Dipping My Toe in the New Normal

Dipping My Toe in the New Normal

Comfort food is just what we need, whether we are in self-isolation, quarantine, or shelter-in-place. My Tomato Soup recipe hits the spot and offers a savory solution to navigating “the new normal”.  Click to skip to the recipe!


Tomato Soup in Bowl with Crackers


We’re about to start the process of opening our county after eight weeks of social distancing. In a way, we’ve grown accustomed to staying at home.

Shelter-in-place has been weird. But what is even weirder is how quickly we’ve become used to it.

Waking up alone or with your kids or with your significant other and your kids and your significant other and maybe your mother…. and having nowhere to go. No plans on the horizon. No reason to get spiffed-up. No goals, no pat on the back for a job well done. It’s been lonely, challenging, and life-changing.

And now, just like that we’re supposed to go back to a new norm.

When I canvas my friends, I hear apprehension. While we’re home and quarantined, we’re safe from the silent enemy. But now, venturing out, facemasks in place, we fight a new challenge: how to exist in a society where the virus hides around every corner.
It is a crazy, insecure feeling; one that we must overcome in order to go on.

Personally, I am going to rely on my comforts as I dip my toe in the new norm. My hand sanitizer is stashed in my glove box. I’ve ordered designer face masks (of course I did….). I wash my hands constantly and stay six feet away from people that I encounter. I even follow the arrows in the grocery store!

But when it comes time to enter the phase that allows us to gather in small groups, my plan is to gather. I plan to gather just a few friends for a glass of wine to start and then maybe a shared snack or lunch and then maybe a social-distance approved supper outdoors with a couple of pals.

Yes, there is some apprehension, but it is time!

Perhaps it’s time to make your plan. There’s a lot to think about, whether you’re going back to work or considering shopping at the corner boutique.

Is it time to get your nails done, or does anxiety put the plan off for another week? Is it time to invite your baby best bud for a playdate? Is it time to let him go to his friend’s house? No matter how or when you plan to embrace the new norm, it’s time to make a plan.
What I always do when I face the road ahead is to take some time to think and strategize.

And while I fashion a plan, I like to surround myself with comfort food.

It kinda makes things less scary. The whole activity of cooking that food relaxes me. So, while you’re mulling over your plan for your new norm, why not take a tip from my playbook and whip up a pot of comforting soup. Tomato Basil Bisque is my go-to soup because it pushes all the comfort buttons. It is creamy, flavorful, tummy-filling and the perfect bowl to sneak in a fistful of crumbled crackers. Just the dish needed before you walk out the door for the first time.

Swallow your anxiety, take your time and step forward….Safely!

God Bless!

Tomato Soup
With Jalapeno, and a Hint of Fennel




40-Minute Cuisine


Adding just a bit of jalapeno adds a little heat to tomato soup. But the addition of fennel takes this soup to a spiced-up, licoricey lip-smackin’ treat!

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, diced into small cubes

1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ cup dry sherry

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

4 ounces tomato paste, about ½ cup

1 quart homemade chicken stock, or prepared low sodium broth 

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

½ large fennel bulb, optional

½ cup half and half

¼ cup sour cream

Pour olive oil into the bottom of your soup pot over medium-high heat.  Place the onions and pepper into the pot and cook until soft and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Pour in the sherry and simmer until most of the liquid disappears, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken broth.  Season with salt, pepper, and sugar.  Place the fennel bulb into the soup.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid and simmer the soup for 20 minutes allowing the flavors to blend.

Remove the pot from the heat.  Remove and discard the fennel bulb.  Stir in the half and half and sour cream.

Serve the soup with crushed crackers, another dollop of sour cream, and the tops from the fennel.

G-I-Y: Grow It Yourself & Taste the Fruits of Victory!

G-I-Y: Grow It Yourself & Taste the Fruits of Victory!

Donna Fox is happy in her garden, and why not? She Donna Fox is happy in her garden, and why not? She’s grown a literal wardrobe of tomatoes!

If you are like me and my friend, Donna Fox pictured above, you have a love of fresh produce, and might be of the mind to grow your own! I love the thought of strolling to my backyard garden (in my fifties-style yellow sundress and matching straw hat) with my basket on my arm, and my garden snippers in my gloved hand. In this fantasy, I carefully snip the ripest tomatoes from the vine, and gracefully place them into my basket. I then pluck delicate greens and fragrant herbs, and head back inside my (now fifties-style) kitchen to assemble my stunning green salad. June Cleaver episodes aside, my on and off attempts at gardening have NEVER yielded anything like my fantasy. Until now!!

Enter the modern miracle of the Tower Garden. No fuss, no muss gardening with a simple turn of a switch. The garden assembly is a cinch. You simply “plant” the seedlings into their pockets, fill up the tank, and turn it on. Weeks and sometimes months later, you are plucking fresh lettuce, herbs tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and so much more from your back porch garden. It’s called hydroponics, which means the veggies grow without soil and instead use the minerals you place into the water.

Gal pal, Donna decided to plant nothing but tomatoes in her water tower this year, and has been rewarded with tons and tons of all sorts of varieties. She asked for a couple of my favorite tomato recipes, and I gave her this one. It conveniently uses the zucchini I have from my own tower garden. Share and share alike!

This dish proves you don This dish proves you don’t have to be fancy when you cook. It’s so simple, but SO GOOD!

Zucchini Topped with Roasted Tomatoes

and Pine Nuts

Poaching zucchini in a bit of water with a touch of baking soda turns it into puffy squash pillows. Sprinkling the tomatoes with just a bit of sugar brings out flavors of peak ripeness.


2 pints grape tomatoes, halved

8 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced, about 3 tablespoons

Fresh thyme sprigs

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 more for zucchini

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

2 large zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces, about 4 cups

¼ cup water

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 (2-ounce) package pine nuts, about 1/2 cup, toasted

Zest of 1 medium lemon, about 1 to 2 teaspoons

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Place the tomatoes onto a baking sheet.  Toss the garlic and thyme sprigs around the tomatoes. Drizzle with sugar, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Toss gently. Roast until the tomatoes begin to burst, and the garlic is soft and golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and toss with the olives and capers.  Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place the zucchini into the skillet in a single layer.  Season with salt. Add ¼ cup water and a pinch of baking soda. Cook, turning often until the water evaporates and the zucchini is just soft and golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Be patient, this step is worth the effort.

Transfer the zucchini to a baking pan.  Cover each piece with a spoonful of the tomato mixture.  Sprinkle with pine nuts.  Bake until the dish is warmed through, about 10 minutes.  Grate the lemon zest over top and serve warm.