Split Pea & Ham Soup

Split Pea and Ham Soup

Nothing says fall or winter comfort food like Split Pea Soup.  We enjoy it year round.  I make it about once a month, as ham hocks and shanks are readily available for a few dollars at grocery stores.  Of course holiday ham bones are always saved and used.

2 cups of dried peas easily makes just over a 1/2 gallon of delicious soup for lunches or light suppers.  I often serve soup and salad for dinner with bread, rolls, or corn bread.

I buy largest bag of dried peas I can find (bulk buying saves) and use to make on the stove top, but now use an electric *pressure cooker, a real time saver.  This soup also freezes well.

Split Pea and Ham Soup
1 lb. dried split peas (2 cups)
1 meaty ham bone, 2 ham hocks, or shanks, or 1 lb. ham chunks
8 cups water or beef or chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, sliced or diced. about a cup
2 celery ribs sliced, or diced, about 1cup
1 1/2 tsps. dried thyme
1 Tab. dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter
1 cup of milk
sherry wine, optional

Rinse and soak peas overnight in 2-3 cups of water.
In large soup put all ingredients except carrots, butter, milk and sherry. Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer 1 and 1/2 hours.  Remove bone and take off and shred meat, returning meat to soup. Add carrots and simmer 1/2 hour more until carrots are tender.  Add butter and milk stirring to blend.  Serve with a splash of sherry.

Note: measurements on the carrots, celery and onions don't have to be exact. Some in my family don't like carrots, so sometimes I've left them out.  I've seen recipes where chopped bacon works well, too, if you don't have ham.

*Pressure Cooker Method:  Put all ingredients in cooker except butter, milk and sherry and process for 15 minutes. Remove bone, take off meat and return it to soup. Stir in milk, butter to blend, then serve with splash of sherry.

Electric Pressure Cookers are very safe these days, and process dried beans of all kinds in under 20 minutes, like magic!

Estimated Cost: $3.00 - $4.00;  .40 cents or less per serving

Cuban Bread, So Easy

Cuban BreadThe fastest, easiest, attractive artisan type bread I've ever discovered!  Saw this recipe online at Cathy's Blog: Bread Experience.Com and had to try.  From start to a "ta-dah" finish takes no more than a mere hour-and-a-half.

Mixing and kneading with mixer takes 15 minutes; the rise 15 to 20 minutes; shaping 5 minutes, then it goes directly into a cold oven with a pan of hot water on bottom shelf; set oven to 400 degrees and bake 50 minutes.  As the oven heats, bread continues to rise and bake.  It couldn't be more simple!
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppI use active bulk dry instant yeast for about $6 a pound and store in refrigerator.  Jars or packets of yeast can add 50 cents to a dollar per loaf, but bulk yeast costs a mere 4 to 8 cents a loaf. That's quite a savings if making bread often, as I do. Red Star or SAF Instant brands are available on line if your store doesn't carry them, as mine does.

Cuban Bread, So Easy
5-6 cups of bread or all-purpose flour
2 packages or 1 1/2 Tabs. dry yeast, I use SAF Instant
1 Tab. salt
2 Tabs. sugar
2 cups hot water
Sesame or poppy seeds for sprinkling (optional)
Pan filled with about 4 cups of hot water, I used a stir fry pan

Place 4 cups of flour in a mixing bowl with yeast, salt and sugar. Stir until blended. Pour in hot water and beat 100 strong strokes by hand, or three minutes with a mixer flat beater. Gradually work in remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time until the dough takes shape and is no longer sticky. 

Knead 8 minutes by hand or with a dough hook until dough is smooth, elastic. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in a warm (80-100°F) place until double in size, about 15-20 minutes.

Punch down dough, turn out on work surface, and cut into two pieces. Shape each into a round. Place on baking sheet. I used a silicone baking pan, but a lightly greased pan, or parchment paper can be used.  With a sharp knife or razor, slash an  X on each of the loaves about a half inch deep.  Brush or spray with water, and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.  I put sesame on one and poppy seeds on the other.

Place baking sheet on middle shelf of a cold oven. Place a large pan of hot water from kitchen tap on shelf below, (or bottom of oven) and turn oven on to 400°F. Loaves will continue to rise while oven is heating and water steams.  Bake about 50 minutes, or until the loaves are a deep golden brown. Thump on bottom crusts to test doneness.  Loaves should sound hollow.  If using a digital thermometer, it should be done at 200 degrees.

You'll love the look, texture and taste of these beauties!  
Cool  loaves on a wire rack for about an hour before slicing. Makes 2, (slightly over) 1 pound loaves. Freezes well. 

Estimated cost: $1.25 for two loaves.

Wisconsin Potato Cheese Soup

This recipe came from a family member living in Wisconsin for inclusion in "Our German Family Favorites Cook Book" published in the early 90s. 

It can be made without Gruyere cheese, using only Cheddar.  Ingredients are usually on hand in any cook's kitchen, and offer many tasty servings for very little cost.

Wisconsin Potato Cheese Soup
3 Tabs. butter
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1 cup chopped onion
3 cups water  and 3 chicken bullion cubes  (or 3 cups of chicken broth)
2 cups milk
4 cups of cubed potatoes peeled or not
3/4 cup Gruyere cheese
1 1/2 cups sharp, Cheddar cheese, white or yellow - shredded

Melt butter, add carrots, onion, celery and cook over low heat until tender, stirring occasionally.  Add water, bullion and potatoes.  Cover and cook until tender about 15-20 minutes.  Mash vegetables slightly.  Add milk cooking until heated.  Gradually stir in cheeses until melted.  Add salt and pepper.  Garnish with chives, cooked diced bacon or croutons.  Serves 6-8

Estimated Cost $3.00; .50 cents or less per serving.