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Classic Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Classic Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons // Karista's Kitchen

Can you believe I never liked tomato soup when I was a kid? I mean, really, who doesn’t love tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches? Well, I didn’t.

I’m not sure why I didn’t like tomato soup; honestly I didn’t like any kind of soup.  My mom prepared all sorts of crazy grilled cheese sandwiches just to get me to eat soup. Which I ate. That is, I ate the grilled cheese sandwiches and usually left a nearly full bowl of soup at the table.

However, somewhere along the years and with a more developed palate, I became obsessed with tomato soup.  So much that I serve tomato soup often in my kitchen and today, both my daughters love a bowl of tomato soup, tomato bisque, or just a chunky tomato stew.

For me, it was the creamy texture of tomato bisque that first caught my attention.  I was working in Boston and there was a little Italian deli down the street from where I worked that served the most lush, creamy and cheesy soup.  In a word, it was divine.  The highly entertaining and charismatic deli owner, Giovanni, served it with crusty Italian bread and butter which paired perfectly with the creamy tomato concoction.

I walked to that deli every day for my beloved tomato bisque, when finally, I realized I was developing a bit of an allergy to tomatoes.  I seriously had to back off the soup for a while. Thankfully at that time, spring was making an appearance and my soup days would hopefully be limited with the warmer weather.

Of course, I continue to eat tomato soup – just not every day. I enjoy it the most when the weather is cool and rainy outdoors and when the soup is paired with my friend, Sheri’s, version of grilled cheese with apple butter.  For me, its food heaven.

Classic Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons // Karista's Kitchen

When my client asked for a classic tomato soup recipe for a retro food article, I was thrilled.  I knew I wanted to include grilled cheese somehow, so I made little mini’s and called them grilled cheese croutons.  However, there are times when I really want a hearty grilled cheese and apple butter sandwich with my tomato soup, so feel free to indulge.

This is totally off topic but notice the sweet table-cloth printed with apricots? Yep, it’s my mom’s tablecloth from the 1950’s and it was so perfect for this shoot.  😉

Wishing you warm and cozy days all curled up with this Classic Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Croutons!

Loads of Love,


Classic Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Serving Size: 4


  • 2 tablespoons ghee or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 28-32 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 ¼ cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 8 slices good quality white bread
  • 1-2 tablespoons of butter
  • 4 slices cheddar cheese


  • In a large pot over medium heat, add the ghee or olive oil and onions. Sauté the onions until wilted and then add the garlic and cook one minute longer.
  • Stir in the crushed tomatoes, dried basil, pinch of crushed red pepper, vegetable broth and sugar. Bring to a slow boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes.
  • While the soup is cooking, prepare the croutons. Pre-heat the oven to broil. Butter one side of each slice of bread and place them buttered side down on a baking sheet. Add the cheese slices to the bread and then top with the remaining bread buttered side up. Place the baking sheet under the broiler and toast. Flip the sandwiches and toast the other side.
  • Remove them from the oven and let them cool. Slice them into small square croutons.
  • When the soup is done either transfer to a blender and blend until smooth or using an emersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then stir in the heavy cream.
  • Serve the warm soup in bowls topped with the grilled cheese croutons.
  • Notes

    This recipe first appeared in Home By Design Magazine Fall 2016

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    Appetizers Karista's Kitchen Sassy Side dishes Soup vegetarian

    Watercress Soup

    Watercress Soup with Creme Fraiche and Chopped Chive

    The French have this unique way of turning the simplest ingredient into the most lush of recipes.  A filet of fish can be transformed into the loveliest meal; slightly bathed in butter, shallots, fresh Tarragon and red grapes with a touch of cream – bringing elegance to a simple pairing of ingredients.  How about peppercorns pounded into a beautiful cut of beef, pan seared in butter and then topped with a quick pan sauce?  This dish makes for a scrumptious meal that is simply prepared but rich with flavor.

    So it didn’t surprise me when I found this recipe for Watercress Soup in one of my cherished French cookbooks.  A few years ago, my daughters had the pleasure of visiting France with their most generous and adoring Great Aunt and Uncle.  Yes, my Aunt and Uncle spoiled the girls completely and it was a trip of a lifetime that they still talk about today.  Visiting Paris with all it’s history and architecture and of course the food, the girls couldn’t help but bring me back a cookbook to add to my ever expanding collection.  Filled with the loveliest recipes that are beautifully prepared with seasonal ingredients in methods only the French could create.

    Watercress Soup with Creme Fraiche and Fresh Chives // Karista's Kitchen

    This watercress soup recipe brought back memories of a soup I dined on back East years ago.  It was also a watercress soup but it included additional ingredients of spring peas and asparagus.  It was beyond delicious.  This soup however is simply prepared but certainly not lacking in flavor.  With a nice base of creamy potatoes, onions and garlic, it’s an easy soup to make and holds beautifully in the fridge.  I topped the soup with a dollop of creme fraiche but a dollop of plain Greek yogurt would also be delicious.

    Comforting, warm and so completely perfect for spring, I adore the pale green color of the soup.  It would make a lovely presentation on a Mother’s Day Brunch table or even a family dinner.  I served this soup a la carte with warm crisp baguette slices topped with apple slices and Gruyere cheese and then melted slightly in the oven.   Yes, it was fabulous!

    Wishing you all a most delicious week!

    Loads of Love,


    Watercress Soup with Creme Fraiche

    Serving Size: 6

    Watercress Soup with Creme Fraiche


    • 2-3 tablespoons butter
    • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
    • 1 large clove of garlic, finely diced
    • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
    • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
    • 2-3 cups vegetable broth
    • 2 lbs watercress, trimmed and coarsely chopped
    • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
    • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (if needed)
    • 1/2 - 1 cup heavy cream or half n half
    • Garnish with chopped fresh chives and creme Fraiche (or plain Greek yogurt)


  • Melt the butter over medium heat in a large soup pot and add the onions. Let the onions soften for a few minutes and then add the garlic, potatoes, thyme and Italian parsley. Stir to combine.
  • Stir in 2 cups vegetable broth, enough to cover all the veggies. Bring the broth to a boil and then turn down the heat, cover and let the veggies cook until the potatoes are soft. About 10-15 minutes.
  • Once the potatoes are soft, stir in the chopped watercress, adding additional broth 1/4 cup at a time if needed. You want the soup to be thick with ingredients as you will puree it into a smooth soup and if there is too much liquid, the pureed soup will have too thin a consistency. You can always add more liquid at the end if the soup is too thick.
  • Let the watercress simmer for about 5 minutes, until it's nicely wilted. Take the soup off the heat and let it cool a bit. Then either transfer it to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree the soup.
  • Once the soup has been pureed, transfer it back to the soup pot. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. To heighten the flavor of soups and to bring all those flavors together, I add a tablespoon of white wine vinegar to the soup. Stir this in now if you like.
  • To finish the soup, stir in the one cup of cream if desired. I used about 1/2 cup heavy cream in my soup. Ladle into bowls or one large serving bowl and garnish with creme Fraiche and fresh chopped chive. Enjoy!
  • Notes

    This soup recipe was adapted from a recipe I found in my French book written by Maria Villegas and Sarah Randell. As usual, I made some changes to suit my tastes, but that's what I adore so much about a recipe, making it my own. Feel free to do the same!

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    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Soup vegetarian

    Sipping Broth with Green Curry and Lime Leaves

    Sipping Broth with Green Curry and Lime Leaves // Karista's Kitchen

    Because I have a curious nature, recently I’ve been reading about the Scandinavian tradition called Hygge – pronounced Hoo-Gah.  A word that doesn’t quite translate into English except that Scandinavians will tell you it roughly means “cozy atmosphere” or “coziness”.

    I’ve always loved the word cozy.  In fact, after watching the play Les Miserable at least 20 times, I vowed to name my first daughter Cozette, and call her Cozy for short.  That didn’t happen, although now my oldest gal tells me she would have loved that name.

    My dear friend Maria of Pink Patisserie is Norwegian.  She tells me Hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life.  The warm glow of candlelight, friends and family gathering around a table of food discussing the little things and the big things… this can all be translated as Hygge.

    Sipping Broth with Green Curry and Lime Leaves // Karista's Kitchen

    After reading about Hygge, I realized I’ve been practicing it in my home for years.  During the winter months in the Pacific Northwest, we live through very short days and very long nights.  When the day is lit, it’s typically gray and overcast; sometimes with a misty fog that rolls through.  I’ve never minded the winter months.  I’ve always felt it was a time of renewal, a time to take deep breaths and re-fuel for the spring and summer months.

    To keep things feeling more cheerful, I often light candles in the house.  Setting them in key visual locations.  Sort of my version of keeping the home fires burning.  I typically light all the candles just as twilight begins so that when everyone returns home the house feels warm and cozy.

    Thanks to my very wise sister in law, I just invested in flameless candles.  They look and feel as warm and cozy as real candles.  They give the room a warm glow which is so nice when we’re sitting in the family room reading or chatting about the day or hearing stories and drama of the life of a teenager.

    During these low lit days I often make myself a sipping broth for my working lunch or when I’m not feeling up to my usual self – creating a little Hygge in my day.  This sipping broth is so lovely for when we’re sick or when we just need a cup of comfort and nourishment.   I make my own chicken stock and usually make my sipping broth from that homemade stock.  But when I’ve run out and need a cup, I’ll use an organic chicken or vegetable broth purchased from my local co-op market. Currently, I’m really loving the organic Better than Bouillon brand for chicken and beef broth and Rapunzel brand for vegetable broth.

    I’ve listed my basic chicken stock recipe below as well as instructions on how to make this simple sipping broth.  If you can’t find fresh lime leaves, a squeeze of lime works well.  I usually find fresh lime leaves in the produce herb section of my market.  Sometimes I can find dried Kaffir lime leaves in the Asian food section of my market.  You can also order them online.

    Wishing you warm and cozy and all things Hygge!


    I’ve also included my simple chicken stock.  I don’t follow the rules here.  (When do I ever follow the rules?)  This stock has never failed me and it’s the base for all my soups, stews and this little sipping broth. The key is to begin with quality ingredients. This is a “flavored” stock, although not heavily flavored.  I find the fresh herbs to be fragrant and slightly apparent, but not overwhelming.  There are all kinds of stock one can prepare.  I don’t add carrots or celery to my stock, I think it completely changes the flavor.  I don’t salt or pepper my stock until I need to use it for a recipe.  So when you taste the stock, it should taste flavorful, but in need of salt and pepper.  This is a good thing.

    Sipping Broth with Green Curry and Lime Leaves

    Makes one cup

    Sipping Broth with Green Curry and Lime Leaves


      For the Sipping Broth
    • 1 cup organic chicken or vegetable broth (chicken stock/broth recipe below)
    • 1/2 teaspoon Thai green curry paste
    • 1-2 lime leaves
      For the Chicken Stock
    • 1 whole chicken carcass/bones (After I roast a chicken and serve it for dinner, I take what's left and make this stock)
    • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
    • 1 small head of garlic halved or coarsely chopped (with the skin on and everything, no need to peel)
    • 4-5 sprigs fresh oregano (I don't really count the sprigs, I usually just run outside and snip a small handful from my garden)
    • 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme (same as above with the thyme)
    • Handful of fresh Italian parsley
    • 1 dried bay leaf, optional


    For the Sipping Broth
  • In a small pan heat one cup of broth with the lime leaves and green curry. Stir to blend the curry with the broth and when the broth is heated through, pour it into your favorite mug. Savor and enjoy. The longer the lime leaves sit in the broth the more lime flavor and fragrance you will experience. The lime leaves are my favorite ingredient.
  • For the Chicken Stock
  • Place the chicken carcass/bones into a large pot. Throw in the onion, garlic, herbs and bay leaf if using. Fill with water until just covers the chicken and aromatics. Place it on the stove top over medium heat and just as it comes to a boil, turn it down to low and cover with a lid. Don't let it come to a rolling boil or it will foam. If it foams, just skim the foam off the top.
  • I keep my pot over the lowest heat setting and I let it simmer for at least 8-10 hours but most of the time I'll let it simmer for 16 hours. The longer you simmer the more flavorful the stock. Typically I'll put the stock on in the evening and let it simmer stovetop all night. The next day after about 16 hours I will uncover the pot, turn the heat up just a bit to medium low and let the stock continue to simmer for another 30 minutes, reducing the liquid a little and creating a more flavorful stock. I always end up with about 4-6 cups stock. Just enough to make one soup or stew recipe for my family. I make stock every week!
  • Take the stock off the heat and let it cool. Strain the stock into a clean container and either refrigerate or freeze. It will last in the freezer for up to three months and it will last in the refrigerator for about 7 days.
  • Use and season the stock as desired.
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    Halibut Seafood Shrimp

    Spicy Seafood Stew

    With the cool weather comes the yearning for comforting stews and soups and hearty winter dishes that warm the soul and satisfies the hunger.  One of my family’s favorites is a spicy seafood stew served over saffron or white rice.  Mildly spicy, delicious and simple to prepare.  Once you get the hang of it, this recipe could easily be prepared in under 30 minutes.  It’s so yummy, it could be served as a family weeknight meal or for holiday dinner guests. 

    Mix it up a bit and add fresh basil instead of the parsley, or add lemon thyme instead of English thyme and squeeze of lemon.  This recipe is definitely easy, can be prepared everyday and as always, it tastes like you’ve been cooking for hours. 

    Keep dinner simple… Enjoy the flavors of life!

    Spicy Seafood Stew


     2 medium leeks

    1 red bell pepper, diced

    6-8 cloves garlic, chopped

    1 sprig of fresh oregano

    1 sprig of fresh thyme

    ½ lb Chorizo sausage

    Olive oil

    1 cup dry white wine

    1 15oz can diced tomatoes (I prefer Muir Glen)

    ½ cup water

    1-2 lb small clams

    1lb firm white fish (cod, halibut, mahi mahi)

    1 lb bay shrimp

    Salt and pepper to taste

    ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley

    Saffron rice or white rice (optional)

    1 lemon


    Trim the leeks by cutting off the root end, and then cut the leek at the point it begins to turn dark green.  Slice each leek length wise making 4 halves total, and then slice each half into thirds lengthwise and then chop into small pieces. 

    Drizzle a little oil in the bottom of a heavy stock pot or Dutch oven.  Heat on medium and then sauté the leeks and bell pepper.  Once the veggies have wilted, add the garlic and sauté a few minutes more. 

    Next add the chorizo and sauté until cooked through.

    Add the fresh thyme, oregano and white wine.  Let the wine reduce a bit, a minute or two, and then add the diced tomatoes.  Bring to a lively simmer and add the ½ cup water if more liquid is needed. 

    Once the broth is simmering add the clams and cover tightly with a lid.  Turn the heat down a bit and let the clams steam in the hot broth for about 5-8 minutes.  Once the clams have opened, taste the broth for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. 

    Next add the white fish and shrimp, giving the stew a little stir.  Put the lid back on and let the stew simmer on medium low for another 5 minutes.  Once the fish is cooked through, taste stew for seasoning and then sprinkle the chopped parsley over the top. 

    For a warm and delicious winter meal, serve over saffron rice (Spanish rice) or white rice, and a squeeze of lemon juice.