Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cheaters Hoppin' John

I discovered a wonderful thing in the Publix veggie freezer section - field peas with sugar snaps. I'm going to make a cheaters Hoppin' John tonight. Here's how:

Saute up 1lb of cut up bacon; once crisp remove to a plate with paper towels. Pour off some of the drippings, but leave a few tablespoons. Chop up an onion and saute in the drippings. Add 2lb bag of field peas and enough water to cover. Simmer until tender.

Serve over rice with crumbled bacon bits on top. Suggested other garnishes include chopped sweet onion or scallions, chopped parsley, and of course, Tabasco.

Hoppin' John and Corn Bread with Man Candy

Mr Soup reminded me that I owe you two recipes from our New Year's Day celebration: Hoppin' John and Corn Bread with man candy.

Hoppin' John is one of those very traditional "eat this for good luck in the New Year" dishes. Don't be fooled by all of those complicated recipes calling for a million ingredients - this is poor people cooking at it's finest.

1 lb of dried black eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
2 meaty ham hocks (about 1 1/2 lbs)
9 cups of water
2 T vegetable oil
2 medium onions chopped
1/4 t salt
freshly ground black pepper

Soak peas on cold water to cover by 2 inches, refrigerated for at least 8 hours (or follow package directions for the quick soak) drain and rinse well.

Combine ham hocks and water in a deep 4-quart sauce pan and simmer uncovered for 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Transfer hocks to cutting board and measure the liquid. If you have more than 6 cups, boil until reduced to 6 cups. If you don't have 6 cups, add enough water to total 6 cups.

When the hocks are cool enough to handle, remove meat, discarding the bones and skin, and chop.

Heat oil in a 5 to 6 quart heavy pot (I use a lovely, old, cast iron dutch oven). Add onions and salt and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 10 minutes. Add drained peas, ham hock broth and ham and simmer, partially covered, until peas are tender, but not falling apart - 20-40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve spooned over rice. I always offer chopped scallion, freshly chopped parsley and Tabasco as garnishes.

The other thing I serve is corn bread. This recipe is from The Bread Bakers Apprentice (yes, that book still is mocking me, but it hasn't let me down yet either).

1 cup (6 ounces) coarse cornmeal (also packaged as "polenta")
2 cups buttermilk
8 ounces (approx. 10 slices) bacon
1 3/4 cups(8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups(16 ounces) fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil


1. The night before baking the corn bread, soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
2. The next day, to prepare the bacon, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Lay out the bacon on 2 sheet pans. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp. Using tongs or a fork, remove the pieces to a pan lined with paper towels to cool. Drain off the fat into a can or stainless-steel bowl and save for greasing the corn bread pan. When the bacon has cooled, crumble it into coarse pieces.
3. Lower the oven setting to 350°F (175°C). Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir in the granulated sugar and brown sugar. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Dissolve the honey in the melted butter and then stir the warm honey-butter mixture into the eggs. Add this to the soaked cornmeal mixture. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a large spoon or whisk until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the batter is blended and smooth. It should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Stir in the corn kernels until they are evenly distributed.
4. Place 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat into a 10-inch round cake pan (you can also use a 9 by 13-inch baking pan or a 12-inch square pan). (Mrs Soup's Note: I've tried with all the different pans, and the 9 x 13 delivers the best result) Place the pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the fat gets very hot. With good pot holders or oven mitts, remove the pan, tilt it to grease all the corners and sides, and pour in the batter, spreading it from the center of the pan to the edges. Sprinkle the crumbled bacon pieces evenly over the top, gently pressing them into the batter.
5. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the corn bread is firm and springy (the baking time will depend on the size of the pan) and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top will be a medium golden brown. The internal temperature at the center of the corn bread should register at least 185°F (85°C).
6. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before slicing it into squares or wedges. Serve warm.

COMMENTARY As with all quick breads, this batter can be used to make muffins. Fill the greased muffin cups to the top and bake at 350°F (175°C) for about 30 minutes, or until the center of a muffin is springy and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I confess

There is nothing cuter in the world than watching the Little Soups eat something. Yesterday, the two mowed through a bag of grapes Little Mister found in the fridge. He sat on their rocker and took turns popping one into his mouth, then feeding the Little Birdie who was begging him for her grapes.

LOVE it!

I am already having visions of feeding them pigs in a blanket for a Super Bowl Snack.

Does that make me a bad mom??

Farmer's Market Salad

We are lucky to live in a place where the farmers markets run all winter. Two good ones just started last weekend and we had a great time wandering through them, kids in tow.

Inspired by the bounty - and the fresh eggs we were able to get, Mr Soup threw together an incredible salad, based on an idea from Patricia Wells.

2T Red Wine Vinegar
2T Dijon Mustard
1/2 C Olive Oil
- Whisk together until creamy - set a side.

-Saute 1/4 lb of pancetta cut into small cubes. When they finish browning, toss in fresh french bread cubes and toast together to make bacon croutons.
- finely mince 2 garlic cloves and toss with the completed topping of pancetta lardon and croutons.

You can use any favorite greens. We were able to get fresh frissee which is just lovely.

Poached Eggs - there are many many ways to make these. I have not perfected it, they aren't pretty. Here is a link to how Alton Brown does his. I follow a similar method, but cook for less time because we like the yolks to be gooey.

- Frissee in the bottom of each salad bowl, top with the lardon and croutons w/garlic, add a poached egg then drizzle with the dressing.

Serve immediately with a glass of very cold, crisp white wine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Another Simple Weeknight Pasta Dinner

I've done it AGAIN! Another great easy to make pasta dinner.

1) Put large pot of water onto boil. Add LOTS of salt
2) Preheat oven to 400 degrees
3) put 2 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes that have been rinsed onto a baking sheet
4) sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and a good glug of olive oil - pop them in the oven and let them roast while your pasta cooks.
5) cook your pasta of choice according to package directions. Drain and reserve a cup or two of the pasta water.
6) toss the tomatoes in with your pasta, add in about 10 basil leaves that have been cut up. If needed, add some of the reserved pasta water
7) finish with some fresh pepper and grated Parmesan.

I have an organic olive oil that someone gave me as a gift - so I used a drizzle of that to finish. Nice, but not necessary!


I know I had posted a similar easy pasta dinner earlier - and there was some interesting feedback about how it needed meat. This dish would be great as a side dish to a nice piece of fish or chicken.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Crockpot Yogurt - the verdict is IN

Oh me, oh my! I'm so glad I didn't let Mr Soup throw out the crockpot. He threated to do it after I made him suffer through pepperoncini beef....

This stuff is amazing! We tried it with whole milk. Next time, I'll try lowfat and see if it is as good. What is great about the flavor is it isn't sour...It is mildly tangy. I'm not a plain yogurt fan, but this could turn me...

I did pack some in Little Miss Soup's lunch today. I mixed in 1t of honey and 1t of strawberry preserves. She is going to be doing a happy dance once she tastes it! The FLAVOR of the strawberry and honey just were bright and fresh.

This is a good thing. Who knew? Crockpot yogurt....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Look at ME! I'm making homemade YOGURT

In a CROCK POT!!! WHOOHOO!!! I found this on the world wide interwebz and am giving it a try today. Here is a link to the site with all the details on how to. Oh, and isn't her site COOL? Love it when passion rules all. She is also very funny in many of her posts.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I have a freezer full of left overs still from the holiday (well, we seem to be in the home stretch...)

I've got about 1lb of pork roast from Christmas Eve and am going to try this recipe (from tonight, obviously substituting the pork for ham. Wish me luck!

4 cups sliced, peeled, and cooked potatoes
2 cups fully cooked, diced ham
2 teaspoons minced onions
2/3 cup butter or margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Combine potatoes, ham and onion in a greased 1 qt casserole dish and set aside.
Melt butter in a med saucepan over med heat.
Stir in flour until smooth.
Gradually add milk, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and bubbles.
Add cheese, salt and pepper.
Stir until cheese melts.
Pour over potato mixture and stir gently to mix.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until bubbly.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's about the method - not the recipe

Ok, I've recently had a light bulb come on over my head. It is kind of a simple idea, one I've heard from other people, but just recently figured out how it applies to me and how I cook. Once you are comfortable with a recipe - any recipe - part of the fun is figuring out how to mix it up and still get a great result.

- store bought prerolled pie dough (this stuff is a miracle)
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- filling - this can be any combination of meat/cheese/veggies - works great for leftovers. I recently made this using the leftover spinach stuffing from the ricotta stuffed tomatoes. I've also done it with a bacon and cheese filling.

Preheat the oven to 375 and bake whatever you've cooked up for 40 minutes.

One of the tricks to this is to use a 9" cake pan instead of a pie plate. Line the pan like you would with a pie plate. Why? You end up with a "deep dish" quiche. Much more manly.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Silver Palate Stuffed tomatoes

My contribution to Christmas Dinner this year was stuffed tomatoes. Cousin Sandy provided the recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook. I don't know why I have such a mental block on that book - but I do. I always enjoy it when someone cooks for me from there....So, must get over mysterious aversion.

I learned a GREAT thing from this recipe - how to properly core and seed tomatoes. Who knew it was so easy? I sure didn't. All you need to do is use the handle of a teaspoon to scoop out the insides.

Finally, the leftovers make a killer diller quiche. I'll post it separately.

Really, this is the finally finally....I think there is a quicker way to make this filling. It doesn't need to take an hour...I'll think about some short cuts and post them later.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I'm a GENIUS - Oven Baked Risotto

Sometimes it is easier to cook while the little soups are out of the house. Especially since Little Miss loves to be in the kitchen with me and it makes me super nervous to open the oven with her in a 20 mile radius.

Earlier today, I roasted a chicken (see roast chicken link for the details). I let it cool on a plate and strained the pan juices skimming off most of the fat. I then took the skillet I used, put it over med/high heat put in some olive oil and 1/2 of of large onion to saute. Once it got nice and translucent, I added in 1c of arborio rice and let it toast for a minute or two. I deglazed the pan with about 1/4 c of vermouth. Once that cooked down, I put in 3c of stock (about 1 from the pan juices plus 2 more from my stock stash). I let it come up to a boil, slapped a lid on it an put it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

My house smells like someones Italian Granny has moved in and has been cooking all day. Reality: 10 minutes of prep time TOTAL on my part...and a great chicken and rice dinner waiting for the family when they get home.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Easiest Pasta Ever

This is from Mario Batalli. He notes in his cookbook, that he is embarrassed to put it in because it is just so simple. Like Mario, I'm a little embarrassed to pass this along - but it is too good and too simple not to, know what I mean?

1 box of penne or other pasta you have on hand
14 or 15 cloves of garlic
a good glug of olive oil
1 head of cauliflower, broken down into small flowerettes

Put on your water to boil - always salt generously.

While your water comes to a boil, warm the olive oil over medium/medium high heat, crack and peel the garlic and toss it in. No need to chop, just a light smash. Let this cook while you get your cauliflower trimmed up. The garlic should be a light golden brown when you add in the cauliflower. When you water boils, cook pasta according to directions. Meanwhile, your garlic and cauliflower will be happily simmering away...lightly salt, lots of pepper. Drain the pasta, reserving a cup or two of its water. Toss pasta in w/the garlic and cauliflower. You may need to add some of the water to make more of a sauce. Serve w/Parmesan cheese.

All together, this takes the time of making a pot of pasta. It doesn't get easier. The garlic gets caramelized, the cauliflower melts a sweet. Kids love it

Happy 2009!

I can't believe we're this far into the New Year and that I'm only just now posting. We had a great holiday season and ate waaaaay too much.

I'll be adding the following recipes over the next couple of days:
  • Tomatos stuffed with ricotta and spinach
  • Mr Soup's World Famous Chicken Liver Pate
  • Cornbread with Man Candy
  • Hoppin' John
  • Easiest Pasta EVER

Tonight I'm making an experimental turkey meatloaf. We have leftover stuffing from Thanksgiving - made with pork, pancetta and prunes. I've decided to take a package of ground turkey and mix it with that stuffing, call it a meatloaf and see what happens.