Sunday, January 22, 2012

split-pea soup

i will admit that i am hesitant to blog this recipe, because i do realize that as much as i can attempt to assure you that this soup is delicious, any picture that i can find of split pea soup looks more than unappetizing. 
my husband was not quite thrilled about my suggestion of this meal in the first place, but i managed to talk him into trying it just once. i was rather nervous that once he saw it he might be unwilling to try it, but he was a good sport and he tried it and actually enjoyed it and said that he would let me make it again.

i was actually really excited to make this soup for another reason- i have never used dried beans before. i have wanted to many times, but for some reason i avoided them. probably mostly due to being raised in a world of convenience. but i have always used canned or frozen beans and peas in all of my cooking ventures.
(and i will add that my mother often used dried beans when i was growing up, so i knew how to cook them, but had just never done it myself)

and i have to admit, i plan to used dried beans a lot in the future. they are SO ridiculously inexpensive compared to canned beans and are very simple. although they do take a little more planning ahead.

so.... this is what my version of split pea soup ended up looking like:

and i can agree that it isn't very pretty 
but in my recipe, i did try to disguise the gross 'pea-green' color 
which is what i feel is the most unappealing part of the traditional split pea soup.

this is what it generally looks like:

a rather unappetizing yellow-green color

or here is a pureed version.

i thought that for my introduction of split-pea soup to my husband that it might be better accepted if it wasn't such a jarring color, so i added lots of paprika and grated carrots to turn the soup more of a brownish color
here is my recipe:

split-pea soup

2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 stalk celery, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika (i actually added about 2)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp pepper
1- 14 oz. or 16 oz. pkg dried green split peas, rinsed
7 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
2 ham hocks
{i didn't have ham hocks, so i just used diced ham}
1-2 tsps. salt (to taste)

1. heat the oil in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. 
2. add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes

 (i like to dice the celery really finely because i honestly don't like the texture of celery)

(i like to grate the carrots rather than chopping them because they get more tender and i feel like they give off more of their flavor and color to the soup when they are grated)

3. add herbs, dried peas, water, and broth

4. add ham hocks.
{or if you don't have ham hocks wait to add the ham till after the soup cooks for a couple hours to prevent the ham from getting tough}

5. bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 2 hours.
6. remove ham hocks and pick ham off bones. add shredded ham back to soup and return to a boil
7. add salt to taste.
8. let soup simmer for another 30-45 minutes.

9. can serve plain or with sour cream and croutons.

and here's one picture of the 'kids' that i thought that i would share.
as you can see, amos has officially caught up with paisley in height! 
they are both such great helpers in the kitchen.

i love that i caught paisley 'singing' and i love amos's ears in reaction to paisley's song.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

the new addition- puppy love

about 2 months ago our family got a little bit bigger... ok, a LOT bigger. ;)
my husband and i adopted our 2nd 'baby', a 10 week old, 23 pound, merle great dane puppy.
 we had discussed getting a great dane, *someday*. but i really didn't think that we would be able to get another puppy for several years due to our schedules.
 i was SO incredibly thrilled when my husband made the decision in november to switch to part-time work to accommodate his school schedule {i will add that i would never recommend that anyone attempt full-time work/full-time school/and marriage all at once. as newlyweds, it was overwhelming for both of us for him to keep that schedule}. 
i feel like our honeymoon has begun all over again now that he has cut back his work hours. we have been loving being able to spend meaningful time together where he is not too exhausted to engage in a conversation. 
all that to say that with my husband home more, we decided that this would be a great time to add a new puppy as we would have the time to deal with the puppy training.

i am excited to introduce 
'amos hawke collogan'

me and amos on the drive home from kentucky

my husband had his heart set on a fawn colored great dane, which is the scooby doo type coloring. we had searched for breeders for months and i had several in mind for when the day ever came that we would get our puppy. 
the first week in november we went to iowa to visit my in-laws and to go to an iowa hawkeyes game for my husband's 30th birthday.
 as we were leaving the game we saw a beautiful, giant, merle great dane outside the stadium. my husband instantly fell in love. so we were back to the drawing board for breeders. i searched for hours when we got back to greenville. we didn't want to drive too far for a puppy, but we wanted to get one pretty immediately.
i found a breeder in kentucky, which was about 4 1/2 hours away. they had several litters with merle puppies. it was so hard to choose because they were all completely adorable, but we fell in love with this little face.

this was at about 7 weeks

we drove up to kentucky the weekend after we found him online. 

he was as sweet as could be from the moment that we met.

i was so incredibly excited... but at the same time i had mixed emotions. i knew that this was going to be difficult for my 3 year old weimaraner. she has always been an incredibly spoiled, only child.
we took her with us to pick up amos. it actually was worse than i had anticipated. not only was she not at all interested in the new little friend that we were bringing home to her, but she was furious at me. she wouldn't look at me, she wouldn't let me pet her, she wouldn't even let me sit beside her. i did not anticipate that at all. 

this was at one of our potty stops on the trip back to south carolina. 
you can see paisley went out of her way to ignore her new brother.

he is definitely a daddy's boy. amos adores topher.
it is funny to me that i thought that he was SO big for a 10 week old puppy... and now 7 weeks later he has already over doubled in size!

this was 3 days after we got home. paisley finally would let him within a few inches of her, but she was still not happy about him being around.

2 weeks later, on thanksgiving day, they were finally getting along.

we had my sister take a 'family photo' of us when she was visiting for thanksgiving. 
i had no idea how much more difficult it would be to get 2 dogs to cooperate. we managed to get a couple with everyone behaving. although, the out-takes are pretty funny.

amos LOVES going on walks and instantly was a pro at leash walking. 
we live downtown, so we walk up main street and then back home, which is almost a 3 mile walk. 
poor little guy would get so exhausted that we would have to stop and let him take a nap 1/2-way.

i was amazed how quickly he outgrew his baby crate and had to move up to his big one. but he definitely loves being able to stretch out in the big one. not for long though, i am sure.

although now their favorite thing is to share a crate... guess it's like a slumber party.

this was probably about one of the last times that he fit on my husband's lap.

 amos got to go with us on our trip to michigan for christmas. he was a great traveler.

he would let us know that he was thirsty by licking the windows. i don't know if the cold glass felt like water to him? haha. 

we 'celebrated' amos's 4 month birthday on tuesday and he was already 48 pounds. he eats 7 or 8 cups of food a day! topher is really hoping for a giant great dane. i would be content if he is average... whatever that means. he is definitely a BIG baby.
he is such a fun 'little' guy. i am sure that you will see more of him in the near future.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

comfort food- tomato tortellini soup & 4-cheese and bacon grilled cheese

so... i do realize that i have been out for a while, so there is MUCH to get caught up on my little blog. but i decided that i would postpone the newsy catch-up blog posts, which i will admit are rather exciting (ok, so not really), and i would go ahead and type up this post before i forget these recipes, because we thought that they were rather delicious. not that our opinions are always right, but oh my! this was a yummy lunch.

my husband has been fighting a cold for almost 3 weeks now. he was feeling so much better this week, but last night the congestion got ahead of him again. strangely enough there was a lot that i wanted to accomplish today since i have been feeling ridiculously behind in every aspect of my home life, but somehow the wifely duty to care for my sick husband took over. he requested comfort food for lunch, actually spaghetti was his first request, but that didn't sound good to me at all.
 i suggested grilled cheese and tomato soup. that menu was approved and we proceeded from there. keep in mind that i was asked to make 'the best grilled cheese that he has ever eaten'... no pressure? ;)

but i think i did ok. :)

when i was visiting my sister several years ago she made a tomato tortellini soup with smoked sausage. it was delicious, but i couldn't find my recipe. i thought about calling her for it, but i decided that i would just try to come up with something similar on my own.

here is what i came up with:

tomato tortellini soup with smoked sausage-

1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes (or stewed tomatoes)
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 T. sugar
2 cups half-and-half
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 pkg. smoked sausage, sliced and browned
1 pkg. refrigerated tortellini pasta

1. heat the olive oil at medium-high in soup pot or dutch oven. add the onion and cook for 3-5 mins or until onion is transluscent .
2. reduce to medium heat and add the canned tomatoes, onion and garlic powders, basil, salt, pepper, and sugar and heat until boiling. add the half-and-half and heat through.
3. puree tomato mixture in pan with an *immersion blender or if you don't have one, transfer the mixture to a blender and puree {this step is not critical, but i liked the smoother consistency of the soup without the pieces of tomato and onion in it. and the blending frothed the half-and-half and made it creamier... maybe it was just in my head though}.
4. add the chicken broth, the browned smoked sausage, and the tortellini. simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the tortellini is done.

it should should look something like this

serve topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese

*** i never thought that i would use an immersion blender (also called a stick blender), but mine has come in handy quite often. it is especially nice not to have to transfer hot soup to another container and then transfer it back. immersion blenders are fairly inexpensive and are well worth their low price.
this is the immersion blender that i have.
they are available at walmart and target starting around $30.

4-cheese and bacon grilled cheese sandwich-

4 slices sourdough bread
1 oz, lowfat cream cheese, softened
2 oz. smoked cheddar cheese
2 oz. pepper jack cheese
2 oz. parmesan cheese
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 T. mayonnaise
1 T. butter or margarine


spread cream cheese thinly on each slice of bread. 

 grate each of the cheeses and sprinkle evenly on 2 of the slices of bread (your sandwich 'bottoms').

sprinkle bacon over the grated cheese.

 place second bread slice, cream cheese side down on each sandwich, then thinly coat each side of sandwich with mayonnaise*.

heat skillet to medium heat. melt butter and place sandwiches in center of skillet. 
cook until lightly browned, then flip and brown the other side. if cheese isn't melted through, lower heat to low to prevent burning and flip again.

the results, AMAZING!!!!

*i know that the mayonnaise may sound disgusting, especially if you are a mayonnaise hater, but just trust me on this one, it's amazing! mayonnaise is made primarily from oil and egg. so basically when you cook your sandwich in the mayonnaise coating, it is similar to the coating that you get on french toast (minus the sweetness). just try it one time and you will be hooked. i learned it from the best chef that i know. ;) 
thanks mom. 

hope that you enjoy your comfort dinner.