Tag Archives: cooking light

Split Pea Soup with Virginia Ham

Seasoned to Taste - Split Pea Soup with Virginia Ham

Grant and I are spending the day “de-cluttering” – cleaning out closets, making trips to the dump and painting the stairwell. While it is sunny and mild in our neck of North Carolina today, I hear our friends to the north are getting quite the snow storm that is keeping folks homebound.

Thick soups are perfect for those surprise snowy days, when all you want to hear is the hiss of your radiator and blips of soup bubbles working on the stove. I made this soup in an effort to use some leftover smoked Virginia ham … and try out the new immersion blender that my mom gave me! So excited. And it was splendid.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, but I added the meat – seems wrong to have split pea soup without some sort of ham. While I didn’t use a ham hock as is traditional, I think the Virginia ham offered a comparable flavor with plenty of meat (something a ham hock lacks).

I have reduced the amount of rosemary because I found it overpowering – add more if you love it.

Split Pea Soup with Virginia Ham


  • 1 1/2 c. dried split peas
  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 c. chopped onion (one large, I used sweet onion)
  • 1 c. diced carrot
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 T minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 T soy sauce (for salt)
  • 4 c. water or chicken stock
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 1 pound diced smoked ham (or substitute)

Wash beans. Cover with water and set aside.

Heat 1 tsp oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot and bay leaf, saute 5 min. Add garlic, rosemary, paprika and pepper, stirring, and cook 3 min. Add tomato paste and soy sauce; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping bottom of the pan to deglaze.

Drain peas. Add peas to Dutch oven, along with water/stock. Bring to a boil, adding another cup of water if needed to thin it. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer 1 hour, stirring often. Discard bay leaf. Using a food processor or immersion blender, blend soup until pureed to your desired consistency – I didn’t want baby food.

Return Dutch oven to medium heat and add ham to warm through. Taste for seasonings.

To serve, spoon soup into big bowls and finish with a grating of Parm cheese and a drizzle of good olive oil.

Seasoned to Taste - Split Pea Soup with Virginia Ham

Goes very well with crusty bread and a simple oil-vinegar salad.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo


Baked Potato Soup

A rough Southern storm rolled in today. One that started with an abnormally warm and humid morning: still air that seems to hang in suspense. Then, by afternoon, you see the wall coming from miles away – blue-gray sky covering a dwindling daylight. A breeze stirs, the birds quiet and a few drops warn.

Next, the white light tears the sky while a steady current of rain pours down.

And you open all your windows and doors to let in the smell – wet earth and electricity.

Storms give you a chance to cook comfort foods that make you feel good about keeping dry and safe in a warmly lit home. Baked potato soup is comforting for all sorts of reasons – the sensation of baked potatoes, plus crispy bacon and melting cheese with a creamy broth bubbling away with other aromatics.

My version is an adaptation from Cooking Light – the one biggest difference is the cream. The recipe called for 1% – I only had skim and heavy cream. So naturally I added the heavy cream! With some skim milk and chicken stock (homemade) to thin it out. However, I still think this would be fabulous with healthier creams – the flavors are there, it’s more of a consistency thing.

I also substituted Yukon gold potatoes for most of the baking potatoes. Of course! They are buttery and wonderful – and I happened to have some that I needed to use up.

Finally, I played with avocado and sour cream as a topping – do try it.

Baked Potato and Bacon Soup


  • 4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 large baking potatoes, scrubbed
  • 7 bacon slices, chopped
  • 4 1/2 c. chopped yellow onion (about 3 large)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 3 c. skim milk
  • 2 c. chicken stock (add more if you want it thinner)
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 1/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream for garnish
  • Avocado slices, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400. Prick surface of baking potatoes and place in hot oven. Bake 45 min to 1 hour, until you can squeeze them a little. Remove to cool. Roughly run your knife through them.

Meanwhile, peel and cut Yukon golds into large chunks and boil until soft enough to mash. Drain.

Combine baking and Yukon gold potatoes in a pot and lightly mash with a potato masher – set aside.

Heat Dutch oven over medium and cook bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towels, leaving fat in the pan. Add onion to dripping and saute 5 min. Add salt, garlic, bay leaf and saute another 2 min. Add potatoes, milk, cream, stock and pepper. Add extra stock, if needed. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer 10 min. Stir in parsley.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with reserved bacon, cheese and green onions.

The potatoes keep this soup very hot, temperature wise, so the sour cream cools it nicely. And who doesn’t love avocado? Like putting pats of butter on top, only better…

Both Grant and I were surprised how good this recipe turned out – sometimes you can’t trust Cooking Light. We froze a bunch to bring up to the cabin, so we will be prepared for more dark and stormy nights.

Enjoy, friends! oxox

Lavender Lemonade

Last weekend was sunny, beautiful and deserving of something with flowers and fruit. I have decided that this summer will be my summer of mixing different flavors with lemons and limes to make all sorts of new “-ades.” A new Martha Stewart juicer may have something to do with that.

So I went to a favorite flavor that I rarely cook with – lavender. I researched a dozen different recipes until I found one adapted from Cooking Light, which creates a lavender tea with actual lavender leaves, rather than the little purple flowers. Although the tea smells like soap while you’re making it, the fresh lemon juice and sugar syrup will balance that for a refreshing drink (that also happens to go well with vodka, btw!).

Lavender Lemonade

Ingredients (Makes 4-5 servings):

  • 4  cups  water, divided
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh lavender leaves (you can find these at Whole Foods, or your garden!)
  • 2/3  cup  sugar
  • 1  cup  fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
  • Lavender stems and buds, for garnish (optional)

Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Combine the boiling water and lavender in a medium bowl; cover and steep 30 minutes. Strain the lavender mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard lavender leaves.

Combine 3 cups water and sugar in saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook 1 minute or until sugar is dissolved. Combine lavender water, sugar syrup, and lemon juice in a pitcher. Cover and chill. Serve over ice. Garnish lemonade with lavender stems, if desired.

I still think I’ll play with this recipe a bit because I want a stronger lavender essence without the soapy effect – it’s a very fine line, which you would know if you’ve ever cooked with lavender. Next time, I’ll try it with the flowers instead. Other flavors to come: lemon thyme, rosemary and sage. Maybe a basil limeade? Can’t wait to get my herb garden going!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo