Herbed Quinoa Tomato Soup

It is a rainy Monday–the perfect day for a huge bowl of soup and a good book.

Lunchtime soups can be tricky–I need to turn around a midday meal fast–often in 10 minutes or less. I am not a fan of canned soup with one exception: canned tomato soup.

I’ve dabbled making homemade tomato soup and it is good–but never as good as a can of Campbell’s tomato soup.

I love to dress up canned tomato soup with simple add-ins. A sprinkle of Tabasco and some cheddar cheese is amazing; as is leftover Mexican rice. My new favorite variation: fresh herbs and quinoa.

I have a plethora of perennial herbs going strong in my garden; plus some basil and parsley in my kitchen window. Quinoa is a new favorite staple around here–yummier and more nutritious than a side of rice. 

This recipe takes less than 10 minutes, provided you have leftover quinoa in the fridge. If you don’t add about 15 minutes.

The ingredients: 
One 10 3/4 ounce can tomato soup
One cup Pre-cooked quinoa
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (your pick, I used a combo of oregano, basil, parsley and mint)
Tabasco sauce (a couple drops)
Good quality olive oil, just a little for a drizzle

To make:

Prepare tomato soup, according to package directions. Stir in pre-made quinoa, fresh herbs and Tabasco (or other hot sauce) to taste. Ladle into bowls and drizzle a little olive oil on top, to float.


Super Soup, Super Fast: Tortellini Soup

It has been a rainy Fall here in SNJ. And today, as the rain poured down and my sweet girls battled a cold, we had to have homemade soup.

This soup is so quick and easy. I usually keep the ingredients on hand to whip up whenever the skies pour and the coughing begins.


  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Premade Tortellini (I used a bag of frozen tricolor stuffed with cheese; but you can use dried or fresh, filled with whatever you like!)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach (or frozen, if you use frozen, let it thaw for 20 minutes on the counter)

Make it:

  1. In a dutch oven or large soup pot, warm olive oil on medium heat. Add chopped onion, stir until softened about 5 minutes.
  2. Turn heat to low, put a lid on the pot. Let the onions cook further, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add broth. Bring to a boil
  4. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions.
  5. Chop fresh baby spinach into chunky pieces. Add about  1/4-1/2 cup to the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle the hot soup on top. Season with salt/pepper. 

South West Jersey No-Tortilla Soup

This soup is heavenly.
My biggest complaint about tortilla soup: often the chicken on top is an after thought. It is either leftovers (I am not really a fan) or rotisserie chicken.
I have been been dreaming of sweet, juicy, pristine shreds of chicken on top of a spicy, veggie filled soup forever.
And finally, my South West Jersey No-Tortilla Soup. As the name implies, there are no tortillas (although feel free to add). And I used lots of local fresh ingredients–local white onion, a prehistorically gigantic zucchini (courtesy of Miranda), fresh Jersey corn, backyard garden cilantro, a Duffield’s jalapeno, local honey from High Trail Honey and Jersey Fresh canned crushed tomatoes (a pantry staple around here).
The poached chicken is juicy and tender. Use leftovers (i can dig these leftovers) the next day for chicken salad or a wrap.
It all comes together in under an hour (I swear, and in my hour, I had a dog and a 5 year old, helping).
And not to get too Next Food Network Star, but MGD Lemonade is the perfect beer pairing for this unconventional summer soup.

For the soup:
  • Honey and Lime Poached Chicken, shredded, broth reserved(recipe below)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeƱo, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 5 cups (approx) reserved stock from poached chicken
  • Salt/pepper
  • 2 ears of grilled corn, cut from cobs (if you don’t have it grilled, just use cooked)
  • Handful of cilantro
  • 1 avocado sliced
  • zest of one lime
  • 1 green onion, sliced
1. Prepare poached chicken. Reserve stock.
2. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat.
3. Add veggies in layers. First carrots, for about 3 minutes, then onion, garlic and peppers. Last, add zucchini. Cook together until soft, about 7 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes, stock and salt/pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
5. Stir in corn.
6. Serve it up: top with avocado, shredded chicken, cilantro, green onion and a little sprinkle of lime zest.
Honey and Lime Poached Chicken
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tsp. dried cilantro (or 3 T. fresh, chopped)
  • Zest of one lime
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 lb thin sliced boneless skinless chicken breasts
1. Whisk all ingredients (except for the chicken breasts) together in a large pot.
2. Bring to a boil; add chicken.
3. Reduce heat, poach until chicken is cooked through 4 minutes.
4. Use tongs to remove chicken. Reserve poaching liquid. Shred chicken.

Grilled Asparagus Soup with Brie Toast

Asparagus is my favorite vegetable.

When I was a kid, we never, ever had asparagus on our table. My father grew up next to an asparagus farmer during the Great Depression (my Dad is nearly 91). According to my Pop, he had asparagus for breakfast, lunch and dinner all Spring long–and well, he hasn’t had a spear in 60 years.

I, on the other hand, love Asparagus–on its own in, in a salad and of course, in soup! Jersey asparagus is in-season now. I found some at Duffields last week. It is so great grilled–and you can grill one enormous batch and use it in recipes all week long. Eat on the side, pop it on a pizza and use some to make this yummy Spring soup, perfect for rainy days.

I started with a homemade veggie broth base–this time around it included leek tops, asparagus bottoms, leftover sliced tomatoes, red onion garlic, parsley stems, salt pepper, bay leaves zucchini ends and other odds and ends from my produce drawer. You can use any store bought veggie broth or even chicken broth. I would just stay away from any broth that is tomato based–I think it messes with the natural asparagus flavor.

The stuff:
2 leeks, just the light green and white parts, quartered and sliced thin
1 shallot diced
2 cloves garlic diced
3 T. butter
1 T. olive
1-2 lbs of grilled asparagus, tips cut off and reserved. Stems, diced.
6 cups broth of your choice
1 cup heavy cream

For the brie toast:
Six 1/2 slices from a fresh baguette
Six 1/4 inch slices of brie

Get to work:

1. Butter 3 T butter into 1 T olive oil
2. Add shallot and garlic, cook until soft over medium heat, about 5 minutes.
3. Add bottoms from grilled asparagus. Cook 1 minute, until warmed through
4. Add broth. Bring to a boil, simmer 15 minutes.
5. While soup is simmering, preheat your broiler.
6. Place baguette, with one piece of brie on each slice under broiler. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until cheese melts and edges of bread are browned.
7. Season soup with salt and pepper. Stir in heavy cream.
6. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.
8. Stir in reserved asparagus tips.
9. Serve immediately with brie toast on top. 

Staple recipe: Roasted winter squash puree

As I mentioned in my Coconut Lemongrass soup recipe, Mike and Lily grew a successful crop of Galeux d’Eysines–a beautiful, bumpy heirloom winter squash that looks like a warty pumpkin and tastes like a slice of squash heaven.

We love squash in our house–mashed,roasted,pureed or in a pumpkin pie–we will eat it! Part of our addiction is purely superficial–squash is gorgeous. It comes in greens, oranges, creamy white, yellow and in smooth,bumpy and ridged textures. I love the shape of butternut squash–it reminds me of a bell and of course, I adore the stringy insides of spaghetti squash–nature’s low-carb answer to pasta. Sweet sugar pumpkins are adorable in their perfectly rounded symmetry.

When I was doing a little research for this blog post, it occurred to me that I had no idea if squash was a fruit or a vegetable or something entirely different like a legume. Botanically speaking, squash is a fruit. In cooking, squash is used as a vegetable and it is a fantastic substitute for meat.

Lily helped with every part of this recipe–she helped plant, water, nuture and then reveled in the end result–a warty, orange beauty that would be transformed into delicious recipes for our family. I had Lily help me make the puree and taught her a little French along the way. Galeux d’Eysines translates to mean “Warts from Eysines (a town in France),” a detail Lily found endlessly fascinating. Lily now has a little French in her tool kit (as every fancy girl should) and I have the sweetest memory of my little girl Bonjouring, Oh La Laing and cooking with me. When we eat something prepared with this puree, we eat a little of Lily’s first French lesson–I can’t think of anything more delicious.

Try this staple recipe with any winter squash you like and then use the puree to make fabulous things like squash soup, pies, squash ravioli or squash souffles–stay tuned to Nana’s Fabulous Life for oodles of great recipes.

Buy locally–it is a way to be sustainable and help your local farmer continue to bring you beautiful, nutritious produce for years to come.

To make and freeze the puree you will need:
2 or more pounds of your favorite winter squash; olive oil; some brown sugar; parchment paper; baking sheets; a food processor or blender; quart sized-freezer bags

The work:
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Select your squash, cut in half and remove the seeds and cut squash into chunks about a couple inches in size.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place squash, flesh side up on the paper. Drizzle with olive oil and then rub a small amount of brown sugar into the flesh of the squash.

3. Turn the squash face down and place in oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes until skin is easily pierced with a fork.

4. When squash is cool enough to handle, use a soup to scrape it into your food processor. Puree in batches until smooth.

5. Pour in 1 cup increments (I eyeball it out) into freezer bags. Label, date and freeze flat. Use in your favorite recipes (and soon to be faves!).

Soupy nights: Autumn mushroom and wild rice soup

While dark chilly rainy days can wear on the soul, I love the potential it brings–potential for soup, tea, red wine, an afghan and a book (or a movie or some knitting or all three all at once for people like me who cannot sit still, even when sitting). It is a delicious, cuddly time of year.

This soup is super earthy and grounding. The rich broth and meaty mushrooms pull you right back down to your plate. With each hearty bite, you can taste Fall and the harvest. And it is an easy way to go meatless–the mushrooms and wild rice are super filling.
Allow about an hour to prep and cook the soup. You can use any combination of mushrooms you like–I used shitake, baby bellas, white buttons and baby petites (which I left whole). My girls helped by washing the mushrooms with a damp paper towel.
If you don’t have vegetable broth, but do have chicken broth, feel free to substitute. You will find dried porcini mushrooms in or near the produce department. If you can’t find porcinis, try any other dried mushroom.

Soupy stuff:
1/2 ounce dried porcinis
kosher salt/pepper
1/2 cup wild rice
EVOO, a few tablespoons
10 cups assorted mushrooms (My combo: 5 oz shitake, sliced; 8 oz, baby bellas, sliced, 6 oz baby petites, left whole; 8 white button, sliced)
3 leeks, white and pale-green parts (save the tops for broth!), quartered length wise and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chianti
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1. In a sealed ziploc bag, crush up the dried procini mushrooms, until they are a coarse powder.
2. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to boil, then add a pinch of kosher salt and wild rice. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low. Cook under tender, 45-50 minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. In a large pot, heat about 1 tablespoon of EVOO over medium-high heat. Begin cooking the mushrooms in batches (1/3 at a time) with salt and pepper until browned and tender, about 7 minutes, per batches. Add more EVOO before adding a new batch of mushrooms. Set cooked mushrooms aside.
4. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Melt butter, added sliced leeks. Cook, stirring often, until soft and translucent about 5 minutes. Stir in porcini mushroom powder, cook 1 minute. Add chianti and soy sauce, cook 1 minute more.
5. Add vegetable broth to pot; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, reduce heat to medium and cook 20 minutes. Stir in wild rice, heavy cream and parsley. Serve with crusty bread

Squash Soup 1: Coconut and Lemon grass

We have a bumper crop of this gorgeous heirloom squash called Galeux d’Eysines. The name means “embroidered with warts from Eysines (a small town in France). ” These warts are actually produced from the sugar in the squash.
Mike grew squash because we eat it often-roasted, on salad greens and in soups. I made this fabulous Coconut and Lemon grass soup last week–the perfect transition from Summer to Fall. The coconut and lemon grass are reminiscent of a tropical, beach-y meal. There is nothing more “Fall” than creamy smooth squash.
While I used our Galeux d’Eysines, you can use any variety of winter squash or pumpkin for this soup. To make your life easy, pick up a package of pre-cut and peeled butternut squash in the produce department.
Lemon grass add a light citrus flavor to the soup, balancing the richness of the coconut milk and squash. You can find fresh lemon grass in the produce department. Find a great guide on the use of lemon grass here. I could not find fresh lemon grass, but found prepared lemon grass, in a tube, in the produce department at Wegmans. Use either option–although the tube option is quick and easy to use!
This soup cooks quick and freezes great. The recipe below serves 4. Serve with some garlic Naan or a baguette.

The ingredients:

3 cups squash–peeled, cut into 2-3″ chunks (any variety, butternut, acorn, pumpkin)

1 tablespoon EVOO
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, diced
1 whole jalapeno
1 inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and diced
1-2 stalks of fresh lemon grass, yellow/fleshy section, chopped OR 2 tablespoons of prepared lemon grass (in a tube, source: Wegman’s produce department)
15 oz can of coconut milk
Fresh cilantro
Get soup-y
Preheat oven to 400F. Place squash chunks in a large baking dish, toss with olive oil and salt/pepper.
Bake for 30 minutes or until it is soft, with some brown caramelized edges.
After squash is cooked, remove form oven and put aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot. Add to butter shallots and ginger, cooking over medium heat and stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until shallots are translucent and ginger is fragrant.
Add WHOLE jalapeno and lemon grass, stir. Cook 2-3 more minutes.
Add cooked squash, stir.
De-glaze the pan with can of coconut milk and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil.
Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove jalapeno.
Using an immersion blender, puree in pot until smooth. Or, puree in a blender in batches.
Top with fresh cilantro and serve immediately.