Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey Tortilla Soup

Did you save your turkey carcass?

I did. I put it in a pot with the leftover veggies from the veggie platter (half an onion not even chopped or peeled, carrots, mushrooms, celery and two crushed garlic cloves skin on), topped it with water and made the best broth ever. Once you've made your own stock, store bought stock will taste stale and flavorless. From this day forward, promise me that if you have leftover bones save it for stock.
Yesterday I started my Christmas cards and brainstorming for gifts. I was able to make this soup in about 20 minutes after the broth was finished.

Turkey Tortilla Soup
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 onion chopped
2 tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic minced
4 cups of turkey or chicken broth
1/2 cup of cilantro chopped
2 cups of chopped tomatoes (or canned tomatoes)
2 carrots sliced
1 1/2 cups of frozen or fresh corn
1/2 lime juiced
1 tbs salt
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups of shredded turkey
A couple of sprigs of cilantro for garnish
1/2 cup of tortilla chips or pan fried tortilla strips for garnish
1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese for garnish

On medium heat pour oil into the soup pot. Once the oil swirls around the pot easily, add the chili powder, garlic powder and cumin. Cook until the spices are fragrant.
Next add the onion, jalapeno and garlic, cooking until soft. Throw the carrots, tomatoes, cilantro and corn on top and stir it up until all the ingredients in the pot are hot and releasing a good steam. Add the shredded turkey to the pot and top it off by squeezing the juice of half the lime and pouring 4 cups of chicken broth into the pot.
Season with salt, sugar and pepper and cook for 30 minutes until the carrots are soft.
While the soup is cooking, cut up corn tortillas into strips. In a small skillet pour a tablespoon of olive oil and put the pan on medium heat. When the oil is hot, throw the tortilla strips into the pan and cook until the tortilla strips are slightly golden. There is an easy shortcut if you don't have time, you can just use tortilla chips.
Once the soup is finished, ladle the soup into bowls and top it off with a couple of tortilla strips, a pinch of shredded cheddar cheese and cilantro. Other toppers for the soup include: sour cream, avocado, queso fresco, whatever is available.
Put on a good movie, grab a cerveza and relax. No need to do anything else for a couple of hours.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weekend Brunch: Pumpkin Waffles

When it comes to canned foods, why do recipes always call for only a portion of the can? For example, when I made pumpkin bread a month ago, I had leftover pumpkin puree in the can. When I made my pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving I had leftover pumpkin puree in the can. Typically this issue would be fine if the can contained refried beans, water chestnuts or olives but pumpkin isn't something that I'll eat straight out of the can with a spoon.

I check Smitten Kitchen daily for recipes and this recipe not only takes care of my leftover pumpkin puree issue, but it has caused me to stock up on pumpkin so that I can have it anytime. The only thing I have changed about the recipe is split it in half. The full recipe always yields too many waffles and unfortunately I haven't discovered the secret to freezing and reheating homemade waffles.
Pumpkin Waffles
Adapted in half from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/6 cup packed light brown sugar or (2 tbs and 2 tsp)
1 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs, separated
1 cups well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil for brushing waffle iron or cooking spray
Optional:  1/4 cup of candied pecans chopped

Turn on your waffle iron. In a large bowl sift the flower, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

Separate the egg whites into a separate bowl and add the egg yolks, buttermilk, pumpkin and butter to the sifted flour mixture. Either whisk or blend the ingredients together with a mixer until everything is combined.
Make sure your egg whites are in a ceramic or metal bowl. In the past I put my egg whites into a plastic mixing bowl. The attempt to whip my egg whites to stiff peaks took 20 minutes, then I finally gave up. Use the whisk attachment for your mixer and beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. The egg whites should go from a clear to a very foamy state and eventually they will get very stiff and clump up. That's when you know your egg whites are ready.
Since my parents were over for Thanksgiving my dad helped to beat my egg whites. Thanks Dad!
Fold the egg whites into your waffle batter and sprinkle in the candied pecans if you are using them.

Brush oil over the waffle iron so the waffles do not stick. Depending on the size of your waffle iron you should be able to ladle about 1/2 cup to a cup of batter onto the iron and the cook time should be about 3 minutes.
Serve with whipped cream and maple syrup and then enjoy the godliness of these waffles.

Thanksgiving with Friends by Michele

Being unable to go home this Thanksgiving, I was very thankful that we were able to orchestrate a great feast with some fantastic new friends. For the past four years or so I have been the Thanksgiving chef for my family, which meant I had to wake up at 6 AM in order to get an enormous turkey in the oven on time. This year I still did the turkey, but many of my other usual responsibilities were taken over by friends. That said, I actually got to sleep in on Thanksgiving, and that is something that I am thankful for as well.

Here are some of my highlights, new and old, of what I did for Thanksgiving this year.

The Turkey

I made my first turkey some years back with my grandmother the way she was taught how to do it by her father. The recipe was simple; salt, pepper, oil, and soy sauce. This always resulted in a nice golden brown skin, and tender meat. Ever since, I have been developing my own version. I usually always use the soy sauce, but the other variables have changed over the years as I experiment. This year I did a melted butter and soy sauce baste three times during the first part of the baking, and finished it up with a cranberry ginger glaze, which I put on about three times during the last 100 minutes of cooking time. In the cavities, I put fresh poultry herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, and marjoram), butter, and chunks of ginger and garlic. I started baking it at 325 degrees, but eventually turned the temperature up to 400 degrees to finish it off with a nice brown color. Because I took the turkey out six times, it took six hours to finish baking it. It was well worth it though, because it turned out great. Just remember if you do plan on basting, taking the bird out of the oven can add up to 15 minutes of extra cooking time. My turkey was only suppose to take about 4.5 hours. Also, once you think it is done, test it by cutting inbetween the leg and breast. The liquids should run nice and clear. Once this happens still test it in multiple spots with a meat thermometer. Poultry should reach 165 degrees. When you take the bird out, the temperature will raise between 5 to 10 degrees as the temperature equilibriates.

Cranberry Ginger Glaze and Relish

For this I used equal parts frozen cranberries, apple cider and dark brown sugar, an inch length of chopped ginger, and a splash of apple cider vinager. I cooked that all down in a small sauce pan. Then I used my emersion blender to break it down a little bit more, and then allowed it to reduce until it was thick. Once it was cool enough to handle, I extracted the glaze using a fine mesh strainer. What remained, I served as a side relish. The relish also tastes good on bagels with cream cheese, and on sandwiches (especially turkey sanwiches).

Grandma's Green Jello Salad

This one is definitely an old school classic in my family. It shows up at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter and is missed if it is not there. That is why I had to make it. At first, this jello salad somewhat repels people from wanting to eat it. The color is alsolutely ridiculous, and, because of the decline in jello salad making, is often unidentifyable. Yet when people do finally get the nerve to try it, they usually really like it. The recipe contains five ingredients; one 6 oz packet of lime jello, a whole brick of cream cheese, a small can of crushed pinnapple, a tablespoon of mayo, and a teaspoon of white vinager. The jello is prepared by mixing the packet with 2 cups of boiling water. Once the jello is dissolved, add a cup of cold water and the vinager. Put this mixture in the serving bowl you will be using and store in the freezer until the jello gets semi-solid. This takes about an hour or so. (Even if it solidifies completely, it will still work. It will just have a different tecture.) In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, mayo, and pinnapple (juice and all). I use a fork to mix, but my mom uses a blender. (The difference is once again in the texture, which means it is up to you.) Last step is to fold the cream cheese mixture into the semi-solid jello. Once it is combined to your liking, stick it in the refrigerator until it is dinnertime.
Crazy Ol' Deviled Eggs

Once again another classic. However, the stuff that I added to these once is far from classic. Every holiday I make deviled eggs, and for some reason I never make them the same way twice. The ingredience that I use usually reflect what I have on hand at the moment. For these ones I used the following; roasted garlic, roasted red onion, chopped waterchestnuts, chopped cornichons (little french pickles), Sriracha, soy sauce, apple cider vinager, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and mayo. To top them off, I used thin slices of sage leaf that I baked in the oven for a couple minutes in foil.
Roasted Turkey Neck (this doesn't leave the kitchen)

If you have baked a full sized turkey, you already know about the neck that you have to pull out of the body cavity before you start baking. Most people are usually turned off by the idea of using it for anything, which means it is instantly discarded. For me, it is a Thanksgiving cooking day treat. As my grandma had taught me how to bake a turkey, she also taught me how to deal with the neck. All you do is throw it in the bottom of the cooking pan, and that is it. As the turkey cooks, the neck gets cooked up in all the drippings. When the turkey is resting, I take the neck out and nosh on the little bits of meat that I pull from it with a fork while I finish up the last touches on the meal. What little meat is there is amazing, and it taste even more amazing after you have been cooking all day long.
Cinnamon Whiskey

This is a recent discovery of mine. With the cold weather comes the warm drinks spiked with liquor. This one in particular is Seagram's 7 Dark Honey Whiskey with two cinnamon sticks in it. I left them in there for about three days, and then added it to eggnog for Thanksgiving. It also is excellent in coffee, hot chocolate, or apple cider. This also works with other whiskeys. Canadian whiskeys will work the best, because they lean more to the sweet side. If you don't have enough time, Fireball is excellent cinnamon whiskey, which should be available at a good sized liquor store.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, all I can think about is how am I going to use up the leftover turkey. Turkey and rice soup, turkey black bean chilli, turkey sandwiches... I love how Thanksgiving just keeps on giving.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Post T-Day Quiz: Vote!

The family came and conquered, and then slept. Somehow I managed to cook a turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, braised green beans, rolls, gravy, a pecan pie and a pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top.

I am thankful that everyone brought their appetite, my mom came early to help, my mother and sister-in-law made a plethora of appetizers and without asking my husband and his brother did the dishes!

Now it is all about the leftovers. I can handle extra mashed potatoes any day (I am a closet mashed potato eater). This week you get to look forward to Pumpkin Waffles, Ham Fried Rice and Turkey Tortilla Soup on Two Can Skillet. The major dilemma I'm facing now is how to use the additional whipping cream and/or cranberries that is taking up space in my fridge, so it's up to you to vote it out:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Taco Tuesday: Shredded Beef Tacos

Tonight I completed: a pumpkin pie, pecan pie, brine for the turkey and a sweet potato-apple soup for work. In the meantime, dinner was already completed.
 So, enough about Thanksgiving, more about these tacos. The number one reason I love these tacos is they remind me of my mom's classic tacos without ground beef and Lawry's taco seasoning packet. The second reason I love these tacos is because they are so low maintenance.
Shredded Beef Tacos

For the shredded beef:
16 oz can of canned stewed tomatoes
1/4 lb pot roast
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs cumin
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tbs ground corriander

For the tacos:
corn tortillas
1/2 cup of shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of salsa
1/4 cup of sour cream
1 cup of iceberg lettuce shredded
pickled jalapenos (optional)

If you are using a crockpot, you can make this recipe the night before or morning of. Begin by browning all sides of the roast in a hot pan. Place the browned pot roast in the crockpot and throw in a can of canned stewed tomatoes. In the same pan, put it on medium heat and add the olive oil. Once the olive oil is hot, add the cumin, coriander, chili powder and paprika and cook til fragrant. Next, add the garlic and onions and cook until translucent. Pour the garlic and onions into the crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Once the beef is cooked, take out the meat and shred it into small pieces. You can use the leftover sauce in the crockpot for the tacos, I decided to omit the sauce from my tacos.
To prepare your tacos, heat up your corn tortillas so they are flexible. Set out the cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream, lettuce and jalepenos and eat away.
If you do not have a crockpot: repeat the same procedure for the shredded beef in a skillet or pot and cook on low heat (300 degrees), with a lid, on the oven for about 4 hours or until the beef shreds easily.
Happy almost turkey day!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weekend Brunch: Cinnamon Challah French Toast

We'll be talking about this today:                              

 But I want to go over this first:
Bread cubes tossed in butter-my future stuffing
The frantic Thanksgiving is not so frantic this year. I have a 4 day schedule on how I'm going to get Thanksgiving dinner for 8 ready and on the table by 4PM this Thursday. Here's the plan:

Tonight: Cut up vegetables and butter and toast bread cubes (to be used in stuffing later)
Tomorrow: Bake the pecan and pumpkin pie, start the brine for the turkey
Wednesday: Bake the ham, prep the rest of the food so it is cut up and ready to cook
Thursday: Take the turkey out of the brine, put it in the oven, tackle a 30 mile bike ride, come back home, clean up, make the mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, sweet potatoes with apricots and bourbon, heat up the rolls, put everything on the table and I'm good to go.

I forgot, I'll be drinking wine every night as well.

Since we have a short week with the holiday I figured it would be fine to post my weekend brunch a little late. Just to warn you, I buy my cinnamon challah at Trader Joe's, but I have a hard time not tearing off a piece of bread and snacking on it before I get home. It tastes THAT good.

Cinnamon Challah French Toast

4 slices of cinnamon challah bread
3 eggs
1 cup of milk or half and half
1 tbs vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 dash of nutmeg
2 butter

Pick a bowl that will fit a slice of bread in the bottom. In that bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg until thoroughly mixed.

Turn your stove on medium high and melt the butter in the skillet. In the meantime, soak your bread in the milk and egg mixture. Make sure to flip the bread over so both sides get even saturation.

Once the butter is melted, put your soaked bread onto the skillet, you should hear it sizzle. (If you don't your skillet isn't hot enough)

Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes until the bread looks golden brown and flip it to the other side. Cook for another 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until the bread is golden brown (If you see any liquid from the egg mixture, cook a while longer)

Repeat this with the three other slices of bread. Serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, orange slice and syrup. Whipped cream is optional.
Mimosa anyone?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pumpkin Curry (Thai style) by Michele

My boyfriend loves pumpkin anything. For example, his birthday is in the spring and he always gets pumpkin pie instead of cake (thank god grocery stores stock canned pumpkin when it is not Thanksgiving). Recently, we moved about 48 hours away from our beloved Thai restaurant that makes the best pumpkin curry. For the sake of my grief stricken boyfriend, and my insatiable craving for Thai curry, I came up with this recipe for pumpkin curry.
Pumpkin Curry (Thai style)
For about two years now I have been messing around with my own Thai curry recipes trying to get an authentic Thai taste. It is hard, especially when you don't have tamarind, Kefir lime leaves, and lemon grass laying around. Despite this, I found that as long as you have tamarind paste and a good curry powder you aren't too far off. Fortunately, tamarind paste has a great shelf life, so you don't have to eat Thai curry for weeks straight trying to use the stuff up once you buy a tub of it. If it is not in the ethnic food section of you regular grocery store, try a natural food store or a specialty Asian store.

½ small sugar pumpkin (baked in the oven)
1 large or 2 small potatoes
1 carrot
½ bell pepper
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 can coconut milk
2 Tbs yellow curry powder
dash of pepper flakes (optional)
2 clove garlic (minced)
½ – 1 inch piece fresh ginger (minced)
2 tsp tamarind paste (a little goes a long way)
4 sprigs Thai basil

Before making the curry...
Prepare the pumpkin by cutting it into thirds, gutting it, and baking it at 350 º until it is tender. Once it is baked, allow it to cool completely before removing the skin. The skin should peel right off. If it is being difficult, use a knife to separate it. I usually bake my pumpkin on a different day, while I am making another dish that doesn't use the oven, and then I store it in the refrigerator until I want to use it.

Make enough rice for two. If you want a little left over about 1 1/2 cups will work. Jasmine goes well with this curry, but really any rice (white or brown) will work.

Now the for the curry...
First, mince your ginger and garlic. To make this easier on yourself, give the ginger and garlic a quick yet hard whack with the flat side of a wide chopping knife. 
Next prepare the vegetables (pumpkin, potatoes, carrot, and bell pepper) by chopping them into nice sized chunks that are roughly bite sized. (If you want to speed up the cooking time you can either microwave or boil the potatoes and carrots.)  
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat. Once the oil is warm add the curry powder and pepper flakes. Use your best judgment when using these spices. My tablespoons are usually heaping when it comes to my curry powder. Next throw in the ginger and garlic. Once the spices become fragrant, add the potatoes and carrots. 
**Depending on whether or not you precooked the potatoes and carrots, add up to 1 cup of water to the pot, cover, and let cook until the you are able to poke with a fork. 
After the potatoes are done cooking, add coconut milk, stir, and bring to a simmer. 
Next, stir in the tamarind paste, pumpkin and bell pepper. Allow it to simmer for at least 10 more minutes or until every thing is melded together and tender. 
Prepare the basil by washing it and separating the leaves. Before taking the pot off the stove, turn the heat to low and add the Thai basil. Serve up with your rice, and enjoy.
It is best when the sauce is nice and smooth. If it gets chunky, just add some water or chicken broth and stir the chunks out. If the sauce is not flavorful enough, add some more curry powder or salt to taste. If the sauce is too spicy, add more coconut milk or just milk if you don't have another can of coconut milk. Curry is like making salsa, it usually doesn't turn out the same way twice, but that is another story.
To finish this meal off my boyfriend and I enjoyed some giant red frozen grapes that I had stored in the freezer. Whenever I buy grapes, I usually freeze half of them. I think they taste better when they are frozen, plus it a great finish to a spice meal.

My sister can skillet

I have been rewriting this introduction for the last two hours. My goal was to introduce my sister to this blog with a funny story but they seemed to include me biting my sister, my sister throwing a big gulp at me or me getting my teeth knocked out. Not the best introductions.

Instead here are a couple of fun facts about my sister:

1. Michele's nickname in high school was Monkey Butt
2. Michele once started an oil fire in the kitchen while trying to make fried ice cream
3. Michele has a recipe called "Hot Fruit" hopefully she'll share it with us one day
4. Michele is a mechanical engineer, amazing artist and great cook

My sister has an amazing knack for concocting recipies out of those random pantry items. Plus my sister can skillet.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Taco Tuesday! Butternut Squash and Black Bean Tacos

One thing always remained constant in my childhood and that was having tacos for dinner once a week. My family's version of tacos was ground beef, Lawry's seasoning packet, shredded cheddar cheese, lettuce and canned stewed tomatoes. Beans were always omitted because I never ate beans until my mother-in-law forced them on me a couple years ago (if you sense resentment don't worry because I love her for it now).

Now instead of featuring the same taco week after week, I'll be making different tacos! You better be as excited about this as I am.

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Tacos
2 cups of butternut squash
4 tbs olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 can of canned black beans
1/2 cup of  salsa
1 cup of arugula (spinach or lettuce works as well)
1/4 cup of goat cheese
4-6 corn tortillas

Extras that are completely optional:
Pickled shallots ( 1shallot, 1/2 cup of white vine vinegar, 2 tbs sugar)
hot sauce

Start by peeling your butternut squash, scooping out the seeds and chopping it into 1/2 inch chunks. Make sure you are using a sturdy knife, butternut squash can be tough.
Take out a bowl and put in all of the butternut squash. Drizzle olive oil over the butternut squash and toss in the cumin, paprika, chili powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix together until the olive oil coats the butternut squash and the seasoning looks evenly distributed.

On medium heat, throw all of the olive oil and spice covered butternut squash into the skillet. Cook for 20 minutes stirring frequently so the butternut squash doesn't stick to the pan and all sides get evenly caramelized.
While the butternut squash is cooking rinse your canned black beans and put them into a bowl. Microwave (gasp!) them for 1 minute.

If you are opting in for the pickled shallots, peel the outer skin off the shallot and then slice thinly. Put the sliced shallots into a small bowl with the vinegar and sugar. Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
Once the butternut squash is finished, put it on the table along with the black beans, arugula, goat cheese, pickled shallots (optional), hot sauce and salsa. I think tacos are much more fun when you can make your own tacos individually.

 Ok, one more picture. I can't help it, look at that gorgeous butternut squash!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekend Brunch: Potato Crusted Quiche


Pre-marriage I imagined the weekend married life sitting at the kitchen table, wearing robes, drinking homemade lattes, eating breakfast and reading the newspaper. My imagination was almost correct minus homemade lattes (no espresso machine yet), minus the newspaper (news is typically checked on the laptop) and I'm the only one with the robe.

Making breakfast on Saturday and Sunday is one of my favorite things to do. The Potato Crusted Quiche is a combination of my favorite breakfast foods: hashed browns and scrambles.

Potato Crusted Quiche
3 russet potatoes sliced thin
3 eggs
4 asparagus spears cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup of spinach
2 mushrooms
1 leek
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup of crumbled goat cheese
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs olive oil
dash of pepper

Turn your oven onto 400 degrees. In the meantime slice your potatoes, mushrooms, asparagus and leeks.

In a skillet, get the pan hot and coat the pan with olive oil. Throw the leaks into the pan and saute for 2 minutes until they begin to wilt. Add the asparagus and mushrooms and cook for another 4 minutes. Lastly, add the spinach and cook for another minute. Put all of the sauteed vegetables into a bowl on the side and keep the skillet on the heat.

With the skillet on the heat, arrange the potatoes along the bottom of the pan. This is my favorite part of the recipe even though it always looks the same I feel like I'm creating some type of beautiful rosette.While the potatoes are getting nice and golden on the bottom, whisk your eggs together in a bowl adding the milk, salt and pepper.

   Now take your bowl of sauteed vegetables and pour them over the potatoes in the skillet. Crumble the goat cheese over the veggies and then pour the egg mixture on top of everything.

Put the skillet into the oven and cook for 20 minutes until the eggs are firm in the center. Once done, serve immediately. If you are feeling ambitious, let cool for 5-10 minutes, put a plate over the skillet and flip the skillet over so the plate is on the bottom. The quiche should fall out easily displaying the beautiful golden potatoes, it just depends on how much coffee you've had on this particular weekend morning.

Warning: This quiche goes quickly and you'll be slightly sad when it's gone.

I'm obsessed with recipes, so what?

When cooking in high school I relied on my grandma's recipes and the Betty Crocker cookbook (my mom's old trusty). After I graduated college, website after website started publishing an infinite amount of recipes that were waiting just for me. What did I do? I printed out every recipe I liked and cataloged it into a binder. Soon my binder turned into binders and eventually my binders turned into boxes. Evidence A: See Below
What I've learned is that not all recipes are created equal. Some recipes just don't end up tasting good, some recipes I have no patience for. Tons of recipes leave me and my husband with 4 days of leftovers when the only time that is acceptable is in the form of mashed potatoes. I will use my experiences to make your life easier and provide recipes that taste good and are perfectly suited for two people.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Split Pea Soup: Pictures are deceiving

I have a love hate relationship with my crockpot. I love the fact that I can plop everything into my crockpot, and leave it on for 4-8 hours. I hate the fact that every recipe I've made in the crockpot is hit or miss. This split pea soup recipe falls into my "love" relationship. I love my soup hearty, I love extra carrots in my soup and I love when soup tastes creamy but doesn't have any dairy.

Another love hate relationship I have is photographing split pea soup. The contrast between the burgundy crockpot and the muted green soup did not result well in pictures, in addition we finished the soup too late to realize we were lacking pictures of the finished product. But please trust me, this soup makes you want to melt it tastes so good.

*If you don't have a crockpot, the stovetop recipe is below the crockpot recipe.


1 smoked ham hock (Andronico's had a great selection of meaty smoked ham hocks that other stores lacked, you might have to search around for a good one)
2 carrots sliced
½ white onion chopped
1 clove of garlic smashed
1 stick of celery sliced
1 leek
1 tbs salt
3 small Yukon Gold Potatoes
1.5 cup dried split peas
3 cups of water

Wash and cut carrots, onions, garlic, celery and leek. Put skillet on medium heat. Drizzle some olive oil on the skillet, when it swirls around the pan easily; add the leeks, garlic and onions, sauté until limp (5-10 minutes). Add the carrots and celery to the pan, sauté for another 5 minutes until fragrant.

Next, chop up your potatoes; these will get put into the crock pot raw.

Rinse out the split peas and remove anything that doesn’t look green (sometimes small hard stones are in the dried peas).

Take out your crock pot and put all of the ingredients in (in case you need a reminder plop in the ham hock, all of the sautéed leeks, garlic, onions, carrots and celery, rinsed split peas, potatoes, salt and water.

Turn on low and cook all day until you get home. If you don't mind your soup chunky just stir it up and eat it. If you are patient enough, use an immersion blender to puree the soup. We ate this soup so quickly, I didn't even get a chance to take a picture!

**If you don’t have a crockpot you’ll want to start this dinner the night prior, it will take 20 minutes to prep and 2 hours to cook. So let’s rewind to the point at which I asked you to plop everything into your crockpot and instead, take out your large soup pot, sauté all of the vegetables in the pot until the onions are translucent. Add your potatoes and rinsed split peas, salt and ham hock and then drown it all in 4 cups of water. Bring the soup to a boil and then bring down to a simmer and cook for 2 hours.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cucumber Salad-Like the one at Thai restaurants

Thai restaurants never serve enough of the cucumber salad. I know it's supposed to be a palate cleanser but I always want more! Now you can make your own, and eat all that you want . . . just as long as you have enough cucumbers.

Thai Style Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber sliced
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 carrot julienned
½ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp sesame seeds to garnish
Half of a green onion to garnish

If you have a mandolin slicer this salad will be done in a snap but a knife will get the job done as well. Discard the ends of the cucumber and slice the cucumber thinly. Julienne the carrot and put both vegetables into a bowl.

To make the dressing, put sesame oil, sugar and rice wine vinegar into a small bowl and mix until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour dressing over the sliced cucumbers and carrots, garnish with sliced green onions and sesame seeds and eat your heart out. These calories won't go against you.

Soba Noodles with Peanut Sauce


These soba noodles taste as satisfying as a bowl full of mashed potatoes.


Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2


2 tbs peanut butter
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs honey
1 clove of garlic minced
½ tbs rice wine vinegar
2 rolls of soba noodles
Half of a green onion to garnish
½ tsp sesame seeds to garnish
2 tbs crushed peanuts to garnish

Fill a saucepan with water and put it on the stove on high heat. While waiting for your water to boil take out your cutting board and mince up some garlic. Put the garlic in a bowl along with the peanut butter, soy sauce, honey and rice wine vinegar. Whisk together.

By now your water should be boiling, add the soba noodles and cook them for 7 minutes. Once done cooking, rinse the soba noodles in cold water and set aside in a bowl. Pour the peanut sauce over the noodles. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Garnish with sliced green onions and sprinkle with sesame seeds.


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