Tomato Blue Cheese Soup

Tomato Soup
Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwich
I planted a garden this year for the 2nd time in decades and must have a green thumb for growing tomatoes, as they're abundant! Thanks to Suptuoussoonfuls Blog for this idea on how to use tomatoes for a quick, freshly homemade tomato soup, using about a pound of tomatoes.

I tweaked it a bit adding extra garlic and also basil, as I grew an abundance of it, too. I did not peel the tomatoes, just rough chopped.

If not having fresh tomatoes, two cups of canned would also work well.  Of course summer and fall farmers markets offer fresh tomatoes, so pick up a few pounds if you have the opportunity.

The combination of a creamy tomato base and blue cheese is delightful, and a perfect meal by serving a classic grilled cheese sandwich alongside.

Tomato SoupTomato Blue Cheese Soup
1 Tab. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 of an onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 medium sized tomatoes, chopped., about 2 cups or 1-1/2 pounds
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup fat-free half and half, or milk
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tabs. fresh basil
1/4 c. blue cheese crumbles or more to taste
Optional: Crumbles of bacon, fresh oregano or basil leaves for garnish.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.
Tomato Soup
Add chopped tomatoes and juices. Let cook for 5-10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. 
Add broth and half and half/or milk, salt and pepper and basil. Lower heat and simmer about 30 – 45 minutes. 

Put soup and blue cheese in the blender or use soup wand to blend until smooth. Don't worry too much about getting it perfectly smooth because some texture adds to the flavor when eating.  If you want it very smooth, blend it twice.
Serve immediately, garnished with a bit of bacon and oregano or more basil if desired. Makes 4-6 servings.

Estimated cost with purchased tomatoes: $2.50 or less: .50 cents a serving or less. Much less with your own tomatoes!

Mom's Never-Fail Pie Crust

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My mom sent me this recipe back in the 1970s and it never "fails."  I've used it for fruit pies, chicken pot pies, tarts, and quiches.

If you have the time, double or triple the recipe then divide, wrap and freeze dough to have on hand anytime you need it. Defrost ahead of time in the refrigerator, or at room temperature.  Then roll out for your recipe.

It sure saves money over buying pre-made crusts at the grocery store.

I recently bought a mini-pie maker and have been making individual pot pies and fruit pies, then freezing for future meals and desserts.

Mom's Never-Fail Pie Crust
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup shortening, like Crisco
2-1/4 cups flour

Pie Dough photo null_zps147cceb4.jpg photo null_zps4f0e9e92.jpgAdd salt and sugar to boiling water.  Pour over shortening in a bowl and let cool. Whip with a beater until creamy.  Add flour and mix with a fork.

Form into two balls, wrap in plastic or wax paper. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes or more before rolling into pie crusts; or freeze dough for later use by wrapping in plastic or vacuum sealing.

Estimated cost for two crust pie:  .50 cents or less.

Green Beans and Potato Gravy

Green Beans and Potatoes photo null_zps5211d5bb.jpgThis recipe is a favorite from childhood, often served at Sunday dinners when roast beef was on the menu.  My gram or mom both served this side dish.  

It also goes well with a pork roast or roast chicken, but somehow the beef flavor in the sauce seems the tastiest to me.

Many of my gram's handwritten recipes give directions and ingredients, but not with exact measurements, like this recipe, so you have to estimate how many beans and potatoes you'll need for the number of people served. 

I estimate a third to a half a cup of beans and half a cup of cubed potatoes per person.

Gram had a garden so used fresh green beans.  I still remember picking beans with her, then sitting on the porch to snip the tops and snap them in smaller pieces.  I've used both fresh and frozen green beans for this recipe.

It's an alternative to mashed potatoes, and cooks the veggies, potatoes and gravy in one pot!

Chicken Pot Pie photo null_zps8576386a.jpg Green Beans and Potato Gravy
fresh green beans, cut in half or thirds, or frozen can be used
peeled and cubed potatoes
salt and pepper
pan drippings from meat

Start cooking beans first in water.  Peel and cube a potato or two and add to green beans about the last 10 minutes of cooking. Simmer until done - fork tender. With a slotted spoon remove beans and potatoes to a serving bowl.  Cover and keep warm.
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Thicken the water by first blending a tablespoon or two of flour with cold water in a cup, then adding the mixture to the beans and potato water.  Stir gently to blend all together, cooking until the sauce thickens. Add drippings or juices from the meat you're cooking, and a tablespoon or two of butter, stirring to blend. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pour over vegetables in the bowl and gently mix before serving.
Estimated cost: .20 cents per serving or less.

Easy Pickled Green Beans

Pickled Green Beans photo null_zpsb559c3b7.jpgFarmers markets, grocery stores and gardens are abundant with fresh green beans in the summer. 

I grow a small patch in my raised bed garden and use them in stir fries, side dishes, blanch and freeze, and I also make a couple of pints of these pickled green beans.

They make a nice garnish on a salad, stir stick in a Blood Mary, or nice addition to a relish tray. These are quick and easy to make, then stored in the refrigerator.  

This recipe is for a 1 pint jar, but can easily be doubled, tripled, or even made larger depending on your needs.  These are not "canned," so must be stored in the refrigerator after making.

Pickled Green Beans
5 oz. green or wax beans
1 pint jar with lid
1 clove garlic, peeled and quartered
1 Tab. pickling spice
bay leaf
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 Tab. sugar
1 tsp. salt
pinch of red pepper flakes, optional 

Pickled Green Beabs photo null_zps42ae8399.jpg
Arrange beans in a pint jar, trimming to fit lengthwise leaving a half inch of empty space at top of the jar. Stuff garlic, spice and bay leaf around beans.

In a sauce pan, or in the microwave bring vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil for 2 minutes. Pour the mixture over beans. Screw on the lid and let the jar set until cooled to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 2 days before eating.

Estimated cost: $1.00 or less per pint if purchasing beans.  If using homegrown beans, next to nothing in cost!

      Manicotti Pasta with Cheese

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      Everyone enjoys a fresh dish of Manicotti pasta oozing with tomato sauce and cheese.  Two or three served with a salad and dipping bread make for a satisfying meal.

      When my mom made them she also served either meat balls or Italian sausage, sometimes putting sausage into the stuffing mixture.

      Now days I see many recipes on the Internet for different kinds of stuffing and sauces, but I like to make our family's basic traditional cheese style using ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan.  If serving only a few people, it  freezes well for future meals or lunches.

      Manicotti photo null_zpscb344564.jpgManicotti Pasta with Cheese
      12-14, an 8-ounce package of  manicotti
      1  15-ounce container ricotta cheese
      3 cups shredded mozzarella
      1/2 cup grated Parmesan
      2 Tabs. chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
      1 garlic clove, minced

      1 tsp. dry Italian herb mixture
      3 cups marinara or spaghetti sauce

      1/2 tsp. salt
      1/4 tsp. pepper

      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
      Spray or oil a baking sheet covered with foil.  Cook manicotti in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly softened, but still firm to the bite, about 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer manicotti to the baking sheet and cool.
      Manicotti photo null_zpscc5e95ed.jpg
      Combine ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and parsley. Add garlic, salt, and pepper to taste, and mix well.  Fill tubes with mixture with a spoon, or put mixture in a plastic bag, snip a corner, and squirt into tubes.

      Spread a layer of sauce over the bottom of a sprayed the 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.  Arrange stuffed pasta in a single layer in the prepared dish, and spoon remaining sauce over pasta.
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      Sprinkle the top with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

      Bake manicotti uncovered until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 35-40 minutes. Let manicotti stand 5 minutes before serving. 
      Serves 6-8.

      Estimated cost: $9.00 or less; $1.50 per serving or less.

      Gram's Beer Bread

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      This handy bread recipe makes fresh bread quickly, so you can have it more often without the fuss.  I don't always have self-rising flour on hand, so included ingredients to substitute if you don't have it on hand.  

      If you come across other recipes calling for self-rising flour, I've also included a recipe for making it at home.

      Since childhood, my grandmother always sent me a birthday card, and when an adult with children continued to do, often including a recipe. She sent this recipe back in the late 1970s when she was in her 80s.  Her recipe called for self-rising flour.

      If you use the search box on my blog (upper left hand corner) or browse the archive you'll find many other bread recipes I use.  This one is the easiest and quickest!

      Gram's Beer Bread
      3 cups sifted flour
      4-1/2  tsps. baking powder
      3/4 tsp. salt
         or (3 cups self-rising flour)
      1, 12-ounce can of beer
      3 Tabs. of sugar
      1/4 cup melted butter

      In a large bowl, sift  together dry ingredients. Pour in beer and blend mixture well.  Dough will be sticky. Spread dough into a sprayed or greased loaf pan.  Drizzle butter over the top.

      Beer Bread photo null_zps88325de2.jpgBake in a 350 oven 50 to 60 minutes or until done.  Insert a tooth pick into middle to see if comes out clean. Loaf will have a crunchy outside and soft inside. For a softer crust, mix the butter into the dough batter before baking, and brush with butter when done.

      Estimated cost: Under $1.00.

      Homemade Self-rising Flour
      1 cup of flour
      1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
      1/4 tsp. salt
        Sift to combine all ingredients and store in a jar or canister.  Recipe may be doubled, tripled or made even larger if wanting to have a larger quantity on hand.

      Plum Ice Cream

       photo null_zps0d6d5399.jpgWe've had two plum tree for about 15 years but they don't always produce a lot of fruit as sometimes there's a late frost, or a bee shortage due to weather.  But this year, conditions were ideal they're "loaded" with fruit.

      I make ice cream from time to time, so googled for plum ice cream recipes and after reading several settled on this one from "Edible Portland."

      Since I'm from Oregon, this recipe of course appealed to me.  It's fairly simple, and so delicious. I tweaked it by adding vanilla extract.

      I recently made a batch of  Italian Pizzelle wafers and cones which are handy to have on hand for serving all kinds of desserts.
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      Plum Ice Cream
      1/2 cup sugar
      1/3 cup water
      1 lb. ripe plums, about 2 cups
      2 Tabs.  lemon juice
      1 tsp. vanilla
      2 cups heavy cream, cold

      Slice plums and remove pits. Cut plums into smaller sections.
      Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan over low heat. Whisk until sugar dissolves. 
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      Add plums and lemon juice and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally and mashing the plums until they're falling apart, about 8 to 12 minutes.
      Pour plum syrup into a large bowl and cool to room temperature. Pour heavy cream into cooled syrup. Mix and combine. Cool in refrigerator until ready to make in ice cream machine.

      Freeze in an ice cream machine according to  manufacturer’s directions. Store in two pint size containers. 
      Makes 4-6 cups.