The Weekend Dish – Split Pea Soup

_MG_2204There are some food traditions that are shared by many, turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving and ham on Easter to name a couple, and then there are food traditions shared by families – split pea soup on Halloween is one of those in our family. Our mother began serving the traditional meal when we were little. She had the revelation while trying to come up with something quick to make ( it was usually accompanied with hot dogs), on a night when time flies by with costume preparations. Her ultimate goal: that we would have some “real food” in us before heading out trick-or-treating and eating a bagful of candy. In the early days, I remember the soup being from a can but as we got older, and needing less help from her with our costumes, she began making the soup from scratch. The meal then takes longer to prepare but the flavor boost is well worth it. Also, it can be prepared the day ahead, thus allowing the flavors to “marry”. We began looking forward to the “Halloween dinner” as much as the trick-or-treating. Then, as a young mother myself, I appreciated the relative ease of the split pea soup and hot dog Halloween dinner and have carried on the tradition with my own family. Seems like every year, at this time, I develop a craving for split pea soup. Homemade soup is my idea of warmth and love in a bowl, just the thing to take on the ghouls and goblins.

_MG_2015

Split Pea Soup

  • 1 – 16oz. package of split peas, rinsed and sorted
  • 3 quarts water, chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (I use hickory smoked pepper to give it a smoky flavor)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped carrots
  • 1 C chopped celery
  • 3 medium white potatoes chopped

In a large deep pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until translucent.

Add the peas, water, or broth, and seasonings. Simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.

_MG_2018

Stir in the carrots, celery and potatoes ( I use my food processor to chop the carrots and celery) and simmer an additional 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until soup reaches desired thickness.

If the soup is getting too thick for your taste you can add more liquid. Adjust seasonings to suit your tastes as well.

Serves 8

_MG_2202I had some potato chips left over from a party and they make a nice garnish for adding a little crunch, or just sprinkle with cracked pepper and serve.

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Macaroni and Cheese

_MG_8317mac&chse Bringing the focus theme into the kitchen, the idea of recipes that focus on one or two ingredients became the clear and obvious choice for a weekend dish. Macaroni and cheese are two ingredients when combined create a simply delicious dish. In this backyard sister’s kitchen, macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. I don’t mean the boxed variety with the powdered orange cheese sauce but the made from scratch, whip up a cheese sauce and mix with your favorite pasta variety. It was the “go to” dish when I first started playing around in the kitchen with savory dishes. This happened mostly on nights when our parents were going out and we wanted to get creative with a meal.  Recently, I turned the dish into an appetizer by putting it in mini muffin tins and baking until crispy.

_MG_8331mac&chse

The Recipe:

Macaroni and Cheese

2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
1 cup milk (I use non-fat)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 pound grated cheese – I use sharp cheddar, but a mixture can be used with cheddar,     gruyere, parmesan; as long as the amount equals 4 cups grated.
1 pound elbow macaroni or your favorite small shaped pasta (I have also used penne before)

Preheat oven to 350°

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, when melted add flour and stir to mix. Pour in the milk, add the pepper and cook over med/low heat until thickened. Add the grated cheese and stir until completely incorporated and smooth.
Add the cheese sauce to the pasta and mix until pasta is completely coated with sauce.
Pour into a greased 9 X 13 pan. Add 1/4 cup of milk to the pan and gently shake from side to side to work milk to the bottom. Bake in preheated oven until top is slightly browned, about 20 minutes.   Alternately, if you would like to make the bite-sized version place spoonfuls into a greased mini muffin tin. Use 2 tins or put remaining in a small baking dish. Bake for about 14 minutes or until crispy and browned.

_MG_8340mac&chse

We like to serve with barbecue sauce or ketchup to add a little tang.

_MG_8337mac&chseA salad and some green beans or broccoli usually round out the meal.

Enjoy and cheers,

~ Susan