28 December 2012

Split Pea Soup

This recipe is a basic split pea soup that just begs to be customized.  It's a great use for that leftover Christmas ham.
Cooking the day after Christmas:  the house is a disaster zone, the kitchen looks like a tornado went through, and everyone is exhausted.  What I needed was a no-fuss recipe.  The epitome of laziness, I couldn't even be bothered to wash a measuring cup.  1 pint = 2 cups.  Boom.  Done.
Yellow split peas.  I'm not trying to be fancy, it's what was in the cupboard.  Mix with 3 cups of water and 3 cups of chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer, add one chopped onion and 1.5 c. chopped (cooked) ham.  Add 3 minced garlic cloves and some fresh cracked black pepper.
Simmer for 1 hour.  When the timer buzzes, smash up the peas a little bit to give the soup that authentic split pea texture.  If you have an immersion blender, it wouldn't hurt to use that instead.
A very basic soup with very few ingredients.  Feel free to add things like carrots and celery.  Maybe a few spices.  Take this recipe and make it your own.

Basic Split Pea Soup
  • 2 c dry split peas
  • 3 c water
  • 3 c chicken broth
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1.5 c cooked ham, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cracked pepper
1.  Add the peas, water and broth to a large pot over med-high heat.  Bring to a boil.  
2.  Reduce to a simmer and add the onion, ham, garlic and pepper.
3.  Simmer for 1 hour, until the peas are soft.  Smush them slightly with the spoon to give the soup a thicker texture.

30 November 2012

Goals Revisited

I had a week off in November.  It was nice.  It was reeeeeally nice.
Easy fall appetizers:  Pumpkin-shaped cheese balls
So here's what happened (and didn't happen) in November:

•   Road trip!  I think it’s safe to say that I will remember that trip for the rest of my life ;)
•   Lunch with Grandma on Sunday!  Made a great dessert, had a great time, did some much-needed catching up, watched a homemade video and played some cards.  Who says you can’t have it all?
•   I also made some egg muffins.  Check them out!
•   The sauv blanc kit I started only needs a month before bottling, so bottling was on my list for the month.  Except that I didn’t feel comfortable putting it in the carboy when the instructions said to so
my wine is running a little behind schedule.  No big, but bottling is going to have to wait a week.
•   Vote, obviously!  I did my part to improve the chances of third-party politics, because that’s where I believe the real change is at.
•   Star Wars marathon...only the original three, and even those were hard to stay awake for.  But this item is accomplished!
Delicious souffle, recipe here
December goals...because despite the holidays I still have things to get done :)

•   This counts because it happens on December 1st:  I have a giant, 5-hour, open book test tomorrow.  The kind where the multiple choice answers are all correct, but I have to choose which one is MOST correct.  So, I guess my goal is to survive it.  If I pass, that would be splendid as well.  I should have the results by January so I can even blog about how close to passing I was.
•   De-label and clean wine bottles for…
•   …Bottling wine.
•   Keep Christmas an un-materialistic as possible.  I don’t need more STUFF.  If you want to give me a present, have me over for dinner or plan out a fun event.  That’s the kind of present I really enjoy.
•   Holidays mean road trips and family gatherings and big meals and a teensy bit too much wine.  Bring it on.
•  Dance.  Yes, that’s right.  My goal is to do more dancing in the month of December.
And some random photos from the trip...  like a field of cotton, ready for harvest.
And some pecans, also ready for harvest.  These ones came home with me though (okay, so a branch of cotton did too...).

23 November 2012

Savory Souffle

I have been threatening to make this for ages.  I don't think I was supposed to take it out of the baking dish, but it posed for such pretty photos after I did.
So.  Souffles.  They're like omelettes or egg bakes, except twice the work.  Nonetheless, they've been on my list.  Whatever.  Fricken delicious.
Melt some pepperjack cheese into milk thickened with coconut flour and butter.  Organic grassfed hipster milk. 
Pepperjack cheese has got to be one of the best cheeses.  It's cheese...but it's spicy.  It's basically a combination of my favorite things.
Stir ham and canned chiles into the milk mixture.
The egg whites get whipped into stiff peaks.  Use either lemon juice or cream of tartar to encourage the egg whites to hold those bubbles.
Gently fold a third of the egg whites into the rest of the souffle.  Fold in the second third.  Fold in the last third.  Use as few folds as possible to get it just barely incorporated.  Pour into greased dish or ramekin.
So basically what I have here is a very fluffy omelet that I'm about to bake.  I'm slightly concerned that it doesn't have enough bacon.
Fear not.  Honestly, this was so tasty.  Was it the doubled effort and extra wait time?  Who's to say?  All I know is that if you AREN'T out shopping and fighting the masses and trying not to trample innocent store workers on this Black Friday, you might as well spend some extra time to make a souffle.  Make this souffle.

Savory Souffle (a grain-free version of this recipe)

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 tbs coconut flour
  • 3/4 c organic milk
  • 1/3 c pepperjack cheese, shredded
  • 3 eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • a few drops of lemon juice OR 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 c chopped ham or turkey
  • 1/2 can (~2 oz) green chiles
1.  Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Use bacon grease to grease two oven-proof dishes (mine were 1-qt each, but a 2-cup dish is plenty big enough).
2.  Over medium heat, melt butter.  Add coconut flour.  Stir in milk slowly, whisking to remove any clumps.  Stir in pepperjack and simmer until cheese is melted.
3.  Whisk egg yolks, stir in ham/turkey and chiles.  Slowly pour in milk/cheese mixture.
4.  Whip the egg whites until peaks start to form.  To help retain the whipped-ness, add in either lemon juice or cream of tartar.  In thirds, fold the egg whites into the milk/cheese mixture until just incorporated.
5.  Pour mixture into greased dishes.  Bake for ~25 minutes, until nicely browned on top.  Serve immediately.  Serves two.
I love adding spices to things.  This souffle has no spice in it - not even salt and pepper.  And yet it was sooo tasty.  Granted, between the cheese and chiles, a lot of flavor was added.

So make!  Eat!  And enjoy.
  • 4 tablespoon(s) margarine or butter
  • 1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup(s) reduced-fat (2%) milk, warmed
  • 6 ounce(s) pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 large egg white
  • 3 ounce(s) smoked ham, chopped
  • 1 can(s) (4 1/2-ounce) chopped mild green chiles, drained

  • Read more: Ham and Pepper Jack Souffle - Brunch Recipes - Good Housekeeping

    16 November 2012

    Easy Thanksgiving Appetizer

    I am going to be traveling for Thanksgiving, so I need an easy go-to recipe so I can show some gratitude to my hosts during the week.  Since I'm not sure how much access I'm going to have to a kitchen, I found a recipe that is no-cook, incredibly festive, and most importantly DELICIOUS.
    Thanksgiving pumpkin cheese ball!
    Check out these pumpkins!  They are so dang cute.  Here's my secret:  cheese balls, dusted with paprika.  I used green onions and cilantro for the stem and leaves.  Bam.

    Oh, and if that wasn't great enough...you can use virtually any cheese ball recipe for this appetizer.  Obviously I used the best one:  the Fiesta Cheese Ball.
    Here's the recipe, with my added tweaks.  The pictures show a doubled recipe, because I tested this one on a larger crowd.

    Fiesta Cheese Ball (original recipe)

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup shredded pepperjack cheese
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Red and yellow food coloring (if desired)
  • Paprika

  • Instructions:
    1.  Combine everything but the paprika.  Add food coloring to get a light pumpkin color.  Refrigerate overnight to let the flavors marry and allow the cream cheese to harden up so the cheese can be shaped into a ball.  (Save some green onion stems and pairs of cilantro leaves for garnish)
    2.  After refrigeration, form the cheese into a ball.  Sprinkle with paprika to cover.  Lightly slice some vertical lines into the ball to simulate pumpkin ridges.  Press down from the top to give it a pumpkin shape.  Finish the pumpkin with green onion stems and cilantro leaves.
    For the record, this recipe was DEVOURED.  I was lucky to have any leftovers, despite making a double batch.  Check out this carnage!
    Super tasty, super easy, super cute.  I love it when a recipe comes together like this!

    09 November 2012

    Paleo on the Go: Egg Muffins

    Who has time in the morning?  Not me...I'm normally out the door twenty minutes after waking up.  Normally I eat a handful of almonds for breakfast.  It's about perfect, but I still get a little hungry before noon.  So I'm trying something a little more substantial:  egg muffins.

    They're like mini omelets; just heat them up and they're gone in a few bites.  Perfectly Paleo and super easy in the morning.
    Onions and peppers are a must.  Mushrooms could work if you sautee them first; otherwise they give off too much water.  A full pound of sausage really makes these muffins go the extra mile.
    Whip some eggs and stir it all together.  Ladle into well-greased muffin tins.
    Bake to perfection, pop them out and let them cool.
    A little sprinkle of cheese wouldn't hurt either.

    Egg Muffins
    3/4 cup chopped onion
    3/4 cup chopped bell pepper
    1/4 cup chopped hot pepper (jalapeno, serrano, etc)
    1 lb sausage, fully cooked
    12 eggs
    1 tbs dried oregano
    cheese, if desired

    1.  Preheat the oven to 350* F.
    2.  Saute the onion and peppers until soft.  Mix up the peppers, onions and sausage.
    3.  Crack the eggs into a separate bowl.  I usually go one by one to make sure that I don't ruin the whole thing if I have one bad egg.  Whip up the eggs until well mixed and a little fluffy.
    4.  Mix the eggs and meat/veggies.  Add the oregano, salt and pepper.  Stir well.
    5.  Ladle into well-greased muffin tin, filling each cup to about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle cheese on top.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

    Yield:  18 - 24 muffins.  They last in the fridge for about ten days.  Reheat in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds for a fast, Paleo breakfast.
    These were so perfect to take to work for a quick, easy breakfast.  Very filling, too.

    02 November 2012

    Cold Weather Goals

    Well, here we go.  Another month passes before I have a chance to blink.  Actually, it was a pretty great month.  I finally had some downtime!
    So check out my list of October goals:
    • Maintain the garden.  I did for as long as I could, but eventually the cold weather won.  I still have a pile of green tomatoes sitting on the table, slowly turning red.
    • Go through all my papers and file everything.  Go through closets and bring clothes to Goodwill.  I did really well on this!  I went through and filed my papers.  I went through my closets and gave some clothes away.  I still have a lot of stuff to go through, but November's another month!
    • Rack the blueberry wine.  I racked the blueberry and started some sauvignon blanc!  That's right, I went above and beyond on this one!
    • Rearrange the book shelf.  Well, I didn't rearrange it, but all the books are at least put away.
    • Stay warm.  I'm going to have to call this one a fail.  Not only did I lose my driving gloves, leaving my hands cold on the way to work, but I also lost heat in my apartment for a day or so.  For the other 99.5% of the month I stayed pretty warm though :)
    • Try a new food.  Um, yes?!  Did you see my sardine stuffed mushrooms earlier this month?  Done and done!
    Neener.  I feel like it was a pretty successful month.  I also cleaned out and rearranged the fridge and the freezers.  I even took out the trash ;)
    So what will November bring?  Well, it's turkey month, so you know there's going to be family and pie and (horrors) Christmas music...
    • Road trip!  Heading down to NC/VA to see some good friends and long-lost family.
    • Oh, speaking of long lost family, I have a grandma who lives a mere 1.5 hrs away and I have not seen her since spring.  Ouch.  So we're doing lunch with Grandma on Sunday!
    • I'm also going to make some egg muffins - the perfect Paleo breakfast-on-the-go!
    • The sauv blanc I just started only needs a month before bottling, so I guess bottling is on my list for the month.  While I'm at it, I might as well bottle the blueberry (if I can scrape together enough bottles).
    • Vote, obviously!  And you should too!  Voting is a privilege, a right, and an obligation.  Don't take it for granted.  Let your voice be heard.
    • We've been working on an "Igloo List" for winter activities to keep those wintertime blues at bay (sort of a 'bucket list' that doesn't include dying when the list is finished).  So let's get an Igloo List item crossed off!  My vote is for the Star Wars marathon...most of the list items include snow and I'm hoping we get a few more weeks snow-free.
    Well, that looks like a worthy list.  Since the holiday season is approaching, I'm hoping I actually get it all done, but I'm sure the calendar will fill in quickly.

    Happy November!

    26 October 2012

    Go Big or Go Home

    I promised to try a new food this month.  At first, I pansied out and bought a new onion (cebollita...who was I kidding?).  But that's not my style.  Why try a new food unless it's really new?  So I went big.
    These are mushrooms stuffed with sardines.  Yup, you got it.  I am now a sardine-eater.  Omega-3s and all that.  But lest you think I'm braver than I actually am, there's also some bacon in there.
    And some fennel, because who doesn't need another excuse to use a bulb of fennel?
    Saute diced fennel bulb, onion, pepper and the mushroom stems until tender.
    Rip open the sardines like a boss.  Give them a smell.
    Mix it all up.  Add some spices and crumbled bacon.  Stuff it into some mushrooms.
    Bake for 10 minutes at 350*F.  Serve with a coy smile and don't tell anyone what's in it.
    Actually, there's no need to be sneaky.  They taste great.  I actually preferred the stuffing before it was surrounded by mushroom cap.  It tasted a little bit fishy, but for all I knew it could have easily been a can of tuna in the stuffing.  I would definitely make it again.

    Sardine Stuffed Mushrooms (based on a recipe found here)
    • 1/2 c chopped onion
    • 1/2 c chopped green pepper
    • 1/2 c chopped fennel bulb
    • any amount of mushrooms
    • 7 oz sardines
    • crumbled bacon, to taste
    • crushed red pepper flakes
    • oregano
    • fennel leaves
    • flaked parmesan cheese, if desired
    1.  Saute onion, pepper, fennel and chopped mushroom stems for about 7 minutes.  Turn off the heat.
    2.  Add the sardines, bacon, and spices.  Stir until well mixed, breaking up the sardines if necessary
    3.  Stuff the mixture into the mushroom caps.
    4.  Sprinkle with parmesan, if desired.
    5.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350*.

    19 October 2012


    The chili cheese fries of the northern climes, poutine is a nod to our maple leaf toting neighbors.
    I have the unfortunate task of writing this blogpost right before dinner time.  I didn't think I was hungry until I started looking through these photos.  Poutine is a simple Canadian dish made of fries covered in gravy and fried cheese curds.  I took a little shortcut and just used shredded cheese, but don't think for a second that this route was any less tasty.

    Start out with a greased pan.  Good high heat oils include coconut oil, butter, and animal fats.  I used bacon fat, because bacon and fries make a great pair.  The first secret to great oven fries is the oil - too much and they'll be soggy, too little and they'll stick to the pan.  You can see about how thick this pan was covered - this is the perfect amount.
    I like my fries sliced thick.  I used red potatoes, but feel free to change up the potato.  Sweet potatoes are a great option too.  The second secret to great oven fries is to keep them from touching each other when you lay them out.  This also helps them get crispier.
    Put these in the oven at 425* for 20 minutes.  When the timer goes off, take them out, flip them all over, then put then in for another 20 minutes.  You can see how the side that was on the bottom gets nicely browned.
    In the meantime, grate some cheese and make the gravy.  Start by browning some flour.  The way to brown flour is to use a ratio that is 1 part fat to 1 part flour on a med-high heat.  The fat starts to bubble and fry the flour a bit.  If it's too dry, add more fat (once again, I used bacon fat).
    Slowly add to this 2 cups of beef broth.  I used the bone broth that I canned earlier this year.  Add just a little bit at first and stir it to mix so that you don't get clumps of flour. 
    Let this simmer until thick.  Add some salt and pepper and any other spices that sound good.  Maybe some thyme sounds good.  I added a little southwest seasoning to it since I'd sprinkled some cayenne on the fries.  Speaking of which, those might be ready to come out of the oven soon.  Ahh, yes.
    Tasty crispy crunchy goodness.  Time to put it all together.

    • Bacon fat
    • 3 lbs potatoes
    • 3 tbs whole wheat flour
    • 2 c beef broth
    • S&P to taste
    • cheese
    1.  Preheat the oven to 425*F.  Lightly grease a large pan.  Lay out sliced potato wedges so that none are touching each other.  Put them in the oven for 40 minutes, turning them over at the 20 minute mark.
    2.  Brown 3 tbs of flour in 3 tbs of bacon grease (about med-high heat for 2-3 minutes).  Add in 1/2 cup of broth and mix well to prevent clumping.  Add the remaining broth, salt and pepper.  Simmer until thick.
    3.  Grate some cheese (don't buy pre-grated cheese because it's full of additives to keep it from clumping).
    4.  Assemble your poutine:  fries, gravy, cheese. 
    It wouldn't take too many tweaks to turn this into a vegetarian or vegan dish.