Lobster Salad & Chris’s SuperSpecial Tomato Soup

Chris has a soup, tomato-based, that he likes to make on occasion. It makes a ton of soup so we sometimes freeze it but it becomes part of lunch for the next several days too. He made that soup today. Yesterday, he picked up some lobster tails at Meijer which we let thaw overnight in the fridge.

Since he’d made the soup during the day, I was in charge of the lobster preparation. I considered just boiling or broiling them with butter but they were smaller tails and I wasn’t sure how sweet the meat was going to be. Then I remembered we have picked up some challah rolls at the Grain Train in Petoskey over the weekend. Voila- the lobster roll! I used a recipe from Eating Well as my base.

Lobster Salad on Challah buns


2 5-ounce lobster tails
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, approx.
2 challah buns (or hot dog rolls or bread of your choice)
1/2 cup sugar peas, trimmed
1/4 cup minced celery
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced shallot
1 1/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon, or less, sugar


1. Heat broiler.

2. Cut lobster tails in half using a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Brush meat side of tails with olive oil

3. Place, cut side up, under broiler. Broil 3-5 minutes, until shells are turning red, and meat begins to brown on top. Flip and cook another 2 minutes until shells are bright red and meat is opaque. Remove and let cool.

4. Combine celery, mayo, lemon juice, shallot, mustard, tarragon, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a bowl.

5. Bring a small pan of water to a boil. Add sugar snap peas, cooking just until peas turn bright green. Drain and let cool slightly.

6. When both the lobster and peas have cooled enough to handle: remove lobster meat from shells and chop coarsely. Slice the peas width-wise in to thin pieces.

7. Combine peas and lobster with the dressing. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes for flavors to meld.

8. Slice challah rolls and toast lightly (either under broiler or in toaster/toaster oven). Pile high with lobster salad and dig in!

Because the lobster meat wasn’t particularly sweet, I added a little sugar to the dressing. This is definitely a taste preference and would vary depending on the type of lobster. This lobster was from South America and the shells were more tan/brown than you might be used to seeing on American East Coast caught lobsters. Whether this difference is because it was a different kind of lobster or simply the season of the catch, I felt it needed a little sweetness boost.

Chris’s SuperSpecial Tomato Soup

If you are my mom, don’t like lobster or really like tomato soup, you probably skipped right down to this section. Unfortunately, I don’t have a recipe for this soup. Ha-HA!

Here are some basics, though:

1 28 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 carton Imagine creamy tomato soup
1 small can tomato sauce
Cilantro- fresh!
Dried hot pepper flakes (small amount, optional)
salt & pepper
Corn (1/2 can)
Olive oil & butter
fingerlings, red skins or other thin-skinned potatoes

Small dice the celery, carrots & onions. Saute in equal amounts olive oil and butter in a large stockpot.

Add seasonings (no measurements here) but Chris says mostly sage, then thyme and basil. He adds some cilantro now but most comes in after its been simmering.

Add tomato products & potatoes (which have been sliced in to thin rounds, maybe quartered first). Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer 20 minutes. Add corn and rest of fresh cilantro. Continue cooking about 5 minutes more.

Options: Add water with tomatoes for a thinner soup. Or add cream for a creamier soup. You can also mash up the stewed tomatoes a bit and/or blend some of it with an immersion blender. We don’t do that because I don’t have one. Yet.

We have also made this with wild rice instead of potatoes- that needs to cook longer or be pre-cooked and added towards the end.

Originally, Chris was going to add some kale to the soup as apparently he really likes it. Then he forgot. So, I made Kale Chips, using this recipe from Steamy Kitchen. We just added them to the top of the soup bowls but you can eat them out of hand too.

Basically, tear a couple cups of kale in to small pieces. Dry very thoroughly using a salad spinner. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toss with a bit of olive oil (a teaspoon or so?). Bake in a 350 degree oven about 10 minutes until kale is crackly but not browning. Season with salt as per the recipe, OR use something like Maple Sugar Garlic Pepper, our latest go-to for all things that normally would get salt (i.e. popcorn, baked sweet potato fries, bread and butter (that is all Chris, I might add)). We might have to start rationing this, a jar purchased in Vermont on our honeymoon, until I find a more local source. Next time we go to Vermont, possibly as soon as this August, I’m going to buy 6 jars or more.


Sitting around eating some amazingly good cinnamon raisin bread from Great Harvest (the one on W. Saginaw) this morning, Chris starting ranting about how he’s wanted some Hot Dish all week and he’s going to make it right now. Hot dish? What on earth on you talking about?

He was (and probably still is) stunned that I’d never heard of this apparently ubiquitous Midwestern dish. As it turns out, he doesn’t actually know how to make it either so a short phone call to the family yielded not one but two recipes that qualify as Hot Dish.

One uses wild rice and mushrooms which I would have preferred to make but he really wanted the other, a tomato sauce and ground meat one.

So here it is, Aunt Harriet’s HotDish with some changes:


The recipe as given: My changes:
1 1/2 lbs ground beef/chuck 1.25 ground turkey, 92% lean
1/2 tub cream cheese, softened 1/2 tub cream cheese, softened
4-5 bunches scallions 2 bunches scallions
2 cans Campbell’s Tomato Soup 1 18oz package Campbell’s select tomato soup with basil & garlic
1 package wide egg noodles about 1/3 package extra wide egg noodles (Yoders)
Corn Flakes Corn Flakes
Splash of Worcestershire A little more than a splash
1/2 yellow onion finely chopped, 2 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste
smoked parpika, oregano
parmesan cheese


The directions from Aunt Harriet were pretty easy: brown the meat, drain then season with salt and pepper plus a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Mix meat with the tomato soup, green onions (which should be microwaved 3 minutes first), noodles and cream cheese in a casserole dish. Microwave 6 minutes then top with corn flakes and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. There was something about mixing sliced almonds in too but I missed that part of the conversation and Chris didn’t want them anyway.

Okay, My Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook as directed. The Yoder noodles take 20 minutes so I did the rest of the work while they cooked.

Saute yellow onion and garlic over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. After 5 minutes, add ground meat to the pan, cook until fully browned. Near the end of the cooking, I added about 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika. Next time I’ll double that. If necessary, drain the fat (not needed for 92% lean turkey).

While meat is cooking, slice green onions then microwave on high 2-3 minutes. Mix meat, green onions, tomato soup and softened cream cheese together with 1 teaspoon oregano and an 1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Pour in to casserole pan, stir in drained noodles and sprinkle Worcestershire sauce over pan, maybe a tablespoon worth.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, covered in foil. Remove foil and cover top with corn flakes, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Return to oven for 10 more minutes. If you’d like to brown the corn flakes, you can turn the broil on briefly but watch carefully, they burn quick!

Notes & History:

Now that I’ve made this dish and Chris has been lapping it up (3 servings already), I figured I’d try to find out what a Hot Dish is or rather Hotdish.  Lo and behold, it has its own entry on Wikipedia!

Hotdish is any of a variety of casserole dishes popular in the Midwest of the United States and especially in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and northern regions of Iowa.

It consists of a starch and a protein (meat and/or a vegetable) mixed together with a binding ingredient (most often canned soup or a sauce) and a topping.

Notice that Michigan is not on that list. And that Minnesota is, which is where Chris’s parents grew up. Interestingly, northern Iowa is also listed. My dad is from North Iowa so maybe he’s heard of Hotdish. We certainly had our share of casseroles while visiting grandma and all my aunts out in Iowa but I can’t recall ever hearing this term before.

Basically, its Hamburger Helper from scratch. Besides boosting the paprika a bit next time, I think I might try topping it with potato chips or sliced almonds next time. I’m not a big fan of corn flakes and their high fructose corn syrup.

Later this week, I’ll do the wild rice and mushroom one. We’ve already decided to modernize that one a bit by using fresh mushrooms instead of a can of ‘shrooms. It used to drive me crazy that my Iowa relatives relied so heavily on canned vegetables especially corn. No wonder people think the Midwest is boring: canned food, crazy jello/whipped cream “salads” and underseasoned foods cooked to death.

A couple of examples of Midwest cuisine I don’t really ‘get’:

  • Stuffing, at grandma’s house was usually called dressing. I guess because it didn’t actually get stuffed in the bird. This stuffing/dressing, made with bread cubes, had become a formless mush of soggy bread that reminded me of paste with about the same flavor profile. Where is the sage and rosemary? Or the pieces of walnut and celery? Maybe some cranberries or mushrooms thrown in?
  • Any dessert made from a jello mixed with a can of fruit and whipped cream. Or some combination of those three. Which is not to say that some of them aren’t tasty (a certain oreo cookie one comes to mind) but a funeral dinner I attended offered not one, not two but three versions of this salad dessert. Plus potato salad, coleslaw and macaroni salad- gotta love mayo!
  • Corn casserole, eaten at the height of sweet corn season. In Iowa! Land of corn and pigs! I do like corn casserole when its not overly sweet. But I still recall a July visit with the family that involved a barbecue. I suggested we get some fresh corn and boil it up to go with our burgers and chicken. And my aunts were at a loss as to why one would want fresh corn when there are 4 cans of creamed corn in the pantry. (I remember this trip so well because I made a Honey Mustard-Soy marinade for the chicken that everyone was greatly impressed by. I made it with packets of Honey Mustard from McDonald’s and Soy Sauce from a Chinese take-out. I was in 9th grade.)
  • Clam Soup made with milk, pepper and canned clams. I still give props to an ex-boyfriend of mine after he willingly and with beautifully acted gusto, shared a pot of this delicacy with my 80 year old grandmother. My mean dad sat there and watched the whole thing while graciously declining, after having been subjected to the stuff once too often I guess.

There is one foodstuff in my Iowa memory bank that may be Midwestern and may not be too healthy but really was delicious: Grandma’s biscuits. More like a roll than a biscuit, they were made for jam and honey or butter or Thanksgiving turkey leftovers or Sloppy Joes (more accurately referred to as Maid-Rites, while in Iowa). Or, probably best, fresh from the oven.