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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Farmers Markets Soup

Farmers Market Soup

Farmers Market Soup

What better way to make a soup then to go to the farmers market, see what vegetables look the freshest, bring them home and create something delicious? This is just what we did on Saturday.  We first visited the organic farm stand at the market and picked up the zucchini, carrots and onions.  It was then onto the local farmers stand where we found cremini mushrooms, eggplant and beautiful green beans.  All that shopping made our stomachs growl, so we went to the wood fired pizza stand and ate a fresh tomato, feta, and spinach pizza while sitting on the curb and watching the people go by with their purchases.

It was then on to Vicki’s kitchen were we finished the morning chopping vegetables and making the soup.  It is always more fun (and easier) cooking together and we encourage you to do the same.

This soup is very hearty and makes a healthy, flavorful meal.  I recently served it to a group of friends who came in for lunch after a morning of playing golf on a chili, drizzly day.  This was the perfect soup to warm them up and fill them up after chasing that little white ball!

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, minced
  • 4 carrots – cut into one inch pieces
  • 2 zucchini – cut into one inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound of green beans – cut into one inch pieces
  • 1 eggplant – peeled and cut into one inch pieces
  • 1/2 of medium head green cabbage, shredded
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup canned fire roasted tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 quarts chicken stock or water
  • 2 tablespoon basil
  • 1/4 cup arborio rice
  • 2 cup canned white or cannellini beans, well rinsed
  • 4 poached, boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces (see our poached chicken blog listed under entrees)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • Several dashes of hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup pesto (pre-made)
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook for  3 minutes.  Add the carrots, zucchini, green beans, and eggplant and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir frequently.  Add cabbage and sauté until soft.  Add mushrooms and sauté for several minutes.  Add garlic and stir for another minute.

Add tomatoes, stock and basil and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook until vegetables are tender and soup has slightly thickened – about 15 minutes.

Add rice and beans and cook for 15 minutes.  Add chicken, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Heat until chicken is warm.

Place in bowls and top with a teaspoon of pesto and grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 8-10.

Soups Ready!

Soup’s Ready!

A Tale of Two Farmers Markets

Mary-Ellen at the Saturday Morning Market

Mary-Ellen at the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market

For some of you, talking about farmers markets this time of year may seem strange, but here in Florida the season is just beginning.  We have a wonderful farmers market in downtown St. Petersburg called the Saturday Morning Market.  Running from October through May each year, thousands of residents and visitors enjoy live music, good food, and an array of vendors selling everything from produce to pasta.  We are very proud of our market – it has earned 4 1/2 stars on Yelp and Trip Advisor and has been featured by the New York Times.  These pictures were taken at the market last week:

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Vicki recently took a trip to France and spent a Sunday morning with her husband, Skip, and friends, Evie and Bill, at the famous Bastille Market in Paris.  This market also earned 4 1/2 stars by Trip Advisor.  The Bastille Market features mainly food, whereas the St. Petersburg market is more of a flea market/farmers market.  The fruits and vegetables were beautifully displayed and made you want to try everything.  Vicki was told that this is Ina  Garten’s  (the Barefoot Contessa) favorite French market which is undoubtedly true.

Okay now you pick – Paris or St. Petersburg?!!

Vicki at the Bastille Market in Paris

Vicki at the Bastille Market in Paris





Soup and Sandwich Night – Thick Tomato & Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese & Avocado Sandwiches

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There are many, many scenarios where a soup and sandwich night is the perfect answer to “what’s for dinner?”  Whether it’s a late soccer practice, dance class, business meeting, or just a plain crazy night, this comforting meal will make the whole family full and satisfied.  If possible, prepare the soup in advance so all you have to do is reheat the soup and make the grilled cheese sandwiches.  Dinner will be on the table in no time!

Tomato Basil Soup

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced thyme
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 28 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons sliced basil
  • Large cut croutons
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a large sauce pan.  Add thyme, onion and garlic.  Sauté until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.  Add tomato paste and continue stirring for 4 minutes.

Add tomatoes, sugar and water.  Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer for 40 minutes.  Either use an immersion/stick blender* directly in the pot or separate soup into batches and process in a blender.  Leave soup slightly chunky and return to pot.

Add basil, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.

Fill bowls with soup and top with croutons and parmesan cheese.

Serves 4.

* An immersion/stick blender is a great kitchen gadget.  It makes pureeing soups much easier since you can leave the soup in the pot and avoid the messy process of transferring the mixture to a blender.  They sell for $30 – $40.

Grilled Cheese and Avocado Sandwiches

  • Butter or olive oil
  • 8 thin slices of sourdough bread
  • 4 slices of cheddar cheese
  • 4 slices of swiss, ementaller or gouda cheese
  • Ripe avocado sliced

Lay four slices of bread on the counter and top with the cheeses and avocado.  Top with other four bread slices.  Either butter or brush the bread with olive oil.  Heat a large non-stick pan over high heat, then turn down to medium.  Place sandwiches in pan, butter side down.  Once in pan, put butter or olive oil on top side of the bread.  Heat the cheese sandwiches, pushing down on bread with a spatula or lid.  Once bread is browned, flip over and cook until cheese is melted.

Crowd Pleasing Vegetarian Chili

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This chili is chock full of flavor thanks to its fresh ingredients.  It also comes together very quickly once the chopping has been done.  Double the recipe for a large crowd such as a school event or neighborhood pot luck.  Freeze leftovers to have a hearty, tasty meal in seconds!

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup red/yellow pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (spicy if you want more kick)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh mushrooms, chopped (can omit)
  • 1 can whole fire roasted tomatoes (28 ounce can) with juice, chopped
  • 1 can undrained black beans (15 ounces)
  • 1 can undrained pinto beans (15 ounces)
  • 1 can undrained kidney beans (15 ounces)
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 3 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Using a large stock pot, heat the vegetable oil.  Add the garlic, carrots and onion and stir until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the green and red/yellow peppers.  Season with chili powder and stir.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Next, mix the mushrooms into the pot and stir.  Add in the remaining vegetables.  Finally add in cumin, oregano and basil.  Bring chili to a boil and reduce heat.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve with a rustic loaf of bread.

Serves 12-16.

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Vicki’s Chili – A Family Tradition

Vicki's Chili

Vicki’s Chili

Family traditions often revolve around recipes and cooking.  With the holidays approaching (oh no!) and the weather cooling down, it is time to pull out some family favorite recipes and reconnect with the past.

Vicki shares her chili recipe memory … “This recipe has been in my family for as long as I can remember.  It is so simple to put together.  Each time I make it, I am reminded of sitting around the kitchen table in Indiana with my mom, dad, and sisters, Kristal and Holly.  This tradition was then carried on to my table in Florida where it became a cool weather favorite.  My son, Michael, recently told me he made of batch of this chili and as he now lives in Australia,  I guess you could say this family tradition has gone international!”

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • One garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • One yellow onion, chopped
  • 46 ounce bottle of tomato juice
  • 6 ounces ketchup
  • 3 (16 ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained
  • 3 tablespoons (or more) chili powder (spicy if you prefer)
  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Sliced green onions
  • Sour cream

Brown beef with salt, pepper, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and onion.  Drain off fat.  Add rest of ingredients and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer for at least 45 minutes.

Place chili in bowls and top with cheese, green onions and sour cream.

Freeze leftovers – it tastes even better reheated!

Serves 12-16.

Fall Harvest Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

This recipe makes two loaves.  Freeze the second loaf to enjoy at another time, or wrap it up in foil with a pretty bow and give it to someone special as a spontaneous gift – the best kind of gift to receive!

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups zucchini, peeled & grated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

With an electric mixture, beat the eggs until frothy.  Add oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla.  Mix until just combined.  Add flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and baking powder.  Mix well.  Stir in nuts.  Divide mixture into 2 greased loaf pans.

Bake loaves for one hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Fabulous Fall Treat – Warm Cinnamon Apples with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Warm Cinnamon Apples with Ice Cream

Warm Cinnamon Apples with Ice Cream

The flavors of fall make this easy, elegant dessert the perfect treat for your simple celebration.  You may want to consider doubling the recipe because you will undoubtedly hear “MORE PLEASE!”

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced
  • Vanilla bean ice cream

Melt butter in a small frying pan.  Add cinnamon, brown sugar and allspice.  Stir for a couple of minutes.  Add apples and sauté until soft.  Serve over vanilla bean ice cream.   For added texture and flavor, top with dried cranberries or chopped walnuts.

Serves 4.

Contemporary Beef Stew

Modern Beef Stew

Contemporary Beef Stew

Cinnamon and cloves in a beef stew recipe?  Absolutely!  Prepare this updated version of beef stew and your home will be filled with a wonderful aroma and your family and friends will be filled with a delicious, hearty meal.  This isn’t your grandmother’s beef stew …


  • 4 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 whole allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar


  • 20 ounces skinned pearl onions (use frozen if you are crunched for time)
  • 3 stalks celery chopped into slices
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

Place meat and the marinade in a large bowl.  Cover and refrigerate over night.

Drain the beef, but reserve the marinade.  Melt butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a dutch oven.  Sauté onions and celery on medium heat for about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, place onions and celery in a bowl.  Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.  Sear beef, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes.  Add marinade, onion, celery, tomatoes, tomato paste and enough water to cover the beef.  Bring to boil and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, or until meat is fork tender.

Serve over egg noodles, or herbed noodles, such as the basil noodles, pictured above.

This stew can be made several days in advance.  Freeze any leftovers.

Serves 6-8.

World’s Most Simple (and yummy) Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

If you want to impress your guests with a wonderful tortilla soup that is literally made in minutes – here is your recipe!

  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces) chicken broth
  • 2 cans (10 ounces) Ro-Tel diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 can (16 ounces)  traditional refried beans (non-fat)
  • 1 1/2 pounds poached chicken, shredded  (or one rotisserie chicken, skinned and shredded)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • Shredded Mexican cheese
  • Avocado, diced
  • Sour Cream
  • Tortilla Chips

Place broth, diced tomatoes, and refried beans in a medium sauce pan.  Stir well.  Add chicken.  Bring mixture to a boil and turn heat down to simmer for 10 minutes.  Add corn and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Place soup in bowls and garnish with cheese, avocado, sour cream, and tortilla chips.

Soup’s On!

The Florida forecast calls for lows in the high 60’s this weekend for the first time since early spring.  You can literally “feel the excitement in the air.”  This blog showcases different types of soup bowls and soup tureens for your fall simple celebrations.  Even though it’s just soup for dinner,  you can still set a nice table!

Cream Soups

Small, handled bowls for cream soups

Formal settings - use for a variety of soups

Formal setting for a variety of soups

Stews and Chilis

Deep bowls for stews and chilis

Smaller portions - french onion soup or stews

Soup/stew as a side dish

Beautiful Presentation

Use a soup tureen for a beautiful presentation

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