Instant Pot Cream of Tomato Soup


I am new to the Instant Pot craze and have really enjoyed using it so far.  If you haven’t heard of Instant Pot, it is basically an electric, programmable pressure cooker.  If you do a lot of cooking, especially with a slow cooker, I really encourage you to try one out.  They do everything that a slow cooker does, just much, much faster.  You can cook a whole chicken in your Instant Pot in about 30 minutes. Did you forget to take your meat out of the freezer before you went to work? That’s ok!  Throw it into the Instant Pot and you can still have that pot roast you were planning on.

This has been a great tomato year for us in Portland.  We’ve had nearly three months of hot and dry weather- exactly what tomatoes like, but the kind of weather I completely detest.  I long for sweater weather and that smell that dry leaves give off when you walk on them.  This soup bridges that gap between summer and fall, and will make great use of your tomato crop.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can make a pretty identical soup on the stove top by following this link. 

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 12 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped (no need to peel)
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 6 C. vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water
  • 2 t. Kosher salt
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 2 C. half and half or 1 C. heavy cream

Any variety of ripe tomato will work for this soup


Put all of the ingredients into the Instant Pot, except the half and half.  Place the lid on the pot and make sure the steam vent is closed. I used the automatic soup setting which was set at high pressure for 35 minutes.  It does take a little time for the pot to get up to pressure before the timer starts, so sometimes it doesn’t necessarily save you time to use the Instant Pot.  You could make this soup on the stove in the same amount of time.  The difference is, while the soup was in the Instant Pot I went around my house doing other things and didn’t have to stir it or even think about it like I would if it were on the stove.


Since the soup will be pureed there is no need to peel anything, and you can just give the veggies a rough chop

Once the steam has vented you can take of the lid and use an immersion blender to puree the soup right in to pot.  Stir in the half and half or cream and taste for salt and pepper. If you don’t mind a little bit of pulp, the soup is ready to eat.  If you want it super-smooth you can run it through a fine mesh sieve and press on the solids to achieve perfect smoothness.  Makes 8-10 servings






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Grilled Make-Your-Own Pita Pizza


Get your family in on the cooking with these easy make-your-own pizzas.  Start with store-bought whole pitas, naan, or flatbreads.  I love Greek pita because it’s soft and pillowy and grills up nicely without getting too crunchy.  We used Pomi Tomato Sauce, which comes in a carton. I like this sauce because it’s not thick and sweet like American pizza sauce can sometimes be.  We also made some of our pizzas with parsley pesto, which made for a bright, vibrant change of pace.  This is a great meal for a party, especially if you are serving people with different dietary restrictions. You can easily accommodate the pickiest eaters with a wide variety of choices.  Everyone’s happy!


For the Pesto:

  • 2 C. fresh parsley, packed
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/4 C. chopped walnuts

Put all the ingredients into a blender (I used my smoothie maker) or food processor, and puree until smooth.

Pizza Topping Ideas:

  • Pomi Tomato Sauce (or your favorite sauce)
  • Sauteed crimini mushrooms
  • Sauteed chopped bell pepper, or jarred roasted peppers
  • Sauteed red onion
  • Grilled zucchini
  • Crumbled Soy Sausage or Chorizo
  • Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Tomato Slices
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Daiya Vegan Cheese shreds
  • olive oil, salt, and pepper

Heat your grill to medium. Brush both sides of the pitas with olive oil. Set out all the toppings and let everyone make their own.  Grill for 6-8 minutes with the lid closed, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.















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Kale and Blueberry Super Salad

This is the perfect salad for a summer picnic or barbecue!



My husband was eating a deli salad from Safeway a few days ago and liked it so much he took a picture of it and texted it to me.  This is a pretty rare occurrence, and has never, ever happened with a salad.  Here is my recreation.  Serves 8-10.

  • 2 bunches of Lacinato (dark green/purple) kale, thinly sliced across the grain
  • 1 C. fresh blueberries
  • 1 C. shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 – 1 C. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 head of red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 C. champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 2 t. sugar, or 2 packets of stevia powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

To slice the kale, stack up a few leaves and slice them into thin shreds perpendicular to the stalk. Toss the kale, berries, seeds, cabbage and shallot together in a large bowl.  In a jar with…

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Easy Potato and Fennel Soup with Parsley Pistou


This hearty and homey soup is super rich and creamy, even though it’s completely dairy free. Even better, it’s quick enough to make on a weeknight! The pistou adds a little spicy brightness. Serves 4 to 6

  • 3 T. olive oil or Earth Balance
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste.
  • 6-8 C. vegetable stock, I like Better Than Bullion Vegetable Base
  • 1 C. parsley, minced very finely
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 C. lemon infused olive oil  (or regular)

Heat the 3 T. of olive oil or Earth Balance in a soup pot or enameled cast iron. Add the diced onion, potatoes, fennel, and celery. Stir to combine, season with salt and pepper, and cover.  Sweat the vegetables on medium-high heat for about ten minutes.

Stir the vegetables, hopefully you have a little fond (brown sticky bits) developing on the bottom.  Add a little stock and scrape the brown bits off, this gives the soup a lot of flavor. If there’s no fond in your pot, increase the heat to high for a couple of minutes until the veggies start to brown a little bit, then reduce the heat back to medium-high.

Stir in about 6 C. of the broth.  If the veggies aren’t covered with broth, add a little more until they are submerged. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer until the veggies are very tender, about thirty minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup to a smooth, silky texture.  If it’s too thick you can add a bit more broth. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

While the soup is simmering, make the pistou.  Combine the minced parsley, garlic, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes.  Pour the lemon infused olive oil over the mixture and stir to combine.

To serve the soup, ladle it into a bowl and drop a dollop of pistou into the center gently so it floats on top.  Drizzle with a little extra oil if desired.






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Make-Ahead Veggie Strata


I love to have people over for brunch. I am in favor of any event that gives me an excuse to drink champagne during daylight hours.  What I don’t love is getting up early to cook, so I like to look for things I can make ahead of time. Wow, I sound really decadent and lazy.  I’m really not. Promise.

A strata is a basically a savory bread pudding.  It’s eggy, and custardy, and cheesy, and delicious.  It’s the perfect make-ahead brunch dish.  You can assemble it the night before and bake it while your friends are having their first glass of bubbly.  Another nice feature of a strata is that you can customize it to meet the needs of your guests.  As long as you cook it first, you can add pretty much any meat (crumbled Italian sausage is awesome in this) or veggie to suit everyone’s taste.  Serves 8

  • 1 and 1/2 loaves of crusty French or Italian bread, torn into cubes (about ten C.)
  • 1 C. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 t. olive oil, divided
  • 4-5 C. broccoli florets
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 t. Herbes d’ Provence, or dried basil or oregano
  • 3-4 C. spinach leaves
  • 2 C. grated asiago, mozzarella, parmesan mixture, (Swiss would also work well), divided
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 C. heavy cream
  • 2 C. milk


Distribute the bread cubes and parsley evenly in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish, set aside. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the broccoli on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle 1 t. oil over it.  Sprinkle the broccoli with salt and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, heat a skillet with the remaining 1 t. of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and shallots, a little salt and pepper, and the red pepper flakes and dry herbs.  Stirring occasionally, cook until the leeks are tender and the shallots are starting to caramelize. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Remove from heat.  Whisk the eggs, cream and milk until well blended.  Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bread and add the leek mixture and the roasted broccoli.  Use your hands or a pair of tongs to gently toss everything together so that it is well distributed.  Pour the egg mixture over the whole thing and top with the remaining 1 C. of cheese.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove the dish from the fridge about thirty minutes before baking.  Bake at 350 uncovered until the egg mixture is set and the cheese is melted and golden, about thirty to forty minutes.






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Maple Glazed Squash with Figs and Pomegranate


I don’t know very many people who look forward to the sweet potato dish on the table at Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Pacific Northwest? Maybe we don’t know how to treat sweet potatoes the way they do in the South? Whatever the reason, the whole sweet potato with marshmallows thing has always seemed odd to me. (PS that recipe was invented by a marshmallow factory owner in the early 1900’s to sell more marshmallows) Everyone knows that the stuffing is the best thing on the table anyway, right?

I offer this dish as an alternative to the sweet potato casserole. It’s extremely easy to make.  It’s colorful and beautiful to look at. The syrup gives it an earthy sweetness while the pomegranate gives it a colorful, tart pop! You can assemble the components ahead of time and reheat briefly before serving so it won’t take up turkey-space in the oven.  It’s also a lot healthier than the sweet potato casserole because it has no refined sugar, and there’s not a marshmallow in site.

  • 1 kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced into thin slices, you could another type of squash, like acorn or butternut.  I like kabocha for its bright orange flesh. You need about a 3 lb. squash.
  • 3 T. maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 T. butter, melted, you could use olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary, needles off the stem and chopped
  • 1/2 C. chopped, dried black figs
  • 1/2 C. of fresh pomegranate seeds

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.  In a large bowl, toss the squash with the syrup, butter, salt and pepper, cayenne pepper, the rosemary, and the figs to coat with the butter and syrup. Arrange the squash mixture on the baking sheet in one layer. Roast for about 25 to 30 minutes, tossing the mixture once or twice. You want the squash to be tender and the edges to be caramely and golden brown.  Arrange in a serving bowl, finish with a drizzle of syrup, a little more salt, and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds.  This could be served at room temperature, or reheated without the pomegranite just before serving.



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Apple Cider and Fennel Brined Turkey


Brining is my favorite way to ensure a flavorful and juicy turkey.  This year I decided to go with a new-to-me idea of using apple cider and fennel in the brine.  The cider really enhances the natural sweetness in the turkey and makes for an ultra-juicy bird. You won’t be disappointed!  To read my full turkey diatribe and find out why I never carve the turkey at the table, click here. 

Brine for a 10 to 15 lb. turkey

  • 1/2 C. Kosher salt
  • 1 T. celery seed
  • 1 T. mustard seeds
  • 1 T. black peppercorns
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 750 ml. bottle of dry white wine
  • 1/2 gallon apple cider (or unfiltered apple juice), not spiced, fresh if available
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • cold water

For roasting:

  • 1 bunch of fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 stick butter, melted.

In a small saucepan, heat the salt with 1 1/2 C. water and stir until the salt is dissolved. Set aside to cool. In a dry pan, gently heat the celery seeds, mustard seeds, peppercorns, and star anise until you start to smell the spices. This helps to release some of the oils and will impart more flavor to the finished dish. In a pot big enough to hold your turkey (a plastic bag in a cooler works well if you don’t have a big enough pot) add the salt solution, the spices, the wine, the cider, the apples, the fennel, and the shallots. Stir to combine. Rinse your turkey, remove all the giblets, neck, etc. Pat it dry with a paper towel and immerse it in the brine solution.  Add enough cold water to cover the bird.  Put the whole thing into the fridge for at least 24 hours and up to 48.

To roast, heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Remove the turkey from the brine, pat it dry and place it into a roasting rack. Fish out some of the apple and fennel slices and put them inside the cavity of the turkey along with the fresh parsley.  Tie legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wings under the bird. Brush the turkey all over with the melted butter. Roast breast-side up for 30 minutes. Turn the turkey over and roast for the rest of the time upside down.  This keeps the breast from drying out. Turn the heat down to 350 and roast for 1 1/2-2 hours longer, or until the juices in the thigh run clear. Baste every thirty to forty minutes.  When the turkey is done, allow it to rest, tented with foil for at least 40 minutes to an hour.  Your turkey will stay hot for an hour after removing it from the oven.  Resting is VERY important. It is the difference between juicy and dry.  Take a look at my turkey post for carving directions. I hope you love this brine as much as we did!






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