Friday, February 25, 2011

Crock pot split pea soup

Green split pea soup is so delicious, filling, very economical, and naturally thickens itself!

I buy a shank ham with bone, cook it up, then save the bone with some meat still on, to use in the soup.

I have tried fat back, salt pork, bacon, and ham bone.  Not all at the same time!

The winner hands down, no comparison, is the ham bone.  The bone has marrow inside it and that flavors the soup like nothing else.

Also, I have tried cooking on stove top, and crock pot.

Again, the best is the crock pot.

I use really good quality chicken/vegetable stock (Better than Bouillon), 2 bags of the green split peas, 4 sliced carrots, 1/4 cup diced onions, water, and salt and pepper.  I cook in the crock pot on high for 5 or 6 hours.
The good thing is that you cannot over cook the soup.  The ham bone is high in salt, so be careful of the amount of salt you add.
Always use fresh ground black pepper.  As soon as the whole peppercorns are crushed, they release the wonderful fresh pepper aroma.  When you use already ground pepper, you have to use twice as much because who knows how long ago it was ground.  They even sell whole peppercorns in a ready to use grinder, in case you don't own your own.  And if you don't, please invest a small amount of money and buy one!

Remove the ham bone, skim fat off the top, and adjust seasonings.  I like to mash the soup with a potato masher, so it becomes more creamy. Like I said at the beginning, the split peas are a natural thickener, so you don't need to add any cornstarch or roux.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spring preview

Today is February 17 and the sun is shining bright.  The current temperature is 49, and going up to 60!!!

Tomorrow is going to be 65 degrees.  After that the temperature returns to it's usual 40ish during the day.

But, with the weather around here, it'best to enjoy the moment, as it will change, usually towards the nasty side, especially during the months of February and March.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Don't let anyone tell you that scrapple is not good, or that is made from all of the pig's parts that no one would ever eat, like pig eyes, pig snouts, and pig toenails!

Yes, it's true, the only thing left of a pig is the squeal.  But, those parts are used in the making of pet foods, etc., not in scrapple.

Last year, my family and I visited Scrapple Fest in Philadelphia.  The waft of scrapple frying filled the air.   I was amazed how crowded it was!  It was held at the Reading Terminal Market, which if you've never been, you MUST visit.  The array of scents are intoxicating.   They have every kind of food you could ever imagine.

I found an amazing balsamic vinegar that was far superior than the selection at my local supermarket. 
We indulged in free samples of scrapple, and ordered a giant fresh baked chocolate chip cookie that oozed melted chocolate goodness in our mouths.

They had excess samples of no meat scrapple.  What's the point again?  It was awful!  It was like having no chocolate chocolate!

When my sister visited from Florida a few years ago, we drove up to the Reading, PA outlets to visit a huge kitchen supply store.  It is a foodie dream come true.  I found a book that listed a homemade scrapple recipe.  It called for ground pork shoulder, corn meal, and spices. 
It was a good thing, too, because I really would not know where to look for pig noses.  I wouln't want to eat that anyway! 

It is difficult to find good scrapple East of the Mississippi, so when you visit, order a side of scrapple with your eggs and ask for ketchup, not for the eggs, but for the scrapple. 
If you love bacon and sausage, you will flip over scrapple.  It is amazing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

All Natural Cleaning/Sanitizing Mixtures for your Kitchen

Garbage Disposal Cleaner and sharpener:

  Place several ice cubes into garbage disposal, run cold water, turn on and turn off when the garbage disposal has ground up all the ice.

For clean smelling garbage disposal:  Put in 1/4 cup baking soda and let sit for 10 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup white vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes.  Turn on disposal, with water running, for 30 seconds.

Lemon juice works great for a quick fresh smelling disposal.

Coffee Pot Cleaner:

I see they sell a coffee pot cleaner at the store.  Why?  More chemicals?  Enough!  Fill up your carafe or water reservoir with plain white vinegar, let sit for 30 minutes. Turn on coffee pot as if you are making a pot of coffee.  Once done, turn off, empty vinegar and put in fresh cold water and run through again TWO more times with cold water in order to remove all traces of sediment and vinegar residue.
This will keep your coffee maker running smoother and fresher.  Depending on how much you use your coffee pot, you can clean it this way every month or two months.
The great thing is, it is very affordable, no chemicals, and all natural, so if you use this method three times a month, it will be fine!

All Natural Cleaning for Microwave Oven

Buy cheap bottle of lemon juice.
Pour 1/2 cup lemon juice plus 1/2 cup water in Pyrex or oven-proof glassware.
Place in microwave.
Put in for 6 minutes on high setting.

Open microwave oven--CAREFUL-IT WILL BE VERY HOT-- and it will smell wonderful, plus it will loosen any baked on food so you can easily clean up with paper towels.
Also, some of the mixture will have boiled over onto the bottom of your oven, but that's fine, you just soak it up with paper towels.

All natural, very affordable, and it works great!

Seafood Toasts-Makes 12 appetizers

1 French baguette, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
2 Tbsp good-quality olive oil
2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
7 oz smoked salmon
3 Tbsp Vinaigrette-(oil and vinegar dressing-recipe to follow)
24 small shrimp-cooked and cooled

1.  Preheat oven to 375F.  
2.  Brush a little olive oil on the bread, place on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes or until golden brown.
3.  Spread the toasted bread slices with a little of the mayonnaise.
4.  Place smoked salmon on top of bread, dress with vinaigrette, arrange a couple of the shrimp, and top it all off with a little mayonnaise and fresh chopped parsley.

                VINAIGRETTE-Oil & Vinegar dressing
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Salt, fresh ground pepper
1 Tbsp finely diced onion
1 Tbsp finely diced scallion
1 Tbsp finely diced garlic
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley

1.  Whisk together the oil and vinegar in a bowl and season to taste.  Whisk in remaining seasonings.  Store in fridge up to two weeks.  Note:  Keep dice VERY fine.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Packers Win Super Bowl!!! I predicted it, oh yeah!, plus update on Chili Contest

I called it, the Packers will win.  I had a TON of opposition, believe me.  All the "experts" said, Steelers all the way!  All my friends, the male ones, said Steelers. Ha ha, I have the last laugh.  And believe me, I will rub it in their faces!

It's not that I am a Packers fan, on the contrary, I am a big Eagles fan, through and through.  Which is why I root  for the underdog, always.  It's great.

I think the Steelers mailed the game in, because I think they were so full of themselves, they actually thought they had won already without showing up.  That's when the underdog attacks, and wins.

In the playoffs, the Green Bay Packers beat the Eagles, so I had to root for the Packers.

Also, Michael Vick won Come back athlete, yeah, Go Vick!!!

Today is the day of the Chili Contest, keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fun things for the kitchen.

I bought this rack for $8.00 at Columbus, NJ flea market this morning.
This plant is part clover and the tall greens are from a garlic bulb.  I had some garlic in my fridge that was starting to grow green stalks, so I planted it and it's growing like well, a weed. I'll try the greens in a salad, it should  have a mild garlic flavor, right?

And last, my favorite apron.  My wonderful, generous sister bought this for me and I love it! So cute, and functional.  The ice cream clock was also a find at Columbus flea market for $4.00.

The Winning-est CHILI Of All Time!!!

Well, there is one good thing about living in the northeast area of the country-that is being able to eat hearty, hot, soups, stews, and of course, Chili.  
Who wants to eat spicy chili in hot, humid weather? Ahhhhhh, no.

Now, the original chili does not have beans involved, but I love to add beans to my chili and this year, I will be bringing home 1st prize in a local annual chili cooking contest.

I have entered several contests through the years, and thus far, have always placed second or runner-up.

This year, I will pull out all stops and go crazy on making a chili that will blow the socks off the judges, literally! 
Previously, I have made ground beef and bean chili, white chili, and ground turkey chili.

Tomorrow will be a monumental day, please mark your calendars as this IS THE YEAR, I will win!

I am making it now, 3:00 pm EST. Let the competition begin!!!
Wish me luck (although luck has nothing to do with it!)

Recipe to follow................

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Try this for something different-Salmon, asparagus and artichoke tartlets-makes 12

Note:  Please allow 1/2 hour, plus 2 hours for preparation, directions to follow:

9 oz ready made puff pastry-in your freezer section at supermarket-follow thaw directions on package
Flour for dusting
9 oz salmon fillet, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, and  dill
 24 thin asparagus tips
1 can artichoke hearts, drained.
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying

l.  Preheat oven to 375F
2.  Roll out thawed pastry out onto a floured board and use to line 12 tartlet molds or tart pan-(don't have molds?, use cupcake tins, you can use paper baking cups or flour the tins).
3.  Place in oven and cook for 5 minutes until pastry turns golden and starts to puff up.
4.  Remove from oven and let cool.
5.  Place salmon in freezer for 1/2 hour to make it easier to slice thinly.  Lay the slices out on a dish, sprinkle with sugar, salt, and the herbs, cover, and leave to marinate for 2 hours, turning twice.
6.  Brush salmon clean with a pastry brush and set aside.
7. Drop the asparagus into boiling salted water, bring back to a boil, and simmer for 2 minutes.  Refresh in iced water, drain, and set aside.
8.  Slice artichokes finely and fry them in the oil until crisp.
9.  Heat a heavy-based skillet and sear the salmon for 30 seconds on each side.
10.  Place a slice of the salmon, followed by 2 asparagus tips, then an artichoke slice into the tarlet, and serve.

Makes 12 tartlets.

Another must have for your kitchen

This is a MUST have for your kitchen.  I own the Maverick Roast Alert/3. It is worth the extra bucks compared to the traditional thermometers out there.  This one cost me $22.00.  The regular 'stick' thermometer cost about $3.00 or $4.00.

The difference is with the Maverick Alert you put the probe into your meat/poultry BEFORE you cook it in the oven. The probe is in the meat and the other plug is in the main unit. (See picture)  You leave the unit outside of the oven and the probe stays in the oven.  No need to open and close the oven door letting out valuable heat.  You set it and forget it!.

There are settings for: Ham, duck, ribs, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, veal, and lamb.
For Beef there are rare, medium rare, medium, and well to choose from.  For poultry, it will automatically read temperature as 180 F -that's the safe temperature for cooked poultry.
It also has separate settings for these GROUND meats:  Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, and veal.

There is also one setting in which you can program manually what you need to cook that isn't listed or you want a particular temperature for some food.

It has a timer also and an Alert mode-this is where the unit will beep repeatedly when it is within 10 degrees of done temperature.

I have used this on chicken, turkey, ham, pork, and beef steaks.  The probe end is about 6 inches long to stick into your food, and the "cord" is 36 inches long.   Both probe and cord are safe for oven temperatures.  You just leave the unit out on the counter, or oven door since it has magnets on the back.

Pork is a funny thing, if you over cook it, it dries out.  When I started using this thermometer, I was very impressed , it was and is "Spot On".

Again, plus you DON'T open the oven door, get blasted with hot air in your face, letting the precious heat escape, just to stick in the regular thermometer and wait for the reading. Snooze time.

Any comments or questions, let me know and thanks for reading!

TAPAS or Small Snacks

Tapas are Spanish verb, Tapar, meaning "to cover", but let's call it something better:  Small Snacks.

Also called appetizers in our culture.  These yummy one or two bites are great to serve anytime.
How about the Super Bowl party?  You can make ahead of time, pop into oven for a few minutes, and plate!

If anyone has a request for a particular TAPA, such as chicken, shrimp, vegetable, etc., post a comment and I will post a recipe.  
I am going to post a few recipes for Super Bowl Party Eats today and tomorrow.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Don't deprive yourself from the goodies you love.

     I know I am blogging about healthy, simple foods, yet I post a creamy soup that is not necessarily the healthiest of soups.
     I am in the northeast and the winters here are brutal.  By the time February comes around, everyone around here is sick and tired of the snow, ice, and cold temperatures. 
     Therefore, I believe in nourishing your soul as well as your body.
     This baked potato soup is like having a warm, super soft blanket around you.

     Just don't go hog wild with the portion and also, eat lots of fresh fruit and salads throughout the rest of the day to balance.

     My nice husband made a decadent chocolate cake with chocolate icing last night. How can I resist, how can anyone resist that?  Not me. I don't have a sweet tooth, I have more of a salt tooth, but chocolate cake is another story. I had a small piece, and then walked a bit more this morning to help burn it off.

Never deprive yourself of something you love, just keep it minimal and remember, think before you eat, eat well, and find an exercise that YOU love!

Bon Appetit!

Recipe for Baked Potato Soup

This will yield about two quarts or six to seven servings:

4 medium baking potatoes
1 clove fresh garlic,minced fine
2 green onions, small dice
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil (or butter)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth(don't use the cubes-too much salt)
1 1/4 cups half and half OR 1 pint heavy cream plus 1/4 cup milk (any kind 2%, whole, etc.
6 ounces reduced fat sour cream(don't use no fat, the flavor is off)
8 ounces reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded.
4 slices cooked bacon, cooked, cooled, and diced small.
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley and fresh green onions for garnish.

1.  Scrub potatoes, wash and prick with fork, then bake in microwave on high about 15 minutes or until knife cuts through easily.  You can bake in regular oven at 400 F for 45 to 60 minutes.
2.  While potatoes are cooling down, put garlic, green onions,flour, and oil into a dutch oven (large pot) on medium heat and stir constantly for 5 to 6 minutes, or until garlic and onions are cooked through.  (don't let garlic burn, it turns very bitter-tasting)
3. Gradually add chicken broth while stirring with a whisk to incorporate all the ingredients.
4.Remove skins off potatoes (save skins for later-you can make potato skins filled with reduced fat cheeses, and onions!), mash half of the potatoes and dice the other half of potatoes and put in with the chicken broth.
5. Add salt and pepper, taste, adjust.
6.  Add half and half,sour cream and shredded cheese and mix completely through.
7.  Continue cooking for 15 minutes on low/medium heat--DO NOT LET BOIL- stirring occasionally.
8. Pour into bowls and garnish with green onions and fresh chopped parsley.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Need more fiber?

  No one wants to talk about the f word, but well, we are adults.  Well, most of us anyway.  Shockingly about 80% of all Americans do NOT get enough fiber.  As adults we all need 25 to 35 grams a day.  Children need their age plus 5.  Example:  10 year old Johnny would need 15 grams a day.
Twenty five to 35 gms a day means five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day! Not a week!

Thank goodness ketchup is considered a vegetable (or is it a fruit?) or my husband would be SOL.

What does this mean, we have to walk around with a bag full of broccoli, apples, and peaches?  I mean five is doable for sure, but nine?  That does seem excessive.  However, fruit and vegetable juices are a serving each.  So is one small banana, so get a giant banana and go to town.
I wonder where that town is?

Nowadays, you can get two servings of vegetables in Chef Boyardee Ravioli, YEAH!

I say eat some instant oatmeal sprinkled with wheat germ, bananas, and a berry and Voila!  Two servings of fiber from whole grains and two servings of fiber from fruits. You could easily get one half of the 25 grams at breakfast.  Plus don't forget Oats and blueberries are SUPER foods (wheat germ too), they contain lots of antioxidants.
80% of All Americans do NOT get enough fiber.

Eat an apple and orange a day, they are very seasonal now so they are affordable.  Eat a banana at breakfast. Eat a cup of greens for a salad, if you add peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes, you are doing quite well.

Don't forget eat beans, but please be aware of those around you (pee-yew).  Eat whole grain bread instead of white, eat the skin of the apple and the potato, the fiber is all in the skin on those!
Vegetable soup is great too.
This yucky winter weather is great for making and eating soups.

I made loaded baked potato soup and creamy lentil soup today.  Last week, I made split pea and escarole with little meatballs. 
If you want any of these recipes, let me know.  The lentil soup is low in fat and calories.