photograph by Matt Hulsman

Yield: 6 cups.

1 cup sweet onions, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chicken stock
1 (35-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar
¼ cup basil pesto
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Croutons (optional)

In a stockpot, add olive oil and stir in onions. On medium heat, cook onions for 5 minutes. Stir in chicken stock, tomatoes, and tomato paste, and bring to a boil. Add garlic, salt, and brown sugar. Cover pot and simmer for 10 minutes. In small batches, add soup to a blender and blend to smooth consistency. Return soup to the pot and add basil pesto. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve immediately. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan and croutons.

Easy Pimento Cheese

Yield: 2 cups.
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
1 (2-ounce) jar pimentos, drained
1 teaspoon Texas Pete hot sauce
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Place grated cheese in a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together mayonnaise, pimentos, hot sauce, salt, and sugar. Pour over grated cheese and stir with a wooden spoon. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy on sandwiches, crackers, burgers, or celery sticks.

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Lynn Wells is a personal chef with more than 20 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry and a degree in Nutrition Management from UNCG.