Split Pea Soup, Split Decision

When it comes to the standard way of making things, or trying something new, my husband and I are typically at odds.  For Peter, lobster has to be served steamed in a shell, shrimp can be with a cocktail sauce or in scampi.  You can’t have pizza with goat cheese and you certainly can’t have pea soup without green peas.  Until now that is, because I live by a different set of rules.

Let me just give you a little background on this.  I grew up with pea soup.  It was always a staple when we had leftover ham.  It was green and thick and not very appetizing.  So it was a huge mistake on my part, when I mentioned after our ham dinner, the idea of making soup.  It turns out, much to my dismay, that he loved pea soup.

Well, I half-thought about it and when I was at the market, I picked up a bag of split peas.  Peter would be so surprised if I actually made this for him.  But visions flashed before me of the thick green paste and I immediately scrubbed that idea and threw the peas back on the shelf.  I started to walk away and out of the corner of my eyes I saw a bag with split yellow peas.  That’s right….YELLOW peas.  I never had them before, but after looking at the back of the bag and the recipe idea it gave, I thought I could make it work.  It was a good compromise.

That weekend, since it was cold and definitely feeling like a soup day, I decided to give it a try.  I cooked my ham bone down and reserved the broth and although I did refer to the bag recipe, I did change the recipe quite a bit to make it more my style.  This was working!

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The flavor was really good and the texture of the broth was more like a vegetable broth.  I was so happy because I thought his was something I could eat and Peter would love that we had split pea soup.  I really believed this was our soup of compromise.

Until my husband sat down to dinner that is.  He took a bite and it wasn’t so bad.  He took another bite and it was ok.  The third bite, he decided to tell me that pea soup was meant to be green and mushy.  This simply was NOT going to do.

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So once again we were at odds.  I loved it and he did not.  He wanted his green thick mush and I liked the texture more like a broth.  And it’s okay.  It’s okay if he doesn’t like it, because he doesn’t have to love everything I make and he has his standards.  But I will probably make it again and he will probably eat it again and complain again.   And have another two helpings again.

Do you really have two helpings if you don’t like something?

Split Pea Soup, Split Decision

Course Appetizer, Entree
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 bag yellow split peas
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced small
  • 2 stalks celery, diced small
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 8 cups water, chicken broth, ham bone broth or a combination I used 6 cups chicken broth and 2 cups of my ham broth
  • 2 cups diced, cooked ham
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup croutons optional

Instructions

  1. Soak, rinse and sort peas per package instructions.

  2. Heat oil in a large, heavy 5-7 quart pot.

  3. Add onions, carrots, celery and cook until tender,

  4. Add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.

  5. Add salt and pepper and stir to coat vegetables.

  6. Add cup of wine and stir to deglaze, scraping up any bits from the pan.

  7. Add broth and or water and bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until peas are tender, about 2 to 3 hours.

  8. Add ham and serve topped with croutons if desired.

Farro Risotto with Roasted Squash, Apple and Kale

I love this time of year.  I’m ready after the humid, muggy summer to breathe in some fresh crisp air.  I long for my sweaters and log fires to warm the evenings.  With the falling leaves comes the desire of using the abundance of fall flavors such as sage, pumpkins, squash and apples.

Did I mention I love fall?

I’m obsessed with apples right now.  I brought several different types of apples home with me the other day from the market, preparing for an all out apple fest.  I dove in, ready to conquer the sweet to the savory. The only thing I was missing was the road side apple cider stand.

So I have my apples, I love the fall and now I have to do something with all of it.  Well, that’s easy.  I decided to make this combination of a couple of recipes I had seen…  it was everything the autumn season is all about.  Farro Risotto with Apples, Squash, Kale and Sage.  My husband is loving me so much right now.  This meal is on his diet plan since it’s fairly healthy, but it’s also got flavor, texture and comfort, and it doesn’t taste like it’s a diet plan.

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I paired this with crispy chicken thighs and an apple cider gravy which will be coming in my next post, but for now try this out.   It’s in the top ten of my husband’s all time favorites, so I think you will like it.

Put on a sweater and fill your belly with the taste of fall.  It’s a yum on the food meter!

Farro Risotto with Roasted Squash, Apple and Kale

Course Entree, Side Dish
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup diced butternut squash
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup farro
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons diced bacon
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 dice and peeled Granny Smith apple
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped sage leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Toss squash with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and cook for approximately 7-10 minutes or until squash starts to brown. Remove and set aside.

  3. Soak the farro in cold water to cover for 20-30 minutes. Drain and combine with the chicken stock in a medium heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and reduce the heat to the farro is bubbling gently; cook until just tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain the farro over a bowl so that you can reserve the cooking liquid and set both aside in a warm place.

  4. In the same saucepan, cook bacon until mostly crisp. Add butter and oil and melt slightly and then add shallots, and garlic and cook about 3 more minutes or until fragrant.

  5. Pour in the wine and turn up the heat a little and simmer until the wine has reduced by about two-thirds, another 5 minutes or so.

  6. Add the faro, the apples, and squash and enough of the reserved chicken stock to get a slightly creamy consistency.

  7. Add the kale, sage leaves and more Parmesan and/or salt if necessary and several grinds of black pepper.

  8. Serve immediately or cover and reheat gently before serving, adding more liquid if necessary.

Cold Weather and Soup

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There comes a point in time when I am tired of the summer weather.  I know many of you won't agree with me but I long for sweaters and fires and cozy comfort.  That is probably one reason why I decided I needed to ignore the 75 degree weather in the beginning of October and make some soup.

I love soup.  It takes me back to those childhood days of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches my mom would make me.  It was soup out of a can but it still gave you the warmth and cozy home feeling after the chill of the autumn air.

I had seen this soup recipe in our local newspaper and of course I couldn't leave it alone...I had to put my own spin on it.  I am so glad I did because as we were sitting around the table in our shorts and flip-flops, my husband said to me that if we weren't already married, after eating this soup he would have married me!  How is that for a testimonial on how good this was?

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This is super easy to make so even on a busy day, you can have this for your family dinner.   A salad and some crusty bread will make it a complete meal.

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Cold weather will be here soon and I will be making this again.  Heavy socks, a warm sweater and a bowl of this soup will take me back to my mom's kitchen.  I don't know about you, but it doesn't get any better than that.

 

Dinner for one

There are all forms of entertaining.  Of course there are the big parties, dinners and events.  There are also smaller and more intimate settings when you have another couple over or it’s a special dinner just for the two of you. You plan, you do the shopping, the preparation and then hope everyone oohs and ahhs.  It’s validation for the work and time you put into it and you go to sleep thinking everything was worth all the effort.  But have you ever thought of putting that same effort into a dinner for one?

What do people do when they eat alone?  I know when I was single and just starting out, dinner usually consisted of a bowl of cereal or a bag of popcorn.  I never thought of making an effort for myself.  I’m going to assume that a lot of single people have the same way of looking at things as I do.  We just do whatever is the easiest.

Tonight however, I changed my mind about things.  My husband was going to play cards with the guys and I was going to be alone for the evening.  In the past I would have eaten something I could just grab.   Not that there is anything wrong with a bowl of cereal or grabbing what ever is in the refrigerator at the moment, but I decided with the lifestyle changes we are making in our home I should make the effort and do the same for myself as I would anyone else that would be eating dinner in my home.  I was going to make myself a real dinner.

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I was inspired by a recipe in Bon Appétit that sounded so good, but my husband wasn’t as excited about this meal as I was.  It calls for adding lobster to pasta.  What was I thinking?  Doing something with it other than boil it and dip it in butter?  It was the perfect opportunity to try this…and I’m so glad I did!   Not only was this very tasty, it was also relatively easy.  The lobster was still tender and sweet with a nice spicy complement from the pasta and sauce.

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You could of course do this meal for your guests and still get the oohs and ahhs.  They won’t know how easy it was or that most of it could be done in advance.  Or you could wait until that one night when you’re sitting all alone and don’t want a bag of popcorn for dinner.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your own company.  It’s worth the oohs and ahhs you’re going to give yourself.

 

Changes in Life

Life Changes.   None of us want them because I think we all hate change.  If it’s a good life change, we’ll take it begrudgingly, but if it’s something that’s scary or undesirable, we avoid it like the plague.  Perhaps that is why so many of us cling to what we know and what is comfortable.

I am one of those people.  I get comfortable and want to stay with what I know.  Even if it makes me unhappy.  I sit and think how different life could be if I would just try something new, but it’s scary so I stay where I am.  Sometimes, however, you get a kick in the butt that forces you to make that change and you go with your heels dug in…. and then you realize that it was something you should have done so much sooner.   Yes, that’s me.  Kicking and fighting and holding on to the door jam until my knuckles turn blue.  And that is where the story begins.

To start with, I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything.  It’s only been a couple of months but when you stop doing what you love, it can seem like forever.  I stopped for several reasons.  It was a time of drudgery and unhappiness and I couldn’t wrap my mind around anything that gave me pleasure.  I was trying to figure out life’s destiny due in part to the untimely death of my brother, due in part to the fact I didn’t want to get up and do what I had done for the last sixteen years….mortgages.  Life wasn’t fun anymore.

My bosses talked to me…they were worried.  My friends and family talked to me.  I talked to myself.  I decided after several conversations and long bouts of thinking that I was going to make a HUGE change and leave my “I knew where I was going everyday” job.  I was going to concentrate on my blog and so the next change was to redo everything to make it more exciting and fun to look at. I went to a food writing seminar and hung out with chefs and other foodie writers and thought I was super cool.  But then I added in food safety courses and menus and decided to take on the catering business.  At this point I am sure my husband thought I had lost my mind and for the first few days I was almost in agreement with him.  But as time wore on and I was doing what I loved and I didn’t have the stress of my job any longer…I realized this was a dream come true and yes, why hadn’t I done this years ago?

But just as you think everything is going right with the world,  along comes another change that slaps you upside the head and wakes you up.  Out of state and only one day into our mini vacation, my husband has a heart attack.  Luckily for both of us, with fortuitous timing and excellent care, everything turned out well with no damage to the heart.  But what a wake up call for both of us!

We had to take a look at our lifestyle, our way of eating and what we were eating.  It was time for another change.  We realized how lucky we were to receive this “second chance” and made the choice to eat smaller portions, heart healthy meals, exercise and even cut down on the wine that we love to enjoy.  Some of it has been easy, and some of it has been a kicking and screaming change.

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One of the fun things is discovering foods that are good for you and still amazingly good to eat.  The day of the heart attack we had eaten that morning at the bed and breakfast we were staying at and they had been so nice to share their granola recipe with me that I had enjoyed with my yogurt.  It was one of the first things I made for my husband to make a change to his breakfast.

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Sometimes changes are good and sometimes not so good.  But it’s all about how we deal with them and how we embrace that change.  I for one am loving life right now and hope that it keeps being as exciting as it’s been the last couple of months.  And I hope you stick with me…together we’ll embrace the storm.

 

Almond Coconut Granola

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 bag (6 ounces) frozen coconut
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 6 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup mixed dried fruits I used dried cherries, blueberries, apricots and banana chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

  2. Stir together oats, almonds, coconut, flaxseed, and salt.

  3. Melt butter, oil and honey and cinnamon over low heat.

  4. Pour liquid mixture over oat mixture until well combined.

  5. Spread granola evenly in a large rimmed baking sheet.

  6. Bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring halfway through the baking process.

  7. Cool granola in pan on wire rack and stir in dried fruits.

Sunday Dunk

It was a Sunday afternoon and it was cold and rainy.  Fall was definitely here and the weather was definitely matching my mood.  Football games were on and I really didn’t want to spend my day cleaning (even though we all know that is what I should have done), so I started focusing on what I could make for dinner.  When in doubt, cook.

It was a perfect day for comfort food, but I wanted something different from my standard go-to pasta dish.  I didn’t feel like soup and I was really over cooking chili.  And then that momentary flash-back occurred and I remembered the garlic show I had seen the day before.  There were a couple of dishes that I liked but didn’t like either of them enough to make one.  I did however like parts of them enough to combine them and create a dish that was exactly what I was looking for.  A warm, comforting, sit on the couch and dunk dish.

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Who doesn’t like garlic?  This was a perfect combination of a warm soup, a hearty dish and the feel good that you get from a pasta.

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You could easily pour this over pasta or rice, even mashed potatoes and make a nice dinner out of it. For me, however, sitting there dunking my crusty bread loaf into the roasted garlic yumminess was the inside tailgating atmosphere I had been looking for.

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The Patriots won a great game and much to my husband’s disappointment the Giants lost….again.  It can’t get any better than that.

 

Dinner Made Easy

Like many people, my husband and I try to watch what we eat.  We never buy processed food and for the most part,  I shop the perimeter of the grocery store.  But with our schedules it makes it hard to do all the time.  Sometimes I get home late, or Peter does.  Let’s face it, there is just ever enough time in the day to do all we need, much less make a healthy meal all the time.

This is what I call a compromise.  It was quick and easy, but semi healthy and so tasty!  It really all began because I wanted Haricot Verts or what is known as French green beans.  It almost became an obsession, I was thinking about them so much.

I had a nice fish dish planned but then my crazy week began and I just didn’t have the time I thought I was going to have.  I had to come up with a new game plan.

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This was so easy to put together, didn’t take any time at all and the nice thing is, you can modify it however you would like to fit your own tastes.  It really makes for a great, but easy dinner.

So the next time you come home and need a quick meal.  Try this because you’ll love the taste and not feel guilty.

Happy eating!

Seared Scallops with Blue Cheese and Bacon Risotto

No matter what I do in life, it seems it’s always better when bacon is involved.  There is just something about the sweet, salty, meaty combination that makes us all fall in love with it.

I’m not even sure when and where I saw this recipe.  It might have been a posting from a local restaurant or a picture in a magazine, but when I saw bacon and risotto in the same sentence, I knew I wanted to make it  On that same note I remember thinking how much my husband liked scallops and how much I like risotto, so as in life….a perfect pairing!

I’ve always made what I think is a pretty good risotto, but I’ve always used parmesan.  This recipe just shows you that it’s okay to think outside of the box.  Of course, the nice thing about risotto is you can add pretty much whatever you really like and it will come out good.  That is the beauty of this dish.

When you see a picture or have an idea that inspires you….give it a try.  Nothing lost, nothing gained as my grandmother would always say.  You might actually find you’ve created something worth talking about!

Bon Appétit!

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Seared Scallops with Blue Cheese and Bacon Risotto

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • Blue Cheese and Bacon Risotto
  • 1 quart low sodium chicken broth
  • 6 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 or small onion, diced (approximately 1/2 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup aborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 ounces blue cheese
  • white pepper and salt to taste

Scallops

  • 10 Sea scallops
  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil

Herb butter (optional)

  • 2 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon chevere, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Instructions

  1. Warm chicken broth, do not boil. In a large saucepan over medium heat cook bacon until crisp. Remove from pan to drain and set aside. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.

  2. Add onion to bacon grease and cook until tender. Add garlic and rice and cook for 2 minutes. Add wine and stir to scrape up the bottom and until wine is absorbed.

  3. Add one cup chicken broth and gently stir until broth is absorbed. (if it is absorbing too fast lower the heat) Repeat, adding one cup at a time, until it is creamy and tender but still has just a hint of resistance when you bite into it – about 20 minutes.

  4. Remove from heat and add reserved bacon and the blue cheese and stir until cheese has melted. Season with white pepper and salt if needed. Allow risotto to rest approximately 10 minutes before serving, as it will thicken as it cools.

  5. For scallops: heat canola oil in a non stick skillet until almost smoking. Dry scallops in paper towels and add to hot oil, 2 to 3 minutes each side. Do a small amount at a time, as they will steam if too crowded. They will be nicely browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Remove scallops from pan and set aside. Add 1/2 of the butter to the pan with the minced onion and sauté. Add parsley and chevre (you can also use tarragon, thyme, lemon basil) and wine and deglaze pan. Add remainder of butter.

  7. Add scallops back to butter mixture and gently heat.

  8. To serve, top risotto with scallops and herb butter if desired.

Summer

This weekend is Memorial Day Weekend and guess what comes after that?  You’re right.  SUMMER..  Sweet, sticky, hot, and sunny summer.  This is the time of year that when I get something to drink, I want it cold and sparkly.  I don’t know why but the bubbles in my drink just makes me feel a little less hot!

I have to say that typically if I want a drink, I choose wine.  A dark red wine that is full of body.  Cabernet is my drink of choice for the most part.  However, it is a bit heavy for the summer.  I had to come up with something that was relaxing like my Cabernet, but refreshing and had a little sparkle to it.

What could be better than White Sangria?  I know there are many versions and we all think our version is the best.  Mine really is!  It’s not too sweet, and not too tart.  It’s light and refreshing,  fruity and fun.

It’s what summer is all about.

Summer

Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 2 bottle Riesling wine
  • 1/2 cup Peach Schnapps
  • 1/2-1 cup chopped of any or all of the following:
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Asian Pear
  • Mango
  • Kiwi
  • 1/4 lemon or lime thinly sliced
  • Up to two cups Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine)

Instructions

  1. Pour two bottle of Riesling wine into a gallon pitcher

  2. Add 1/2 cup Peach Schnapps

  3. Add chopped fruit

  4. Stir to combine

  5. Pour into a glass and top with a generous pour of Prosecco (you can also use Champagne if you can’t find the Prosecco)

  6. ENJOY!!

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