recipe: tomato soup

October 15th, 2012 | Posted by admin in RECIPES | Soup - (0 Comments)

When I think of tomato soup it brings back memories of a can of Campbell’s with a processed grilled cheese sandwich, a comfort food from my past.  I didn’t know soup could get better than Campbells!  I’m telling you this soup is a must try.  It is smooth, comforting, and delicious; a creamy tomato base with a hint of saffron and a bit of body added by the orzo.  Make an adult grilled cheese with Gruyere or an aged cheddar and a thick crusty bread to accompany it.  My family and clients keep asking me to make this soup.  Some grilled cheese croutons thrown in also make it special.



• 3 tablespoons of “good” olive oil
• 3 cups of yellow onions, chopped (approx. 2 large onions)
• 1 tablespoon of minced garlic (approx. 3 cloves)
• 4 cups of chicken stock, preferably homemade
• 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (Use San Marzano, it makes a difference!)
• 1 large pinch of saffron threads
• Kosher salt & Pepper to taste
• ½ cup of Orzo
• ½ cup of heavy cream


• Heat oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over medium heat add onions and sauté for 15 minutes over med low heat till golden brown.

• Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

• Now stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper.

• Bring soup to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

• While waiting, boil the Orzo in a medium saucepan, use salt in your water.  Once water is boiling add orzo and cook for 7 minutes, the Orzo will finish cooking in the soup.  Drain and add to the soup.

• Now add the cream 7 let soup simmer for about 10 more minutes, continue to stir.

• Serve with grilled cheese croutons…use Gruyere cheese or cheddar!


Enjoy!  This is a recipe by Ina Garten… weekend cooking!


Fall us here and it’s time to dress your tables with fall colors, pumpkins, and bittersweet.  You can find these wonderful dishes, napkins, and placemats at Material Possessions in Winnetka and Chicago. IL.



recipe: stir-fry

October 11th, 2012 | Posted by admin in Entrées | RECIPES - (0 Comments)

When I am trying to clean out the vegetable bin and I need a fast tasty meal that everyone loves, my go to recipe is stir-fry.  I can use almost any meat I have in the fridge, chicken, beef, or pork.  I can also stretch my volume if I am low on meat and heavy on veggies.  You always need garlic and some type of onion, white, green, red, or shallots.  I used San Marzano tomatoes I picked up at the market, fresh red & green peppers from the garden, and poblanos.  I also added some fresh basil from my garden.

For the sauce I marinated my chicken in a small amount of sesame oil and soy sauce.  I always keep hoisin sauce and Trader Joe’s General Tsao’s stir-fry sauce.  This sauce is sweet tangy and has a small amount of heat.  There is no need to order out when you keep this sauce in your house.  I serve this over brown or white rice for an easy, quick, great tasting meal.



• 3-4 whole chicken breasts or 6-8 halves
• ½ large onion (cut in small wedges)
• 2-3 variety of green peppers, sweet & hot depending on your taste palate
• 1 large red pepper
• 3 cloves of garlic
• 2 tomatoes sliced or cubed
• 1 tablespoon of hoisin sauce
• ¼ cup of General Tsao’s sauce
• Stir Fry oil
• Sesame oil
• 1/3 cup fresh herbs




• Slice your chicken or meat of choice into strips and marinate for a ½ hour.  While you are waiting for your meat to marinate cut up your veggies.

• Use a large stir fry pan and add a couple of tablespoons of stir fry oil.  When it is hot add your meat and cook.

• When the meat is cooked almost through add your veggies and toss with the hoisin sauce and General Tsao’s sauce.

• Stir-fry until veggies are cooked but still crisp, toss in your fresh herbs and serve.





I have previously written about Columbia Crest’s H3 line of wines and how great a value they offer. The Grand Estates level is one notch below the H3 line in price and often is very similar in quality. This merlot recently received 89 points from the Wine Spectator as did the 2009 vintage so you can’t go wrong either way.

I found this at Total Wine for $7.99 and there were 69,000 cases made so it is easily found in grocery stores or big box wine stores.

Merlot is to red wine what Chardonnay is to white wine. Popular, plentiful, and one of the first “go to” wines for Americans because it is easy to find and drink.

Rather than me give you my own description, it’s easier to give you the official write up from Wine Spectator:

“Lithe, polished and approachable, with generous raspberry, cranberry, floral and white chocolate flavors that linger easily against refined tannins. Drink now through 2016.”

This is one of those perfect weekday wines and it doesn’t take a lot of contemplation. Just go get some and enjoy it. I promise you there will be more Columbia Crest writings because they are one of the best values in the USA.



recycling summer plants

October 10th, 2012 | Posted by admin in FLOWERS | Indoor - (0 Comments)

I feel fortunate when I can recycle anything!  So bring your summer plants indoors.  These are ferns that have been replanted for indoor use.  Accent with fall pumpkins and gourds for a fun fall table.



recipe: freeform blueberry pie

October 10th, 2012 | Posted by admin in Desserts | RECIPES - (0 Comments)

I love a dessert that is easy to make and tastes like it wasn’t.  I am also a big fan of blueberries no matter what time of year.  This recipe could be changed and you could use apples.  I’d add cinnamon.  I always like to make a fresh bowl of whipped cream; it makes the dessert even more special.  You can keep the discs of dough in your fridge pre-made and ready to go.  Easy, simple, and tastes great… a perfect recipe for me.



• 1/2 cup of butter softened
• 1 egg
• ¼ cup of heavy cream
• 1-¼ cups of all-purpose flour
• 4 cups of fresh blueberries
• 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
• 1 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
• 1 tsp of lemon zest
• ¼ cup flour
• ¼ cup sugar
• 4 tablespoons of butter


• Beat butter in an electric mixer for 30 seconds, add egg and beat until combined, then beat in cream at low speed.  Add flour until well combined.

• Remove dough and make a flattened disc.  Wrap in parchment and chill for at least an hour.

• When ready, either divide dough into four parts for individual pies or roll out into one pie.  Roll out onto a lightly floured surface.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.



• Combine blueberries, sugar, zest, and breadcrumbs.  Toss to combine.

• Mound the blueberries onto the center of the pastry dough.  Carefully fold the pastry border up and over the blueberries, pleating the dough when necessary.



• Mix butter, flour, and sugar into fine crumbs and sprinkle over the pies or pie.

• Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 60 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly over entire surface.

• Transfer pie to a plate and cool before serving.  Serve with fresh whipped cream.





walk in the woods

October 9th, 2012 | Posted by admin in UPDATES - (0 Comments)

Early morning and the weather is crisp and cool.  It’s the perfect time to take a walk in the woods.  I love looking up at the tree tops, taking a deep breath of fresh air and being grateful for a glorious day!  Nothing better than a walk in the woods to clear your head, awaken your senses, and make you realize how beautiful the world is!




fall spruce up

October 4th, 2012 | Posted by admin in FLOWERS | Outdoor - (0 Comments)

A great day to be outside and spruce up your containers for fall.  Tall grasses, mums, cabbages, sedum, celosla, pennisetum, spurge, and bittersweet make up a great fall container… kept the potato vine from summer.