Ordinary to Extraordinary

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  You can bring beauty, meaning and memories to any dish by just thinking out of the box a little.  Experiment with different spices, wines, creams, milk, etc.  If you aren’t a good cook, buy a new cookbook and try out something different.  Cooking for me is a creative process, the colorful ingredients, the magnificent aromas, the beautiful cookware…all waiting to be pulled together into an original masterpiece.  Then, the presentation…you could serve a great tasting hot dog with a plethora of condiments, and colorful arrangements and put in on your most beautiful china and you’ve got “presentation.”  Take that same hot dog and serve it on a white greasy paper plate and you have lost the presentation, although you may still have great taste.  You might be thinking, why is this important?  It’s taking the time and effort to making it just a little better to make someone feel special.  It’s being creative by taking the ordinary things in life and making them appear (and taste) extraordinary.

Just by adding a few special touches of different ingredients can take a very plain meal like grilled cheese and vegetable soup to a new level.  This makeover recipe will inspire you to think out of the box and deliver a fast, delicious and inspiring staple of old to the table with flair!  One of my husband’s favorite meals growing up was grilled cheese and soup.  Coming from a working family, for a quick meal, they would sit down to this very easy but  satisfying meal.  I have taken one of his favorite pastimes and put a few extraordinary touches to it.  The chopped salad at the end is so tasty and adds just the right touch of “gourmet” flair to a very ordinary meal.

Hearty Grilled Cheese on Ciabatta, Creamy Vegetable Soup,Chopped Salad

Vegetable Soup

1 tbls. olive oil

3 cloves garlic

¼ cup fresh chopped basil

1 teas. Fresh rosemary

1 cup chopped celery

½ cup kale

2 Tbls. of red wine

6-8 fresh whole tomatoes halved and salted

1 cup beef stock

1 cup red kidney beans

1 cup French green beans

Bunch of fresh spinach leaves

1 cup of fresh carrot



1 cup almond milk

(for a kick) 1 teaspoon of Boars Head hot pepper sauce or Ms. Dash extra spicy seasoning.

Combine olive oil, garlic, spices, and tomatoes to sauté until soft.  Add celery, kale, beans and carrot to the spices and garlic.  Let the spices and veggies sauté in the olive oil with tomato juices, adding red wine,  beef stock and let simmer until everything is incorporated and soft.  Then add beans, spinach leaves and almond milk.  Let soup boil on low for about 30 minutes.  Be sure to salt and pepper and extra care in making the soup base…garlic, spices, tomatoes, olive oil…it is the foundation to the taste.

Grilled Cheese

Ciabatta Bread sliced

Boars Head Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Pepper Jack Cheese

2 teas butter

Chopped Salad

¼ head of Romaine

¼ cup fresh spinach leaves

¼ head of Iceburg

2 tbls. Dijon Mustard

2 tbls. Red Wine Vinegar

2 tbls. Olive Oil

1 tbls. Parmesan Cheese



Chop lettuce and spinach leaves into small fine pieces and add mustard, olive oil, and vinegar. Mix well together and top with Parmesan Cheese, salt and pepper.



Heart and Soul Chicken Soup

I get so excited for fall!    Since we are moving into that time of year, how appropriate to begin the season with a piping hot bowl of Chicken Soup.  One of my favorite things to do on a fall night is to open windows, start a fire, and fill the house with the aroma of this fantastic soup.

Our home was the perfect place for fellowship and comfort.  It was a tranquil place on an acre of land where you could walk outside at night and not hear a sound.  It’s the place, my daughter, Lauren and our yellow lab, Spencer grew up and I learned to be at peace with God’s timing and the heart of serving family.   It was so unique and I don’t think I could ever replicate it anywhere; a season I will carry in my heart always.

One of the best parts of creating a special meal is a beautiful elegant table.  No, there weren’t any guests coming over…just our family.    We could share a bowl of this tasty soup around a candlelit table with beautiful napkins and dinnerware and feel like we were out to dinner!  Try it sometime… your family will love it…

Herb Container Garden; basil, lettuce, parsley and cherry tomatoes (in the back)

I like to make my chicken soup with boneless skinless breasts.  It cuts down on the amount of fat but I have found a way to braise the chicken for flavor before adding it to the soup.  Other key ingredients are fresh herbs of which I have a container garden on the patio.  Fresh herbs really lend to a flavorful bowl of soup.  Use fresh whenever possible.


Heart and Soul Chicken Soup…

½ stick of butter

4 sticks celery chopped

2-3 Whole Carrots chopped

1 Whole Onion chopped

3 gloves garlic

1 Sprig of Fresh Rosemary

2 or 3 stalks of Fresh Basil chopped

1 teaspoon of Dry Thyme



2 tablespoons of white wine

4 Boneless and Skinless Chicken Breasts (organic if possible)

Chicken Stock made day before

Chicken Stock…boil boneless and skinless chicken, add olive oil, salt pepper,  1 quart of fat free, less sodium Swanson Chicken Stock , 1 cup of white wine.  Let chicken stock boil, and place stock in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.

Chicken Soup…

Add ½ stick butter to frying pan on medium heat.  When butter is melted, add onion, celery, carrots, rosemary, basil, thyme, salt, pepper and garlic.   Fry chicken breasts from stock in onion and herb base until the meat is white all the way through.   Turn heat up to high for 2 minutes and add white wine to braise and brown.  Let the wine cook out and turn the heat off immediately.   I like to take a small frying pan lid and place it down in the pan to cover the chicken to trap the flavor and give it a good browning.   Take the lid off after about 5 minutes and take the chicken breasts out and pull apart with a knife and fork; add to chicken stock.  Scrape onions, herbs and drippings into the chicken stock.  Add rice, egg noodles or Ditalini when serving. Add pinch more Salt, Pepper, wine or stock to taste if needed.  Add some biscuits and you are ready to settle into comfort.