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Packed with veggies, lean ground beef and topped with rice, Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup will quickly become a favorite meal for busy weeknights.

Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup

Can you believe that school starts up in a few weeks? Or maybe, school has already started where you live… it’s nuts! I feel like this summer flew by in the blink of an eye.

This month features lots of recipes on the blog as well as on the Books n’ Cooks Facebook page for heading back to school. In particular, this weekend, the #SundaySupper crew have come together to bring you some great Back-to-School dinners, to help deal with those crazy hectic weeknights. From slow cooker and Instant Pot meals to skillet and sheet pan dinners, the #SundaySupper tastemakers have a great set of recipes to make school nights easier. You can find the list of those recipes at the bottom of this post.

Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup

It feels a bit weird to be posting a soup recipe when it’s 90-100F out, but I’ve really been enjoying this soup for both lunch and dinner this summer. I love that it’s packed with vegetables and even thought my hubby doesn’t like any of those vegetables, he does like this soup. I also love that it makes enough for leftovers for our family, making weekday lunches a bit easier. In fact, most frequently, I make a batch of this soup on Sunday morning, let it cook throughout the day, and then package it up for lunch for the week. Can’t go wrong with that. But for dinner, with a little prep ahead, it’s a life saver. I prep everything the night (or sometimes weekend) before and let the soup simmer away in the slow cooker all day. I love coming home to a meal that’s pretty much ready to plate!

Recipe Notes: 

  • Instead of using canned tomatoes, I have also made this with fresh tomatoes. If you have tomatoes on hand, dice 4-6 small to medium tomatoes (by weight, mine were about 18 ounces, diced). The result is a slightly sweeter soup.
  • I added an extra cup of chicken broth to this recipe, in part because I do make and portion this out for a week’s worth of lunches. I find that the rice soaks up some of the liquid when it sits in my fridge and is reheated, so 3 cups is necessary, instead of the 2 cups that the recipe originally calls for.
  • This recipe was written to make in the slow cooker, however, I’d imagine that it would do just fine simmering away on the stove for an hour or two if you prefer.
  • Prep Ahead: I have prepped everything the night before – everything before actually turning on the slow cooker – and stuck the slow cooker pot in the fridge for the night. Then returned to the slow cooker to cook the following morning. Everything worked out great and dinner was ready when I came home from work that evening.

Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup

Adapted from SkinnyTaste Fast and Slow (p. 50)

Serves 6


  • 1 lb. 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2-14.5 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 3/4 c. canned tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbs. dried Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 c. cooked white or brown rice (whatever you prefer)

In a large skillet set over medium heat. Stirring and breaking into small pieces every few minutes. When completely cooked, drain fat and transfer beef to a slow cooker. Return skillet to the stove and saute onions, bell peppers, and garlic until vegetables are translucent. Transfer to slow cooker. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper to slow cooker and stir to combine.

Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

Serve hot with 1/2 cup of rice.

Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup by Books n Cooks

More Back to School Dinners

Beef and Pork

Pastas, Soups, Rice and Stews


Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.



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We’re having unseasonably warm weather this year, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not craving your typical winter comfort foods, like pastas and stews. A very busy month has had me looking towards recipes that require little extra work from me and meals that make large quantities so that we’re set for leftovers for a couple days (or in this case, almost the entire week). This stew recipe, heavily adapted from my uncle’s recipe, fits that bill. It makes 14 HUGE, filling servings and with the exception of a few minutes chopping of some veggies, the dish can be set and forget to cook all day long.

I know I’ll be making this recipe a couple times over the next two months. Not just because we enjoy it, but because this week, both my hubby and I got hit with some craziness at work. Over the next 6 weeks, we each have a week of training, which tends to equate to long days with the other parent doing the majority of the kid-duties. Add that to a looming deadline for me on a huge project at work… life is going to be busy and a bit rough until mid-March.

I plan to do my best and continue posting as much as possible, but please forgive me if there’s a lack of posts on here or on social media. Please send positive thoughts that everything goes smoothly!

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

By Books n’ Cooks

Makes 14 2-Cup Servings

Add the following to a 7-quart (or larger) slow cooker and whisk to combine.

  • 32 oz. low-sodium beef broth
  • 32 oz. low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 6 Tbs. homemade stew seasoning (or 2 packets, if purchasing store-bought)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Then add the meat, potatoes, and vegetables:

  • 8 oz. sliced white button mushrooms
  • 7-8 oz. frozen peas
  • 1/2 an onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 lbs. lean stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces (trimmed of fat, if needed)
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours, until potatoes are soft and meat is tender.

A couple tablespoons at a time, whisk in:

  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

and allow stew to cook and thicken with the lid cracked another 15-30 minutes.

Serve hot, with a side salad and/or dinner roll.

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   Rich & Easy Clam Chowder takes just minutes to prep, and then simmers away in the slow cooker for an easy evening meal.

Rich & Easy Clam Chowder (Slow Cooker)

I first made a version of this Rich & Easy Clam Chowder years ago, back when I had just started this blog. The original post is embarrassing – I didn’t even include a picture. Insane, right?! Despite the sad state of that post, people continue to visit it, so I finally decided it was time to update the recipe – and National Soup Swap Day was the perfect excuse to do so.

Since I had never heard of National Soup Swap Day before this year, I’ll give you a bit of the background, compliments of Soup Swap. The holiday was officially founded on 2006 and has its roots in a Seattle man named Knox Gardner, who started swapping soup with his friends in an effort to bring some variation in soups (some times one batch is just too much to finish!) during a dreary season. Today, Soup Swap is on a mission to encourage healthy eating and community spirit through soup.

Rich & Easy Clam Chowder


This Rich & East Clam Chowder does make quite a large portion – easily enough to feed 6 – and is a comforting lunch or dinner during these cold weather months. As I went to remake my old recipe, I struggled to find the products I used. Everything was in different sizes, if I could find it at all, and many in different variations. So this recipe has been updated with what I was able to find in my local supermarket. I also added a bit more clams and did a bit more tweaking of the prep and quantities. I didn’t have any – I’m actually not a fan of clam chowder – but my hubby at it for 3 days straight, so I’ll call it a winner.

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Rich & Easy Clam Chowder


  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 18.5 oz. cans of New England Clam Chowder
  • 2 18.5 oz. cans of creamy potato soup (I used one with bacon and cheese)
  • 3 6 1/2 oz. cans chopped clams, drained of juices
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 pint half-and-half
  • 1 Tbs. ground pepper


  1. Place olive oil and onion in a microwave safe bowl. Stir to coat. Microwave for 45-90 minutes, stirring halfway through, until onions are translucent.
  2. Add onion and remaining ingredients to the crock of a slow cooker. Stir to combine.
  3. Cook on low for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.
  4. Serve hot, with oyster crackers or saltines.
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Thanks to Kate at Kate’s Recipe Box for hosting today’s group of bloggers in their celebration of National Soup Swap Day. Check out their creations, below!

Slow Cooker Clam Chowder on Books n' Cooks
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Manly Meaty Chili

Several years ago, some friends of ours entered the chili cook off contest at Pumpkin Chunkin. We never got to go, but we did get to test their award-winning (2nd place!) chili. This recipe is mine and my husband’s version of that recipe. Over the years, we’ve changed the prep and cooking methods slightly. We’ve also amended the ingredient list to better align with our kitchen staples and to omit some of the ingredients that are harder to find.

This chili is thick and meaty. It makes a huge batch. It’s a weekend recipe, because it takes a good 1-2 hours of prep and cook time followed by another couple of hours of simmering. We like to make it and have a bunch of friends over to help us eat it. When there’s leftovers, my husband will eat it for lunch every day until it’s gone.

Manly Meaty Chili & Bacon Corn Bread

Manly Meaty Chili

By Books n’ Cooks

Makes a ton

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the following meats. As each browns, move to a plate or bowl until ready to add to the stockpot:

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. hot Italian sausage
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1 lb. bacon or turkey bacon (optional)

Meanwhile, set a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add

a little vegetable oil

When hot, add the following veggies, sauteing until soft:

2 bell peppers, small dice
2 large vidalia onions, small dice
10 cloves garlic, minced

When the veggies have softened, deglaze pan with

1 c. bourbon

Stir in the following ingredients and bring to a boil:

2 Tbs. taco seasoning
2 Tbs. chili powder
1 cap full of Hot Mrs. Dash or McCormick’s Perfect Pinch Southwest Blend
1/4 c. dried oregano
1/4 c. dried basil
24 oz. lager
2-8 oz. cans Rotelle
12 oz. tomato paste
28 oz. tomato sauce
8 oz. semi-sweet baker’s chocolate

When boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and add cooked meats as well as

1-15 oz. can kidney beans
1-15 oz. can black beans
1-15 oz. can Great Northern beans
1-15 oz. can pinto beans

Stir to combine. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and allow to cook for 2-3 hours.

Serve hot with your choice of toppings (i.e shredded cheddar cheese, minced onions, etc.) and side (i.e. tortilla chips, traditional corn bread, bacon corn bread (pictured above), etc)


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When I was preparing for the arrival of our new little one, I knew that I’d have to line up some posts for you guys. I tried to prepare some in advance, but never quite got my act together. I did, however, line up a very special guest post for you – from Lynsey of Lynsey Lou’s. Lynsey and I met in person for the first time at Mixed, hit it off, and have been chatting ever since.

When I saw the posts Lynsey had worked up for me, I knew I was in trouble – my husband is going to take one look at the below and ask when I’m going to make it for him. 🙂

If you haven’t visited Lynsey Lou’s yet, be sure to check out it out. Her blog is full of fantastic recipes and amazing photos.

Thanks again to Lynsey for this post!


Hello all you Books and Cooks readers!  I am so happy to be here today.  I can’t tell you how happy I was when Liz asked me if I would be interested in posting over here for all of you!  I debated for quite some time about what recipe to share with you.  I debated between sweets; cookies, bars, cake?  Or savory; soup, casserole, a side, etc?  Finally after much debate, I decided on a savory dish to share with you.

Since Liz just welcomed a sweet, baby girl in the world (congratulations!), I decided to make something that is not only simple, but that’s delicious and makes quite a bit.  Having a new baby in the house is not only a blessing but takes some adjustment, as well.  Finding meals that can be assembled quickly and that can be stretched over a couple of days are essential for moms and busy families.  I find that this recipe for cheesy jalapeno corn chowder does all of the above; provides a delicious and satisfying meal, assembles quickly, and makes a lot.


In the winter I am all about soups and stews.  There is nothing better than cozying up with a big, hot bowl of something delicious on a cool, crisp winter day.  It’s just comforting!  There are a lot of recipes for soups that require quite a bit of simmering time before it can actually be enjoyed and if you were to dish it up before allowing it to simmer the minimum amount of time the flavor just wouldn’t be there.  While I love these rich and flavorful soups and stews, sometimes I just can’t wait 2, 3, 4 hours or more.  I’m hungry and I want that comfort food now!  Well, this chowder delivers.

Jalapeno Corn Chowder

This chowder is rich and full of flavor, without the wait.  The process from start to finish takes about 30-45 minutes, which for a soup isn’t bad at all, especially if it delivers big flavors in the end.  The soup starts by sautéing onions in a mixture of bacon drippings and olive oil.  After the onions have had time to simmer, flour is then added along with chicken stock to develop a rue.  Once those ingredients are incorporated, the potatoes, corn and peppers are added and brought to a simmer to allow the potatoes to become tender.  Then the good stuff is added; cheese and heavy cream!  That’s it!  After the cheese has melted, it’s time to dish it up, top with bacon and enjoy!


This soup is delicious and big on flavor.  It’s a satisfying meal that can be assembled in no time.  The flavors can be adjusted according to taste; if you’re a heat lover then add more jalapenos or leave a few seeds in the one that’s called for.  This meal could also be made completely vegetarian by eliminating the bacon, and substituting the chicken stock for vegetable stock.  It’s great for a cozy weekend meal, but is perfect for those busy weeknights too.  Serve this with come crunchy garlic bread or homemade yeast rolls and you have the perfect meal!

Congratulations again, Liz.  I know you are enjoying this special time with your newly extended family.  Cherish every single moment, because it goes by way too fast.

Cheesy Jalapeno Corn Chowder

Cheesy Jalapeno Corn Chowder


1 Pound bacon

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Medium onion, diced

2 Tbsp butter

2 Cloves garlic, minced

1/3 Cup flour

8 Cups chicken broth

3-4 Medium potatoes, cubed (with skin left on)

1 Small jalapeno (or more depending on heat preference), chopped

1 ½ Tsp salt

2 Tsp pepper

6 Cups frozen corn

2 Cups heavy cream

2 Cups sharp cheddar, shredded

1 Cup Monterey jack, shredded

½ Cup gouda, shredded (plus more for topping-optional)


Cut bacon into lardons (small strips).  Drizzle olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Once oil is heated, place the bacon lardons in the pan and cook until crisp.  Once the bacon is cooked through, remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate.

Add the butter and diced onion to the Dutch oven and allow onions to cook until translucent, about 10 minutes.  Once the onions are translucent; and fragrant, add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds longer. Add the flour, salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Allow the mixture to cook for about 3 minutes.

Stirring continuously, slowly pour in the chicken broth to avoid clumps from forming.  Add the potatoes and jalapenos and bring to a boil.  Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.

Once the potatoes are tender, add the corn, heavy cream and cheeses and stir to combine.  Allow the mixture to cook about 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Spoon soup in bowls, top with more cheese, crumbled bacon and green onions.

Recipe source: adapted from Fantastical Sharings of Recipes originally from Life and Kitchen

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It’s just barely September and I’m ready for fall. I’m ready for warm soups and stews, comfort food like meatloaf and pasta. Unfortunately, the weather here doesn’t agree with me. With the exception of a couple of cool days following some storms, it’s still been 90+ degrees pretty regularly.

But I don’t care. I’ve been craving soup. And the moment I told my hubby that we were having Chicken Enchilada Soup for dinner, at 3pm, he couldn’t stop asking when it was going to be ready. We really enjoy this recipe, one that I had found last year and never got around to photographing. It’s quick and easy. It’s healthy, even when I deviate from original recipe (minus the tortilla chips). It’s adaptable – use up leftover veggies, add extra chicken for a heartier soup, add extra kick with an additional chipotle. Make it your own. And it freezes beautifully – important for me this past week, as I was making a double batch so that I could deliver some to friends with a newborn.

Below, I included both directions for making this in a crock pot as well as making it on the stove-top.

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Adapted from Skinny Taste

Serves 6

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 c. low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
  • 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce*
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro or 3 Tbs. freeze-dried cilantro
  •  15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 c. frozen corn
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 to 3 skinless chicken breasts – raw for the crock pot or cooked & shredded (roughly 3 c. if you’re using leftover chicken) for the stove-top
  • Optional toppings: additional cilantro, scallions, shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese, diced avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips

* Tip: Freeze extra chipotles in ziplock baggies for future use. One or two chipotles in a bag, and they defrost in 5 minutes or so on the counter.

Directions for the Crock Pot:

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat oil. When hot, add onion, garlic, and chipotle. Saute until soft and onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

While above is cooking, add remaining ingredients to a crock pot. Then add onion saute. Give a quick stir, ensuring that the chicken breasts are completely covered. Cover crock pot and cook on low heat for 4-6 hours.

Remove chicken from crock pot and shred with a fork. Return to crock pot. Give a quick stir, and cook on high heat for 5-10 minutes, just long enough to warm up the chicken (if it cooled while shredding) and the soup (if it switched to low heat after cooking for the 4-6 hours).

Directions for the Stove-Top:

In a large pot over medium-low heat, heat oil. When hot, add onion, garlic, and chipotle. Saute until soft and onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients (including cooked, shredded chicken) to a saucepan. Give a quick stir. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, until soup is hot and flavors have melded together.

Serve hot with your choice of toppings.

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When Borders was closing, I stalked the cookbook section, hoping that the cookbooks for my favorite chefs would end up dirt cheap. No such luck – they sold out long before that point, but I did score one major find. Borders had William Sonoma Cooking at Home marked for to $7, and then an extra 30% on top of that. The book didn’t have any photos, which I normally want in a cookbook, but I had heard such great things about WS recipes that I knew this was a good investment. No, a fabulous investment.

So far, I’ve only made a couple recipes from it – country fried chicken, buttermilk dinner rolls (recipe coming up) and this beef bourguignon recipe. I think I have a new favorite cookbook. This beef bourguignon blew me away. I’ve made it twice over the past month, a pretty big statement when it takes a good 4 hours from start to finish. The flavors were outstanding. I felt so warm and cozy while eating it, I kept expecting to see snow on the ground!

Recipe Notes: I skipped the salt pork called for in the recipe. I used it the first time, because everything was supposed to be fried in the fat rendered from it. However, the brand I got (Hornell) yielded no fat. In the below, I replaced the pork fat with Crisco and liberally salted the dish with kosher salt before baking it. (If you want to use it, fry pork fat until fat is rendered. Remove fat from pan and set aside. Fry veggies and beef in fat. Sprinkle fried salt pork on top of dish upon completion.) I also skipped the 1/4 cognac (to deglaze pan) and simply used some of the red wine, as we don’t usually keep cognac in the house. Finally, I skipped out on the pearl onions (saute 18-24 peeled pearl onions in an extra 2 Tbs. of butter, and add to dish at the same time as the mushrooms if you’d like to include them).

Beef Bourguignon

Adapted from Williams Sonoma Cooking at Home p. 274

Yields 6 servings


  • Crisco
  • 8 shallots, minced
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled & diced
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • nutmeg
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 lb. beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 2 c. beef broth
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
  • 3 c. dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 lb. white or cremini mushrooms
  • chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley, for garnish (optional)


  1. Heat 2-3 Tbs. Crisco in a large cast iron sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, onions, carrots, and garlic. Sprinkle with a generous teaspoon of kosher salt and saute until soft.
  2. While veggies are cooking, combine flour, nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a bowl. Coat beef with flour mixture, shaking off the excess.
  3. When veggies are soft, move to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the grease as possible. In batches as not to overcrowd meat, brown the beef on all sides. Add more Crisco if needed. When browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer to a waiting Dutch oven.
  4. Add 1/2 c. of the wine to the pan and deglaze, stirring with a wooden spoon to get up the bits at the bottom of the pan. Add deglazing liquid, the remaining 2 1/2 c. wine, the beef broth, and thyme/rosemary to the Dutch oven with beef.
  5. Move Dutch oven to stove burner still set to medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Simmer on the stove or in an oven preheated to 324F for 2 1/2 hours.
  6. At the 2 hour mark, start preparing the mushrooms. Clean and trim stems, if you haven’t done so already. Melt 3 Tbs. butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
  7. At the 2 1/2 hour mark, add mushrooms to beef. Cook for another 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven. Discard thyme/rosemary springs and bay leaf. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot with crusty bread.

Preparation time: 4 hours

Cooking time: 3 hours

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A month ago, I went to a week-long class for professional development. I was shocked when I arrived on the first day, and was told that they’d be serving us lunch. That’s completely unheard of for most of the professional development courses I am encouraged to attend. What was even more shocking… the food was actually good! No tasteless, unidentifiable entrees that are usually on cafeteria buffet lines (at least where I am), but rather carving stations for ham and turkey, a beautiful salad bar with fresh veggies and berries, pitchers of water flavored by the fresh fruit sitting on top… I couldn’t believe my luck, getting into such a class. I enjoyed great lunches all week, but the star, for me, was the fresh gazpacho I had on the first day.

Ever since, I’ve been craving gazpacho but a little hesitant to make it since I’ve never done so before and didn’t have a tried and true recipe on hand. I tried to satisfy my craving with Greek Panzanella, and then the following week with an improvised Greek salad (diced tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers with a little Italian dressing over them). However, I was still craving the freshness of the Gazpacho – a light treat for the warming weather. An added bonus – a great way to get in extra veggies.

Never having made Gazpacho, I was hesitant to change Ina’s recipe too much, as I’ve loved everything that I’ve tried of hers. However, I wanted to make this a little healthier by the olive oil (I used extra-virgin olive oil) in half. I also cut the amount of white wine vinegar by half. (Both changes are reflected below) Even with these minor adjustments, the soup was wonderful and super easy to make (what’s not easy about throwing everything into a blender and then refrigerating?).


Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (p. 79) and on Food Network

Yields 10 serving (1-1/2 c. each)


  • 8 plum tomatoes
  • 2 English cucumbers, seeded but not peeled
  • 3 red peppers
  • 2 red onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 46 oz. (6 c.) tomato juice
  • 1/4 c. white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Roughly cut the tomatoes, cucumbers, red pepper, and red onions into chunks, about 1-inch large. Add tomatoes to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped but not pureed. (I left mine a little chunkier, but continue to pulse if you prefer a smoother consistency.) Do the same with the cucumbers, red peppers, and red onions, processing each vegetable individually.

Combine chopped veggies with remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well and cover. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, to allow the flavors to blend, before serving.

Serve cold.

Optional Garnishes: Dollop of sour cream, homemade croutons, sprinking of Parmesan or feta cheese

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As the weather turns colder (we’re had snow flurries several times this week), I’ve been craving lots of soup. My freezer is stocked with Mom’s Italian Wedding Soup and Turkey Noodle Soup for lunch, but at the recommendation of Barefoot Bloggers, I recently tried my hand at making an onion soup – Ina’s Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin. I love it! It was easy, and my favorite part, it was not overly salty. I can’t wait to make another batch after the new year, perhaps served with Ina’s Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich on the side.

A couple of comments about this recipe. First, the recipe was supposed to serve 4-6. I have no idea where that number came from – this recipe made a huge batch, probably more like 8-12 servings as a soup course, depending on the size of the bowl you use.  The soup is freezable, so take advantage of that! Secondly, this was my first time working with and eating fennel, a vegetable that tastes like licorice when raw but loses the bitterness when cooked. I found a great link on Bon Appetit with instructions on how to chop fennel. Finally, the broth was a little flavorless. I added a couple extra bay leaves at the start of cooking, and a good teaspoon of pepper and tablespoon of kosher salt after cooking.

Onion and Fennel Soup Gratin

Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?

Serves 8-10


  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 3 lbs. Spanish onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 lbs. fennel, tops and cores removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 c. dry sherry
  • 1/2 c. brandy
  • 1 1/2 c. dry white wine
  • 8 c. low-sodium beef broth
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small sourdough or white French boule, crusts removed and sliced 1/2 in thick, toasted (I used a baguette)
  • 4-6 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated

In a large stock-pot over medium-high heat, melt butter and olive oil. Add onions and fennel and cook until golden-brown, 30-45 minutes, stirring frequently.

When browned, add sherry and brandy. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up bits from bottom of the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for another 15  minutes.

Add broth, bay leaves, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. At this point, the broth was fairly flavorless. I added at least 1 tsp. pepper and 1 Tbs. kosher salt.

Preheat broiler. Pour soup into oven-safe serving bowls. Top with toasted bread and grated cheese. Broil for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melted.

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I always seem to struggle at lunch time. I’m not a sandwich person and I’m pretty picky about my leftovers. If I was home for lunch, I’d have more options… turkey burgers, stir-fries, homemade pizza…. pretty easy stuff that just tastes better when you make them on the spot.

I decided to try my hand at chili this week, healthified since I’m trying to eat less junk and to get back in shape. This one was inspired by a friend of mine, with lots of veggies. Its one of those meals that I think I’d throw just about any veggie or bean I had on hand into, such as my mushrooms that were left over from quesadillas and taco night.

Vegetarian Chili

By Books n’ Cooks

Ingredients for the Chili Seasoning:

  • 1 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 3/4 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. dried minced onion

Ingredients for the Chili:

  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red or green pepper, diced
  • 1 c. diced mushrooms
  • 1-12 oz package veggie protein crumbles (I used Smart Ground Mexican Style)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

In a medium saucepan, heat a teaspoon of olive oil. When hot, add onion and sauté until soft.

Add all other ingredients and simmer for 30+ minutes, stirring occasionally, until flavors have fused.

Serve with a cheddar or Mexican cheese blend.

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