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As a delinquent senior I profess to doing a lot of other things with my time in 2015. I do not think my blogging experience has suffered from inactivity. There are many other bloggers available to take up my slack! And I appreciate them one and all and I have immensely enjoyed reading their blogs from time to time this year.

But, this is the Thanksgiving season and it is time for me to reacquaint myself with “Best Holiday Recipes Ever!” and post for your enjoyment.

So, without further delinquency, here I go……………….

You know those trays of fruits and vegetables you put out for guest at the holidays can be quite boring. I take it upon myself to revamp those trays!

I found several pictures that gave me grand ideas on this subject. One has semi-circle cubed cheeses and cut veggies layered (representing the feathers) around a whole pear (representing the body). Sounds awesome to me and I think I have just the right round tray to use for this. Should be festive and fun to do. But, this is not what I am going to share with you today — you can find many ideas on the web for yourselves — because, quite frankly, my table would not be complete without my Southern Sweet Potato biscuits.

In fact, to have Thanksgiving without some sweet potato biscuits might earn me the sack in my family. Therefore I give you my first recipe of the Holiday Season —–

For Thanksgiving consider this one instead of rolls or boring flour biscuits:

Southern Sweet Potato Biscuits

sweet potato biscuits

  • 2 cups white or wheat flour
  • 4 teaspoons sugar (yes 4 is a must!)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup cold cubed shortening (important it is cold)
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes, cooled to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy cream, cold

Set over to 400 degrees, F

  1. Sift your flour! Then mix the first six ingredients in a medium size bowl. Make sure that this mixture is well incorporated to evenly distribute the spices. (note: no sifter? Then use a wire whisk)
  2. Cut in the cold shortening until you have course meal like consistency. (note: keep shortening cool during this step by working rather fast to work the shortening in.)
  3. Add the cool mashed sweet potatoes and the milk to form a ball of dough. Do Not Over-mix — when the ball forms it is done!
  4. On a lightly floured surface kneed this dough 8-10 times.
  5. On a lightly floured board or cloth roll out this dough to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into rounds or squares. Keep dough cool.
  6. Place on a greased baking sheet 1 inch apart and bake for 9-11 minutes or until they spring back in center when finger pressed.

Note: Use any dusting flour sparingly. Too much flour will make dough tough. Keep shorting cold to cool at all times. I usually place shortening in the freezer for 5 or so minutes before I cut it into cubes to insure the temperature remains cool at all times.

As you see in the picture the dough was cut with a knife to form squares and then the squares were placed in a baking dish. I often do this for family when I am not being particularly snobbish with my table setting.

These are wonderful served with honey butter.

Honey Butter

Cream together softened butter and honey to taste. The formula I like is 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons honey plus 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. This yields 1/2 cup honey butter.

 

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Amish Friendship Bread

I have had several request for this recipe. Go here goes……..

Amish Sour Dough Bread pic

Amish Friendship Bread Starter
*****************************************
Day 1: begin by making a *Sour Dough Bread Starter.

Ingredients:
¼ cup warm water (100 degrees F)

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 ½ teaspoon dry bread yeast
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk
Directions:
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a 2 quart container glass, plastic or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or flour will lump when milk is added. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly. Consider this day 1 of the 10 day cycle. Leave loosely covered at room temperature.
Day 2: stir batter with a wooden spoon
Day 3: repeat day 2
Day 4: repeat day 2
(for a total of 3 days all you do is stir with a wooden spoon and let rest at room temperature in a draft free area on your kitchen counter-top)

Day 5: add 1 cup each sugar, all purpose flour and whole milk

Day 6: stir batter with a wooden spoon
Day 7: repeat day 6
Day 8: repeat day 6
Day 9: repeat day 6
(this time for a total of 4 days all you do is stir with a wooden spoon and continue to let rest at room temperature on your kitchen counter-top)

Day 10: add 1 cup each sugar, flour and whole milk and this will finish off the process of making the starter. Yield: 4 cups batter.

Save one cup out now to make the Amish Friendship Bread and store the remaining 3 cups in the refrigerator for later use or you can also freeze this starter in 1 cup measures for later use. Frozen starter will take at least 3 hours at room temperature to thaw before using.
Amish Friendship Bread

1 cup starter*
2 cups all purpose flour
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
Optional ingredients: raisins, nuts or other dried fruits of you choice. If adding nuts or fruits, add by folding into the beaten batter before baking.

Mix as you would any cake batter with a wooden spoon, a plastic spatula, a wire whisk or in with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer. This batter is easy to work with and the more air you beat into the batter the lighter and fluffier the finished product will be so feel free to beat this batter like you would any cake batter. I usually beat it in my stand mixer for a good three-five minutes to mix on medium and then let it go another one-two minutes on high to air (lightness) to the batter.

Bake in a greased pan you have dusted with powder sugar. The powder sugar allows for a nice release from the pans without leaving a flour crust on the bread.

Bake in a 350 degree oven 45-50 minutes or until golden brown.

Yield: makes 2 loafs

A Hit and A Miss

Aren’t all holidays a bit of a quandary? That bit about what to serve my guests has always plagued me when choosing a menu — do I really understand the tastes of my guests, is it sweet, spicy or savory?

Over the years I have tried my mightiest to please the taste buds of my guests. After all, I do want them to happily return to my table and look forward to their next meal in our home. You see, I love to cook for folks. Nothing pleases me more than a contented happy smile on someones face that says “that was so good!” I just sop up the praise and I don’t think I’m alone in this, I think all cooks like that pat on the back, that smile of thanks for for the meal.

I come from a long line of Southern cooks. Some were better than others. Aunt Dovie, for example, cooked so well no one turned down a meal from her.  Her sister, my dear sweet Mama, was the cook in our house.  Mostly, the foods prepared in my childhood home were pretty straight forward but at times could be rather boring, lacking in flavor and savoriness. And — don’t slap me Mama — usually overcooked and too greasy.

In the new South — thank you Southern Living — a lot of old recipes have been updated to include flavors (spices & herbs) that enhance Old South cuisine. Just don’t tell my Mama ’bout this!

What my Mama could do to a pot of vegetables was beyond a culinary sin. It was downright meanness to a pot of green beans, carrots, peas and collards. I mean that in the most enduring way.

In my families southern cooking if you had flour, buttermilk, some butter, salt and pepper and could fry it up or cook it to death, you were set to go!  I grew up with these foods and I’m here to tell you I was a rail of a child because the only thing I really liked was Mama’s Chocolate pie.  In fact I ate so little of the black eyed peas, pinto beans, cornbread and fried chicken (grease galore feast on Sunday’s table) and fried fish (grease galore feast on Friday’s table) and Tuesday night’s greasy meatloaf that even indulging in her small servings of desserts at meals end couldn’t have packed on the pounds if my life depended on it.

— As my Uncle Dewey used to say “you’re going to die of something anyway. Now, pass me another piece of that there fried chicken”

After I grew up and was introduced to savory dishes — that’s dishes with spices and herbs y’all — my thinness was redirected into curves which were a bit more appealing to the opposite sex (but this is a blog about food so I’ll skip the discourse on curves and husbands).

I have found a few recipes I wish to share with my readers. Hold the applause please, or you might slap your hands red in the process as these are some scrumptious ones.

Here goes ———————-

It’s always best to start with desserts, yes?

A French Dessert Recipe borrowed from Lavender and Lovage is a favorite of mine. If you think of the South of France, then this recipe can be called Southern, Just sayin’ y’all I’ve made it and it is delicious. The custard is quintessentially French, creamy and easy to make. It allows you to take advantage of seasonal fruits in your area which makes this quite a seasonal dish. Like the good old Southern Cobbler this Claufoutis is a crowd-pleaser.

Mini Strawberry Claufoutis

Mini Strawberry Calfoutis goes with Recipes 1

Yields 6 individual portions
Ingredients
1 pint strawberries, cleaned, hulled and halved (or other seasonal fruit)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out and reserved, or vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar, garnish
slivered almonds, garnish

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
2. Combine milk, heavy cream, vanilla pod and seeds in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, then remove from heat, remove vanilla pod and let cool to room temperature.
3. In a medium bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch.
4. Beat in eggs and stir for 30-60 seconds.
5. Continue to stir and slowly pour in cooled milk mixture.
6. Place strawberries in ramekins and pour batter over the tops of berries.
7. Transfer ramekins to a cookie sheet. Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until clafoutis is just set.
8. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and slivered almonds and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Having friends over for Brunch? This will please your crowd, for sure and for certain.

This borrowed recipe from The Kitchn (check them out online) is a hearty and tasty breakfast recipe and so very easy to put together, and while in the oven it allows you to visit with your family & friends. Plus, it is a whole lot more fun to visit than to — one by one — flip a flapjack to order. I warn you though, the aroma throughout your home is enticing to the belly — in other words, your guests will be ready to dig in once it’s out of the oven so be ready to serve this mouthwatering dish almost immediately.  It’s a lot easier on you if you prepare the potatoes (peeled and sliced), bell pepper and garlic ahead of time. They will keep in the refrigerator nicely, even overnight, until you are ready to assemble the dish before baking.

Egg, Potato & Pepper Gratin

Egg, Potato & Pepper Gratin goes with Recipes 1

Serves 8
Ingredients
2 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and sliced to 1/8-1/4-inch thickness
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 large eggs
1 1/2 cups assorted grated cheese (Parmesan, sharp cheddar, Gruyere, etc.)
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup plain, Greek yogurt
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350º F and grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray or butter.
2. Place potato slices in a microwavable bowl and fill with 1 cup water. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
Note: you could also steam potatoes on the stove, if you prefer.
3. Use a slotted spoon to remove potatoes and pat them dry with paper towels. Spread half of potatoes on the bottom of greased baking dish.
4. In a bowl, toss together bell pepper, garlic, 1/2 cup cheese. Spread mixture over the potatoes.
5. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and pour in half-and-half, yogurt and another 1/2 cup cheese. Add salt and pepper and make sure everything is well combined.
6. Pour 1/2 of egg mixture over the bell peppers and potatoes, then neatly arrange remaining potato slices on top.
7. Pour remaining egg mixture over the potatoes and sprinkle with remaining cheeses.
8. Place in oven and bake for about 55 minutes, or until eggs are puffed up and golden around the edges.
9. Remove and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Looking for a different dip to serve while watching that game on your big screen?

This dip borrowed from Shugary Sweets is really delicious and actually healthy for the guys & gals on your guest list. But, be kind to yourself and buy artichoke hearts in the jar, already prepared for you by loving factory hands. Or else you’ll be working your sweet little old heart out and I just couldn’t bear you doing that! This is so yummy, I suggest that you save some back for yourself, for later when everyone has left, no one need know about your midnight snack.

Artichoke Hummus

Artichoke Hummas goes with Recipes 1
Serves 6
Ingredients
2 (15 oz.) cans chickpeas, shells removed; bean water reserved
1 (15 oz.) can artichoke hearts
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin
Directions
1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pan over medium high heat and cook garlic, stirring so it doesn’t burn, for 1-2 minutes.
2. Add drained artichoke hearts and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside.
3. Place shelled chickpeas and lemon juice in food processor and pulse for 5 seconds.
4. Drizzle in tahini* and pulse again, then add artichoke, garlic and cooking oil. Pulse for another 30 seconds.
5. If mixture is too dry, drizzle in 1 tablespoon bean water and/or a little more olive oil.
6. Season with salt and cumin and blend until mostly smooth.
7. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, and serve with pita chips.
8. Serve immediately.
* Tahini is a Middle Eastern paste made of sesame seeds and olive oil. You can usually find it in your grocery store. Or you can make you own Tahini. There are several recipes on the internet (check out Allrecipes.com or Food.com) which are simple to make.

Let Us Begin with Cookies (the Christmas kind, of course!)

cropped-candy-canes.jpg

In my house, Candy Canes are used for more than decorating our tree. I use them in cookie dough and frosting for cookies and cakes as well.

— the first up recipe for Christmas is from Recipe girl’s blog. (give credit where credit is due, I always say) I serve these delightful little bits of heaven every year —

—- cookie one —-

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Prep Time: 25 min + chill time

Cook Time: 10 min

This is a nice, crispy cookie. Be careful not to bake them too long. The cookies that bake up best are those that don’t have large chunks of peppermint in them. It’s best if you crush the peppermint until almost powdered or very small pieces.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
2 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup finely crushed hard peppermint candies or candy canes (about 3-ounces)
additional powdered sugar for rolling

Directions:

1. Sift together dry ingredients- flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and beat until blended. Add egg whites and extract and mix well (mixture will look grainy). Gradually beat dry ingredients into butter mixture. Stir in peppermint candies.

3. Gather dough into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for about an hour.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Position rack in middle of oven. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.

5. Form dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in powdered sugar and place on prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Using tines of a fork, flatten each cookie, creating crisscross pattern.

6. Bake until cookies are golden on bottom, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool completely.

Tips:

*Use round peppermint mints or small candy canes (they easier to unwrap than the larger ones).
*These cookies turn out best if mint is crushed finely, with few large “chunks” of peppermint.
*Reader tip: Add white chocolate chips!
*Since readers recommended it, I added some peppermint extract to the original recipe.

Peppermint-Sugar-Cookies

—- cookie two —-

I do not bake Vegan. If you do this recipe won 1st Place! So, it must be good —- hopefully.

I do not bake Vegan. If you do this recipe won 1st Place! So, it must be good ---- hopefully.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies with Peppermint Candy Cane Frosting

Topped with peppermint icing and a sprinkling of candy canes, these chocolate sugar cookies from VegNews reader Celeste Hill were an instant hit with VN staffers.

Melt-in-your-mouth chocolate sugar cookies are glazed with a peppermint frosting and crushed candy canes for the ultimate holiday cookie.

Makes 36 Cookies

What You Need:

2 cups sugar

1-1/2 cups vegan margarine

3 teaspoons egg replacer powder plus 4 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 teaspoons baking powder

4 tablespoons non-dairy milk, divided

3-1/4 cups flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1-1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract

1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

6 small or 2 large candy canes

What You Do:

In a large bowl, mix together sugar and margarine. In a small bowl, mix egg replacer and water. Combine egg replacer mixture with sugar mixture, and add vanilla, baking powder, and 1 tablespoon non-dairy milk. Mix well.

In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients with flour and cocoa powder. Separate dough into 3 sections, and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or an hour in freezer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough to 1/3-inch thick and cut out cookies with cookie cutters. Bake in oven 9 to 12 minutes. Transfer from pan to a cooling rack until completely cooled.

For the icing, in a medium bowl, whisk together peppermint extract, powdered sugar, and 3 tablespoons non-dairy milk. In a food processor or blender, crush candy canes into small pieces. Using a pastry brush, paint icing onto cooled cookies. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on top of icing.

First PlaceChocolate Sugar Cookies Iced with Crushed Candy Cane Topping by Celeste Hill looks interesting to me so I am including it, Enough said about Vegan. (butter!!!)

—- cookie three —-

 Now, for granny’s amazing Ginger Cookies

Mums ginger cookies

I do not have a picture of these cookies! They are always eaten before I can get one (sad to say I’m not Johnny on the spot with a camera) but these are a year round cookie in my household that we dress up with sprinkles of finely crushed candy canes at Christmas. They are a surprise to ones taste buds for sure and for certain.

What You Need:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 3/4 cup Crisco shortening
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • finely crushed candy canes (for topping for Christmas cookies)

What You Do:

  1.  Cream sugars and shortening until light and fluffy.
  2. Add molasses and egg — beat well to combine.
  3. Fold in dry ingredients — mix well but don’t over mix or dough will be tough.
  4. Drop by teaspoon fulls onto parchment paper or greased cookie sheet.
  5. Dip bottom of glass into water, then sugar (Christmas dip into finely crushed candy canes) and press on the top of dough to flatter slightly or to desired thinness.
  6. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven on middle rack for 8-10 minutes (turn once, if needed — you know your oven)

Enjoy your baking! Enjoy the Christmas holiday. Nothing says home like the smell of freshly baked cookies.

It’s that time of year

I wish I didn’t love this time of year so much for this time of year is a lot of work! I’ll go to long lengths to make it gleeful, festive and oh my goodness gracious the decorations are sometimes over the top. But Royce is my partner in holiday crime and doesn’t seem to mind the efforts given to dangle icicle lights, big tree balls, wrapped porch pickets, etc.

This blog is dedicated to Holiday Recipes and as it is that time of year…………HERE WE GO AGAIN — Best Holiday Recipes for 2014

058

Hannah Grace is swinging for Holiday Joy! This delightful child is now five and oh my gosh what a treasure she is.

First up is Thanksgiving —

Here is my first recipe of the holiday season. It’s a simple one that anyone can do and have fun with. And it is quite a tasty treat to set on the sidebar for all your family and guests to nibble on. Be careful, these delights are addictive.

oreo cookie ball Thanksgiving
OREO COOKIE BALLS

Yield: 48 small round bits of delicious
Total time to make: 1 fun hour

What you will need:
36 crushed OREO cookies
8 oz. softened cream cheese (I use high fat Philadelphia)
12 oz. melted chocolate (for dipping) — be creative and melt both white, milk and dark chocolate.

How to make
Mix crushed cookie crumbs and softened cream cheese until nicely blended.

1. Roll into 48 equal sized balls. Hint: using wet (not dripping) hands to roll into balls is helpful.
2. Place in your refrigerator to chill — chill well — I usually leave mine anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. You want it malleable to roll into balls so don’t leave over thirty minutes but if you do, no harm, just let it warm up a bit so it is malleable to work.
3. Dip each ball into the melted white/dark chocolate of your choice. Hint: I use a wooden skewer and swirl as I dip to the melted dipping chocolate to get full coverage, then place each ball on parchment paper and remove the skewer. The tiny whole left by the skewer can be easily fixed when adding swirl decorations in the step 5.

Now wait, be patient and let the balls get that hard Bonbon look to them….

4.  Let the tray of OREO Cookie Balls set up in the refrigerator until very firm. You don’t want it other than a hard coating. A hard coating that will crack when bitten into is an amazing sensation for our pallet.
5. After the coating is hardened, remove and decorate with the same or different colour chocolate. You can make crisscrosses, swirls, or any design that suites your fancy. I always have so much fave fun with this step.  Hint: using a small tip on a pastry bag works well for this application. And take your time and enjoy making something that says “hand made just for you” to your family and friends and then set back and enjoy the complements. You’ll deserve them.

Speedy Gonzalez – aka: Earl the Cat

Speedy Gonzalez – otherwise known as Earl the cat – is whipping around the house like he is possessed! He suffers loss of mental capacity to understand anything, anything at all! In other words he is quite senile, bless his heart. We continue to care for and love him in-spite of his constant need for special help.

It would be funny if it was not so sad.

Image

Speedy Gonzalez (Earl the Cat)

Speedy Gonzalez (Earl the Cat)

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes – a Southern food I grew to love as a youngster.

Slice tomatoes that are beginning to turn but not yet ripe into thick slices; each tomato (depending on size) should yield 3-4 slices

Prepare flour mixture (white or whole wheat) for dusting tomatoes by adding salt & pepper (to taste), one teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon paprika to 1 cup flour. Then fill skillet with 1 1/2 to 2 inches of good cooking oil and bring skillet temperature to 300-350 degrees (med-high setting)

after dusting tomatoes in flour mixture fry in hot oil until brown on both sides

Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels to remove excess oil; sprinkle with a good hard cheese (optional) Note: Looks are deceiving-fried tomatoes are excellent on toast!

What more can I say! Fried green tomatoes (which, are not totally green); a piece of toast; homemade applesauce; a good cup of coffee is my Southern Comfort food! This was my lunch yesterday and it was yummy.

Fried Green Tomatoes on toast! I like nothing better than fried green tomatoes on dry toast ...

...the proof is in the crumbs!

Halloween Face Paint


You can quickly make your own face paint for Halloween! It is easy as 1-2-3 and much less expensive than ‘store-bought’ face paints. I also have a great recipe for home-made Play-dough!

INGREDIENTS:
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

DIRECTIONS:
Mix together the cornstarch and flour in a small bowl; add corn syrup and water to this mixture and stir, stir, stir until it is a smooth paste. Make different colors by dividing paste into separate containers and adding food coloring.

Beef Veggie Soup (mostly out of the can!)

A big thank you to my cousin Helen for this one. She always said this soup was hands down her favorite and the best meat/veggie soup she ever made.

This soup is very versatile. I have made it with/with-out the hamburger meat. I have even added small pearl onions, mushrooms, diced sweet potatoes! And elbow macaroni. This is a good next day soup as well as served immediately from the pot! Enjoy.

Ingredients:

1 pound hamburger meat
1 small onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, diced
2 teaspoons olive oil, if needed
1 (15 ounce) can cut green beans
1 (15 ounce) can of diced mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, potatoes)
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn
1 (15 ounce) can white navy beans or black beans
– optional – also include 1 (15 ounce) can Carranza beans
1 (15 ounce) can Italian style zucchini
1 (28 ounces) can Italian diced tomatoes, do-not-drain!

additional water if needed for consistence (thickness) of this soup

1 good size bay leaf
1 teaspoon each dried basil, thyme, oregano, and parsley
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt–to taste
Cracked black pepper–to taste
2 dashes of Tabasco for flavor only (optional, more for more heat if desired)

Directions:

1. In a heavy skillet, saute crumble hamburger, diced onions and garlic until meat is browned and onion and garlic is soft. Only add olive oil if needed for leaner blend of hamburger meat. Most hamburger meat have enough fat on its own. After hamburger, onion and garlic is fully cooked, (very important)drain off all oil/fats.
2. Add basil, thyme, oregano and parsley to meat mixture and let rest to the side while you put the other ingredients together.
3. Combine all other (canned) ingredients including bay leaf in a 2-1/2 quart saucepan and bring to just under the boil.
4. Add meat mixture and Tabasco to simmering pot of canned vegetables; continue to simmer for at least 15-20 minutes to marry flavors. Add additional water at this point if needed.
5. Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste. (note: most canned vegetables have enough salt in them to flavor this soup so do a taste check before adding more salt)

*Remove bay leaf before serving.