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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Split Pea & Ham Soup

I don't know what it is, but since I've learned how to cook I've LOVED making soups.
You just plop in the ingredients and smell it cooking all day.... so delicious. So easy! So yummy!

One of my favorite soups to cook is a soup I hated as a child....  Split Pea & Ham soup. 

I love making this soup with a leftover smoked ham.  There's usually sooo much ham left over this is a great way to use up some of the leftovers without feeling like you're eating ham for a week.

First start to any good soup is a decent broth.  I make the broth for this soup pretty much from scratch.  It takes a long time but it is so so so worth it.

For the broth:

Bone from ham with some ham bits on it
3 quarts of water (can mix in some soup stock if you have any.  This time I mixed in about three cups of vegetable broth)
2 good size onions, cut in half and peeled
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut in quarters
2-3 stalks of celery, quartered
Leaves from celery chopped in and added (the first time I saw this in a recipe, I cringed.  I always threw it away.  But it adds a lot of flavor to the broth and you can toss it out afterwards)
One herb bouquet with three bay leaves, a tablespoon of thyme, and a teaspoon of peppercorns

Boil it all in a large pot for about three hours.  Tent the lid so the steam can escape.

Put a strainer inside a large bowl to pour the soup into.  Drain the broth and discard all the solid stuff in the original broth boil (the onions, celery, carrots, bone, herb bouquet, etc).  DO NOT dump all this yummy deliciousness down the drain by accident.  I triple check to make sure my strainer is in a big enough bowl and then pour it in.  Pour it back into the pot through a sieve to take away any small impurities.

For the soup:

2 quarts of the broth you just made
2 cups cut up ham
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
2  16 oz bags of split peas
salt & pepper to taste

After you get all the 'dandruff' out of the broth, add all the veggies for the soup (everything but the ham, peas, and salt & pepper).  Boil until the veggies are soft (about two hours).  Then add the ham and peas. Mix constantly, the peas will want to sink to the bottom.  Keep it boiling and keep mixing for another two hours or until all the peas are mashed up and the soup is thick.  You may use a blender if you're impatient, but I like lumpy soup so I leave it as is.  Top with some saltines and you're all set!

And your house will smell awesome and yummy!  No scented candle needed :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Peppers the Easy Way!

Peppers are one of my favorite veggies.  So easy, so yummy, and they can be added to most recipes very easily.  They're the base for some of my favorite meals; sausage & Peppers, Stuffed Peppers, Fajitas...

...But those seeds can be really annoying. 

I've heard the "myth" of female and male peppers.  That the peppers with three bumps are male and the peppers with four bumps are female.  And the female peppers are full of seeds, the male peppers are sweeter and better eaten raw.   Well, this information is WRONG!

If this is true, then what 'sex' is this pepper?
Clearly it's a hermaphrodite pepper...

For more information on the science behind the lie of sex peppers, please view this article

Basically every pepper has seeds, and no pepper had more seeds than another, unless there are size limitations within the pepper cavity itself. When I first lived on my own, I'd cut the pepper blindly and clean up the seeds after I was done cutting.  It was a pain in the butt and I always got seeds all over the place.  In the sink, on the floor, on my shoes....  Until I figured out a no mess way to cut peppers. 

And becasue I'm so nice, I'm going to share my first ever self thought up kitchen secret with you!  I'm sure others do this too, but I came up with this on my own. 

First, wash your peppers.  Wash em gooood in cold water.  Then turn the pepper upside down so you can see the "sexy" bumps. 

Then slice within the grooves of the bumps, but don't cut all the way through.  Use the knife and slice just through the first layer of pepper skin, do this all around the entire pepper.  Cut from the dimple on the bottom of the pepper to the top of the pepper. 

After you made your slices all around the pepper, peel each section of the pepper back until it snaps or pops off the stem of the pepper. 

Do this to all the sections of the pepper that you cut.  When you're done you should have your pepper sections and the stem with most of the seeds still in tact on the stem. 

It's not perfect, there will still be a few seeds around.  But it's much better and neater than cutting into the pepper blindly and then cleaning it all up afterwards.   And the way the peppers are sliced leaves it very easy to cut into strips or chunks for a salad or stir fry. Of course this method of cutting peppers will not work for stuffed peppers...  But for those slice off the 'hat' of the pepper and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.  A little messy, but hey stuffed peppers are worth the mess!  

Happy cooking!