Thursday, January 22, 2015

Split Pea Soup

There was some leftover ham in the refrigerator when I started thinking about making a bean soup....but when I looked in the pantry a bag of split peas was looking back at, Split Pea Soup was in the making!

I have used the same recipe for years and decided that branching out would be a good idea.   As I paged through cookbooks, I came across a recipe called Parker's Split Pea Soup in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.  Sometimes I think that I do not spend enough time reading through some of the many cookbooks on the shelf.  I say that because this recipe has been hiding from me for a very long time.  And, who is Parker?  Parker was a chef who worked in Ina's gourmet food store, Barefoot Contessa.  I think I would have stood in line to get a bowl of this soup!  It is that delicious.

I know that the original recipe does not call for ham....but that is what started the whole thing so yes, I add ham to the mix.

Parker's Split Pea Soup
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp oregano
1 1//2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3-4 carrots, peeled, diced (about 2 cups)
3 unpeeled medium red potatoes (about 1 cup)  (I peeled mine.)
1 pound dried split green peas, divided
1 ham slice, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 cups chicken stock

In a 6 quart dutch oven, heat the olive oil and saute the onions and garlic.  Add the oregano, salt and pepper and cook until the onions are translucent, about 12 minutes.  Add the carrots, potatoes, 1/2 pound of the split peas and the chicken stock.

Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for about 40 minutes.  Skim off any foam while cooking.  Add the remaining half pound of split peas and the ham.  Simmer for another 40 minutes or until all of the peas are soft.  Stir frequently to prevent the solids from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Serve hot with crusty garlic bread or baguette rounds that have been brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted under the broiler, then sprinkled with a shredded cheese of your choice.  Garnish the soup with croutons or one of the baguette slices.  (I have used both Fontina cheese and Parmesan cheese.)

This was a tasty soup...quick and easy, too!
I am sharing today at Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Red Beans and Rice - Quick Comfort Food

There are quite a few different versions of Red Beans and Rice and it would be difficult to say which one is the best.  One thing for certain, though, is that they all start with the holy trinity of Creole and Cajun cooking - onion, bell pepper and celery.

This version of the dish includes sausage as opposed to a smoked pork chop and bacon instead of a ham hock.   It is a very good thing that there really isn't a recipe per is a basic combination of red beans, the holy trinity, sausage and rice...along with tomatoes and some spices tossed in.  Quick and easy as I only had canned beans in the pantry, no dry beans.

Red Beans and Rice - Quick Comfort Food
adapted from The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine

Yield:  6 servings

3 strips thick-cut smoked bacon, chopped
1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced on the diagonal (I used Louisiana Hot Sausage)
4 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken stock, plus additional, if needed
2 14.5-ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
6 ribs celery, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 bell peppers, chopped (about 2 cups) (I used a combination of red and green bell peppers.)
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (omit or adjust as desired)
2 cups uncooked rice
2 green onions, sliced
2 Tbsp chopped parsley

In a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, brown the chopped bacon.  Add the olive oil, onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic.  Saute for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.

Add the kidney beans, tomatoes, chicken stock, sausage, paprika, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, salt and cayenne (if desired).  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If the mixture gets too dry, add additional chicken stock.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the rice using your preferred method.  (I make mine in the microwave.)

Spoon the rice into the bowl, top with a ladle of beans.  Garnish with the chopped green onions and parsley.


We really enjoyed the beans but they were a bit spicy!  I am certain that using the Louisiana Hot Sausage contributed to the "heat"....I definitely should have tasted before adding the cayenne! We love hot and spicy dishes....I just hadn't expected it!

I would definitely make this again....quick and easy comfort food for a chilly day!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage and at Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lumpia with Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

For years Mr. T. has been wanting me to try Lumpia.  So when the opportunity came to make this appetizer it was easy to say, "Yes!"  But, what is Lumpia?  Simply put, it is a Filipino Eggroll.

I was a little nervous about wrapping them as I had a few coaches who kept telling me that it was difficult....but I didn't find that to be the case.  I did a little research and it was suggested that the filling be cool to cold before wrapping.  I think that was the trick.  It was easy to mold the filling and wrap it tightly in the Lumpia Wrappers.

We were please with the way that they turned out and Mr. T. loved the Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce.

Lumpia with Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 Tbsp soy sauce
30 Lumpia Wrappers
1 egg, beaten

Heat 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a large skillet.  Add the ground pork.  Cook, stirring frequently until the pork is done.  Use a fork to break the pork up as fine as possible.

Remove the pork from the pan, draining off all but a tablespoon of the fat.  Let the pork cool while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

In the same pan, cook the onion and garlic until soft, about 2-3 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the carrots and cabbage.  Stir for about a minute.

Add the green onions, soy sauce and cooked ground pork.  Cook for about 1 minute.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside until the mixture is cool enough to handle.  (I allowed the mixture to become cold before wrapping.)

Lightly mix an egg in a small bowl to use as a wash which will seal the rolled lumpia.

Lay one lumpia wrapper in front of you in a diamond shape, (with a point toward you.)  Take two tablespoons of the mixture and place it across the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper. (I formed the 2 tablespoons of mixture into a cylinder.)

Fold the bottom of the wrapper up and over the mixture.  Roll it once away from you.  Fold each side in to make an envelope shape.  Roll it up, keeping it as tight as possible.

Brush a small amount of the egg wash on the edge of the wrapper and seal the lumpia closed.  Place your lumpia rolls on a plate covered with a very lightly dampened towel until all of the lumpia are rolled.

Put two cups of vegetable oil in a heavy duty skillet.  It should be 1/2" deep.  Heat to approximately 375° F.  This will take about 5 minutes over medium heat.

Place 3-4 lumpia in the pan and cook them about 1-3 minutes or until golden brown.  If too many lumpia are in the pan at the same time, they will not fry properly.  Turn the lumpia to assure that they brown evenly.

Dipping Sauce

1/2 small green bell pepper, seeded and minced
1 cup vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp cooking oil
2 Tbsp ketchup

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water.  Stir until the mixture is smooth.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring regularly until softened.  Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and ketchup and cook, whisking regularly, until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved and the mixture is well-blended.  Bring to a boil.  While whisking continuously, add the cornstarch mixture and continue to cook until the sauce thickens.

Tips:  If you are unable to find Lumpia Wrappers get the thinnest Spring Roll Wrapper you can find. Lumpia Wrappers are very thin.  The regular Spring Roll Wrappers with not work well.

Lumpia freeze well so it is very easy to make a batch and have some tucked away in the freezer for company!

A Vinegar-Garlic Dipping Sauce is nice, also.  It is made with 2 cloves garlic, finely minced, 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup soy sauce mixed together.  This may be kept in the refrigerator but should be brought to room temperature before serving.  (I think this sauce is my preferred sauce....Mr. T. liked the sweet and sour....)


I wish I had more pictures of wrapping the lumpia but when I noticed the time, I had to move along or we would be late....and the person bringing the appetizer cannot be late!!

I intend to make another batch and freeze some for unexpected company....or for those evenings when we are having an appetizer dinner!

I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage and Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Maple-Roasted Carrots

I love carrots.   I have loved them since I was a little girl and my uncle promised me that my eyes would turn blue if I ate my carrots.  I have been waiting a good long time to have blue eyes.  It has yet to happen....but my love of carrots grew.  That said, it only seemed logical that I share my love with you.

I was searching for an easy side dish and saw a picture of the cutest little baby carrots....I loved the adorable little guys with the bit of top attached....they had been glazed and roasted...I was sold...  Sadly, there were no baby carrots to be found...but I did find some red, purple, yellow, orange and white carrots that would work just fine.

These sweet, tender carrots were glazed with maple syrup, olive oil and a bit of bourbon (which is optional) and sprinkled with cayenne and sea salt....they were so tasty that I know I could have made a whole meal of them.  This will definitely be a recipe that I will continue to make....the problem I had was that I didn't anticipate how popular they would be and should have roasted more!

Maple-Roasted Carrots
adapted from Fine Cooking, Issue 119

3 lbs. baby carrots, with green tops, peeled and trimmed or a variety of carrots cut into two-inch logs, split in half
1/3  cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. good quality bourbon, I used Maker's Mark (optional)
1/8 tsp cayenne
Sea salt
Chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven:  425° F. Position the rack in the upper third of the oven.

Spread the carrots in a single  layer of a baking sheet.  Combine the maple syrup, oil, and bourbon (if desired) in a measuring cup.

Drizzle the syrup mixture over the carrots and sprinkle with the cayenne and 2 tsp salt.  Toss the carrots to coat them evenly.

Roast the carrots, undisturbed, for 15 minutes.  Toss and continue to roast until fork-tender, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to a platter and serve.  (Times will vary dependent upon the diameter of the carrots.)

The carrots can be made an hour ahead and kept at room temperature on the baking sheet.  Reheat them in the oven or serve at room temperature.

Serve the carrots sprinkled with chopped parsley.


I am not certain if a person can eat too many carrots....I do believe I am getting close..
I know you won't be able to eat just one helping...and if you don't already have blue eyes...keep looking in the mirror to see what happens.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies - Cookie Carnival!

Baking and cold weather seem to go together.  As a child remember that we always baked cookies on a rainy day....I loved doing that...the warmth from the oven, the wonderful smells from the kitchen wafting through the house, and, most importantly to me, the sound of rain pitter-pattering on the roof and splashing against the windows.  It made cookie baking a warm and cozy activity.

Today, if I wait for rain, we would never eat cookies.  Rain is always promised but a few drops here and there aren't quite what I grew up enjoying!  That is why I thought participating in a Secret Recipe Club Cookie Carnival for the holidays would be fun, regardless of the weather, we would have cookies!

Aren't they pretty?  I just love the sparkle of the sanding sugar.  Rolling the cookies in sanding sugar was actually an afterthought on my part and I must say it was a good thought!  What could be better than triple chocolate, peppermint kisses and sparkles!!?

These Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies were inspired by a recipe posted by Wendy at The Weekend Gourmet.  Wendy is a Texas girl who loves to cook and travel....not only does she post recipes, but she has numerous product spotlights featured, as well as regional restaurant features and travelogues.  

I was tempted to make her Chocolate Vanilla Bean Meringue Cookies  but decided that chocolate was in the pantry, and so.....while, Wendy went for the peppermint bang in her chocolate cookie recipe...after thinking about it, I decided to go for the chocolate with a hint of peppermint.  Thank you for the inspiration, Wendy.  And, I must fess up....I made a few adjustments along the way, one being that I omitted the Crisco that Wendy used....(it isn't something that I have on-hand).

Mr. T and the neighbors have attested to how tasty these cookies are...I will definitely make them I have to wait until next year?

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
inspired by The Weekend Gourmet and Hershey's

48 Hershey's Kisses Brand Candy Cane Mint Candies
1 stick butter, softened (1/2 cup)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 Tbsp milk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup white sanding sugar

Yield:  About 48 cookies

Preheat oven:  350° F.

Prepare the baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper.

Remove the wrappers from the Candy Cane Mint Candies.  Place the candies in a bowl and set aside.

Place the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in the mixing bowl and beat well.  Add the eggs and milk and beat well.

Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Add the flour mixture gradually to the butter mixture.  Beat until well blended.  Stir in the mini chocolate chips.  

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll the balls in the sanding sugar.  Place the balls on the parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake the sheet for 10 to 11 minutes or until set.  Remove from the oven and gently press the candy cane mint kiss in the center of each cookie.  Remove the cookies from the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool completely.  

We really enjoyed these cookies.  They had a soft and chewy texture....and it was really difficult to just eat one....

Hope you enjoy the Cookie Carnival!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread...This is the absolute best!!

As I mentioned in the last post, this is the year for gingerbread.  I have been on a quest for the gingerbread (of my dreams) recipe!  I love a dark, moist, sticky, spicy, chewy gingerbread....and this is just what I dreamed of...

While the previous Gingerbread was good, the Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread from Chef Claudia Fleming, is the one...just what I envisioned a "real" gingerbread should taste like.  Even better is that the flavor improves as it ages.  It can be kept for up to three days covered at room temperature.

Once again, I wanted individual servings so I baked the gingerbread in my mini bundt pan.  The only issue that I came across was that during baking the gingerbread sunk.  I had thought it was due to too much air in the batter as I did not whisk as the recipe said...I used the mixer. But, it could be related to the baking didn't matter, as I a bundt cake is turned over and it doesn't show.  "smile"

I intend to make the recipe again in two weeks to serve as a birthday cake.   I can hardly wait.

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread
Chef Claudia Fleming

1 cup oatmeal stout or Guinness Stout
1 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cardamom
3 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup oil
Confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Generously butter/flour a 10-12 cup bundt pan, knocking out excess flour.

In a large saucepan, bring Stout and molasses to a boil and remove from heat.  Whisk in the baking soda, then cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and spices.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugars.  Whisk in the oil until blended, then mix in the molasses mixture.  Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan.  Rap the pan sharply on the counter to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake the cake in the middle of the oven until the tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 45-50 minutes.  Cool the cake on a rack for 5 minutes; then turn it out on the rack to cool completely. Serve the cake dusted with confectioner's sugar or with whipped cream.


This is the gingerbread of my delicious.  I think the the stout adds a very nice dimension and depth of flavor to the cake....

I am sharing this week at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage and Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Gingerbread Trees and Men

December brings out the baker in me.  There isn't any other time of year that beckons one to spend so much time in the kitchen preparing wonderful confections.  The abundance of sweet treats this time of year can be overwhelming....candies, cookies, cakes, pies, puddings, name it and it appears.

This year I am focused on making a good gingerbread.  Being curious about the origin of gingerbread, I did a little research and learned that there is a lot of information about gingerbread and its medicinal uses, its use in affairs of the heart and as a treat!    It wasn't until the 15th century that Gingerbread, as we know it, began to appear....breads, cookies, or houses flavored with ginger, honey, molasses and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and anise.  Gingerbread was also a favorite treat at festivals and fairs in Medieval Europe. It is even said that Elizabeth I had gingerbread cookies baked in the likeness of visiting dignitaries!  Can you imagine....?

Each year, I seem to add another gingerbread recipe to the file but I never seemed to make it....until now.  This is the year!  I was swayed to do it when I saw some adorable Gingerbread Trees while visiting Marsha's blog, The Harried Cook.  Swayed?  I should say, sold!  Of course, this meant that I had to buy a new cannot make adorable little Gingerbread Trees without the right pan....and, the pan I found had both trees and men therefore, I made Gingerbread Trees and Men! Fun times in the kitchen!!

As you have guessed, it is time for The Secret Recipe Club post.  Being assigned Marsha's blog has been fun...  Marsha had been scribbling recipes on pieces of paper, napkins, notebooks, textbooks, mobile phone memos and attests to losing most of them which is why she began blogging. The blog assures that there is a recipe legacy for her daughters.  As is evidenced by her blog, Marsha does love to bake and December is the month for, needless to say, I found a variety of recipes from which to choose.   I had debated about baking her Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Ganache Frosting (and I may still make them....) but gingerbread was beckoning today.

Gingerbread Trees and Men
adapted from The Harried Cook and Martha Stewart, Cakes

Yield:  8 molded cakes or 1 loaf cake
Grease the mold or pan with butter.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Confectioner's sugar for dusting
Sprinkles for decoration

Preheat oven:  350° F.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.  Set aside.

In the mixer bowl, cream the softened butter with the sugars until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg before adding the next.  Add the vanilla and mix into the mixture.

With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated.  Do not over-mix the batter.

Pour into the prepared pan or mold. Smooth the top using an offset spatula.

Bake until the tester comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes for the loaf or if using the molds, bake for about 18-20 minutes.  Allow the pan to cool for about 10 minutes and then turn the cakes out onto a plate.  Allow to cool completely before dusting with confectioner's sugar.


These cute little guys were a treat that I served at a recent meeting...they were a hit!!