Weeknight Dinner

tomato soup and grilled cheese dinner

My weeknight dinner efforts are fair at best. Everybody is worn out by the time we make it home and roll through the door. We have many cereal and scrambled eggs nights (much to TheRoomDad’s frustration). One weeknight dinner I can handle is tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I usually have all of the ingredients on hand even if I have not been to the grocery store, and it takes minimal effort and time to prepare. We ate tomato soup twice last week with toasted sandwiches in the panini maker.

tomato coup ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 c. canned, diced tomatoes
  • 1 T. fresh basil leaves, minced (or 1 t. dried)
  • 1-2 c. chicken stock

tomato soup carrot and onion

Directions

  • Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften (~5 minutes).
  • Add the diced tomatoes and basil. Simmer about 10 minutes.

tomato soup heating

  • Add 1 c. of chicken stock. Return to a simmer.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  • Using an immersion blender (or regular blender), puree carefully until smooth.

tomato soup pureed

  • Taste and add salt and pepper if desired. Reheat if needed before serving.

Notes

  • If you do not have whole carrots, dice a handful of pre-cut carrots sticks if you have a bag of the snack carrots in your refrigerator.
  • You can replace the basil with thyme.
  • We like the soup with grilled cheese strips and/or Goldfish.

tomato soup and grilled cheese strips

Comfort Food

taco soup and tortilla chips

It is dreary here today. We are on the fringe of all of the icy weather, so we have had solid rain with some icing. It means that bridges are closed, and school was cancelled. What do you do on a day like this? Cook soup. Since I was in my pajamas when I had this brainstorm, I sent TheRoomDad to the grocery store for Taco Soup ingredients. Not only is the soup delicious on a cold day, it is also the perfect soup for eating dinner in front of the TV and watching winter Olympics.

taco soup

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless and skinless chicken breast
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 32-oz. chicken broth (sometimes I use an additional 16-oz. can)
  • 1 4-oz. can mild chopped green chiles
  • 1 16-oz. can yellow corn (I like shoepeg corn)
  • 1 16-oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 16-oz. can light rd kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 16-oz. cans diced tomatoes (drain 1 can and leave juices in 1 can)
  • 1 package original taco seasoning mix
  • 1 package dry ranch dressing mix

Toppings

  • grated Mexican cheese blend
  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips

taco soup prepping

Directions

  • Trim any fat off the chicken breasts and cut in half. Put halved chicken breasts in a large soup pot with chopped onions, garlic, and 32-oz. chicken broth.
  • Simmer until meat shreds (about an hour or so). I take the pot off the heat and with two forks, pull the chicken apart in the soup pot. If it is not pulling apart easily, cook longer.

taco soup shredding chicken

  • Add all other soup ingredients through the ranch dressing mix.

taco soup adding ingredients

  • Cook another hour or two on low heat. If you would like to thin the soup at all, add some more chicken broth.
  • Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips.

Notes

  • This is a great crock pot recipe. Put the chicken, onions, garlic, and broth in the crock pot on low in the morning. At the end of the day (about 3:00) shred the chicken. Add the other ingredients and cook a few more hours on low.
  • The longer it sits, the better it tastes!
  • Freezes well.

taco soup bite

Mason Jar Holiday Gift

mason jar soup labels

Each year I like to have a gift idea I can produce in bulk to give to the “extra” teachers at school, support staff, neighbors, hosts at any Christmas parties we might attend, the mailman, etc…

Sewing Sister assembled cookie mixes in Mason jars a few years ago for teacher gifts, and I wanted to do something similar. My 4th grade students are running a Mason jar holiday cookie mix business to raise money for Water Missions International, so I did not want to double up on the cookies. Instead, I mass produced soup mixes. I think these will work well since every parent (adult?) I know loves to have an easy low prep weeknight meal on hand.

Apparently, I was not the only one with the Mason jar idea. Mason jar supplies were wiped out when I shopped this weekend. So, make sure you can purchase the jars before starting this project. Once you have sourced your supplies, gather your cheap labor (in my case, Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss) and begin.

mason jar soup ingredients

  • Click here for the Farmhouse Soup Mix in a Jar ingredient list.
  • Pour ingredients in various mixing bowls and set up an assembly line in the correct order.

mason jar soup assembly line

  • Roll a piece of 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper loosely and make a funnel with a wide opening but not too wide, so it will fit in the top of the jars. Tape the handmade funnel, so the shape will hold.

mason jar soup funnels

  • Give each assistant a 1/2 measuring cup and have them go down the line in order adding 1/2 cup of each ingredient. After each ingredient, lightly tap the jar on a flat surface to level the ingredient before adding the next item.
  • When it is time to add the macaroni noodles, add 1/2 cup then add up to 1/2 c. more until the noodles are about one inch under the neck of the jar. You need space to add the zip-type baggie of herbs before sealing with the lid.
  • We did all of the above steps first and left the jars open, then assembled the seasonings.

mason jar soup herbs

  • I delved into my massive collection of zip bags that I get from the bead department at Michael’s Crafts. I used 3″ x 5″ baggies and did most of the seasoning assembly since the herbs sort of static to the sides of the bag, and it was messier than the jar assembly. I know we have a few vegetarian teachers, so I separated the beef bouillon from the other herbs and had two zip bags in a few of the jars.

mason jar soup herbs bagged

  • Add a seasoning packet to the top of the jar and seal.

mason jar soup filled

  • I printed labels on white and green cardstock. One side had the preparation instructions, and the other side had a holiday greeting. I am not a fan of play-on-word cutesy notes for teacher gifts, but I am a fan of “professional” looking labels in coordinating colors. If you are up for this extra time suck detail, you really need to invest in a paper cutter. We hole punched the corners of the tags and attached with curly ribbon. Alternately, you could print the directions on adhesive labels and stick them to the sides of the jars.

mason jar soup labelsWe also made chicken noodle soup mix in 1 pint jars. The smaller sized jars were much easier to find. We followed roughly the same procedure. Any teachers with young children are getting the chicken noodle soup mix. Click here for the Chicken Noodle Soup Mix in a Jar ingredient list and directions.

mason jar chicken noodleIs anyone else working on a gift in bulk to have on hand this holiday? There were many tasty looking mixes when I Googled “mason jar recipes” so you could take this idea and run with it.

Recipe for a Good Teacher

recipe for a good teacher one card

Teacher Appreciation Week is on the horizon at my daughter’s school, which completely turns my idea brain into overdrive. We are implementing an idea I used during the nursery school years for the kindergarten teachers this year. We are organizing delivery of a week of freezable meals and a grocery store gift card.

E-mail the parents in the class with a list of suggested freezable dishes and ask for volunteers to deliver one item each day of the week. For those who don’t like to cook but want to participate, suggest a $5 donation (per teacher if there is an aide) and use the collection for a grocery store gift card. Finally, send 4×6 blank notecards with directions home via kid mail about 2 weeks before Teacher Appreciation Week. Ask the students to write a “recipe for a good teacher” on the card– or write a note– or draw a picture.

grocery gift card

The Giftcard to Kick Off the Week: Collect donations and purchase a gift card to the local grocery store. You can also pick up one of those hot/cold bags, so the teachers can transport their casseroles home. Deliver the gift card and freezer bag on Monday with a card letting them know that meals are on the way!

sausage artichoke soup

The List: I don’t want the teachers to end up with 5 pans of lasagna, so I send an e-mail to the parent group with days of the week and casserole suggestions. Parents sign up for a day and reply all to the group. Depending on your teachers, you can add bottles of red and white wine too. If your child has 2 teachers, ask that volunteers bring 2 9×9 pans of the same casserole, so both teachers get the same thing. Food should be delivered in disposable containers, so the teachers do not have to return the dish.

  • Tuesday: Italian
  • Wednesday: Soup or Chili (Sausage and Artichoke Soup is an easy freezable soup. Click the name for the recipe.)
  • Thursday: Chicken
  • Friday: Breakfast

recipe for a good teacher card

The Recipe Cards: The concept of a “recipe for a good teacher” is tricky for small children (and some parents). Children do not have to write a recipe. Any thoughtful note or picture will work. Teachers like to be recognized by their students in some way. If students write a recipe, it should list things the teacher does in class that the kids like and then put measurements next to it.

Deliver the recipes on Friday to wrap up Teacher Appreciation Week. In my experience, this gift is the most well received of any that I give. Delivering a freezable meal to any busy friend (not just teachers) is always appreciated.