Tag Archives: soup

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

Butternut squash soup

Curried squash with apples and onion

Roasted butternut squash soup is another example of sweet mixing with savory flavors in a lovely dinner entrée. The squash’s natural sweetness blooms when you roast it, along with crisp apples and sweet yellow onions. The soup has surprisingly few ingredients, but the important one is curry powder. Just half a teaspoon completely changes the soup – and even though it may look like baby food, it becomes most certainly adult.

It is also a very healthy soup because it is meat-free, butter-free and cream-free.

Here’s a fun fact: squash last forever! I think I bought my butternut squashes on Oct. 5, 2009. Still good, four months later. Glad I saved this warm recipe for a snow day.

Ina Garten uses all sorts of curry condiments to top her soup: bits of banana, toasted coconut, roasted cashews and green onions. I opted for the onions. Know what else would be good? Fried shallots. Duh.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into thick chunks
  • 2 McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and cut into thick chunks
  • 3 T EVOO
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2-4 c. chicken stock (1 box)
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder

Preheat oven to 425.

Toss squash, apples and onion together with olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Place in single layer on sheet pan (or two) and roast 35-45 min., tossing occasionally, until very soft.

Process the vegetable mixture in food mill or food processor, adding chicken stock to help it become a coarse puree. Place the pureed mixture into a soup pot and add enough chicken stock to make a thick soup. Heat to a simmer, adding curry powder and S&P to taste.

Serve hot with a slice of bread and a sprinkling of scallions.

Puree to your desired consistency

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

French lentil soup with sausage


So far, it seems The South goes kicking and screaming into fall. A cool week, then an 80-degree weekend. We’ll have rain, then we’ll have sun to make everything muggy. The honeysuckles are still blooming, but the maple leaves are turning into their own kind of brilliant flower.

All of this brings me to soup. Thick, spicy, hearty, fill-that-tummy-up soup. We really don’t eat enough of this economical food in my home, so we recently decided to change that. What immediately came to mind is a soup that I love but never have made: lentil soup.

I browsed a few recipes on FoodNetwork.com, and decided on Ina Garten’s recipe, after reading glowing review after glowing review (tip: always read reviews of Food Network recipes – it is a rare luxury to hear others’ experiences of online recipes). She combines dark green French lentils with a ton of onions, leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, cumin, tomato paste and red wine. Oh, and kielbasa sausage (for the Polish in me).

It was a great combination of flavors, although I must say that  my Dutch oven was too small to fit all the chicken stock she asks for. No worry, just fill the pot as much as you can.


1 pound French lentils

1/4 c. EVOO

3 large yellow onions, diced

2 leeks, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 T minced thyme

1 tsp. cumin

5 stalks celery, diced (I used hearts)

5 carrots, diced

3 quarts (boxes) chicken stock

1/4 c. tomato paste

1 pound kielbasa sausage, sliced into half-moons

1/4 c. dry red wine (I used a cheap Malbec)

Parmesan cheese


Cover the lentils with boiling water and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In large Dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil and saute onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and cumin for 20 minutes. Add celery and carrots and saute 10 min. Add stock, tomato paste and lentils and cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook uncovered for 1 hour. Pour yourself a glass of wine and relax.

Once the lentils are tender, check for seasonings and add the sausage and wine. Simmer until the kielbasa is heated through.

To serve, drizzle olive oil over the portioned soup and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add a great loaf of bread and simple salad and you have a complete and healthy meal.

This will definitely make enough to freeze the leftovers, so I wouldn’t recommend doubling the recipe. It was a truly satisfying combination of flavors – exactly what we were looking for on a drizzling, gray autumn day.


Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Recipe-free tortilla soup at “Twilight”

So I finally came up for air from my “Twilight” binge to make a chicken tortilla soup for Elle and myself.

We’ve had a stressful week, to say the least, and needed something stress-free and comforting for dinner.

I’ve made this meal so many times that I don’t even look at the recipe anymore. It’s so simple that I usually have most of the ingredients in the cupboard. Please, please make this. It’s healthy AND filling. What a combination!

Preheat the oven to 400 and slice at least eight small, round corn tortillas into strips (I love these, so last night I made at least 10). Toss them with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin (I used seasoning salt, until I realized it has MSG in it!). Spread the strips on a cooking sheet and place in the oven. While you’re preparing the rest of the meal, toss the strips every once in a while until crunchy (and I usually add more spices and a spritz of oil, when needed…spray-olive oil works well for this).

Meanwhile, in a soup pot, cook a couple cloves of chopped garlic in olive oil.

Before they brown, add 8 cups of low-sodium chicken stock (I make my own, so I just just added one tub of that and 1 1/2 of the boxes…it totally depends on how much soup you want to make and how soupy you want it). Then, add one can of drained black beans, 1 cup of salsa (we like the locally made kind in the cheese aisle, Salsa de Wela!), fire-roasted diced green chilis and/or chipotle chilis in adobo sauce. (Note: the salsa usually has enough onions, garlic and other spices you would normally add to a soup.)

Bring the pot to a boil and add chopped raw chicken tenders or shredded meat from a rotisserie chicken.

Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, then turn off the heat.

Stir in the juice of half a lime, a handful of chopped cilantro and 3/4 of the tortilla strips (obviously, you can just use store-bought tortilla chips, but they are higher in fat and sodium and other bad things).

Dutch ovens are best for soups

Dutch ovens are best for soups

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with sour cream, chopped avocado, shredded cheese (jack is good here), the tortilla strips and an extra wedge of lime for juicing.

Now, enjoy! Put the leftovers in the fridge to enjoy for days.

Chicken tortilla soup

Chicken tortilla soup

Chipotle chili with Mexican cornbread

My proto-sister-in-law sends me all sorts of delicious and healthy recipes that please the tummies of our boys. Her pecan-crusted halibut with a dijon cream sauce was AMAZING, and this chipotle chili was hearty, complex, spicy and perfect for a cold night. Plus, it makes enough to freeze the leftovers.

I think the secret ingredient is the cocoa powder. Or the red wine. Or perhaps all those chipotle chilies in adobo. Or maybe the fact that I ground my own coriander seeds!

People kept telling me that spices are best freshly ground, like coffee, but I never tried it. Luckily, I have an old coffee grinder that worked perfectly for this. Wow – freshly ground spices are way more pungent than whatever we buy bottled in the store.

I like chilis that have big chunks of stew meat in them, as this one did. I happened to have some beef stew meat in the freezer from Safeway’s discount food bin.

It also had two kinds of beans and called for Spanish chorizo. I subbed that out for Mexican chorizo, which has the texture of ground beef and is super spicy. It added a different texture and I liked it, but will try the more solid, Spanish kind next time.

This soup cooks for at least an hour and a half, so make sure you have the time before starting it. We topped ours with avocado, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.

Made with my boyfriend’s famous Mexican cornbread (pimentos, green chilies, cheese, etc.).

Even those of us with the biggest appetites couldn’t have more than one bowl!

Merissa’s chipotle chili

* 2 links Spanish chorizo sausage (about 6 1/2 ounces), thinly sliced
* 1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat
* 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
* 3 tablespoons tomato paste
* 2 teaspoons sugar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
* 1 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 cup dry red wine
* 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
* 2 (14-ounce) cans less-sodium beef broth
* 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
* 2 tablespoons masa harina
* 2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained


Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chorizo to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until browned. Remove chorizo from pan. Add half of beef to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned. Remove beef from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining beef. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 3 minutes.

Remove 4 chipotle chiles from can, and chop. Reserve remaining chiles and sauce for another use. Add chorizo, beef, chopped chiles, tomato paste, and next 6 ingredients (through ground cumin) to pan, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in red wine, lime juice, beef broth, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Gradually stir in masa harina. Add pinto beans and black beans; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.