac and milk) to better fit my family.  You can add shredded chicken if you like, but for my family it was plently rich and filling with just the vegetables.  We had this for our Valentine’s Day dinner.  I used ramekins for serving.  You could also put it in a pie dish, but my boys thought it made the dinner special that they each got their own special serving.  Whatever it takes, right?

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Well…welcome back winter.  I wish I could say that I have been missing you, but that wouldn’t exactly be the truth.  In all actuality I had dangerously moved on in my mind to thinking that we were not going to see anymore snow.  Browsing websites of my favorite clothing stores, checking out tees, shorts and dare I say…flip flops.  Not a good idea.  Because here we are with snow again and I am feeling that horrible heaviness that comes this time of year…the winter blahs.  My optimist husband reminds me that the snow won’t last long, which is true.  But still…

Now that the cold weather is back soups are once again in our meal plan rotation.  The last time we had a blizzard, with soup planned for the next day I found myself without the vegetable stock I needed.  With bad road conditions I didn’t want to send my husband out of his way coming home to pick it up.  It was then I considered the idea of making vegetable stock myself.

Now, stay with me here, I’m not going all Martha Stewart on you with the making of the homemade stock.  I too watched “The Barefoot Contessa“, and listened to her talk about how much better it is for your recipes if you take the time to make the stock going into them.  I rolled my eyes and sarcastically thought, “Sure Ina, no problem”, “I have tons of time for that”.

However, we were in the middle of a snow storm, so I did have the time on my hands. I hit the computer to search vegetable stock. After reading a few sites I was convinced that making your own stock really isn’t as scary or time consuming as I had thought.  Now, I can’t attest to making chicken stock, but vegetable is really quite simple.  It’s just a matter of chopping some veggies (just about any you have on hand) adding some herbs and water then letting it boil away for about 90 minutes.

At the end of that 90 minutes what you are left with is a rich colored stock that really does add more flavor to your soups.  Score one for Martha and Ina…they were right.

This recipe makes roughly 10 cups of stock and keeps in the fridge for a week, or you can stick it in the freezer to pull out at a later time.

Vegetable Stock

adapted from several recipes, mostly Vegan Yum Yum, and a few scribbles in my recipe notebook

2 Tablespoons olive oil

4-5 carrots, chopped

1 large onion

4-5 celery stocks, chopped

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2-3 potatoes, chopped

lots of fresh parsley

10 whole peppercorns

2 Tablespoons of tomato paste

1 Bay Leaf

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 gallon of water

**This recipe is very flexible, use any leftover vegetables you might have.  I’ve thrown in chunks of red and yellow pepper, leeks, sweet potato.  It’s really whatever you have on hand.

Heat the olive oil in your stock pot and adding each vegetable as you get them chopped. Add the salt and peppercorns, bay leaf, parsley, soy sauce and tomato paste.  Then add the water and cover.  Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat down slightly. Simmer for 1 hour.   After 1 hour test your seasonings (add salt if needed) and allow to continue simmering for another 30 minutes to concentrate the flavor.

When your final 30 minutes are up strain the broth and vegetables.

At this point you can put it into your refrigerator and freezer containers.

The first time I used this stock Bret and the boys kept asking what I had done differently to the soup, “it’s so good”, “did you change something?”  The only thing I had done differently was use this homemade stock instead of my usual store bought.  The flavor of our soup was richer and so was the color.  Being a busy mom I know it’s not realistic to think I’ll always have time to make this, some weeks are just too crazy.  But knowing that I can make it and put the extra in the freezer for another day, another meal (perhaps saving me during those crazy weeks), makes it worth the extra effort during the weeks that aren’t so hectic.

Feel free to comment if you have your own tips for making good stock.  I’d love to hear them!


It all began on a cold, drizzly Sunday morning in September.  I had just finished running the Corporate Cup 10k and was quite literally freezing, cold to my bones.  On our way home we decided to stop for an early lunch.  Scanning the menu all I could think was that I wanted something to get me warm…fast.  Tomato soup was on the menu, so I thought why not give it a try.  I hadn’t had it for awhile, but have always loved it.  As a child I can remember Sunday lunches with a bowl full of the red-orange soup, a gooey, grilled cheese sandwich on the side.  Yum!

The waitress brought us our lunch and we began to eat.  After getting everyone settled in with their meals I took my first bite of soup and was overwhelmed by flavor.  I said to my husband I couldn’t remember ever having such a flavorful tomato soup.  He tried it and said the same.  Of course the boys, seeing how much I was loving my soup, quickly decided they needed to try it too. From that moment on the soup was no longer mine.  They couldn’t get enough of it, I had never seen my children so nuts over soup, saying things like…

“Mom, this is incredible!”

“You HAVE to figure out how to make this!”

“Can I have another bite?”

They cleaned the bowl and I didn’t get another bite.

So the hunt was on to find a tomato soup recipe.  Remembering the flavor and aroma I could tell there was basil and oregano, probably some cream.  I started searching, found a few good recipes and from them pieced together one of my own that my family loves and requests on a regular basis.  It’s great the first day, but even better the second.

Tomato Soup

2 T olive oil or water

1 large onion, chopped

4 ribs celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 medium potato, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes or 2 cups fresh (this was really good when I used some from our summer garden that I had frozen)

4 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock

1 T crumbled, dried basil

1 T crumbled, dried oregano

salt & pepper to taste

2 T balsamic vinegar

In a large pot heat olive oil (or water).  Add all vegetables and garlic, saute til translucent.  Reduce the heat and add your tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic, stock and vinegar.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  After 30 minutes take off the heat and using an immersion blender (food processor or blender would work too) puree the soup to your desired consistency.

The best part of having this recipe at home?  Now I can have a whole bowl of it to myself.

Snow day #2!  Stay warm my friends!


I know salads generally aren’t the first thing you think of making this time of year.  All kinds of comforting, warming foods are most likely on the menu. The usual salad suspects, like tomatoes and cucumbers, out of season and flavorless, don’t make the thought of eating your greens any more appealing.

But I think this salad might just change your mind.  It’s simple to make, has beautiful color and pairs very well with a hearty soup, say minestone, or even good ol’ homemade mac & cheese.

Here’s what you’ll need…

For the salad:

Some colorful greens–I used Baby Romaine, but a nice Herb mix of greens would be great too.

Carrot–here you can slice, dice or just use your vegetable peeler to get the long shavings

Dried cranberries, add as little or as much as you like.

Walnuts–toast in a dry skillet over low to medium heat.  Give them a couple of tosses in the skillet to ensure they toast on all sides.  You’ll know they are done by the toasty aroma.  Do not skip this step.  It adds great flavor to the salad.

For dressing:

2 T apple cider vinegar

2 T maple syrup

2 tsp of dijon mustard

1/3 cup olive oil

salt and pepper.

The above are measurements I used in making this dressing, but don’t feel like you have to measure.  You can just as easily eyeball your amounts into a mason jar and give it a good shake to mix.

Toss salad and dressing together in a large bowl or arrange on individual plates.

Here’s hoping this salad will bring a little green into your winter menu.


I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by good cooks in my life.  My mom, both of my grandmothers, friends and a sister in law.  You will never want for a good meal with these women around.  I know the MEN in my life would most certainly agree!

I love to cook.  Almost as much as I love taking pictures, it’s definitely a close second.  There is something very relaxing about it for me, most days anyway.  I love the warmth and aroma of a simmering pot, the color and textures of the food on a plate, the satisfaction that comes from feeding my family something homemade.

A few years ago I inherited my grandma’s recipe box.  I was so excited to go through and find the recipes for those family favorites she had made as I was growing up.  There were handwritten recipes of her own and those given to her by friends. Clippings from the food sections of magazines and newspapers.  I even found a few in my own handwriting, recipes she had me recopy when the originals had become too worn.  Such treasures.

Several of her recipes have now become staples in my own home, this recipe for Minestone soup being one of them.

Soups have been on heavy rotation for us this winter and this one gets lots of requests.  We even had it for our Christmas Eve dinner.  It is the wonderful soup and works perfectly as leftovers for lunch the next day.

Minestrone Soup

6 sticks of Italian sausage, sliced  (this is optional, I’ve had it with and without sausage and it’s excellent both ways)

1 yellow onion sliced thin

2 carrots

1/2c celery

2 potatoes, diced

4-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 28oz can tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup spaghetti broken into 1 inch pieces

1 1/2 tsp dried basil

3 T chopped, fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese

If using, brown the sausage in dutch oven.  Add chopped celery, carrots, onion, potato and garlic.  Cook til onions are translucent.  Add tomatoes, stock, basil and parsley.  Simmer til vegetables are tender, then add pasta.  Serve with parmesan cheese and homemade croutons.



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