Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Old Fashion Split Pea Soup

Pea soup is sort of a tradition in my family. My grandmother made it, my mom made it an now I make it. I don't know that my mother ever really taught me how to make it; I'm sure she explained it to me several times, though, and eventually I figured it out. The only regret I have with regard to this soup is that I never had the opportunity to make it for her while I still could. It's pretty basic, and I think its instict ... at least it seems to be, because I can't ever find a recipe for pea soup that even gets close to what I remember eating while I was growing up.

It was always a competition between my mom and my grandma over who could make the best pea soup. I suppose I'll have to ask my dad to be the judge of that! I think he is the only one to have had mine, my mom's and my grandmother's! I'll have to see what he says... he did ask me to make it for him again the next time I visit.  Along with the same meatloaf I make for him every time I visit (another recipe I'll have to share--although this one I took from a Food Network Magazine and modified to my own liking). 

But anyways, back to the pea soup!  As I was saying, it's pretty basic. 

First the ingredients (vegetables are approximate, and can vary per preference):
1 onion
2 potatoes 
4-5 large carrots
4 tablespoons of butter approx.
1 bag of dried green split peas
6+ cups of water
1 ham hack, cut into a few pieces
salt and pepper to taste

I always start with one onion--I like white ones--dice it up and throw that into a pot with a big scoop of butter.  I also chop up a few carrots and a couple of potatoes--enough so that there are about equal amounts of each vegetable.  I just use the regular old boiling, baking and mashing variety.  Peel the carrots and potatoes and dice everything up nice and small, throw it in the pan with the butter and onions and saute it for about ten minutes until everything starts to soften.

The next step would be the bag of split peas.  I rinse them, do a little sorting and throw them in with however many cups of water the packages instructs (it was six cups the last time I checked; I usually throw in a splash over just for good measure and so the soup is not too thick).  I toss this all in the pan with some ham hocks that the butcher every so kindly chops up into about six pieces so I can get the meat out easier.  Bring the soup to a boil and reduce the heat, simmering while covered for the allotted time on the package--between 30 and 45 minutes.  I tend to go to at least 45 minutes to be sure that everything gets nice and mushy. 

A lot of recipes say at this point to put the soup in a blender and blend it up real smooth (minus the ham hocks, of course!), however, I like there to be some chunks in my pea soup.  I'll mash it up with a potato masher and then take maybe about a third (or however much fits into my blender), blend that, and then mix that back up with the soup for a nice texture.  Season with some salt and pepper to taste, remove the meat from the ham hocks, mix it all up and there's your soup!  Serve with some bread or a sandwich, or all on its own.  Leftovers freeze very well. 

My husband and I just love pea soup made this way.  Although, keep in mind that if you plan to stuff yourself with it, you might want to get some Beano first ....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Woes of Cupcakes and Blogging.

Dear friends, I am a terrible blogger.  My biggest problem is that I am terribly inconsistent.  How am I supposed to have a following if I don't blog?!  Anyhow, I've admitted to myself that yes, I'm a terrible blogger, and now I must prepare myself to remedy that.  I have a few things up my sleeve--one being a book of recipes hand-written by my mother-in-law's mother.  I hope to type these up and print them in book form for the family.  And I may need some help interpreting some of the handwriting!  I'm also exploring eating well on a budget.  Those who know me are always telling me how horribly cheap I am.  It's my Scottish blood--we hate to part with our hard-earned money.  As I work through these two personal goals of mine, I look forward to sharing the journal on this blog, as well as taking whatever feed back you, the readers, have to offer.  So ... here goes!

White chocolate raspberry cupcakes

First let me catch you up on my challenge for this past weekend.  I baked, from scratch, a double batch of white chocolate raspberry cupcakes from bigoven.com to take to a barbeque.  While most people told me they thought they were really good, I wasn't very happy with them myself.  In fact, I sort of thought of them as a failure--something I wasn't really excited to eat myself.  The cake was a little dry, and the cream-cheese frosting was too cream-cheesy.  I did add extra raspberry extract to the frosting and a splash of red food coloring, but other than that, I followed this four-star recipe to the T.  Some of this could be my personal taste, but I love just about anything baked, especially if it has sugar in it, and even more so if it has chocolate in it.  Okay, so white chocolate is a bit on the borderline for that one.  But still.  And everyone was drinking.  Really, lots of things are really good when you've had a few, so maybe they weren't all that good. 

Let me back up a little.   I never know how to store cupcakes or muffins.  I'm really an eat-it-right-out-of-the-oven kind of girl.  I don't even need a plate.  The problem with this theory, is that it doesn't work when you have to transport food designated for consumption at a later date.  So how do you store cupcakes or muffins?  It was suggested to me that sealing them in Tupperware was the culprit.  Betty Crocker suggests loosely covering them with tin-foil or plastic wrap.  StillTasty.com thinks that outside of the refrigerator, they should be sealed in an airtight container.  Hmm.  And someone on Yahoo Answers recommends a glass container.  I think next time I'll try the tin-foil or plastic wrap and go from there.

I also was very excited to share my inexpensive steak and potato dinner from last night, but I excitedly ate it all before taking a photo!  Will try again next time :)