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COOK: Retro Cream of Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

COOK: Retro Cream of Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

One of my favorite meals from my childhood was Campbell’s Cream of Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. My mom used milk to dilute the condensed soup, and I remember my dismay when I had the same soup prepared with water at a friend’s house.

It didn’t look right but I was raised to be polite so I dipped my spoon in and took my first taste of watery tomato soup and tried not to make a face.

It wasn’t bad. In fact, it tasted like tomatoes.

Decades later, I made my own home-made cream of tomato soup using tomatoes that I had grown. It’s quite different from Campbells. I have been tweaking this recipe for several years, pulling from a variety of other recipes and have settled on this final mash-up.


It’s delicious. It tastes like tomatoes. It’s freezable.

1960s Grilled Cheese Recipe

I paired this soup with my gourmet version of grilled cheese sandwiches. My mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches were two pieces of sliced white bread (probably Wonder), slathered with margarine rather than butter and layered with thick slices of Velveeta processed cheese (I still don’t know what processed cheese is). Pan-fried, the sandwiches were gooey and perfect for dipping into the soup.

21st Century Grilled Cheese Recipe

My new and improved grill cheese sandwich starts with two slices of rustic bread (I used whole wheat sourdough), slathered with real butter and then a layer of fresh tomato slices, a few rings of sweet onion, torn leaves of fresh basil, a bit of salt and pepper, and then as much shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheese as the sandwich can physically handle. Pan-fried, this sandwich is still a bit gooey, but tastes so divine on its own that you don’t dare dip into the soup.

What To Do With All Those Tomatoes

Back to the soup: When your kitchen counters are filled with fresh tomatoes, double this recipe, cook as directed but omit the cream. Let it cool and fill plastic or glass containers, label, place in fridge overnight and then freeze.

To cook: Thaw a container of the tomato soup and heat in pot. After heated but not boiling, add cream, stir until warm and serve.

RECIPE: Retro Tomato Soup


1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 pounds ripe tomatoes (thick-walled plum tomatoes are best)

1-3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

⅓ cup dried tomatoes, soaked in 1 cup hot water

2 cups vegetable stock

¼ cup dry white wine

¼ cup dry sherry

2 tablespoons honey (or brown sugar)

½ - 1 cup heavy cream or half & half

¼ cup fresh basil, shredded (or 2 tablespoons dried basil)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper


Peel and chop garlic and let it sit for 15 minutes to enhance its medicinal properties.

Soak dried tomatoes for 15 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of soaking water and roughly chop tomatoes.

Quarter tomatoes, remove white core fiber and the seedy pulp. Roughly chop.

Heat the oil and butter in a Dutch oven until foaming. Add onion, cooking until softened.

Add fresh tomatoes, garlic, chopped dried tomatoes, reserved dried tomato water and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, half-cover the pot and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Stir frequently to keep from sticking or burning.

After 20 minutes, add wine, sherry and honey. Stir and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, thoroughly blend the soup until no chunks of tomato remain. If you don’t have an immersion blender - get one! They are super useful. But until you do, you will need process the soup in a blender or food processor (small batches at a time to keep from overflowing and burning you).

Strain through a sieve and return to the still-warm Dutch oven. On low heat setting, add cream, basil and oregano and heat through while stirring. Do not allow the soup to boil.

If you want a thinner soup, add less cream or more stock.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh chopped basil.

Tomato soup.jpg

Still have a lot of tomatoes sitting on your counter? Roast and freeze them. Check out my recipe for The Best Ever Roasted Tomatoes.

Author: Sue Kusch

Sue Kusch, a former community college instructor and academic advisor, incorporates her experiential wisdom, expertise and science-based research garnered from her three decades of growing vegetables, fruit and herbs into her educational writing about plants and how people use them. In addition to her BA in Social Sciences and Masters in Education, she completed the Master Gardener training in 2011 and two permaculture courses in 2001 and 2014. She has studied medicinal and nutritional uses of herbs including studies at and East West School of Planetary Herbology since 1997. Sue currently serves as President and newsletter editor of her local chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society.  An avid gardener, herbalist, cook, reader, lover of historical and folkloric information, and a promising storyteller, Sue writes about the intersection of plants and people at You can find Sue’s work in at,, Green Living Journal PDX, and Herb Quarterly magazine.

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