Homemade Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil Soup and grilled cheese are at the top of my best-of list.  Soup is a perfect dish for winter and when I found this recipe for Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup on Pinterest from Cafe Delites, I wanted to give it a try.

First, I always wash my vegetables with Fit Organic fruit and vegetable spray.  It’s all-natural, and removes 98% more dirt and chemicals than soap and water.  It’s really important to clean your vegetables thoroughly before you slice or eat them.

You roast the tomatoes and garlic in the oven first and it makes the house smell heavenly.


  • 1.2 kg | 2 1/2 lbs Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 600 g | 1 1/4 lbs Grape (or Cherry) tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 8 whole cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the back of a knife
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped (optional)
  • 1 red bell pepper (capsicum), deseeded and diced
  • 1 potato (100 g | 3 oz), diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, roughly torn


  • Preheat oven to 430°F | 220°C. Place tomatoes on a baking tray with the garlic cloves. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast for about 25 minutes, or until soft and charred on the tops.
  • While tomatoes are roasting, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium-sized pot/saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, peppers (capsicum), and potato; cook while occasionally stirring, until the onion is transparent and the potato begins to crisp on the outer edges (about 6-7 minutes). Stir the tomato paste through the potatoes and onion; pour in the broth/stock; season with extra salt; cover and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low; simmer for about 15 minutes or until potato is just tender when tested with a fork. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and basil to the broth (save 2 tablespoons of basil to use as garnish if you wish); continue to simmer until the basil is just soft (about 2 minutes). Blend soup using a stick blender until smooth.
  • Optional: Pour the soup through a strainer or colander to remove any skins and thick tomato pieces, for a smoother soup.
  • Sprinkle with extra basil, shaved parmesan cheese, and serve with cheesy garlic bread

For step four I don’t have an immersion blender, so I ladled the soup in batches into my food processor to make it creamy.  I think you really need to blend the soup because otherwise you might be overwhelmed by the skins from the tomatoes.  It brought the ingredients to a creamier state perfect for dipping your sandwich.

For my grilled cheese I always use English toasting bread from the bakery and extra sharp cheddar cheese I slice from the block.  It just oozes deliciousness. For extra decadence use European-style butter.

Plate it all up on the cutest soup and sandwich set from World Market.  And, since the soup is red it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day coming up!

Ina Garten’s Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostata

We were late planting our tomatoes last season and didn’t yield much of a crop…until this late fall!  Right before the first frost hit Fort Worth we picked all our green tomatoes and put them inside brown paper grocery bags, and patiently waited. Oh, my goodness, we ended up with the most delicious, beefy tomatoes. About the same time, I got my pre-ordered copy of Ina Garten’s Modern Comfort Food. When I showed Mr. Bee her recipe for Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostata we couldn’t wait to put our hearty boys to good use.

I planned to share the recipe with you, however, I cannot find it posted anywhere online, not even on Ina Garten’s website, and due to Copywrite laws, I cannot share it here on my blog. Another blogger posted her own version here. But, you honestly cannot go wrong with any of Ina’s cookbooks – I have her entire collection and they are a terrific resource.

The dough was easy to prepare using my food processor and just required a quick chill before rolling out. Then we filled the dough with goat cheese, browned leeks, and thyme, and topped it with the most gorgeous tomatoes I’ve ever seen.

The crust was tender and flaky and the combination of the cheese against the juicy tomatoes — we moaned our way through dinner. We also strategized how we could modify the recipe with pesto and mozzarella cheese with basil. So many options. Serve this with a green salad and a glass of white wine and you’ll have the perfect weeknight dinner.

What Would Holley Wear: Autumn Whites

Of course, you wore whites all summer and soon you’ll be wearing winter whites.  But have you thought about introducing whites into your fall wardrobe?

An easy way to transition is with white jeans.  A look I’m partial to is white jeans paired with a camel blazer, coat, or cardigan…basically anything in camel.  A classic trench worn with white jeans is so chic.  A bit more casual, but just as stylish is a long camel sweater coat paired with Sorel boots and a ranch hat…perfect for roasting s’ mores.  

Please don’t put your white shoes in storage just yet.  White mules are so on-trend for fall, which makes it so easy to repurpose a spring/summer pair.  For the ultimate in luxe…a pair of fur-lined white Gucci mules are so chic, and to save money, try Amazon’s version. We’re also smitten with Sam Edelman’s white mules.

No matter what kind of “bidness” you work in, a blazer paired with white jeans transitions from a hectic workday to a happy hour after work.  A classic look we are loving is Bloglovin’s “The Perfect Look #51”….white jeans, plaid blazer, a camel tee, and loafers.  FYI…a plaid blazer from H&M, will make this sophisticated ensemble affordable. 

A monochromatic look is ideal for fall.  Style Influencer, Julia Berolzheimer, looks super comfy in all-white James Perse sweatpants matched with a polar-fleece jacket from Amazon.  A comfy sweater dress paired with sneakers is another great way to wear all-white this fall.  Be sure to check out ASOS’ selection of sweater dresses…just add sneakers or boots.  

Nothing beats the chicness of a jeans and sweater combo in black and white.  If you’re looking for a way to update your French girl style, a pair of white cropped jeans topped with a black coat or blazer is the look for you.  A black faux leather jacket worn over a white dress with sneakers or mules is another French girl style stealer.   

For once and for all….let’s put an end to the old fashion “no white after Labor Day” rule.  And besides that….just think of all the new outfits you’ll create!

Holley Williams is a personal stylist specializing in closet inventory, seasonal shopping, and wardrobe consultation.  Be sure to check her Holley Williams Style on Pinterest.  Contact Holley at [email protected].  

Mother’s Poppy Seed Chicken

I loved it when Mother made Poppy Seed Chicken, so much so I asked her to make it for my birthday dinners (with, of course, her Elizabeth Doyle’s Chocolate Cake recipe).  It’s the perfect meal for a weeknight dinner or a weekend dinner party with friends. Add brown rice, a salad, and rolls and you’ve got comfort food at its best.  Poppy Seed Chicken can be made ahead, from freezer to oven, and is a great entree to take to a friend in need. We enjoyed it last Sunday and served it on a bed of brown rice, with sides of watermelon and a tomato and cucumber salad.


  • 5 cups cooked chicken, sliced into bite-size chunks
  •  2 cans cream of chicken soup
  •  16 ounces sour cream
  •  3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  •  1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  •  1 tablespoon dried parsley
  •  3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  •  1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  •  2 cups crushed Ritz crackers (about 2 sleeves)
  •  1/2 cup butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven heat to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cream of chicken soup, sour cream, Parmesan, poppy seeds, parsley, garlic powder, and black pepper. Stir, then add the cooked chicken and stir again until the meat is evenly coated in sauce. Transfer to a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the crushed Ritz crackers and melted butter with a fork. Sprinkle over the chicken mixture.
  4. Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes until the cracker topping is golden brown and the filling is hot all the way through and bubbling around the edges.


Fried Chicken 101

Mother taught me how to make fried chicken. It’s actually very easy to do; it just takes a little planning and patience. Of course, she never measured anything, and neither do I for this recipe, but it’s super easy to make it up.

First, buy a cut-up chicken – also called a “fryer” in the grocery store. It consists of two wings, two legs, two thighs, and two breasts. Alternatively, it’s cheaper to purchase a whole chicken and cut the chicken yourself, and you can save the bones to make chicken stock. Here a how-to video:

Wash your chicken to rinse off any extra salt used to preserve the chicken until the sell-by date. This next step requires planning because you are going to soak your chicken in buttermilk overnight, which helps to make the chicken tender and moist when it’s ready to eat. This process is very similar to brining a turkey. Pour a pint of buttermilk into a large mixing bowl, and add in about 2 TBL of dill pickle juice. The pickle juice adds in the salt and pulls the moisture into the chicken.  Stir the mixture, then place your chicken parts into the bowl. Turn over the chicken until it’s completely covered and submerged in buttermilk. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it inside the refrigerator until the next day.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper. The cookie sheet will be where you will place your dredged chicken pieces.

After you have brined your chicken overnight, you will now prepare your dredging station.  To make sure you have an extra crispy coating – because that’s why we all love fried chicken – we are going to double dredge each piece.  In a pie plate or shallow dish, pour in 2 cups of flour, 2 tsp of garlic powder, and 2 tsp of ground pepper. Stir until mixed.

Take the chicken pieces out of the buttermilk and lay them on a separate sheet of parchment or waxed paper on the counter (not on the cookie sheet). Do not rinse the parts. Reserve the buttermilk, do not throw it away.

Take a piece of the chicken from the waxed paper, dip in the flour, and with your fingers turn the chicken piece over and coat it’s evenly with flour. Then dip the chicken piece in the buttermilk, coating it lightly with milk (be gentle because you don’t want to remove all the flour from the first dip), then dip the chicken piece back into the flour mixture, coating it a second time. Place the double-coated piece of chicken onto the waxed-paper lined cookie sheet. Repeat this step until all the parts have been double-coated.  You may need to add more flour, garlic powder, and pepper to the dish if you run out during this process.

Discard the buttermilk and flour mixture once you are finished. Let the chicken sit on the counter for 30 minutes so the coating can set and come to room temp, so you aren’t putting cold chicken into hot grease.

While you are waiting for the chicken to rest, prepare your frying pan. I like to use my Grandmother’s cast-iron skillet because it retains heat, but if you don’t have one, a large skillet with high sides works fine. Place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan, without letting the tip touch the bottom of the pan.

Pour in about 2-inches of canola oil and heat the oil on medium-high until it reaches about 350 degrees. Regulating the temperature is where patience comes in. You have to oversee the oil to regulate the temperature, adjusting the heat as needed. Don’t watch a movie or text friends. Always attend to a skillet of hot oil – you hear me!

Once the oil has reached 350 degrees, very carefully start with the legs and wings, adding them in one at a time to the skillet. Cover the skillet with a grease guard like this . It protects you from popping grease and mess on the backsplash. Set the timer for 10 minutes. Don’t touch or mess with the chicken. After 10 minutes, turn the chicken over. While you are cooking your first batch of chicken, put another cookie sheet lined with foil and topped with a cooling rack (like ones you use for cookies) and place in a warm oven.  Do not put cooked chicken on a paper towel – it will make it soggy and defeat the whole reason we are doing this! The excess grease will drip off the chicken onto the cookie sheet.

Check your temperature, which likely dropped when you put your first batch of chicken in the grease. That’s okay, just slightly raise the heat. If the heat doesn’t go all the way back up to 350 degrees that okay, the grease and pan are still hot. Just work with adjusting the temperature a little at a time, but don’t fret if it doesn’t go up to 350 on the next batch.

After the first four pieces are finished cooking, place on the cooling rack in the oven, and move to wings and breasts. The breasts will need to cook 12 minutes on each side because they are thicker. So start with 10 minutes on the wings, turning them over, giving the breasts two more minutes to cook. Wings 10 minutes on side two, twelve minutes for the breasts on side two.  Remove from oil and put it into the warm oven. Let the last four pieces of chicken rest in the oven for about 10 minutes; then you will be ready to serve all your yummy fried chicken!

Since it does require some time and patience, fried chicken won’t be an everyday kind of meal, but when you do make it, your family will be in for a real treat! And, leftover fried chicken is perfect chopped up for a cobb salad the next day.

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Salad

Eating meals outdoors always seems to lift my mood and the weather has been so nice dinner alfresco.  I love the smell of meat cooking on the grill while sipping a good glass of wine.  I’m sharing a recipe I found on Pinterest for Grilled Lemon Herb Mediterranean Chicken Salad.  The recipe originates from Cafe Delites and if you don’t follow her blog you should.  In fact, I am sure you have already seen many of her recipes on Facebook.

The best thing about this recipe is that the marinade is also the dressing for the salad.  You prepare it, then use half for the chicken and pour the other half into a bowl or dressing bottle.

Marinade — plenty of fresh ingredients
Marinating chicken

While the chicken marinates in lemon juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar and fresh herbs, I prepared the salad.  Instead of plating everyone’s portion separately, I decided to plate it from one big platter.

Starting with romaine lettuce, then avocados, cucumber, red onion and tomatoes.

Tip:  Always let your grilled meat sit on the counter for at least 5-10 minutes to allow the internal juices to set which keeps the chicken moist. Slice the chicken and arrange on top of the salad platter. Drizzle remaining dressing over the top.

I served it with a bottle of Pedernales GSM 2014 from Pedernales Cellars that I picked up in Fredericksburg during a wine trip I took last fall.  This Rhone-style blend incorporates Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache from their estate Hill Country vineyard and partner vineyards in Texas. Described as a “medium-bodied blend brings together the diverse character of these three varieties into a fantastic balance that delivers aromas of raspberry, fennel, mushroom, and molasses. This is a rich red wine with significant oak and a soft finish.”  It really is one of my favorite wines to sip in the evening.

So if you were wondering what to make for dinner, this salad and wine along with a good crusty warm french bread would be the perfect way to celebrate spring.

Be sure to follow my Pinterest salad board.  I have over 150 recipes for fresh salad inspiration.

Happy Sloppy Joe Day – March 18

Source: Pioneer Woman

March 18 is Sloppy Joe day!  Fun fact for conversation at your next cocktail party; Marilyn Brown, Director of the Consumer Test Kitchen at H.J. Heinz in Pittsburgh, says their research at the Carnegie Library suggests that the sloppy Joe began in a Sioux City, Iowa cafe as a “loose meat” sandwich” in 1930, the creation of a cook named Joe.

Here’s an awesome recipe from the Pioneer Woman.  I have made it for my family and it is devoured every time. I substitute the beef with ground turkey for Miss Bee’s preference.  Most of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry, so this is the perfect comfort food right now as we are together at home.  Your kids will love helping you prepare this dinner, and they will think you are so cool because you know who invented the sandwich!


  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2-1/2 pounds Ground Beef
  • 1/2 whole Large Onion, Diced
  • 1 whole Large Green Bell Pepper, Diced
  • 5 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1-1/2 cup Ketchup
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Chili Powder (more To Taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (more To Taste)
  • Worcestershire Sauce, To Taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste (optional)
  • Tabasco Sauce (optional; To Taste)
  • Salt To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • Kaiser Rolls
  • Butter

Add butter to a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Drain most of the fat and discard it.

Add onions, green pepper, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, or until vegetables begin to get soft.

Add ketchup, brown sugar, chili pepper, dry mustard, and water. Stir to combine and simmer for 15 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Also add tomato paste, Worcestershire, and Tabasco if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Spread rolls with butter and brown on a griddle or skillet. Spoon meat mixture over the rolls, topping with a slice of cheese if it makes your skirt fly up. Serve hot with potato chips or tater tots.

Cooking with Mrs. Twist – The Instapot

New to the Instapot generation, I am just now sticking my toe into the water of the possiblities I can create in this magical vessel.  I purchased it last November during the Amazon black Friday sales and I’ve made maybe two recipes in it.  It was intimidating because most IP cookbooks just give you ingredients and basic instructions, but not how to work your machine.

Miss Bee gifted me with a fantastic book that I think may help me overcome my fears of “the machine.”  I am sure in about 10 years, the size of the Instapot as we know it today will be much smaller – kind of like the size of microwaves back in the 70s that were as big as Buicks and came on their own rolling cart. We gave one to Mother one year for Christmas. She cried.

Enter the book that is a must for your library — the Instapot Bible by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough authors of 32 cookbooks.  I like this book because they tell you how to work your Instapot in the first section of the book.  Each recipe has been tested in every authorized IP model.  So, there is no fear in when to do what – especially whether or not you should release the steam which seems to scare the beejeezas out of everyone who still has their IP in the box! They literally walk you through each and every step.  It’s foolproof.  You just need to know what size IP you have which will say in your owners manual or on the box.

Miss Bee selected three recipes for me to make and ALL THREE have been amazingly easy to prepare and delicious to eat.  So much so that she has asked for the chili mac at least twice and I’ve only started cooking from the book in the last few weeks.

Instapot Chili Mac – my IP has a saute feature (which I recommend you choose the pot that has the saute feature) so you can cook your ground meat and your onions in the IP without having to cook in two separate pans.  Once browned you dump everything into the IP, including uncooked pasta. 15 minutes later, and little mess, you have a giant pot of love topped with shredded cheese.

Next for a potluck at work, I made their Mac and Cheese. OMG.  This is so creamy and much better than the baked version because it doesn’t get dry or crunchy on top.  I used both white and orange sharp cheddar, but they suggest other varieties of cheese to use to change it up.

And here’s the IP Monkey Bread.  In my Facebook post I said I might just give up cinnamon rolls #myspiritanimal for this monkey bread.  Gooey, buttery and full of cinnamon goodness.  All I needed to buy was a can of biscuits, all the other ingredients were in my pantry.  This would be a perfect baked good to take to brunch or as a hostess or Christmas gift.  You prepare it in a springform pan, but I didn’t have a small enough one to fit down inside the IP, so I used a small bundt pan and it worked great.  I inverted it onto a pie plate once it was finished (hence the messy presentation in the photo).

I wish I could link to the recipes, but the authors don’t have a website to access recipes.  Amazon lists it for $15.72, but you could check with your local library and check it out first to see if you like it.  I know you will.

Let me know if you purchase the book and what you make!

Homemade Mango Salsa

I love this time of the year when produce is beginning to hit the stands and sprout in our own gardens.  We were a little late putting in our vegetable garden this year due to the late frost and rainy spring (I am definitely NOT complaining, because Texas heat is coming).  I look forward to our hot and sweet peppers making their appearance.  Be sure to check back to see our “Galvanized Garden” we are putting the finishing touches on thanks to my friends at Jabo’s Ace Hardware – my offical HWT blog sponsor. You can check out the first video we made on how to prepare for proper drainage in your containers on my Home with a Twist YouTube Channel hereBig favor — if you could please subscribe to my channel it allows me to have very own YouTube address for my blog rather than just a series of letters and numbers.

Anyway, since grilling season is also here, homemade savory and sweet salsas always make an apperance for dinner.  I love this recipe from My Turn for Us blog because it’s not too hot.  You could always add in heat, but if you like a milder salsa, this one packs its punch with fresh mango!

  • 1 Mango, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion. chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (I used 2)
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • salt to taste
1. Combine all ingredients, cover and chill in fridge until ready to serve
We served it with grilled salmon, but think fish or breakfast tacos, pork tenderloin and shrimp.  Oh, my.  Summer is coming folks!

Green Beans, Mushroom Soup and French’s Onions: The Famous Side Dish

Source: Southern Living magazine

This an interesting story from the Washington Post of Dorcas Reilly and her famous green bean casserole.  It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving for Mr. and Miss Bee if I didn’t make her beloved side dish for them every holiday.

It started with a call from the Associated Press and a question: What’s a good recipe for a vegetable side dish that features common pantry products?

In 1955, the AP, like other newspapers and magazines of the time, was running a feature of an easy-to-make Campbell’s Soup side. The question came with a caveat: the recipe had to be built around green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, two items most Americans regularly had in their homes in the ’50s.

The request fell to the Campbell’s Soup Co. test kitchen in Camden, N.J., an arm of the company that focused on coming up with recipes for its products. Dorcas Reilly, a supervisor for Campbell’s home economics department, was tasked with leading her team to figure out what could be done. The group would test and grade recipes repeatedly. Only a perfect score would qualify it as ready to go. In November of that year, Reilly and her team settled on what would be first known as “the Green Bean Bake,” an easily adaptable six-ingredient recipe of green beans, cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper and French fried onions that takes 10 minutes to prep and 30 minutes to bake.

“We worked in the kitchen with things that were most likely to be in most homes,” she told NPR in 2015. “It’s so easy. And it’s not an expensive thing to make, too.”

When Campbell’s started to put Reilly’s recipe on the cans of its cream of mushroom soup in 1960, the popularity of the dish hit new heights. More than 60 years since the dish was invented, green bean casserole is a Thanksgiving staple, with an estimated 20 million-plus American households expected to serve it this year, according to Campbell’s.

Throughout her life, Reilly, a culinary trail blazer during a time when women were often on the sidelines in corporate America, remained astonished at the success of a dish based on green beans and cream of mushroom soup, one referred to by Campbell’s as “the mother of all comfort foods.”