30 Minute Creamy Homemade Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons!

You’ll Need:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, sliced

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch pieces 

1-2 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves

1/2 cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley leaves 

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 (28 oz ) cans good quality peeled and chopped organic tomatoes

2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock) 

1/2 cup heavy cream, plain Greek yogurt or your favorite nut milk

10-12 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped 

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper 

Grilled cheese cut into croutons 

For the grilled cheese

8 slices of your favorite bread, crusts removed 

8-12 Tablespoons softened butter 

8 slices of sharp Tillimock cheddar cheese for grilled cheese 

Here’s How
In a heavy bottomed 6-8 quart stockpot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. 

Add the onions and carrots. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until onions are beginning to turn golden brown and caramelized. 

Add the garlic, oregano and fresh chopped parsley and cook an additional 1 -2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with their juice and the chicken stock. Bring to a low simmer. Cook uncovered, for 12 -15 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add fresh basil to last minute of cook time. 

While soup is cooking make grilled cheese sammies. Cut into croutons, set aside. 

Using an immersion blender or carefully transfer soup to a blender to puree soup. 

Return to heat add cream. Re-adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Do it boil after adding cream. 

Serve piping hot garnished with grilled cheese croutons. 

Green Monster Muffins! 

My stance on getting sneaky in the kitchen is very simple. I don’t like to lie about food, especially to children. I also know how hard it can be to get little ones to eat green. Fun holidays like, Halloween or St. Patricks Day and year end holiday are a great time to get green. Or flex your parental power and establish a “green food “ day of the week and introduce new green foods on that day.


2 1/2 cups all purpose or gluten-free flour

1 cup cane or coconut sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 cups raw baby spinach

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups butter

3 over ripe bananas

2 teaspoons good quality vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350’F degrees and prepare 2 regular sized muffin tins with non-stick, organic cooking spray. Or cupcake liners. Or, prepare 2 loaf pans

2.In a blender, combine spinach and bananas. Blend until spinach changed to a liquid state.
3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and allspice. Mix well. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of your stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and butter, mix on high speed until creamy and sugar crystals begin to dissolve- about three to five minutes. Add eggs, one at a time mixing well in between each addition.


5. Slowly beat in the spinach – banana mixture. Add vanilla.


6. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix well to combine.


7. Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins or two prepared loaf pans.


8. Bake for approximately 30-45 minutes or until muffins spring back to the touch and are slightly browned on edges. 60-90 minutes if baking loafs.
Test for doneness by running a toothpick in the center. If if pulls out clean, loafs are done. Makes approximately 2 dozen medium muffins, 1 1/2 large and 3-4 dozen mini muffins or 2 loafs.

The Faux-Re-O! Homemade Vegan Oreo Cookies. Clean ! No additives, preservatives or shelve-stabilizers! 

Aside from the slightly bizarre flavors of the past few years, Kraft Foods – the parent to the Oreo, a Nabisco brand; has a dynasty into the worlds best tasting cookie!  A large corporate box chain foods  company–but, this means highly processed, refined food ingredients. Also, foods contain additives; that might not be so healthy If you are feeding your family clean. Here is my adaption to the beloved, “Oreo” Cookie!

The Faux-Re-O!


2 1/2 cups AP flour, Yucca flour or GF flour, sifted

1 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 ounces Vegan butter or extra virgin coconut oil, room temp, slightly softened ( extra virgin has minimal coconut flavor)

1 1/2 cups granulated cane sugar

4 Tablespoons of VeganEgg reconstituted in 1 cup water

2 teaspoons pure Madagascar vanilla extract

1/2 cup organic vegetable shortening

Non-stick cooking

Cream Filling ( recipe below)

1. In a small bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to incorporate ingredients well throughout the flour. Set aside.


2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a medium bowl–combine 10 ounces of the vegan butter with the 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Beat on medium-high until combined and pale in color. About two minutes. Scrape sides, add 1/2 the vanilla, and beat an additional 2 minutes.


3. Add the VeganEgg and flour mixture in alternate batches. Mix well to incorporate after each addition before adding an additional. Once all ingredients have been added mix until dough forms a ball.


4. With a sifter, lightly dust a clean work surface with cocoa powder.


5. Turn dough ball out onto the lightly dusted cocoa powered surface. Also dust the top of the dough lightly. Cut in 1/2.


6. With a cocoa dusted rolling pin, roll the dough pieces to flatten into 2 – 1/2 inch round disc. Wrap both discs individually in plastic wrap- sealing airtight. Refrigerate flat for a minimum of 1 hour.

5. After 1 hour has lapsed – remove a disc from plastic wrap and place on a clean, lightly cocoa dusted work surface. Working while dough remains cold, roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Run the back of a long knife or palate knife under the dough to make sure it is not sticking to the work surface.


6. Preheat oven 350’F Degrees. Prepare two high sided baking sheets with parchment sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.


7. With a 1 1/2 in round cocoa dusted cookie cutter begin cutting cutting 64 round 1/4 inch round cookies.


8. Using a metal spatula – place on prepared baking sheet with minimal movement protecting the integrity of its shape. Work quickly while cold. If dough begins to heat up, place back in the refrigerator to cool again.


9. Continue to ball up the cookie dough up and re-roll for more cookies until you’re completely out of dough. Repeat with the remaining disc.

10. Bake for 8-10 minutes until they are firm. Remove and allow to cool. Make cream filling.

Additional Cream Filling Ingredients:

4 cups powdered sugar sifted

2 Tablespoons nut milk


1. In a small bowl beat the remaining 2 ounces of the Vegan butter with the vegetable shortening until smooth. Add remaining vanilla extract. ( or cut and scrape one fresh vanilla bean pod * optional)


2. Once combine, add sifted powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of the nut milk. Mix. Check constancy. If too dry, add the additional nut milk to form a thick cookie filling like paste. Set aside.

3. Once cookies are cooled, spread the filling on the bottom of half of the cookies and sandwich them with the other half. Slightly squeezing to completely sandwich.
Serve with ice cold nut milk. Or use to prepare Stephen Dimmicks ( from Glossie Girl ) Oreo Cookie Pancakes. Recipe here!

Variation to filling : For chocolate filling add 1/2 cup cocoa powder and 1 /2-2 Tablespoons of additional nut milk to the already blended creamed filling recipe.

Fun P B & J Sushi Rolls The Littles Can Make Themselves!

Kids should be in the kitchen as little as 2-3 years old with supervision! Teaching them and getting them get tactile is so important in so many ways. Here is a good introductory  lunchtime activity to get them involved. Keep in mind, kids are more likely to eat what they prepare! 



Nut Butter and Preserve Sushi Rolls


2 Tablespoons homemade nut butter, creamy
2 Tablespoons your favorite preserves
2 slices per person of sliced sandwich bread


With a sharp knife remove the crust from the bread.
Using a rolling pin, completely flatten the bread while carefully keeping the integrity of its shape.
Spread the nut butter and preserves across the bread
carefully role each slice into a tiny little spiral and cut into four evenly sized pieces. serve standing up to reveal the swirls of the PB&J.

It’s all about the dressing

Summer salads are a great way to explore what’s in season while introducing your little one to new flavors. Dips, dressings, that little something extra is what makes a difference from the little one turning his or her nose up to diving right in. Dressing doesn’t need to come in a bottle. It’s something you can make at home with your little ones. Get them involved. See which flavor they like. Then, try mixing the dressings with produce. What do you like with the raspberry vinaigrette? Is there something that the balsamic is better with? (Try strawberries, feta and spinach with the last one. It’s a simple, warm weather healthy addition to any meal.)

Today, it’s all about the dressings. Maybe you end up with a variety of them in your home to meet individual tastes. That’s OK!! These are homemade and fresh. Each recipe makes enough to dress salad for four. If you find one that everyone likes, consider doubling or tripling the recipes and storing it in a mustard or jam jar. Before to shake before serving. These dressings should stay fresh for a week.

Citrus vinaigrette

  1. In a saucepan, simmer ½ cup of orange juice, ¼ cup lime juice and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice for 4 minutes or until 1/3 cup remains. Pour into a bowl.
  2. Whisk 1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar, minced red chile, a large minced shallot, chopped mint, ½ tsp. each grated orange and lemon zests, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, kosher salt and black pepper.
  3. Whisking continuously, slowly add ¼ cut extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified.


Balsamic vinaigrette

  1. Whisk together 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (white or dark), 1 ½ Tbsp. warm water, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard and ½ tsp. of each minced garlic, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Whisking continuously, slowly pour in 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified.


Mustard-herb vinaigrette

  1. In a blender, puree 1 hard-cooked egg yolk (this makes the dressing extra creamy, 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp. each grainy Dijon mustard and water, and ½ tsp. each of minced garlic, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. With blender running, slowly add 5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified. Pour into a bowl; stir in 2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon, chervil, basil or parsley.


Fresh raspberry vinaigrette

  1. In a blender, puree ¾ cup fresh raspberries with ¼ cup reduced sodium chicken broth.
  2. Scrape puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl and discard seeds.
  3. Into the puree, whisk 2 Tbsp. canola oil, 1 Tbsp. each of apple cider vinegar and minced shallot, 2 tsp. Dijon honey mustard and ¼ tsp. each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper until emulsified.


Sesame-ginger vinaigrette

  1. Whisk together 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger, 1 tsp. each of minced garlic and sugar, and 2 Tbsp. each of rice vinegar and soy sauce.
  2. While whisking, slowly add ¼ cut peanut or canola oil and 1 Tbsp. toasted Asian sesame oil until emulsified. Stir in 1 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives and 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds.


Chipotle-honey-lime vinaigrette

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk 3 Tbsp. lime juice, 1 minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce, 1 ¼ tsp. each or honey and ground cumin, and ½ tsp. each of minced garlic and kosher salt.
  2. Whisking continuously, slowly add 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified. Stir in 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro.

Retro Blog- The New American Lunch Box

Take a minute to reflect back… Remember when you were kid? Now, try to  conjure up this specific childhood memory – your wonderful lunch box! You were  cool, fun, and felt confident sporting this brand new piece of gear. This box  and what it was filled with often reflected who you were. It was your first  independent introduction into society. After all, didn’t your very own lunch box  mean you were finally a big kid!

Boys often carried western or space themed lunch boxes, girls went with  Barbie, and younger children with a wide variety of Disney characters. All I  remember is that I was stuck carrying the plaid design and the girl across the  street, Cheryl Shelmadine, had a Lassie the Wonder Dog lunch box. I didn’t. What  were my parents thinking? Regardless of the style, lunch boxes have represented,  as well as reflected, a major part of American cultural history.

Luckily for our children, we live in a dynamic area. We can gain access to  the wonderful traditions of so many cultures. Once incorporated with our fresh  local foods, and given a twist on presentation… POOF! The new American lunch  box – the bento box.

Bento boxes surfaced in Japan about 900 years ago with the creation of  hoshi-ii. Hoshi-ii means “dried meal” – it is rice that has been cooked and then  dried. Bento boxes were once simple containers housing individually packaged  portions of rice, meat or fish, and pickled or cooked vegetables. Through the  ages, they have progressed from oak or bamboo leaf wrapped portions into  lacquered wooden boxes, shiny aluminum, and modern day plastics.

There are contests held where people compete to win prizes and prestige for  designing the most elaborate bento boxes. This type of artistic bento is called  a kyaraben. They aesthetically arrange the foods to resemble people, flowers,  plants, or animals. Some are so beautiful they look too good to eat… well  almost!

Of course, bento boxes are still available today in many locations throughout  Japan, but now bento boxes are taking America by storm! Traditional Japanese  bento boxes are quickly becoming the must have lunch box for otherwise brown  paper baggers. A visit to today’s school cafeterias might have some parents  thinking they’ve stepped into a new culture when they see these trendy new lunch  containers. It’s not all about appearances though – bento boxes are fun to fill,  pleasing to the palette, prevent foods from getting smashed, and make packing a  lunch both cost and time effective.

Lunch boxes today are still the ultimate in personal style and expression.  Even not carrying one is often for the sake of fashion. Whatever your taste,  lunch boxes continue to be a reflection of American culture. The bento box is  simply a plastic container housing other various shaped containers for your  foods stuffs. Sometimes they are stacked, square round, flat, or whatever your  desire. There are designer bento boxes are available featuring popular cartoon  characters and fun designs – hopefully not plaid. You can even accessorize your  bento with fun flatware to match, and miniature bottles no larger than your  thumb for salad dressings, soy sauces or other flavorings of your choice.

I recently purchased a “laptop bento” for my daughter, Danielle. It came in a  thermal cooled case that resembles a notebook computer – and of course, it was  almost the same price. It is a typical bento for a “Middle Schooler” – not too  flashy. Once opened, the case reveals spaces for all different kinds of goodies.  Each space has its own lid and they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. She  absolutely loves it!

Packing A Bento

No matter how old my kids get, they still love helping to pack their lunches  with fun foods. When we go hunting for bento box fun we frequent the Japanese  dollar store in downtown in San Mateo. They have a great variety of kid friendly  lunch packing items. One of my favorites are the food molds. With absolutely no  major artistic kitchen skills you can shape foods into simple animals, cars,  trucks, trains, plants, or people shapes. Try them out with brown rice and  veggies for an Asian flair, tuna or chicken salad, eggs, or even make  must-have-meatballs with them

Just like the use of the Japanese containers – use fusion when packing them.  California nouvelle cuisine is a blend of cultures, using fresh local  ingredients and new fun presentation style on any classic meal. These tiny  treasure chests are great for serving up leftovers in a fresh new way that will  have your children eager to see last night’s meal again. Remember to be creative  and artistic when packing a bento and to involve your child. Use cookie cutters  to make uniquely shaped “tea sandwiches”, layer foods for presentation, and  include little containers of their favorite dips. The better it looks and the  more input they have the more likely they are to eat it!

Use these fun lunch packs and fuse some of your own cultural sensations  inside. Here are some ideas to get you going. Incorporating a variety of foods  your child enjoys will make them much less likely to succumb when they hear  “I’ll trade you!” in the cafeteria.

Mac ‘n Cheese – Left over macaroni and cheese, fresh sliced tomatoes, steamed  veggies, and fresh finger fruits (grapes, berries, cherries, cubed melons,  sliced kiwi, etc.). They’ll be sure to devour this child friendly favorite. All  housed in the separate containers or pressed into fun shapes.

Snack Attack – Diced fresh finger fruits and veggies, sliced cheeses, cubed  turkey breast or ham, and multi-grain crackers make for a delightful blend of  flavors and nutrition. Don’t forget to add crackers and your favorite  vinaigrette in a small fun sized bento squeeze bottle.

Dinner for lunch -Your favorite shaped meatballs, brown rice, sliced fresh  veggies, and low-fat yogurt to dip. This bento is also great with leftover  spaghetti!

Pot Roast Personified – Diced left over pot roast, roasted root veggies,  fresh finger fruits, and a garden salad. Served cold, with a piece of buttered  whole grained pita bread.

Super Salads – Molded tuna, chicken, or seafood salad, whole grain crackers,  fresh fruits and veggies, and cute baby cheese. Don’t forget to add sliced red  bell peppers. They are really sweet to eat – especially with cream cheese to dip  them in. 

Now, with some bento experience under my belt I can honestly say that not  only do kids love these crafty containers – but I do too. They are also great  for picnics, travel lunches, or any time you’ll be away from home. They just  make sense! One more important thing… bento boxes do require some washing  after the box arrives home. This is another great opportunity though to get the  kids involved and teach some early childhood responsibility as they help wash up  their lunch box and get it ready for the next day.

Chef Gigi!


Chef Gigi is the former Dean of the California Culinary Academy in San  Francisco, and Co-founder (with her two teenage daughters) of Kids Culinary  Adventures – A professional cooking school for kids and teens.

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