Homemade Tomato Soup

Soup season really is the best!

There’s just something wonderful about coming in from the cold, dark world to find warm, comfort food simmering in the crock pot… It fills me with warm, fuzzy thoughts every time!

Want to know another perk to these awesome soups? It cuts down the grocery bill! Most homemade soups are really cheap and easy to make. And that’s definitely  true of this Homemade Tomato Soup. I spend $1.36 when I make it! But more on that later. 🙂

I found “Garden Fresh Tomato Soup” on Allrecipes.com, and eating canned tomato soup will never be the same. I’ve tweaked the recipe a little – added an extra tablespoon of butter and flour (each) for a little more thickening, and a dash of Roasted Herb and Garlic seasoning for a little extra zest. But on the whole, this recipe was pure deliciousness right from the start!

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Here’s why Homemade Tomato Soup is one of my favorites…

  1. I get to eat grilled cheese sandwiches with it! And I love grilled cheese sandwiches!
  2. We got showered with garden-fresh tomatoes this year (Thanks, Mom!), and I’m having a blast using them up. I juiced most of them, and stored them in the freezer, 4 cups per freezer bag. That makes meal prep for this recipe incredibly easy!
  3. Once the tomato juice is thawed, I can have this meal ready in 30 minutes, with only 5 minutes of prep time, assuming Little Buddy is cooperative… This soup also works great in the crockpot if you need to get supper on the table fast!
  4. This meal serves six bowls for $4.16 if I buy the tomatoes canned, and only $1.36 if I have frozen tomatoes from Mom on hand!

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Note: You can find the original recipe here!

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (OR 4 cans diced tomatoes, $0.70 ea. @ Dollar General)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cloves
  • 2 cans chicken broth ($0.49 ea. @ Dollar General)
  • 6 Tablespoon butter (Stock up when it’s on sale for $1.99/lb!)
  • 3 Tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • Roasted Herb and Garlic Seasoning

Total Cost:  $4.16

Instructions:

(These instructions assume that you’re working with garden fresh tomatoes; if not, you can skip to step 3. 🙂 )

  1. Rinse your garden fresh tomatoes, remove the stems, and blend  the tomatoes in a food processor until lightly chunky or smooth. I find it works well to cut the tomatoes into quarters before I process them.
  2. If freezing, pour 4 cups of tomato juice into gallon sized freezer bags and lay them flat in the freezer. Make sure you allow your tomatoes time to thaw before making your soup though – seems like I always forget that!
  3. To make your soup, combine the tomatoes, broth, minced onion, and cloves in a stock pot, and gently boil for 20 minutes; then reduce heat to Medium or Medium Low.
  4. In a small sauce pan, melt butter and mix in flour with a whisk to make a roux. Stir constantly until the mixture appears medium brown. (Don’t worry, that’s just a fancy word for the thickening agent in sauces and soups! 🙂 )
  5. Gradually whisk small amounts of the tomato mixture into the roux to prevent lumps from forming in the soup; then mix the roux in with the rest of the tomato mixture.
  6. Season the soup with salt, sugar, and the roasted herb and garlic blend, to taste.
  7. Let your soup simmer for about 10 minutes. That’s just enough time to make your grilled cheese sandwiches and set the table! 🙂

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Enjoy!

I hope you love this soup as much as I do! Give it a try this weekend, and let me know what you think of it!

Blessings,

         ~ Erin


Pin it for later!

Tomato Soup pin

Tomato Soup pin


Looking for more budget-friendly meals? Try These!

14 Easy Meal Solutions

     14 Meals in 20 Minutes or Less (for when you’re in a pinch)

My heart goes out to parents and teachers at this time of year. It seems like everyone goes from 10 mph to 100 mph in the space of a week! I’m not at that season of life yet, but as a teacher’s daughter and an elementary education graduate, I know a little of what goes on at the beginning of the school year. And it’s crazy!

So this post is in honor of Meet-the-Teacher Days and Back-to-School Nights. Life is busy, and there are some days we need all the breaks we can get. 🙂

     Disclaimer:

I had to laugh when I researched 20-minute meals online. I found recipes for orecchiette (which is apparently a pasta 😉 ), broiled snapper, and ratatouille on some of the lists. The recipes that I’m including below aren’t going to be fancy or gourmet. They’re going to be practical, real-life, and hopefully, helpful. Here we go!

 

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     Tip #1 – Keep It Simple

There is a myth out there that a good wife makes really nice meals all the time. That the spaghetti is garden fresh and the garlic bread is always homemade.

Here’s the newsflash – that’s not true! Simple meals are just as yummy and filling as gourmet dinners. And shortcuts are definitely allowed. Your husband will not mind if the garlic bread isn’t homemade!

Below are a few simple recipes that you can pull out in a pinch. They’re some of my favorites!

Pin - Bean and Cheese Burritos
Bean & Cheese Burritos

 

  • Bean & Cheese Burritos – This recipe is delicious and easy on the budget! Heat refried beans, chili beans, cheese, and diced tomatoes in a sauce pan, and serve with taco fixings for an easy burrito night! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)
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Quesadillas
  • Quesadillas – We like Mexican food. Especially when you can have it on the table in 15 minutes. 🙂 Heat your taco meat and fixings in a soft shell on your pancake griddle, and supper’s ready before you know it! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)
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Homemade Pancakes
  • Pancakes – I love breakfast for supper, and pancakes are an easy go-to served with peanut butter and syrup! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)
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French Toast
  • French Toast – This might be my favorite food of all time. So it had to make the list. 🙂 And would you like to know the easy secret that makes French toast taste sublime? Check out the link and find out! (From CountryRecipeBook.com – Link)

 

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     Tip #2 – Make Use of Traditions

I never have to wonder what I’m going to make for supper on Wednesday nights. Pizza is assumed to the point that people in our family are disappointed if we miss a Wednesday. How awesome is that?!? This little trick saves me lots of time, and our family loves it. I also try to have eggs once a week, just because they are cheap, easy, and versatile. Here are a couple family favorites for you to try!

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Eggs are easy!
  • Scrambled Eggs – Scrambling eggs is easy, but there is an art form to making a perfect batch. This mommy blogger lays all the secrets out there – you’re going to want to pin that post! (From MyMommyStyle.com – Link)

 

  • Cloud Eggs – Not all of my Pinterest finds are successes, but these passed the test. (Whew! 🙂 ) Cloud eggs are as easy as whipping the egg white until it’s stiff and then baking the yolk on top. Serve on toast! (From JustATaste.com – Link)

 

  • Omelets – This one is my husband’s specialty from his bachelor days. 🙂 It’s a great option for when you’re hungry for something quick and easy, and they’re personal size, so fix up yours however you like it! (From TheSpruce.com – Link)

 

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     Tip #3 – Get Creative

There are lots of ways to make everyday recipes easy and fun. Check out the ideas that these bloggers have come up with!

Pin - Bean and Cheese Burritos
Bean & Cheese Burritos
  • Bean and Cheese Burritos – Try substituting refried beans for ground beef in your Mexican dishes – it’s faster and cheaper! Our family loves the variety that we get from Bean and Cheese burritos. (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)
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Garlic Parmesan Panini
  • Panini Sandwiches – Everyone knows sandwiches are easy, but did you know they can be exciting too? It’s true! Break out some creativity and try something a little out of the box… (From Lilluna.com – Link)

Sheet-Pan-Nachos

  • Nachos – Another Mexican dish because we loved this one so much… Spread your taco meat, fixings, and lots of cheese on top of tortilla chips and bake for an unbelievable easy solution to supper. (From GracefulLittleHoneyBee.com – Link)

 

Tip #4 – Soups for Supper

Bear Creek soup mixes are a fantastic option if you’re in a pinch! Someone in our church gave us a few mixes last year, introducing me to one of the most delicious time-savers yet. Our family has tried five of the fifteen Bear Creek soups, and we love them. Just boil your water, add the mix, and simmer for 15 minutes or so. Then you’re ready to serve a soup that really does taste homemade.

Interested in more info about this awesome soup mix? Here’s a link – Bear Creek Soup Mix – to see their selection. I haven’t tried all of their varieties, but we’ve loved the ones we have! 🙂

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     Tip #5 – Use Leftovers!

I’ll be the first to admit it – I love leftovers! I make big meals on purpose, knowing it will knock out two more meals later in the week. My favorite is tacos – it’s not uncommon to get three or four meals out of one batch between Doritos casseroles, nachos, and quesadillas. The recipes below take longer than twenty minutes to make… but the leftovers take less than 10 minutes to warm up! 🙂

Pin - Tacos

  • Tacos – The secret to a big batch of tacos is the rice and beans! I make three cups of rice and add one can of chili beans for every pound of ground beef, and the leftovers knock out half of my meals for the rest of the week! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)
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Spaghetti
  • Spaghetti – Another family favorite! My trick here is to add a half cup or more of cottage cheese to the spaghetti sauce to stretch it a little farther. Then I cook double the noodles that we’ll need, and we’ve got leftovers guaranteed! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)

Pin - Cheesy Taco Pasta

  • Cheesy Taco Pasta – This is a Mexican spin on spaghetti that our family enjoyed. Once again, lots of noodles with extra cheese and salsa for lots of leftovers! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)
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Fondly known as “Egg Soup”
  • Creamed Eggs on Toast – I know, this one sounds a little out there, but trust me, it’s delicious, and it works great for leftovers! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)

Stay tuned for more!! I’ll keep you posted as I find more easy recipes. Feel free to give suggestions in the comments section below! 🙂 In the meantime, check out my post on Ten Steps for Saving $ with a Menu Plan too. That simple strategy has saved me a lot of hassle on busy nights!

Blessings!   ~ Erin

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Cheesy Taco Pasta

Cheesy Taco Pasta

I’ve got a quick shout out to a fellow blogger today! Sabrina is blogger at Dinner then Dessert, and I found her recipe for cheesy taco pasta on Pinterest. I couldn’t wait to try it. Think easy like Hamburger Helper, except better because it’s homemade!

I won’t include the directions here – I’d rather have you visit Sabrina’s blog for that. (Here’s the link!) But I would like to give this recipe another pitch in different way.

I have a passion for finding meals that are both delicious and economical for my family. Budget-friendly doesn’t have to mean beans and rice seven nights a week. Not hardly! And this recipe illustrates my point perfectly.

Here’s a break-down of my expenses for Cheesy Taco Pasta…

Cheesy Taco Pasta
Ingredients Cost Source
1 pound ground beef $1.99 Aldi’s
1 pound noodles $0.75 Fareway (discount cart!)
Homemade Taco Seasoning Negligible cost… the kitchen cupboard
3/4 cup water Negligible cost… 😉 the kitchen sink
1 cup salsa $0.50 Aldi’s (Jar of 3 cups cost $1.49)
1, 1/3 cup cheddar cheese $0.50 Aldi’s (Bag of 4 cups cost $1.50)

Total Cost:                                                           $3.75

Now here’s the best part – this recipe fed my little family three meals! That’s three meals for $3.75! I love that kind of number!! That’s a better cost and quality than any fast food I can think of, and the recipe is just about as easy as browning the ground beef and boiling the noodles. Our family liked it as a fun spin on the typical taco, and it would work great as a crockpot recipe as well.

I love trying out these fun new recipes! I hope you get curious enough to try this one sometime – it’s a keeper at our house!

That’s it for today… Check back in on Friday for my next post! 🙂

Blessings!

~ Erin

Pin - Cheesy Taco Pasta

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This Meal Cost My Family $1.50!

Eating in is so much cheaper than eating out. Just saying. 🙂

I love finding recipes that are cheap, easy, and delicious, and this one hits the mark. These Beans and Cheese Burritos were featured on Missy Rakes’ blog, Graceful Little Honey Bee, and they’re a keeper at our house. I won’t include the directions for these burritos here – I’d rather you go to Missy’s blog for those – but I will include the ingredients that I used so you can see how easy this recipe is in the kitchen and on the budget!

I used just four ingredients for this recipe, and all of them are super cheap at Aldi’s. Here they are!

1 (15.5 ounce) can of refried beans:   $0.75

1 (15.5 ounce) can of chili beans:   $0.55

1½ cups of cheddar cheese:   $1.00

(2 pound bags of cheese cost $3.00)

1 (10 ounce) can of diced tomatoes and chili peppers:   $0.45

I love seeing prices like that! My total cost for this beans and cheese mix was $2.75. The mix turned out a little more than a quart and a half of filling for the burritos.

Now, my family is not going to eat all of this mix in one sitting. This is more like 3 or 4 meals worth of food once I remake it into leftovers. So what’s the price for just this meal?

Well, here’s the math. Let’s say we eat 1/3 cup of the beans and cheese in one burrito. That’s $0.15. Add in $0.09 for an Aldi’s tortilla, and $0.10 for taco toppings (sorry – that’s a guess-timate 🙂 ). My total price for this serving: $0.34. So a couple burritos for my husband, a couple burritos for me, a little bowlful for our little person… Between the three of us, our meal cost $1.50!

I love finding meals like this. It’s delicious, it’s healthy, it’s easy, and it’s cheap! A big thank you to Missy Rakes for her recipe. I hope you’ll try it out – it is worth it!

What are your favorite penny-pinching recipes? I would love to hear about them!

~ Erin

 

 

Chicken Pot Pie – Made Easy!

Chicken Pot Pie Made Easy

We had a lot of pot pies growing up, and now that I’m married and cooking in my own kitchen, it’s easy to see why. It really is an easy way to use up leftovers, and it tastes delicious. My husband names this dish as one of his top favorite foods, and I’m not going to argue with that!

There’s really two ways to make this recipe. Mom always made it from scratch, and if I’ve got the right ingredients and the time, I love getting to make the recipe this way. But with a 10-month-old little boy underfoot, I don’t always have that kind of time. So here’s my version of chicken pot pie, made easy. I hope you enjoy!

 

Chicken Pot Pie

What You’ll Need…

2 pie crusts, store bought

2 cans of cream of chicken soup

2 cups frozen vegetables

1 cup cubed chicken

1 Tablespoon minced onion

Salt and pepper to taste

Note: You can use canned veggies too, but I like the taste of frozen better. 🙂

 

What To Do…

  1. Thaw your pie crusts! Seems like I always forget this part. The store-bought pie crusts will not unroll well if they are not set out early and thawed beforehand. Microwaving them has never worked for me!
  2. Preheat your oven to 350oF, and get out your 9 1/2 in pie tin!
  3. Open your cream of chicken soups and heat over medium or medium high heat. Add your frozen veggies, cubed chicken, salt, and pepper at this time too.
  4. Let your pie filling heat until bubbling, then reduce heat to low. Let the filling simmer on low until you are ready to put it in the pie.
  5. Unroll one pie crust and place it in your pie pan. Be careful – it might be store-bought, but that doesn’t mean it’s tear proof!
  6. Pour your hot filling mixture into the pie pan.
  7. Unroll your second pie crust and place it on top of your pie. There is usually some extra crust hanging over the edge of the pie pan at this point – I like to tuck this extra crust in between the bottom crust and the pie pan itself. Then flute (make that pretty pinching design) the edge to seal the filling inside.
  8. Make sure you take a knife and cut little slits in the top of your pie crust. Mom always said that helps the pie breath as it cooks. 🙂
  9. Bake the pie in the oven for about 50 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the top is golden brown and you can hear the filling bubbling.
  10. Serve and enjoy!

Make sure you come back – I’ll post Chicken Pot Pie From Scratch next time!

~ Erin

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Easy Cheesy Quesadillas

Quesadillas

Quesadillas are one of my favorite ways of using leftover taco meat! The idea is pretty basic – you need tortillas, taco meat, and your favorite taco toppings. We usually top them with cheese, salsa, and crushed Doritos, and I add fresh onions and green peppers when we have them. It becomes a great way to use up the leftovers in the fridge!  These have become a family favorite at our house. And since I can have them ready to eat in 10 minutes, there are no complaints here! 🙂

Our version of the quesadilla is below. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

 

Quesadillas (Makes 4)

What You’ll Need:

4 tortilla shells

~ 1-1½ cups leftover taco meat

~ ½ cup Mexican blend cheese

~ ½ cup salsa

Additional topping ideas: peppers, onions, sour cream, tortilla chips, rice… Basically anything that strikes your fancy!

 

What To Do:

  1. Set an electric griddle to medium heat and grease the surface.
  2. Place two tortillas on the hot griddle. Sprinkle a handful cheese down the middle of both tortillas.
  3. Add taco meat, salsa, additional cheese, and other toppings.
  4. Allow the quesadillas to heat on the electric griddle until the undersides of the tortillas are golden brown and slightly crispy. Then fold the sides of the tortilla shell over the toppings to form a burrito shape.
  5. Keep these quesadillas warm while you make the next two quesadillas and ready to serve!

Any other ideas for quesadillas out there? Leave them in the comments below. I’d love to hear about them! 🙂

~ Erin

Spaghetti

Spaghetti Success

I’ve posted my Spaghetti Fail story already, so now I’m very pleased to post my Spaghetti Success Story!

I had two different recipes contribute to this little brainstorm. I had been browsing Pinterest earlier this week and seen a Pin for a spaghetti casserole with cream cheese. It sounded interesting, the sort of interesting that you file away and save for later. Anyway, a seed was planted.

The other recipe that contributed was for Baked Ziti Casserole, which I’ve made a number of times here at home. That recipe calls for cottage cheese, and I’ve always liked how it tasted.

So last night we had company over for dinner, and the plan was to have spaghetti. I made the sauce as usual (just browned the ground beef and added spaghetti sauce), but then I added a couple spoonfuls of cottage cheese and shredded cheese to the sauce, just to spruce it up.

The cottage cheese variation turned out really well! The sauce was really yummy, and the extra cheeses stretched my meat a bit, which I had been struggling with in my Spaghetti Fail. The new recipe is definitely a keeper!

I’m growing in my understanding of how recipes work. I’m learning to experiment, and I’m getting better at predicting what will taste good. I love the thought of being a “really good cook” someday, someone who can bless her family and guests with delicious meals. It’s fun to see myself making gains toward that goal!

So I’ve shared my success story… What’s your success been lately? I’d love to hear about it! 🙂

Spaghetti (Do’s and Don’ts)

Spaghetti Fail 🙂

Spaghetti is one of my all-time go-to suppers. I’m pretty sure it was the first meal my mom taught me to make, I know it was the first meal I made for my husband when we were dating, and I made it again as our first home-cooked meal as a married couple.  So one would think I’d have spaghetti pretty well figured out, right?

Well, I messed it up. See, sometimes I get this idea that an ideal supper is a frugal supper. Like with the tacos – I changed up my recipe to add rice and beans to my ground meat, and voila! Tacos are suddenly one of the cheapest meals I can make. And they are delicious! (See my recipe for tacos here if you’re interested!) Apparently the same isn’t true for spaghetti.

I read somewhere online that adding oatmeal can work to stretch ground beef. And since I couldn’t see adding beans to my spaghetti, and I wasn’t going to be adding rice to the meal, I thought I would give it a try.

Adding oatmeal did work in the sense that the meal was stretched, and we really couldn’t taste the difference in the spaghetti. Still, it did change the color and consistency of the sauce, and neither of us were huge fans of that.

I’m including our spaghetti recipe here, sans the oatmeal. Feel free to try the oatmeal out in your own kitchen, and see what you think. Maybe you’ll have a winner! We’re going to be sticking with the tried and true for a while longer at our house.

 

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef (or turkey)

1 jar spaghetti sauce

½ package spaghetti noodles

1 Tablespoon butter

 

Instructions

  1. Brown the ground meat in a large skillet and drain the grease. Add the spaghetti sauce and let simmer for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to mix.
  2. Boil 3 quarts of water in a large stock pot; add noodles and let them boil until soft, about 7-10 minutes. Drain and let the butter melt over the noodles before serving.

Serves: 3-5 people. Goes great with parmesan cheese and garlic bread!

Any tips for me? Ways that you get creative with spaghetti? I’d love to hear about them!

~ Erin

 

Tacos for Supper

That sense of accomplishment…

You know that sense of accomplishment that comes when you find a great recipe, tweak it, and make it better? That’s why I love this recipe!

Growing up, we always made tacos with straight ground beef. I was pretty skeptical about the thought of adding anything else in the mix. Once we were married and I realized how much ground beef cost, I became a little more open to the idea…

So I gave beans and rice a try.

And now I’m hooked! (The penny-pincher in me is so pleased!) I can get canned beans and white rice for a song at Aldi’s or the Dollar Store, and I don’t feel nearly so bad about the price of ground beef when one pound gets me through three or four meals!

Our tacos nights are delicious, and I can usually get 2-3 more meals out of the leftovers. No complaints about that here! My new recipe is below; try it out and let me know what you think!

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Taco Meat – New and Improved

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey – it’s cheaper!)
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 1-2 canned chili beans, according to preference
  • 1 cup white rice

Instructions

  1. Brown the ground beef, drain, and add water and taco seasoning according to the package directions.
  2. Boil water and make white rice according the package directions.
  3. Stir together ground beef, beans, and white rice and let simmer for 5-10 minutes, to let the flavors blend.
  4. Pull out your taco shells and favorite toppings, and enjoy!

 

NEED IDEAS FOR LEFTOVERS???

HERE ARE OUR FAVORITES…

Quesadillas – from Little Yellow House Adventures

Easy Sheet Pan Nachos – from Graceful Little Honey Bee

Layered Dorito Casserole – from Spend with Pennies

 

THIS RECIPE IS ONE OF MY 14 EASY MEAL SOLUTIONS!

Click here for meal ideas to make in 20 MINUTES OR LESS!

 

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