Easy Instant Pot Tomato Soup

a white bowl filled with Instant Pot tomato soup

This Instant Pot tomato soup is easy and delicious! Definitely a recipe you need in your dinner rotation.

I love that it is dairy free and gluten free but still tastes amazing. Of course, if you want to jazz it up, feel free to finish it with a drizzle of cream or go all the way and grate some parmesan cheese over the top and serve with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Everyone in my family enjoys this soup – even my picky 7 year old. They 5 year old might make a mess while she’s eating it but if she actually likes it, that’s fine with me!

I love blended soups as an easy way to get in extra vegetables, so I always include carrots and celery in my tomato soup – extra flavor and nutrients!

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Instant Pot Tomato Soup Ingredients:

Ingredients for the Instant Pot tomato soup

  • 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes (14.5 ounces each)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces each)
  • 1 onion, diced (red or yellow – whatever you have)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • Dried basil and oregano
  • Salt
  • Broth, chicken or vegetable
  • Oil

Instant Pot Tomato Soup Directions:

Raw vegetables added to the pan

  • Turn your Instant Pot to sauté and let heat a few minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 1 minute.
    the vegetables after cooking for 5 minutes
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the Instant Pot and set to high pressure for 10 minutes.
    Tomato Soup ingredients in the pot before being pressure cooked
  • When the 10 minutes are up, let natural release for 10-15 minutes and then turn the valve to quick release. (If you are in a hurry, you can skip the natural release and just do quick. You might want to set a wash cloth on top of the valve to catch the steam/liquid that splatters out.)
    Cooked tomato soup before blending
  • Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add more salt, pepper, basil and oregano to taste. If you do not have an immersion blender, you will want to let the soup cool slightly and transfer to a blender in batches to puree. I’ve probably had my immersion blender for just 5 years, and it has been so useful! Mine was a cheap one that isn’t made anymore, but there are tons of affordable options!

For another kid friendly soup recipe, check out Chicken and Veggie Noodle Soup!

Bowl of easy tomato soup

Instant Pot Tomato Soup

Instant Pot Tomato Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8 servings
 
This Instant Pot Tomato Soup is super simple, healthy, and so good! Love having this for an easy supper.
Ingredients
  • 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes (14.5 ounces each)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces each)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • Oil
Instructions
  1. Set your Instant Pot to sauté and let heat up for a couple minutes. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil to the hot pan and put in the onions, carrots, and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic. Sauté an addition 1 minute.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients. (Tomatoes, basil, oregano, broth, and salt.)
  4. Put the lid on the Instant Pot and set to high pressure for 10 minutes.
  5. After 10 minutes, let natural release for 10 minutes and finish with a quick release.
  6. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth.
  7. Adjust salt to taste. Add more basil or oregano if needed.
Notes
You may also make this on the stove. You will just have to simmer the soup longer, until all the vegetables are tender.
In the summer, I like to use fresh herbs but this still tastes amazing using the dried ones.
Number of servings will be determined by if you are serving something hearty along side the soup.

 

 

Tips for a Road Trip with Toddlers

Two little girls sitting in the back of a car

Does thinking about vacations and holidays have you a little stressed because you have young children? Here are some simple things you can do to help you have a successful road trip with toddlers!

For some background I have 3 kids. They are now 10, almost 8, and 5.

Neither my family nor my in-laws live near us so our kids have been taking road trips ever since they were born.

These are the trips we take on about a yearly basis. This is the actual driving time one way, stops not included.

  • 2 1/2 hours (one way) to my husband’s parents
  • 7 1/2 hours to my parents
  • 10 1/2 hours to a sister
  • 3 1/2 hours to another sister

We have also gone on a few vacations, some fairy lengthy.

  • 9 1/2 hours (one way) to Colorado with a newborn, just turned 3, and 5 year old
  • 4 1/2 hours (one way) with a 2 year old and newborn; 3 and 1 year old; 1, 4 & 6 year old
  • 19 hour drive (one way) to Orlando, FL with a 2, 5, and 7 year old
  • 15 hour drive (one way) to West Virginia with a 2, 5, and 7 year old

All of that to say, we have put a lot of miles on our van and are no strangers to taking road trips with toddlers and kids.

(However, when it comes to airplanes, I have no advice – we haven’t done that yet.)

We do not have DVD players, ipads, or any other movie/streaming devices that we use in the car. If you want to utilize them, that’s up to you but do know you can have fun, successful road trip with toddlers without electronics!

This means that this list does not including movies as one of my tips. If you choose to use them, I’d suggest spacing out when they are allowed. A show in the morning and one in the afternoon or whatever you decide rather than giving them to your child all day long.

an empty road with words road trips with toddlers

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Tips for a Road Trip With Toddlers

Naps and Bedtime

Work with naps and bedtime. Plan to be driving for nap time and make your stops when they should be awake.

For long trips, after you stop for dinner put your kids in pajamas and a night diaper for the remainder of the drive. This will help them know night time is coming and hopefully they will fall asleep for you. When you arrive at a hotel or your destination, carry them in and put them straight into bed. No need to wake them for potty or pjs.

Some other ideas to consider:

  • Wake your kids up super early and carry them into the car still in pajamas (or have them go to bed already in their clothes for the next day). If you are lucky, they will go back to sleep and you can get a couple of hours of driving in before they are awake.
  • For some families it works to leave the house at bedtime and have the parents rotate driving shifts through the night. Again, the hope is that your kids will sleep all night for you. This is one option we have not done.
Don’t Stop When They Are Asleep

This one is huge for me and I try to avoid it if at all possible!

Wait on food and try to avoid a bathroom break for the grownups if the kids are asleep. As quiet as you try to be, I can almost guarantee your kids will wake up when you stop. And trust me, that is no fun.

Coordinate Stops

To help make the previous tip possible, coordinate your stops. Use the bathroom when eating your lunch. Fill up with gas even if you still have a half a tank left. You don’t want to have to make a separate stop just for gasoline – especially if your kids have fallen asleep or are traveling well. Don’t ruin the momentum.

Snacks

Bring a bag of snacks along with you. Have them portioned out into toddler sized amounts and every hour or two pass the kids a little treat. It can be a few crackers, some berries, a sucker, or whatever your toddler favorite snacks are. The food helps break up the trip for them and gives the kids a little distraction.

You might find some new snack ideas on this list!

Entertainment

That’s right, you can find other forms of entertainment for your kids besides screens! We always pack a few car appropriate toys and activities. On a road trip with toddlers these are obviously pretty simple but still useful. Find things around your house or check garage sales and the dollar store to find things you won’t mind being ruined.

Do just what you do with the snacks and rotate through the available options every hour or two.

  • Small toys. A new car, toy animal, doll etc.
  • Stickers. Kids love stickers. Yes, their skin, car seat, and window might be covered with stickers but they will think it’s awesome.
  • Magnets. Bring a metal pan and magnets for the kids to play with.
  • Books. Board books tend to be sturdy and you might be surprised how much kids enjoy looking at the pictures when they are confined to a car seat.
  • Pen and paper. For toddlers that are a bit older, they love to doodle. Keep a few coloring items and a blank notebook or a coloring book in a bag.
  • Music. Yes, I know they are just toddlers but music can still be fun and soothing. Introduce them to some of your favorites and you can also bring along some classical music and kids cds. Yancy, Slugs & Bugs, Seeds Family Worship, and Hide ’em in Your Heart are fun Christian ones.
  • Audio Books. You can find children’s audio books and ones for adults that are appropriate for children. Don’t be too skeptical, well written kid’s books are great even for adults. My husband has been surprised several times by a book he thought would be stupid. Bring shorter picture book length options and even consider chapter books like Tale of Despaurex or Charlotte’s Web for little kids. Obviously 1 year old toddlers probably won’t pick up what’s going on, but for the 2 and 3 year olds you will be surprised what they comprehend. Check your library or library app for for audiobooks you can checkout for free!
Drive Length

One last thing that people have multiple perspectives on is whether you should spilt the drive up into multiple days. You may need to try both ways to see what works best for your family.

If our trip is under 12 hours of driving (one way) we drive it all in one day. Our vacations that were 19 and 15 hours away, we split into 2 days. (This summer we will be going on our longest trip yet and our first day will include a 16.5 hour drive so that the following day we will only have 7 hours left.)

Some people like breaking trips that are just 8 hours into two days. We much preferred knocking it out in one (long) day knowing that the following day we’d be able to enjoy our destination instead of being in the car again. Give both methods a try if you need to!


These suggestions have helped us on our many road trips with toddlers! Yes, we still had our fair share of tears and fighting but overall I never minded traveling with kids. It was (mostly) enjoyable and fun.

Don’t be scared to travel with your kids, short distances or long. You will make a lot of fun memories!

two kids sitting in the open back of a car with suitcases

The Best Crazy Chocolate Cake Recipe

Graphic of crazy chocolate cake

This crazy chocolate cake recipe is one we’ve been making for years. As in for over 30 years! This is probably the easiest chocolate cake you will ever make and it’s super cheap too.

What exactly is crazy chocolate cake, you ask? Well, it’s a dairy free, egg free cake that you mix right in the pan it’s baked in! Fewer dishes and no special ingredients are always a good thing!

When my siblings and I were little none of us were fans of the traditional frosted birthday cake. One year I begged my mom for one – it was white with blue flowers – and I hated it. Oops, sorry mom.

This exact recipe for crazy chocolate cake was our most common pick for a birthday dessert – it was a cake we actually loved! Angel food cake, Mississippi Mud Pie, and a few other things made an appearance as well.

I think I have only made one other type of chocolate cake in my life and now my non cake loving kids enjoy this too.

Crazy Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Vanilla extract
  • Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Hot water

Crazy Chocolate Cake Instructions

This cake is so easy! It’s the perfect recipe for your kids to add to their repertoire.

  1. Sift dry ingredients into a greased 9×13 inch pan. I have made this in both glass and metal pans. You can also make this is a 8 inch square pan by simply cutting all of the ingredients in half (and just watch your bake time). If I’m honest, on occasion I’ve even skipped the sifting step. Don’t tell anyone, just make sure you don’t have any clumps of soda or cocoa.
  2. Make three holes in the dry ingredients with a spoon. 2 small holes and one a little larger.
    Dry ingredients for crazy chocolate cake
  3. In one hole put the vanilla in another the vinegar and in the largest hole the oil.
    chocolate cake dry ingredients with oil, vinegar, and vanilla
  4. Pour 2 cups of warm water over the entire mixture! (I use water I heated in the microwave because I don’t like using our tap water. If you bake with tap water, you can use hot water right from the tap.)
    Crazy chocolate cake with hot water over the top5. Use a fork to blend the mixture gently but thoroughly.
    Mixed crazy chocolate cake
    6. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Start checking at 30 minutes. What kind of pan you use and how your oven cooks will make the length very. A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean, but don’t overbake!7. Let cake cool and frost with your favorite frosting or one of the following 2 options.

Crazy Chocolate Cake Frosting:

1/2 cup butter, melted
3 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place above ingredients into a bowl and add milk or half and half until smooth.
crazy chocolate cake frosting
Spread on cooled cake.
Frosted Crazy Chocolate Cake
The other frosting option is the one to use if you are dairy free!

Frosting Option 2:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • dash of saltStir in water until the desired consistency.

Overhead shot of a slice of crazy chocolate cake

Check out these other desserts:

Crazy Chocolate Cake Recipe

Crazy Chocolate Cake Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
This is the easiest chocolate cake in the world! Not only is it easy, it's my kids' favorite cake recipe. Topped with a rich frosting this is perfection.
Ingredients
Cake
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder (I use ½ cup)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¾ cup salad oil (or neutral oil of choice)
  • 2 cups warm water
Frosting Option 1
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 3 heaping teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Milk (or cream or half and half)
Frosting Option 2
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • dash salt
  • water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9x13 inch pan.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients directly into the pan.
  4. Make three holes with a spoon. I one hole put vanilla in another vinegar and in the third the oil.
  5. Pour two cups warm water over the entire mixture and blend gently but thoroughly with a fork.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.)
  7. Let cool and frost.
Frosting 1
  1. Combine all ingredients except the milk. Stir and add milk or cream until frosting is smooth and spreadable.
Frosting 2
  1. Combined powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt in a bowl. Stir in water until desired consistency.

 

The Best Children’s Books About Trains

Stack of children's books about trains

This post is going to be on children’s books about trains – a book list perfect for a young train lover. It will include board books and picture books that your toddler, preschooler, and kindergartener will love. My son is now 7.5 and he still eagerly listens to even the simplest of these books when sister pulls one out.

My middle child is a boy and he was obsessed with trains, trucks, and dinosaurs. I’m sure you relate! Every trip to the library included many books on those 3 subjects. The books he pulled out of our bookshelves at home were on one of those things.

To help out other parents with kids obsessed with these things, I am going to share books lists on what we checked out of the library and own to help you on your own search.

Today we will tackle all the children’s books about trains!

Use this list to see what your library has and then you can buy your child’s favorites! You can also use Amazon on most of these to get previews of what the pages are like.

The first two on this list we own and our copies are worn and falling apart – that’s how many times we’ve read them.

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What have been your kids’ favorite train books?

horizontal picture of books about trains for kids

Children’s Books About Trains

 

 

Chugga Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis 
This was my son’s all time favorite book! It’s easy but he loved this and read it daily up until he was probably 5 1/2. Though, even at 7 1/2, if my daughter pulls it out to read he’ll some come running over. He still called it his favorite book when we took it out for the pictures.


Freight Train by Donald Crews
I’d say this was Spencer’s second favorite book. Our copy is very tattered. Another quite easy one great for young kids (1 and 2 year olds even, though he still loved this when he was older).


That’s Not My Train by Fiona Watt
I’ll be honest and say we have not read this book by we have read many others of the Usborne “That’s not my” series. Again, perfect for even the 1 year olds but at 5 my daughter still grabs these from the library on a regular basis.


Trains by Byron Barton
Another simple board book option for your train loving toddlers.


Trains Go by Steve Light
The last of the board books on this list. I love that board books hold up so much better under normal toddler use!


A Train Goes Clickity Clack by Jonathan London
An easy, fun picture book that we also own. Recommended for 18 months to age 5.


Trains Coming Through by Stephanie Morgan
This book, although not a board book, is advertised for ages 0-3. Again, though, they will still love it when they are older.


Trains by Gail Gibbons
My kids all love books by Gail Gibbons. This one is a simple one that is again perfect for your 2-4 year olds.


Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld
These next three are by the same author. This one is a story and preschooler (age 3-5) kids love it. The other two would be recommended for younger ones – they introduce colors and numbers with little rhymes. So most likely baby – age 3 or 4. Again, I recommended checking books out from the library and then deciding what you want to buy.


Steam Train, Dream Train 1-2-3 by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld


Steam Train, Dream Train Colors by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld


This Train by Paul Collicutt
Fun, easy book with just a couple words on each page. Your train lovers will enjoy this from probably age 1-4.


My Big Train Book by Roger Priddy
We do not have this book, but we have the Priddy Big Truck Book and it was a favorite of my sons. He pulled it out to look through by himself or have it read to him many times. Don’t discount giving little kids non-fiction books for those topics they are obsessed with! Recommended age is 1-4. (Though he read it past that.)


The Goodnight Train by June Sobel and Laura Huliska-Beith
Even though this book is for ages baby-3, it’s one that my just turned 5 year old still reads. In all of these books, she still finds them fun and enjoys the pictures. There are 2 other books in this series if your child likes the first one. The Goodnight Train Rolls On and Santa and the Goodnight Train.


The Caboose Who Got Loose by Bill Peet
These two books by Bill Peet are more like a traditional picture book. There are more words on each page but they are fun and I love his illustrations. They say recommended for ages 3-7.


Smokey by Bill Peet


Trains: Steaming! Pulling! Huffing!  by Patricia Hubbell
This is another book we haven’t read but our library has some of her others in this series that we’ve read many times. They are easy and fun. We’ve read these from about ages 2-6. (Though it is simple for a 6 year old)


The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
I’m sure you know this book. It’s one we’ve probably all read as a child. The listing recommends it for ages 3-7.


Prairie Train by Marsha Wilson Chall
A fun story about a girl who travels via train to go and visit her grandmother. Ages 4-8.


Locomotive by Brian Floca
This story is a bit more lengthy. It’s a picture book for ages 4-8. A 3 year old might still sit through it depending on attention span. (Don’t forget you can always abbreviate the pages too)


The Little Train by Lois Lenski
It’s not an exciting book nor does it really have a story, but it’s fun for train lovers (or fans of Lois Lenski).  Ages 2-5.


Train Song by Diane Siebert
As the name suggests, this book is written in song/or poem form. It lists the recommended age as 4-8, but I think age 2 or 3 to 7 is more accurate.


Steam, Smoke, and Steel: Back in Time with Trains by Patrick O’Brien
This book is for age 3 or 4 to 8. For the younger kids, you can skip the lengthier text pages and just read the caption.


Trains (Mighty Machines) by Jean Coppendale
A fun, non fiction book of trains and train facts for train lovers from 3-7.


The Big Book of Trains by DK
My son has always gravitated toward non-fiction books in the Youth section over fiction books for the topics he’s crazy about. (That means dinosaurs, construction trucks, and trains.) Starting from even 4 and 5 he’d sit and pour over the pictures in these books and we’d read (or summarize) the information on the pages for him. Don’t limit your library adventures to just the board book and picture book section.

One last tip! Don’t forget to check out your kids’ favorite series to see if there are train themed books. From Curious George to Daniel Tiger or even early readers like Henry and Mudge you might find some more options.

What other children’s books about trains am I missing?

graphic with a pile of kids' books about trains

Easy Baked Home Fries

Crispy baked home fries on a white plate

Potatoes. They are cheap, kid friendly, and easy to fix! My kids all prefer roasted potatoes over mashed so this recipe for baked home fries is a winner in this house. In fact, my kids eat them like they are candy.

These potatoes are perfect to serve for breakfast along side eggs and bacon. They would also be great to go with hamburgers or baked chicken. Baked home fries are so versatile.

Home fries are basically another name for seasoned, cubed potatoes that you bake in the oven or cook in a skillet until crisp. They can be a substitute for French fries or hash browns. So, yes that means the kids enjoy dipping these in ketchup.

Check out how easy these are to make.

Baked Home Fries Ingredients

  • Potatoes (I typically use russets because they are cheap, but I love Yukon gold potatoes and baby potatoes)
  • Oil (olive oil, refined coconut oil etc)
  • Bell peppers and onions, optional
  • Seasonings: garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt. I love adding rosemary too.

Baked home fries on a pan ready to go into the ovenBaked Home Fries Instructions

  1. Dice your potatoes into similar sized pieces. (Peel, wash, dry and then chop them or scrub the peel, dry, and chop.) Cut between 1/2-1 inch chunks – your preference. The smaller size would cook faster.
  2. Put your potatoes into a bowl and toss with olive oil (or oil of choice) and some seasonings (but not the salt).
  3. You can add diced onions and bell peppers if you’d like. I love these, but some of my kids prefer without. They are totally optional. Add these halfway through the baking process.
  4. Bake on a large baking sheet (you don’t want your potato pieces to be touching) at 425 degrees. Once or twice during the baking you will want to flip the potatoes so they get crisp on all the sides.
  5. Remove from oven and salt to taste.

picture of baked home fries on a plate

Baked Home Fries
Author: 
Recipe type: Side
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 cups cooked potatoes
 
These baked home fries are easy, frugal, and so good! The perfect recipe for breakfast or a side to go with dinner. Kid friendly and flavorful, these will be a favorite.
Ingredients
  • 3-5 Potatoes (you want 4 cups of cubed potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary, optional
  • ¼-1/2 cup diced bell pepper, optional
  • ¼-1/2 cup diced onion, optional
  • salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Peel , wash, dry (or leave peels one and simply scrub and dry) the potatoes and cut into ½ inch cubes until you have 4 cups. Place in a bowl.
  3. Place olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and rosemary (if using) in the bowl with potatoes. Stir to coat evenly.
  4. Spread potatoes onto a baking sheet. You don't want your potatoes to be stacked. A small amount of space between each piece is ideal to help with even cooking.
  5. Bake for 35-45 minutes depending on size. Use a spatula to flip the potatoes after 20 minutes. Add the onions and peppers at this point, if using.
  6. Cook another 10 minutes and check. Keep checking potatoes every 5 minutes. When they are the desired crispness, remove from oven, season with salt and enjoy!