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Terminate that chill and warm up with comforting tomato soup!

Bowl of Tomato SoupServed steaming hot in an over-sized mug, with a toasty brown grilled-cheese sandwich, tomato soup takes us back to those childhood days when this cool weather treat seemed really special. Comforting and warming all the way to the tummy, most of us probably had the canned soup most often. But, I still fondly recall the aromas coming from my great-grandmother’s kitchen during canning season when she was “putting up” tomatoes while making tomato soup from scratch. And, there is no tastier way to terminate a chill than that bowl or mug of tomato soup! Today, making homemade tomato soup is simple. Open a couple cans or jars of tomatoes, sauté some aromatic vegetables, and blend it all together. That’s it!

Selecting Tomatoes

Chilies and TomatoesWhile ripe fall tomatoes can make a delicious end of season tomato soup, when it comes to the classic flavor we remember, canned tomatoes are best. They provide a consistent flavor because they are picked, processed, and canned at the peak of perfection. We have found that crushed tomatoes have the preferred balance of acidity and flavor for soup, and they don’t have to spend a lot of time in the blender or food processor to break down. They have a texture between firm diced tomatoes and smooth tomato sauce, and they provide a fresh, full, flavor that is great for pasta sauces and smoother soups.

Home Canned Crushed Tomatoes

Crushed Tomatoes

We also use a small amount of tomato paste in our soups. Tomato paste comes in small cans, usually six ounces each, and also in 4.5 ounce tubes, and they are the most cooked down of all the canned tomato products with eighty per cent (80%) of the water content removed. The paste has a very concentrated flavor and a much darker color.

While the amount of paste in most recipes is small, compared to the crushed tomatoes, you really can’t develop that deep, rich, flavor we all love in tomato soup without it. Keep both canned tomatoes and tomato paste on hand for tomato soup anytime, and you’ll also discover many other uses for them.

Blending and processing hot tomato soup can be messy and even dangerous. See our tips on how to be safe while completing this essential task.

Creamy Tomato Bisque
Creamy Tomato Bisque One of our favorite soups is a steaming mug of tomato “bisque,” by definition a creamy, highly seasoned soup of French origin. It is classically based on a strained broth of crustaceans or shellfish, but it can also be made from roasted and puréed fruits, vegetables, or fungi. Our bisque uses fire roasted tomatoes, heavy cream and a sprinkle of Parmesan to develop an earthiness and silkiness. Get the recipe here.

Tomato Soup with Parmesan Cheese
Tomato Soup with ParmesanHere is another of our tomato soup recipes that has you do the puree while the product is still cool. I have found this to be much easier to handle than trying to pulse the hot soup in a blender or food processor. This recipe incorporates orange juice, a natural pairing with tomato, maple syrup for a touch of sweetness in the background, and cilantro for a fresh citrus note. This one, like the bisque, we finish with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. The recipe is on our soup page, here.

Tomato Vegetable Soup
Tomato Vegetable SoupOur tomato vegetable soup is a recipe we developed in the church kitchen while cooking large batches for fellowship dinners. This is a comforting and filling soup with just a hint of citrus from orange juice. We use homemade Emeril’s Essence in this version to take it just slightly to the cajun side where it blends so well with the mixed vegetables. Find the recipe here.

Rich and flavorful tomato soups are winter warmer-upper favorites that are chock full of vitamin C, and a great way to get the antibiotic effect of the onions and garlic. If you’re fighting a winter cold or flu, you can also whip up a delicious dairy-free version to keep the mucus factor down. It will still be delicious and give you a welcome boost. Tomato soup; the winter chill terminator!

It seems like we keep really busy late in the year attending events and activities that involve food. Whether it’s a company party or a family get together, a welcome addition to any gathering is an appetizer. The term “appetizer” usually refers to a small plate or single bite of food served before the meal to stimulate the appetite. The same food item might be served as an hors d’oeuvres at cocktail parties and receptions, where no dinner is served afterward. There are many recipes freely available, and here are a few of our own.

Texican Street Corn Scoops
Texican Street Corn ScoopsThis is a delicious treat that accents the freshness of corn on the cob with butter, cheese and homemade Emeril’s Essence! Texican Street Corn Scoops are a terrific way to deliver wonderful flavors in a bite size finger food. We cook the ears of corn in the microwave for our Texican Street Corn to retain all the flavor and sweetness which other methods often cook out, and we show you how to create this flavorful bite size version that will bring them back for more. Get the recipe here.

Twice Baked Potato Skins
Twice Baked Potato Skins Treat the family to an oven baked potato recipe dish that has the ideal texture and taste. Load these twice backed potatoes with butter, sour cream, cheese, chives, and top with crumbled bacon. They boast the ultimate level of silky creaminess, cheesiness, and buttery goodness . . . then top it with bacon! The perfect recipe for your memorable Christmas meal! Many folks also enjoy smaller versions as finger food, whether served hot or cold. Get the recipe here.

Shrimp Boats
Shrimp In A BoatThe original recipe for this appetizer was a shrimp salad that dates back to the early 1970s when our next door neighbor, Karen Flessner, introduced this. She served the salad in a large bowl with a dipping spoon and snack crackers on the side so we could fix our own. This deliciousness can also be elevated to bite-size morsels served in tortilla cups, as we show here, or on crackers, croutons, or any other vessel that is available. Get the recipe here.

Curried Carrot and Pear Bites
Curried Carrot and Pear Bites with RaisinsAdapted from our Carrot and Pear Salad, this tasty morsel on a stick is a party of flavors in an attractive burst of colors. Combining a zesty marinade with the pallet-pleasing tastes of fresh pears and raisins is counterbalanced by the earthy tones of the carrot ribbons. This eye catcher is a favorite, and they are easy to assemble, so be sure to make plenty. Get the recipe here.

Fingerling Hasselback Potato Bites
Roasted cheddar potato fanThe Hasselback potato is clearly the most eye-catching spud to ever call itself a side dish. Elevate the baked potato into an eye-catching side dish or appetizer with these potatoes roasted in a hot oven to produce a crispy skin and creamy interior. Adding seasoning and cheese, these appetizers will leap off the serving tray. These are called “Hasselback” potatoes, which refers to the luxurious Hasselbacken hotel and restaurant in Stockholm, which originated this technique. Get the recipe here.

Rye Bread with Dill Dip
Dill Dip in Rye Bread LoafLarry’s mother got this dill dip recipe from a St. Louis grocery store that made it fresh daily. We have served it many times over the years, and it eventually found its way into a hollowed out loaf of rye bread. Break the center of the loaf into pieces and place around the loaf. When the broken pieces are gone you break bread from the loaf itself. Enjoy! Get the recipe here.

Roasted Cheddar and Bacon Jalapeno Poppers
Cheddar and Bacon Jalapeno PopperStems sliced down the middle give these jalapeno poppers additional eye appeal. Poppers are fun to experiment with and we like making these a variety of ways. This recipe uses flavored thick cut bacon, and a little bread or cracker crumbs to add a tiny bit of texture to the filling, to complement the crunchiness of the exterior. Get the recipe here.

Easy to assemble appetizers and hors d’oeuvres are fun to make, and even more fun when they become the hit of the party. Try putting together one or more of these for your next get together, and let us know how it went. Have a favorite you’d like to tell us about? We always enjoy hearing from you!

I fondly recall many wonderful family gatherings for the fall/winter holiday seasons, which always brought out some of the best meals of the year. Memories of special dishes like the elegant Standing Bison Roast, Standing Beef Rib Roast, Roasted Peking Ducks, and huge Roasted Turkeys, come to mind instantly. But, just as memorable, are some of the side dishes that accompanied those meals, particularly those that were specialties of loved ones.

Green Beans with Pecans and Blue Cheese
Green Beans with Toasted NutsGreen beans are an ever-present side dish, and there are at least hundreds of variations on how to prepare them. This recipe uses a mustard, vinegar and shallot dressing, and toasted pecans to create an elegant flavor that goes well with a number of main-course meat dishes.
The recipe is here.

Lea’s Cole Slaw
Sweet & Sour Cole SlawThis is an attractive and tasty side dish that uses cabbage, carrots, and celery, (or 2 pounds of pre-packaged Cole slaw mix), paired with a sweet sour dressing. If you need to make a last minute adjustment to sweeten the flavor, you can use honey or other liquid sweetener. The recipe is here.

Orange & Gold Potatoes Au Gratin
gold-and-yellow-potato-casserole_smlThis is a colorful potato dish that uses sweet potatoes and gold potatoes sliced into thin slices for easy baking. Take the flavor and texture in the direction that’s best for your meal by selecting the proper cheese; Romano for creaminess, Asiago for saltiness, or Parmesan for saltiness and nuttiness. The recipe is here.

Sour Cream and Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
Horseradish and sour cream potatoesPrefer a mashed potato with a fresh spin on the flavor? This recipe uses your choice of red or golden potatoes with their waxy texture and thin skins are excellent for eating unpeeled, and they’re great boiled or roasted). Combine with ricotta cheese and a little fresh horseradish for a hint of flavor without the heat. This dish always gets a lot of “Yum!s.” The recipe is here.

Lea’s Sweet Swedish Meatball Appetizers
Swedish MeatballsThis is a fun and flavor-full slow cooker appetizer that is always a hit for family gatherings. Often times self-served from the slow cooker, the hot appetizer can be scooped up and placed on a small plate for a walk-around treat. Using cooked, frozen, Italian meatballs, chili sauce and jelly, this simple recipe is sure to delight, and is always a favorite for the children. The recipe is here.

 
Marjorie’s Very Crunchy Sweet Pickles
Marjorie's Crunchy Sweet PicklesThese sweet pickles are so easy to make, and are better than any other homemade or store bought pickles you’ll run across. It takes about a week to make them, but, they are SO crunchy they are a long time favorite, and one you’re sure to enjoy! The recipe is here.

There are many other great side-dish recipes to choose from, and invite you to search for those that interests you on our Side Dish page.

Harvesting apples in the fall is such a rewarding undertaking! We, and our friends and extended families, always looked forward to the apple harvesting season. We would drive out to one or more of the local orchards where we could gather all we wanted of the various varieties of apples. Apple Cider PressWe like to press a blend of apples to make apple cider, applesauce, and apple butter, each of which requires a crafty blending of a variety of types of apples. We also would make up a couple dozen pie shells using Lea’s pie dough recipe. We then peeled and sliced apples, arranged some in pie shells, others in freezer bags, seasoned them up, and wrapped them tightly for storage in the freezer for later use.

Sliced Johnathan and Granny Smith ApplesApples are such a versatile fruit they can be used as stand alone snacks, of course, and also used to make sauces, glazes, side dishes and desserts. They are canned, pressed to produce apple juice, baked, fried, sauteed, braised, and all the other techniques. Raw or cooked, apples are glorious. We have a few favorite apple items that come to mind when the cooler weather arrives.

Cinnamon Apple Tortilla Roll Ups, Apple Stuffed Pork Chops, Apple-Ginger Thick Cut Pork Chops, Apple Dump Cake,Apple Pie with Rum Raisin Sauce and one last mention of the slice of hot apple pie with Rum Raisin Sauce. If you don’t care for the rum, here’s a version of Raisin Sauce you might like better.

For all of these reasons, we are real fans of the glorious apple. Oh, and if you’ve never tried it, one of the great variations on apple pie is melting a slice of cheddar cheese on top and then drizzling with a cinnamon sauce. I first ran across this delectable treat decades ago when I was an announcer at a local radio station, and the pharmacy across the street still had a lunch counter where they served their apple pie with this topping. Here’s a snapshot4 Year old lattices a pie from the scrapbook: our 4-year old grandson putting the lattice on a treat just before going into the oven. It’s as easy as apple pie!

Black Pot with Coals on LidThe cooler weather brought by the fall season brings fond memories of camp outs, bonfires, black pots, apple and pumpkin pies, and hearty chili soup to warm the soul. Raised in the Midwest, we experienced the colors and weather of all four seasons, including the final harvest of the season, the jovial hayrides behind a farm tractor or hay truck, vast pumpkin patches, and the growing excitement of the approaching holiday season.

:ea's Pumpkin PieWhen I think of pumpkins, the aroma and flavors of the seeds of a pumpkin we had just harvested toasting in the oven come to mind. Lea is held in high regard for her outstanding pie crust and her scrumptious apple and pumpkin pies. These are favorites, and often requested, at our church.

Gene Vaughn's Chili in Black PotChili soup brings back memories of my dad’s continuing development of his chili recipe, and how he was always experimenting with it. In particular, I remember him trying to include lettuce in it (Don’t try this at home, kids), and his one attempt at using chocolate candy bars as an ingredient (not successful! Candy makers will tell you that paraffin wax is a common ingredient in chocolate.) Nevertheless, over the years he developed a recipe that was popular with the local National Guard unit he served in. His recipe is named Gene Vaughn’s 2-Alarm Chili.

Coney Island Style Chili Cheese Hot DogI, on the other hand, have a couple versions of chili soup that are really popular with our church family, Chipotle Chili Soup (Medium Heat), and the Campfire Chili I have made since back when I was a boy on overnight camp outs. If you don’t have a lot of time to spend nurturing a chili to perfection, you can always fall back on our 30-Minute Chili Sauce that works just as well in a bowl as it does seasoned up over spaghetti, or spread on a chili cheese hot dog.

Do you have a favorite fall recipe? Drop us a line, or a link, and let us know. We would be happy to share it here on our cookbook. We are really looking forward to some great fall and winter time dishes!

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