A Spicy Cream of Tomato Soup for a Little Comfort

I love comfort foods like soup, stews and other familiar childhood favorites my Mom made. It’s something I crave when I’ve been away from home for a while, when the temperatures start to drop or during a rainy day. I especially love Panera’s cream of tomato soup, it’s so heart warming and delicious and figured why not save a little money and make my own. I had dozens of tomatoes that I grew into late October this year and had to use them up so made a spicy cream of tomato soup for a little comfort.

bowl of cream of tomato coup topped with croutons and served with side of grilled cheese

It was chilly, rainy afternoon and those tomatoes on my counter top weren’t going anywhere. I made several tomato galettes and gave dozens of tomatoes away and was determined to make a soup similar to Paneras’. Now I didn’t get their recipe; I have a few cookbooks and looked up the standard tomato soup recipe and adjusted ingredients to what I thought would taste like my old favorite. Needless to say, I learned a few lessons along the way.

cooking chopped tomatoes in pot

First, you have a remove the tomato seeds. I like a smoother soup with chunky bits of tomatoes but there were just too many seeds and chunks. I cut the tomatoes into big cubes and cooked it down until tender. If you like a chunkier soup with a bite to it, don’t worry about removing seeds. I also added a whole diced jalapeno with seeds but don’t think that affected texture to much. Next, if you want the flavor of a pepper but not all the heat, add it whole. I dropped in a whole habanero for a more spicy soup which can be easily removed with tongs. You’ll find that if you don’t cut it or puncture it you’ll get more pepper flavor without all the fire! This turned out hot but also enjoyable.

box of low sodium chicken stock

Lastly, make sure you have all the ingredients on hand and do all your prep before you start cooking! I thought I had vegetable stock but had to use chicken stock instead. I’m not a vegetarian but did want to make a vegetarian soup. The chicken stock will give it more flavor but for me, it’s really not necessary adding meat products to a tomato soup. Next time I’ll make it with vegetable stock and see if there’s a difference in flavor. I have been eliminating meat lately so I guess it’s good that I got rid of the chicken stock. If you want to make a vegetarian version then use vegetable stock instead, otherwise, stick to this recipe.

tomato soup ingredients stewing in enamel pot

By this point I was less than a half hour in and the soup was coming together nicely! The house smelled so good…

cream of tomato soup in pot with ladle

So how do you turn that chunky tomato stew into a nice, smooth soup? Use a blender or an inversion blender. I used my regular Blendec blender to puree everything a few cups at a time. My blender is pretty powerful but think any blender will do. If you have an inversion blender then this step will be much easier, just blend everything in the same pot (just be sure to review the thyme sprigs). Another tip is to use a kitchen towel over lid when blending to avoid splatter. The soup is hot so you don’t want that hot liquid all over you.

bowl of cream of tomato soup topped with croutons and side of grilled cheese
No, I didn’t make those croutons! 😉 Just used regular salad garlic croutons

You can make your own croutons but I just topped soup with garlic seasoned croutons I use for salad. I really love how this turned out! I wouldn’t say it tasted exactly like Panera’s but it was pretty close! Next time I’ll use a cheesecloth or wash all the tomato seeds away.

bowl of cream of tomato soup topped with croutons

It was perfect with my grilled cheddar cheese sandwich. Nothing fancy, just slices of cheddar cheese between sourdough sliced bread. I have this Cuisinart sandwich press which makes yummy, hot sandwiches. I paid less than $20 for mine years ago and love it. The cheese melts so nicely and bread gets chewy and crispy. This spicy cream of tomato soup is one to have on repeat – I know I’m definitely making this again, especially during the cold months ahead. Do you make your own soups? What’s your favorite soup recipe?

Spicy Cream of Tomato Soup

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Lunch, Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: comfort food, healthy, soup, tomato
Servings: 4
Author: Maria

Equipment

  • Blender or Inversion Blender

Ingredients

  • 10 Med Roma Tomatoes seeded, cubed
  • 1 Med Yellow Onion diced
  • 1 Med Jalapeno diced
  • 1 Small Habanero
  • 10 Sprigs Thyme
  • 2 Cloves Garlic crushed
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1/3 cup Cream
  • 1 Quart Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock

Instructions

  • In a heavy pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and saute onions until a bit translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add tomato paste, garlic and stir for a couple of minutes.
  • Add tomatoes, jalapeno, thyme, salt & pepper and cook until tomatoes are soft and tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock and stir. Taste mixture and adjust salt & pepper to taste if needed. Let mixture come to a boil and then let simmer for 10 min.
  • Remove sprigs of thyme from pot and discard. Carefully fill blender with mixture, about half way full. Cover and blend until tomato soup is smooth. Repeat this step until you've blended all the tomatoes. If you have an inversion blender, blend the tomatoes in pot until you've reached desired consistency.
  • If you used a blender, transfer the soup into original pot and stir in cream slowly and simmer for a few minutes. Serve soup in bowl and top with croutons.

Spicy Tomato Galette – A Quick Meal for Busy Weeknights

Searching for a quick meal for a busy weeknight? Look no further than this spicy tomato galette. Every August and September these galettes make the covers of all the glossy food magazine for tomato season – they’re like the super models of the garden. I’m one of those people that loves looking at recipes and collecting cookbooks just to stare at gorgeous food images. I have dozens of ripped recipe pages from magazines that will probably never get made. This time, it was the quick drop in temperatures that inspired me to turn on the oven, which got no use in the Summer, and make this spicy tomato galette.

spicy tomato galette close up
Turned out great if I say so myself! 🙂

I planted my tomatoes late this year, in late June, but got lucky with a unseasonably warm September weather. My plants produced so many tomatoes that I had to figure out what else to make besides the usual salsas and salads. I’d say the most difficult part of making a galette would be making a nice, flaky crust but substituting the dough for a frozen pie shell will give decent results. The frozen package are about $3 comes with two round pie shells. You’ll only need one for this recipe but you can double up the ingredients if you want to make two galettes.

tomatoes and jalapenos in a colander
My harvest!

The Ingredients

I found Ina Garten’s tomato galette recipe and knew it would be great. Ina is one of my favorite chefs and all the recipes I’ve tried from her cookbooks never disappoint. I hate it when you see a great recipe with gorgeous photos and they turn out awful. Clearly some recipes aren’t tested and have learned over the years to constantly taste and adjust as I go along.

So here’s the kicker – I didn’t have all the ingredients listed and used what I had in frig but did follow her process. Her recipe called for goat cheese, yellow onions, basil, and well, I had Mexican cotija cheese, red onions, cilantro and lots of jalapenos! Love Ina an will definitely try hers soon but I really love how this spicy tomato galette turned out and hope you do too!

tomatoes, cheese, jalapenos slices  layered on pie shell

The Process

I placed the dough directly on the cast iron skillet I was using and layered sliced the tomatoes and jalapenos. If you’d like a spicier dish you can adjust the heat level my adding more jalapenos or use habanero peppers. I could have gone more spicy but love the warm, subtle heat of jalapenos. Make sure you season the tomatoes before adding the other items. I’ve outlined the steps in the recipe below. You can easily print the recipe too if you’d like.

sauteed red onions and garlic over tomato spread

The Prep

Make sure you saute the red onions and garlic in olive oil before you start slicing the veggies, this way you can save a bit a time since you have to wait for the onions to soften. Want to save more time? Slice up the tomatoes and jalapenos the night before. Before topping the onion mixture on tomatoes, make sure the onions caramelized to ensure everything cooks evenly. You could also risk burning the pastry trying to get the right textures on the onions – for me personally, I prefer a softer bite than crunchy for this dish.

tomato galette in folded over pie shell

Bring It All Together

If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can use a non-stick cookie sheet or stone cookware. I love baking in the skillet because it gives everything a nice crispy texture and heats evenly. This galette will work as a main dish if you give yourself a bigger serving. This recipe serves 4 -6 but you can also pair it with a side salad if you’re feeling hungry. It’s also great with a glass of pinot noir as long as it’s a little on the fruity side. I like lighter reds with spicy foods or an acidic, crisp white wine like a gruner veltliner or pinot grigio.

baked spicy tomato galette

Will you try this recipe? It took me about 40 minutes to make but most of the time is spent waiting for galette to bake! Enjoy a glass of wine while it’s baking, help your kid with homework or let the dog out. I hope you enjoyed this recipe and if you did, come back and drop me a comment and rate it for me. Pretty please 🙂

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Spicy Tomato Galette

Prep Time10 mins
Baking Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Dinner, Main Course, Side Dish
Keyword: comfort food, easy, galette, jalapenos, quick, tomato, tomatoes
Servings: 4 people
Author: Maria

Ingredients

  • 4-5 Medium tomatoes
  • 1 Large jalapeno
  • 4 oz Cotija Cheese
  • 1 Medium red onion
  • 2 Garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp Olive oil
  • ½ tsp Coarse salt
  • ½ tsp Black ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp Chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1 Frozen pie crust

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Wash/rinse tomatoes and jalapeno. Also if pie crust is frozen be sure to defrost so you can easily unfold and ready to use once prepping veggies.
  • Slice tomatoes, jalapeno, red onion and set aside. Then chop cilantro, peel the garlic cloves or leave as is if you have a garlic press.
  • In a saute plan over medium heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When oil is hot add the red onions and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are soft and a little caramelized, about 5-7 min. Towards the end of cooking, add the crushed garlic and stir. Set aside when done.
  • Lay the pie crust down on a non-stick cookie sheet or a lightly oiled cast iron skillet. Begin layering first the tomatoes in a circular pattern making sure to leave about 2-3 inches away from dough edges until bottom is covered. Season tomatoes with a pinch of salt & pepper and drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Top with the jalapeno slices and sprinkle crumbled cheese evenly on top. Top with chopped cilantro, oregano and finally, the sauteed onions.
  • Fold over the edges while turning galette and pinch dough as you go along. You should have about a 4-5 inch opening in center.
  • Bake galette for 30-35 minutes but check towards end of cooking to account for different oven types. Remove from oven when dough is a light brown color and let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Notes

If you want a spicier galette, use habanero peppers or add more jalapenos. One large jalapeno made gave it a mild level heat. 
Don’t have Mexican Cotija cheese? Substitute a mild white cheese like goat cheese or mild white cheddar. 

Spicy Smoked Pulled Pork Tacos

It’s Taco Tuesday so you know what that means, spicy, smoked pulled pork tacos on the menu! I’m sure you all know how to make tacos but I wanted to share this quick and easy spicy pork tacos recipe. I picked up this great smoked pulled pork from Sam’s Club recently. If you’re not familiar with Sam’s Club, it’s a warehouse retailer run by Walmart and similar to Costco. They’re pretty much all over the US and sell products in bulk to subscribed members.

Smoked Pull Pork

The pulled pork is under the club’s signature brand, Member’s Mark and is available in the refrigerated meats section. I usually make my own filling for tacos but this is a great way to save time. The pork is already cooked and all you have to do is heat it up and serve! They also have hardwood smoked, pull apart chicken for $10 for a two pound package.

Member's Mark Pulled Pork package

The Prep

I just followed the instructions on the package for heating up the pork and while that was cooking, I prepped all the ingredients. I chopped up and diced the toppings for the tacos and then made a quick and easy guacamole.

vegetable preparation

To make the guacamole, get a bowl and mix in the avocados, tomatoes, onion and cilantro, squeeze a half of lemon, then add salt & pepper to taste.

The Assembly

Just before the pork is done heating up, add the hot sauce and pull pork apart with a fork. Heat up the corn tortillas and assemble your tacos. I’ve made tortillas from scratch before but this time I just used Mission tortillas. I also like my tacos with simple ingredients; meat, onions, jalapenos & cilantro. A salsa isn’t necessary for this because you’ll want to taste the smokiness of the pork. Finish it off with a squeeze of lime.

pork tacos

Bring it all together

Try these smoked pulled pork tacos and let me know what you think. It has crispy bits, it’s flavorful and so tender, you’ll think it came right off the pit! You’ll only need to use a small portion for a few tacos and save the rest for pull pork sandwiches. This is great for parties as well – set up a taco bar and let everyone make their own! Serve the guacamole with these blue chips, so delicious!

Is this something you think you’ll make? Would love to see what you make – tag me on Instagram or Twitter! XO

Spicy Food Hunt in the Grand Cayman Island

I had an amazing time on my spicy food hunt in the Grand Cayman island. There were so many great places that I think you should try when you find yourself craving spicy food. I planned a short birthday weekend getaway with my sisters and while the sea, sun, and sand was the main purpose, hunting for spicy food is always on the agenda!

Sea, Sun & Sand

This was my first time visiting the island and chose it after hearing so many great things about it. The white sand beach and blue waters of Seven Mile beach was a huge selling point! For someone that loves the ocean, the beach was key in my decision.

The Westin Cayman beach view

Finding a destination not affected by the sargassum seaweed problem affecting mostly all of the Caribbean islands was a challenge. If the beach is important to you, do a bit of research before you go. While each island is doing their best to clean up the beaches, you can’t swim in those waters and the seaweed smells.

The Westin Cayman pool view

I decided to celebrate at the beautiful Westin hotel since the beaches on the west side of Grand Cayman haven’t been affected. This was definitely one of the best beaches I’ve visited in the Caribbean. The sunset views were gorgeous, the water was clear blue, calm enough to swim and the food was amazing!

Cayman Sunset

I immediately started on my spicy foods hunt and realized I didn’t have to do much searching. Most of the restaurants I tried served a spicy item or two which is perfect when your party doesn’t care for much spicy foods. I ordered the fried calamari and a rum punch at the Westin’s poolside grill and watched the beautiful sunset on the beach! The calamari were perfectly cooked tender and while not spicy, the batter did have a nice kick. I also tried the crab cakes were a much spicier choice so order those while you’re at it.

fried calamari on the beach watching the sunset

 

cocktail on the beach watching the sunset

The Restaurants

We spent most of our time on the west side of the island and took the public bus right in front of the Westin  down to Camana Bay. The bay is a lively shopping and dinning area. We dined at the well reviewed The Brooklyn , a pasta & pizza restaurant. We didn’t try any of the pizza, go figure, but we did try a few of their pasta and seafood dishes. Their penne & sausage dish was unexpectedly spicy and the pasta cooked to perfection. The dish made me tear up a bit so that’s always a plus! You can also sit outside to feel the nice bay freeze and a bit of people watching.

spicy penne pasta & sausage

Another Great lunch spot you must visit near the cruise ship port in Georgetown neighborhood is Da Fish Shack. I asked around and it appears this is a popular spot with the locals as well. This place has a nice vibe, great waterfront views, and food that tastes home made. We arrived for a late afternoon lunch to an almost empty place that quickly filled up. I ordered the escovitch snapper for my spicy fix. The snapper was well seasoned, fried to a crisp and topped with spicy, tangy pickled vegetables. I can still remember the flavor! It was mouth watering, flaky, tender and served with a potato au-gratin to balance out the acidity of the fish. Just one of those dishes you’ll remember, it was so good.

escovitch snapper at Da Fish Shack

Next spot was Bacaro – a great hangout spot for nightlife but only on Thursday nights I believe. One thing about the Grand Cayman is that it’s a sleepy town. Everything shuts down early, about 11pm or midnight, and there isn’t much of a nightlife. If you know of places please mention them in the comments, I’d love to here about them for my next visit. 😉

Entrance to Bacaro restaurant in Grand Cayman

We shared a few dishes and all were very good but one to try is the fried lobster bites with scotch bonnet and paprika aioli. I normally have lobster with melted butter and would never think of frying it but these bites were tender and juicy. The bites weren’t as spicy as I would have liked, especially with scotch bonnet mentioned in the description, but the citrus flavor of the pepper came across really well. Go ahead and order the lobster bites, you will not be disappointed.

fried lobster bites with scotch bonnet aioli

Another favorite was the tuna tartare with mango salsa. The tuna had a mild citrus flavor and barely any heat at all but the salsa had a nice kick. I had the mango salsa on the side since my sister is allergic to mangoes. This is a great restaurant to celebrate a special occasion. I wouldn’t go here for spicy foods but again, most places in the Cayman Islands will have a couple of dishes to satisfy that spicy craving.

tuna tartare and avocado

Have you been to Grand Cayman island? Let me know in the comments which are your favorite spicy food places or where you go for nightlife. I wish I had more time there to experience the rest of the island. Where do you go for your spicy food fix?

 

Spicy Habanero Candied Bacon

Raise your hand if you’d love spicy food as a holiday gift? What about spicy habanero candied bacon? Yes and thank you!! This is the perfect gift for bacon and spicy food lovers – chewy, crunchy, lip numbing, sweet and salty treat all in one. It’s just too easy and delicious not to make!

candied spicy bacon

Hello all, it’s been a while since I’ve written here and I’m bringing spicy bacon as a peace offering! Forgiven? OK, great! 😉 For those wondering, I’ve been on a long hiatus from Hot Lollies and lately I’ve been wanting to write again. Truth be told, I was just overwhelmed with everything from my day job, my lollipops business, writing, and dealing with my Dads’ illness and later his passing. Another reason was I was dealing with the side effects of food blogging; getting fat!

There I was, making all these great meals, frig filled to the brim and cooking just to keep up with blogging. I love cooking but I don’t always want to stop and shoot it. Often times I’d forget to take photos and just eat! Needless to say, I wasn’t enjoying the process so I walked away for a couple of years and now happy to be back after gaining a bit of sanity. I’ve missed sharing and writing about my passion here so hopefully you’ll love this recipe! Let me know what you think!

tray of bacon

Bacon Cut

I used a thick cut of bacon for a meatier, more chewy bite. I’ve made this recipe before with regular bacon and it shriveled up quite a bit so cut is a better option. This thick-cut bacon also retains its shape and tastes much better. I found mine at my local Sam’s Club but you can check your local grocer or check out this un-cured bacon. Sprinkle a bit of spiced sugar if you’d like a spicier treat.

bacon on rack

Cooking Process

Keep an eye on the bacon while it’s cooking. My oven is an older model so I usually have to cook things a bit longer than most recipes call for. Make sure the bacon is nice and caramelized before removing from oven and that the edges curl up. Bacon is super fatty so either cook on rack to collect drippings on a pan and line pan with parchment paper for easy clean up. I failed to use the rack during cooking and had a greasier result but next time I’ll cook on the rack.

Additional Tips

Another important tip if you don’t have habanero sugar is to just make your own spicy sugar. I already had some on hand but making your own allows you to control the level of heat. I love using Volcanic Dust products for pure, ground up chile powders. Try this habanero powder and if you’re feeling a little devilish try this one, it’s pretty amazing. Mix in 1-2 tsp of chile powder and add a bit more of dark brown sugar.

After removing the bacon from oven and cooling on the rack, wrap it up in parchment paper, tie a cute bow and viola, your gift is ready!

candied bacon

wrapped bacon

Spicy Habanero Candied Bacon

Spicy, crunchy, chewy bacon snacks
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Snack
Author: Maria

Ingredients

  • 1 lb thick-cut bacon
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp habanero sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

Instructions

  • Mix both sugars, maple syrup, molasses and cayenne pepper in a bowl
  • Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, add a rack on top
  • Brush both sides of each slice of bacon with sugar mixture or rub in with your fingers
  • Lay sugared bacon flat in rows on rack and sprinkle with cracked black pepper
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it while cooking making sure bacon gets a good caramel color
  • When finished baking, remove from oven and let bacon cool on rack

 

Cajun Steak Tips

These spicy Cajun steak tips remind me so much of New Orleans, full of flavor and oh so delicious. As much as I would love to jump on a plane right now and head to NOLA, I’ll settle for a this simple little spicy reminder and imagine myself there…

Cajun seasoning isn’t too spicy so I added a bit of ground ghost pepper for heat…you can add as little or as much as you want. These Cajun steak tips are also easy to make and can be on your dinner plate in about 10 minutes. I make this with a side of greens like a buttery, garlic spinach or steamed broccoli with butter or bitter broccoli rabe. You can even have these as an appetizer for a few people, just wash it down with ice cold beer! Enjoy!

cajun-steak-tips

cajun-steak-tips2

Cajun Steak Tips

Author: Maria

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Steak Loin
  • 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt optional if Cajun seasoning is low in salt
  • 1/4 ground ghost pepper
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter

Instructions

  • Cut steak into 2 inch cubes and pat dry with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture.
  • Add Cajun seasoning, pepper, and salt in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle over steak and rub in the seasoning making sure all surfaces of the steak are covered.
  • In a cast iron skillet or heavy bottom skillet heat olive oil on medium heat. When hot, add steak. Cook for a few minutes.
  • Add butter and turn each piece of steak until all sides are well browned on each side. About 2-3 minutes each side.