Italian Herb Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese

The holidays may seem long gone but winter is still here for a while.  While the sun’s been making a special appearance today, clouds and rain have mostly been gracing the skies here in Portland.

Once the 3rd or 4th day of clouds rolls around I am really ready to snuggle up in a blanket, watch a movie, and sip on something warm.  Coffee will always be my warm beverage of choice, but for health sake I try to limit my consumption…  I guess too much caffeine isn’t good for you or something.  Daaang it.

Too many veggies is never bad for you though.  Ever. I don’t think.

Too much of this tomato soup is definitely not possible.  Not with roasted garlic, onion, celery, bell pepper, sweet potatoes, and tomato.

Healthy?  Yes.  Tasty?  Definitely.  Warm and satisfying on a winter day?  You betcha!

The onion, celery, bell pepper, and sweet potatoes are sauteed in some olive oil then are combined with the tomatoes, vegetable stock, and an array of spices to simmer for a bit.  After simmering, the soup takes a trip to the blender to be pureed and then its back to the hot tub to let flavors meld a bit more.  Thats it!

Well, for the soup at least.

Now its time for cheese.  And bread.  Who doesn’t like that?

Actually, I have a confession.  I’m not a huge fan of most grilled cheese sandwiches (gasp!).  Its a texture thing.  Too much melted cheese and I just can’t handle it.  It gets all gummy and weird.  Gross.

I like a thin layer of cheese.  And I like when it melts out and gets crispy on the pan.  Thats my favorite part.  My other favorite part is the bread (the only other part).  Dave’s Killer Bread is amazing.  This loaf is whole wheat and loaded with seeds.  Great flavor and lots of texture.

I used a touch of olive oil on either side of the sandwich to get the bread nice and toasty.  You could use butter.  Whatever.  You choose!

Soup and sandwich combos are a perfect lunch or light dinner for those cold, rainy winter days.  Carve some time out for yourself this week.  Make a batch of soup (and a grilled cheese!).  Bury yourself under a blanket.   And enjoy the winter cold.

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Recipe from Jess White

Tomato Soup


  • 3-4 garlic cloves, roasted
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, for sautéing
  • 1 medium onion, chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped (I used two small ribs)
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes (about 3 medium sized), peeled and cut into 1-in cubes
  • 2- 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 32 oz low sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper

Roasted Garlic: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Separate a head of garlic into individual cloves, but don’t peel the cloves.  Cut the tip of each garlic clove off at the stem.  Put cloves in the center of a piece of aluminum foil.  Sprinkle with a little olive oil and place in the oven for about 7 minutes or until garlic is very soft.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Peel skin from garlic and set aside.

Tomato Soup: In a large stock pot, saute onion, celery, bell pepper, and sweet potatoes in olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Add roasted garlic and continue to saute for another 3-4 minutes.  Add tomatoes, vegetable stock, water, spices and salt and pepper to pot.  Stir together, bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer until sweet potatoes are tender.  Use an immersion blender if you have one,  or in batches use regular blender to puree the entire pot of soup.  Return pureed soup back to pot, taste and season as necessary. Continue to simmer for at least 15 minutes.  The longer the soup simmers, the better it will taste.  Serve hot or let cool completely, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze up to 2-3 months.  Makes about 3.5 quarts…lots of leftovers!

Grilled Cheese


  • 1-2 slices of bread
  • Cheese, however many slices you like and whatever kind taste buds love
  • Olive Oil, just a little bit

Cut your desired slices of cheese.  Place on bread.  Heat saute pan on medium-low heat. Brush one side of sandwich with olive oil and place in heated pan.  While the first side is cooking, brush other side of sandwich with oil.  Continue to cook on first side until cheese starts melting and bread is toasty and brown.  Flip sandwich and cook until other side is toasted.  Remove, cut in half, dip in soup.  Love it.

Chocolate Banana and Spinach Smoothie

“As long as I am alive in this body, there is good work for me to do…” -Philippians 1:22-

I kind of freak myself out a lot.  I get overwhelmed by details.  I stress myself out by thinking I have to have life all figured out.  I get down on myself for feeling like I don’t have anything figured out.  Then I get all dramatic and think I’ll never really find what I’m supposed to do in life and I’ll end up working some job I can’t stand and hating every minute of it.

Oh man, I need to take a chill pill… like, for serious.

All this stuff going on in my brain has been stressing me out!  But then, faithful as he is, God shows me the verse above — reminding me that good work is everywhere, waiting to be had.  It may not be glamorous.  It may mean waking up at 4:30 (am) sometimes.  It may not make any sense, but I do have a purpose in this place in time.

Ahhh, what breath of fresh air… words I need to hear and hold close.

When I’m stressed out I like to try to take advantage of things that make me feel good.  Eating well gives me a boost of energy inside and out, and helps me feel like I’m doing something good for myself… loving myself well.

The new year is full of resolutions to eat better and this smoothie is a great thing to add to your list of “healthy stuff.”  Smoothies in general can be a great way to add extra nutrients to your diet in a tasty and satisfying way.

This one is pretty simple:  spinach, a banana, a scoop of chocolate protein powder, flax seed meal, ice, and water.  I usually drink this or something similar after a workout, but its great to start your day with or as a refreshing snack in the afternoon!

You can switch it up however you’d like.  Add things in or take things away.  Smoothies are totally versatile… like a dress you can wear to work and out on the town or that pair of shoes you could wear with any outfit.

Pretty much if you make a smoothie you’re gonna be winning.  Just accept it.  Give someone a high five.  And know that you did good work.

Chocolate Banana and Spinach Smoothie

Makes one large or two small smoothies


  • About 2 cups spinach
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 cup water
  • About 1 cup ice
  • 2 Tbsp flax seed meal


  1. Blend together spinach, ice, and water until spinach is blended into small bits.
  2. Add banana and chocolate protein powder and blend until fully incorporated.
  3. Pour into a glass and top with flax seed meal.
  4. Enjoy!

*Don’t have protein powder or hate the taste of it?  Try adding in some greek yogurt and chocolate syrup instead.  You’ll still get the chocolate flavor and a some protein too!

Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese Sauce

Its a new year now.  We’re 5 days in.  How are those resolutions coming along?

I confess, I sort of failed mine on January 1st.  You see, I’m not good at staying in touch with people.  I don’t enjoy talking on the phone.  I get uncomfortable when the awkward silence sets in and I always seem to talk at the same time the other person starts to say something.  Then we both stop.  Then we both start talking again.  Its a weird cycle that I kind of loath.

Anyways, so my semi-resolution was to keep in better contact with people.  Mostly just my family and a couple friends from back in New Mexico.  Then, come January 1st my mom and one of my brothers both called me and I just didn’t answer.  Epic Fail.

I’ll keep trying though.

There are a lot of things that I could resolve to do in 2012.

Clean my house more.  Do the dishes more often.  Spend less time wasting my life on facebook.  Make new friends.  Push beyond my comfort zone.  Don’t let fear take over.  Use pretty dishes for everyday eating.  Take more walks.  Love people better.  Love Jesus more.  Try to figure out what I’m going to do with my life.

Oh the list could be endless.  And so are the lengths of the resolutions.  Because all of the above mentioned are things that I could do better next year and the one after that.

  So really what I’m going to in 2012 is take it one day at a time.  I’m going to do my best to love well.  I’m going to eat my oatmeal out of a pretty bowl just because I enjoy it more when I do.  I’m going to both push myself and give myself grace.  I’m going to (try) to take life a little less serious all the time.

I’m also going to eat a lot of spaghetti squash topped with healthy Bolognese sauce.  

Seriously, I’ll probably be eating it all week long.  I made way too much for one person.

Good thing its tasty and healthy and I didn’t screw it up which I’m usually afraid of doing when I don’t have a set recipe!

I really enjoy spaghetti squash.  The first time I made anything with it was when I made this.  And I fell in love.

Its a perfect substitute if you’re gluten free or trying to cut back on those starchy carbs.  The sauce is filled with tomatoes, onion, red pepper, and lean beef.  Sprinkle in some salt, pepper, and oregano and you’ve got yourself a dinner that your body will love you for.

Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese Sauce

Serves 4-6


  • 1 large spaghetti squash, halved and roasted
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 package of lean beef (I used 90% lean beef from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1-28 oz can of Plum tomatoes
  • 1-14 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon Oregano
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves, chopped for garnish
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil


  1. To roast squash, preheat oven to 400 degrees and cut squash in halve lengthwise.  Rub 1 tablespoon olive oil on squash and season with salt and pepper.  Roast cut side up for 20 minutes.  Turn squash over and roast for another 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan on medium heat saute onion, pepper, and garlic until onion appears translucent, about 4-5 minutes.  Add beef, breaking up with a spatula. Stir occasionally until it is cooked through.  Add about 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the oregano.  Add in both cans of tomatoes and stir together, breaking up plum tomatoes with the spatula.  Cover sauce with lid and let simmer for 20-30 minutes on medium low heat.  Remove pan from heat.
  3. Use a fork to scrape the meat of the squash away from its skin.  Season squash with salt and pepper.  Place the spaghetti squash on a pretty plate and top with bolognese sauce.  Top the sauce with basil and parmigiano cheese.  Enjoy!