Serendipitous Tomato Soup

It all started with an old, old recipe.


This is my favorite recipe for authentic Italian gravy (a.k.a. tomato sauce.) It was passed down to me by my mom and dad, who received it from my aunt’s Italian mother-in-law (who heard it from her father’s uncle – just kidding – but it really did come from my aunt’s mother-in-law.) I grew to love this sauce as a child. I savored the spaghetti and meatballs my dad made with the recipe, along with the little bits of pork that were in the sauce that gave it a sweet, rich flavor.

So how did sauce become soup? To be honest, I’m not really sure. I think my immersion blender may be partially to blame, along with some other liberties I took with the recipe. Let me explain.

When my heirloom tomatoes were harvested a few weeks ago,  I decided most of them would go into this tomato sauce recipe. Only this time, I decided to do things a little differently. I didn’t have pork or chops, so I decided to make it meatless. Since I wasn’t frying up meat, I cut the original recipe’s olive oil in half. I also decided to use a tomato sauce seasoning that I have mixed up in my cupboard for a different sauce recipe I occasionally use. Things were simmering right along, taking shape into a wonderful sauce when I decided to use my immersion blender (my favorite kitchen appliance second only to my rice cooker) to smooth out the sauce to perfection.

Lo and behold, a delicious tomato soup was born. I think the blender emulsified the olive oil into the tomatoes to give it a smooth, velvety soup texture. This soup instantly reminded me of the tomato soup they serve at Panera Bread. I’d even go so far as to say it could pass as a copycat recipe. Try it yourself and see if you agree!

First, the sauce seasoning mix. This makes quite a bit, and it can be stored in your cupboard or pantry for up to a year. Like I mentioned, I use this in several other recipes as well, so you will probably be seeing it again soon. It’s a great replacement in any recipe that calls for a packet of spaghetti sauce seasoning.

Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning Mix

  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ cup dried minced onion
  • 3 tablespoons sweet pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup dried parsley flakes
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried minced garlic

Store in an airtight container for up to a year.

Come to think of it, I’ll bet the cornstarch in this seasoning also contributed to my sauce becoming soup. Now, the soup recipe:

Heirloom Tomato Soup


  • 8 tomatoes (I used 2 large, 2 medium and 4 small. My tomatoes were a mixture of Cherokee Purple and Brandywine Pinks)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 tbs of Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning Mix (above)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can water


1. Skin tomatoes
Fill a large stock pot about half way with water and bring to a boil. Place about 2-3 tomatoes in the boiling water at a time, and allow the whole tomatoes to boil for just a minute or two, until the skins start to pucker. Remove tomatoes and place them on a cutting board to cool slightly. Repeat this with all your tomatoes. Once they are cool enough to be handled, slide the skins off the tomatoes and trim away any stems. Chop the tomatoes into sections and scoop out as many of the seeds as you can.

2. Cook Tomatoes
Empty your stock pot of any remaining water and heat your olive oil in the pot with the 3 tbs. seasoning mix. Once the seasoning is incorporated and starts smelling lovely, it’s time to add your tomato chunks. Cover and simmer for one hour.

3. Puree the Soup
Once your tomatoes have simmered for an hour, add one can of tomato paste and one can of water. This is where I whipped out the immersion blender and created the smooth soup. If you don’t have an immersion blender, now would be the time to transfer your soup into a blender to puree until smooth.

I’m sure this would actually make a good sauce, too. Just adjust how much you blend accordingly for a chunky or smooth sauce. You could go super chunky and not blend it at all.

I hope you enjoy this sauce/soup!

Sesame Green Beans

All those green beans I harvested several weeks back were put to good use in this simple, easy side dish. I’ve had this recipe sitting in draft mode for about a week or more, but other tasks and a much anticipated and enjoyed visit from my sister-in-law and nieces took precedence last week. So now, finally, here it is!

Sesame Green Beans

2-4 cups of fresh green beans, trimmed
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
sesame seeds for garnish

Place the trimmed green beans in a large frying pan in a shallow amount of water over high heat to boil until just fork tender, and still slightly crisp. Drain the beans and return them to the pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the other ingredients (except for the sesame seeds.) Pour this mixture over the beans and stir on low heat to warm the sauce and incorporate with the beans. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve!

I find this is a great way to add a little something different to the beans without taking away from the yummy flavor of the fresh green beans themselves.

Winding Down?

The grow camp and deck garden are starting to send the message that the growing season is coming to a close. After an impressive second wind, the bush beans are spent. I don’t think I’ll be getting much more from them. The tomatoes have also slowed down to a crawl, with only cherry tomatoes still in active production. The eggplant are still producing, even though they were being choked by the cucumber vines (I decided to pull the cucumber plants out today as they were not producing much besides foliage. I did find the cucumber pictured above hiding out under all the vines, though!)

One plant that hasn’t slowed down is my jalapeno! “Spicy,” as the kids have named him, is producing like crazy! I never expected to get this many peppers off of one plant, and this isn’t even all of them!

Fluffers the Cat checks out the harvest.

I have some more recipes to share this week, including an easy green bean side dish and a tomato soup that I created by accident while trying to make tomato sauce! I’ve also been trying my hand at heirloom seed saving. Stay tuned!

P.S. If you want to know more about the furry critter pictured above, you can read his story here.




Quick Quinoa Salad

That pretty purple pepper from my Purples and Greens post found its way into this salad last week. I made this salad with what I had on hand. Quinoa is such a versatile salad base. You can add whatever is fresh from your garden – squash, cucumber, cooked limas – all kinds of veggies would taste great in this salad. Here’s what I used:

Quick Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa, cooked to package directions and cooled
1/2 can black beans
1 small onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Vinaigrette of your choice

1. Prepare your quinoa according to the package directions. I use my rice cooker on the white rice setting. Just one cup of dry quinoa expands to make quite a bit once cooked. I do keep a close eye on the rice cooker as it cooks, sometimes the quinoa sticks if I don’t catch it in time. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and allow it to cool in the fridge.

2. Add your chopped veggies and beans and toss thoroughly.

3. Add your vinaigrette. I recommend an Asian style dressing like a sesame soy, but even vinegar and olive oil with a little salt and pepper would work. I used Whole Foods 365 Soy Sesame Vinaigrette (not sure of the exact name.) Whatever dressing you use, be generous while careful – the quinoa will absorb quite a bit, but take care not to saturate it. It won’t be nearly as yummy if it’s soggy. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out very easily. Now I sound like my mom. :-)

When all was said and done, I used about a 1/2 cup of dressing. Mix your salad and dressing together, and place it in the fridge to chill just a bit more. This actually tastes even better the next day. Enjoy!