Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Split Pea Soup with Ham Hocks

So, what do you do with that leftover ham bone from Christmas dinner? Of course, you make Split Pea Soup.

For the past couple of years, whenever I have had a leftover ham bone, this is what I make. It is absolutely, positively the easiest recipe I make. And on a cold winter's night (even in Southern California), this is a perfect dinner!

Depending upon the size of the ham bone (and leftover meat on it), I may double the recipe. I think it's nice to have good size chunks of ham in the soup. Serve with some warm crusty bread or just plain ol' Saltine crackers.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

4-6 Servings

1/4 c. olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
1-lb. bag split peas, rinsed and picked through
1-1/2 lb. smoked ham hock
2 quarts or more Vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large saucepan, saute' onion, celery and carrots over medium-high heat. Add peas and ham hock and cover wtih stock by a couple of inches. Bring to a simmer and cook about 1 hour until soup is thick and peas have almost disintegrated, but not quite. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
2. Remove ham hock and let cool. Pull meat from ham hock bone and shread. Garnish with ham and pepper.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Buffalo Stew for Oliver (aka Doggie Stew)

Our little pooch hasn't been feeling well. It all started earlier this week when Oliver developed a "hot spot" on his tail and we took him into the vet. The doctor shaved his tail to expose the sores for proper healing and then gave him a steroid shot. I've talked before about how "delicate" Oliver is, and the effects of the steriod shot have proved it all over again. He's been in a lot of discomfort, has a difficult time getting comfortable for sleep, has been constipated (oh, I know -- TMI) and he twirls around to look and whine at his painful little tail. Oh, the joys of motherhood . . . it's just like having a sick child around the house!

I thought I should try a new recipe for him. After all, he does like variety in his diet repertoire and it's been a while since I've experimented with a new recipe for him.

Today's menu was "Buffalo Stew." I renamed it from the cookbook's recipe title called "Little Man's Stew." And I made a few additional adjustments to the recipe.

For the meat, I used buffalo meat (chopped into small pieces from a 1-1/2 lb. buffalo chuck roast). You could use beef, duck, lamb, chicken or turkey. For the pasta, the recipe called for any kind of shape or type. Since Oliver has wheat allergies, I put in some gluten free, wheat free rotini pasta. Otherwise, I followed the recipe right along.

Just like the "muttloaf" I make for him looks like "human" meatloaf, the stew looks like something we would put together for our own families. At the end, you thicken it a bit more with 1T of yellow cornmeal mixed with 2T of cold water. This produces a chunkier consistency that dogs probably prefer.

Oliver gobbled it up tonight and we think it made him feel a bit better as he had a little extra spring in step during his bedtime walk. Hopefully, his best friend, Jesse, will enjoy it tomorrow too!

Woof! Woof!

(Makes 8 servings)

1 T. olive oil
1 lb. beef, duck, buffalo, lamb, chicken or turkey
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 c. uncooked pasta, any shape (can use vegetable pasta or a gluten free, wheat free variety)
1/2 c. dry lentils
1 c. chopped green beans
1 c. corn
1 c. peas
1/2 c. uncooked brown rice
8-10 cups vegetable broth
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 T. yellow cornmeal mixed with 2 T. cold water

1. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the meat and brown well on all sides.
2. Add the remaining ingredients except for the cornmeal mixture. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for up to 2-1/2 hours. Depending upon the type of meat you've chosen, it may be ready in as little as 1-1/2 hours; just check that the meat is cooked through and the sweet potatoes and pasta are soft.

3. To thicken the stew, stir in the cornmeal mixture and bring it back up to a boil for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool and serve.

NOTE: Stew can be refrigerated for 1 week.
Recipe was adapted from the book, "The Natural Pet Food Cookbook: Healthful Recipes for Dogs and Cats," by Wendy Nan Rees with Kevin Schlanger, DVM

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Eggnog

Our lovely neighbors have a family tradition -- eggnog on Christmas Eve! And we've been very fortunate to be included in the tradition over the past couple of years.

Until now, I have never been a fan of eggnog. It started when someone wanted to serve me some eggnog that had been purchased in the grocery store. It was eggy, heavy, creamy and not really flavorful to me. I just didn't understand the concept and didn't enjoy the taste at all.

When we were first invited over for eggnog, I played the good neighbor. And then I tasted, and I was immediately converted! This homemade eggnog is whipped and fluffy and has the right amount of alcohol to make it a pleasant and joyous beverage. The results this year were the best we had yet and it made for a most delightful Christmas Eve evening!

I hope it becomes a tradition in your family or neighborhood! Cheers!


8 eggs
1 lb. powdered sugar
6 c. heavy whipping cream
Dark Rum

1. Separate eggs and beat egg yolks in mixer until light in color. Put egg whites in small bowl and put in fridge for later. Gradually beat in 2-1/2 cups of powdered sugar. Add half of the total liquor now (approximately 1 c. run, just 1/3 c. brand and a small amount of bourbon).

2. Cover bowl and let mixture stand for one hour. Do not refrigerate.

3. While beating constantly, add additional liquor (1 c. rum, almost 1/2 c. brand and the remaining bourbon). Add 1-1/2 quarts whipping cream (not whipped).

4. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 3 hours.

5. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into mixture. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

NOTE: It's best to refrigerate before serving!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hot Buttered Rum

There's hardly anything better than cuddling up in front of the fire with that someone special and a hot mug of something. For the past couple of years, that hot mug has been "Hot Buttered Rum."

I originally found the recipe when I was working at my last hotel and we served it at our client Christmas party. It originally caught my eye because of the vanilla ice cream and brown sugar -- a yummy combination in my book.

The "batter" is quite easy to make. Melt a pound of butter, then the brown sugar and confectioner's sugar with the nutmeg and cinnamon. Next goes a quart of ice cream and it all melts together in a large pot. Put this mixture in the freezer until you're ready for the drink.

Get out your mugs (pictured are my special holiday mugs from my friend, Valeska -- they're now a holiday tradition too), and pour a shot of dark rum into the bottom of the mug. Scoop 1-2 ice cream scoops of batter into your mug and then pour hot water in. Stir and enjoy!

Here's the recipe. It's certain to be a highlight at next year's cookie exchange party or during your Christmas Eve present-opening extravaganza. Merry Christmas!

1 lb. butter
1 lb. brown sugar
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
1 qt. vanilla ice cream, softened
1 T ground cinnamon
1 t. ground nutmeg

Dark Rum

1. Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Blend in brown sugar and confectioners’ sugar. Remove from heat and whisk in the ice cream, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour mixture into a plastic container; seal and freeze.
2. In a coffee mug, measure 1-2 scoops Hot Buttered Rum batter and 1 fluid oz. of rum. Fill up with boiling water. Stir, and sprinkle top of drink with nutmeg.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Julie & Julia

You're all probably wondering, "What does Julie and Julia have to do with food?" Well, here what it means.

I read a great book a couple of years ago called "Julie on Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen," by Julie Powell. After pulling a dusty copy of Julia Childs' book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" from her mother's bookshelf, the author decided to cook every recipe in the book. She started a blog to detail the various kitchen adventures in her tiny kitchen in Queens, NY, and that blog -- which also includes the exploits of some of her colorful relatives and friends, as well as her husband who tried each and every recipe -- led to a book deal. The book is a great read -- zany and just full of fun for anyone who likes Julia Child or experimenting in the kitchen. (The blog has stopped, but you can still read it at:

Julie's book was published after Julia had passed away. However, Julie's blog was brought to Julia's attention and they were able to have a couple of connections -- a thrill, I'm sure, for the novice author.

There's also a great book called, "My Life in France," by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme. The book was published after Julia passed away. Alex is her nephew and heir, and the book combines the diaries of Julia Child when she first married and moved to France and started cooking, and Alex's many recollections of conversations with his aunt. It's a lovely insight into Julia Child, her early years of marriage, living in a new country during WWII as well as how people cooked in France during this time. After many, many years, Julia's cooking inevitably led to her first book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

Now there comes a movie by director, Nora Ephron titled "Julie & Julia." The movie, due to be released next summer will star Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell. From what I have read thus far, the two actresses will not have ANY interaction together in the movie. Ms. Streep's acting will follow the book, "My Life in France" and Ms. Adam's acting will follow the book, "Julie on Julia." (For more information, you can read about the movie at

I, for one, am looking forward to seeing the movie! Until then, as Julia Child would say, "Bon Appetit!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dirty Foods

I know, I know . . . This is a totally disgusting topic for a food blog. But I saw this article and just had to share it with you.

We all go to the grocery store, handle fruit, bring them home and start cooking with them. We all wash our hands frequently and wash our food prior to preparation (I hope!), but there were some startling revelations in this article.

Here's the link for you to read in its entirety:

As a highlight, the following foods are on the "dirty food list."

  • Eggs: Always buy pasteurized eggs. And be careful from touching too many of the individual eggs when you open up each package. If there appears to be a damaged egg, just close the package and put it back. Don't replace eggs between packages.

  • Peaches: On average, a peach can contain as many as nine different pesticides

  • Pre-Packaged Salad Mixes: Make sure you wash the lettuces thoroughly even though the package says pre-washed.

  • Melons: Scrub melons with a mild dish soup and warm water before slicing. Their outside coat is a hot bed of bacteria and pesticides as well.

  • Scallions: Make sure you wash completely. These were blamed for recent breakouts of Hepatitis A.

Eat well and Stay Healthy!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rustic Chili

It's certainly cold here. I know, I know, it's not cold by Massachusetts or North Dakota standards. However, all of us here are huddled together and the "talk of the town" is how cold it is and how beautiful the mountains now look with snow atop them.

When it's chilly outside, there's not much better than having a hot bowl of chili! I found this recipe in my compendium, though I had never tried it before. The day I made the chili, I wanted something easy to assemble with ingredients that were easily attained at the grocery store. This fit the bill! It had a lot of great flavors running through it and when you see the ingredients, you'll know why.

First of all, there are 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa. When Brad saw me adding it, he kinda turned up his nose, but he trusts me now that things should turn out alright -- and they did. And there's 3/4 c. of chili powder. I didn't read the recipe completely for the first trip to the grocery store and this prompted another quick visit. The cumin, oregano and allspice complete the spices and they really do complement each other. I also added more beef broth than the recipe called for as I do like some extra broth with the chili and it keeps it from "drying out" when making leftovers the next day.

Do take the time to get all of your condiments/toppings together. It adds some fun to the dinner and makes everything all that much more festive. As listed below, you can have cheddar cheese, green onions, red onions, olives, sour cream, tortilla chips -- whatever your heart desires. You don't have to have anything, if you don't want, but I do recommend some cornbread.

Here's the recipe. It's got a kick to it, so have a nice cold beer alongside!

14 servings

6 T. olive oil
3 pounds lean ground beef
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 c. chopped onions
3- 7-oz. cans diced mild green chilies
1-1/2 c. chopped green bell peppers
3/4 c.chili powder
3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
2-1/2 T. ground cumin
1-1/2 T. dried oregano
1-1/2 t. ground allspice
4- 15-oz. cans pinto beans, rinsed, drained
3- 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes with added puree
1- 14-1/2 oz. can beef broth (or more)

Grated cheddar cheese
Chopped green onions
Chopped red onions
Chopped pitted black olives
Sour cream
Tortilla chips

1. Heat oil in larlge pot over medium high heat. Add beef and garic and cook until brown, breaking up meat with back of fork, about 8 minutes. Add 3 cups chopped onions and next 7 ingredients; saute' until vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes.
2. Add beans, tomatoes and broth. Cover and simmer 30 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally.

NOTE: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Before continuing, bring chili to simmer, stirring occasionally

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies

The other night, Santa Claus and his entourage came flying through our neighborhood. Our city has quite a set-up for Santa and Mrs. Claus and their elves. And the local police department comes through with loud sirens to get everyone in position for the great arrival. It's always great fun to see the kids faces and especially to enjoy the holiday spirit and neighborhood camaraderie.

This year, I decided to make chocolate chip cookies for the occasion. My intent was to have them fresh and, if I could be so lucky with timing, have them warm. I knew that we were going to be graced with Santa's presence that evening, but he came at 4:45PM, way earlier than I had thought or planned. I even had to pull the first batch out of the oven when our neighbor girl elves, Olivia and Estella, came knocking. So with a bolt and a flash, Oliver and I ran outside to see all the commotion -- and sans cookies.

After all of the wishes were made and Santa was off to the next neighborhood, I came back and finished up the batch of cookies. At least, Brad got them warm and gooey out of the oven when he got home for he had missed Santa.

I have made this recipe a few times and I really enjoy them. I use an ice cream scooper to put them on the baking sheet. Like the recipe says, they do spread and so only 5-6 cookies per sheet is all you can fit. After they were all finished, I did wrap them up and give away to some neighbors. As they say, better late than never -- and who would ever turn away a fresh chocolate chip cookie?!

Here's the recipe. Enjoy warm and with a glass of cold milk and leave for Santa when you go to bed on Christmas Eve. You're sure to get that special something you told him to bring!

Makes about 20 cookies

2-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. solid vegetable shortening
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. (packed) golden brown sugar
1 T. sour cream
1-1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 pound (2-2/3 c.) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. toasted walnuts, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking soda and sugar into medium bowl.
2. Using electric mixer, beat butter and vegetable shortening in large bowl until fluffy. Add sugar, brown sugar, sour cream and vanilla and beat to blend well. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Drop half of batter by generous 1/4 c. cupfuls onto (2) large ungreased baking sheets (5 mounds per sheet, spaced 3 inches apart). Using moistened fingertips, flatten each mound to 2-1/2-inch round.
4. Bake cookies until golden brown, about 14 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter using cooled baking sheets.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cream Cheese Walnut Cookies

Martha Stewart has been very generous in sending me cookie recipes every day. (Of course, I signed up for the feed!) It's been fun to read about different cookies that I wouldn't ordinarily have made or considered. One recipe, however, that I did try with much success and acclaim were "Cream Cheese Walnut Cookies."

Like the biscotti recipe detailed yesterday, this cookie is not difficult to make, but it is perhaps a bit time-consuming. You mix, then roll into a log, freeze for a while, roll in some nuts, slice and then bake. The ease of the recipe also is that you can freeze for up to (2) weeks, so if you only have a certain amount of time, you can break up the process.

Rolling the dough in the nuts was a bit perplexing to me. When the dough is hard, the walnuts didn't want to stick to it. I simply let the dough thaw a bit and it seemed to work. Looking at the comments on her website for this recipe, someone dipped the cookies into chocolate and then rolled into nuts. Chocolate always sounds good, but to me, it might be a bit overwhelming for this cookies.

When you read the recipe, you'll immediately think of Paula Dean -- what with the (2) cups or (4) sticks of butter to start off the batter. When you eat the finished product, you do taste the butter, however, the cream cheese adds another layer of texture and flavor to the cookie that we found delightful.

Here's the recipe. Pour yourself a relaxing cup of tea with a few of these and you'll be in heaven!

Makes about 4 dozen

4 c. all-purpose flour
1-1/4 t. coarse salt
2 c. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 oz. cream cheese (not whipped), room temperature
1-1/4 c. sugar
2 T, plus 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
2-1/2 c. walnut halves (1-1/2 cups toasted and coarsely chopped), 1 c. finely chopped

1. Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and mix until just combined (do not overmix). Mix in toasted walnuts.
2. Transfer dough to a work surface. Divide in half; shape each half into an 8-1/2-inch log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in parchment paper; freeze until firm, about 30 minutes or up to 2 weeks.
3. Preheat oven to 350 with racks in upper and lower thirds. Unwrap 1 log, and roll in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, coating completely. Cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
4. Bake cookies, rotating halfway through, until golden around edges, 18-20 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Repeat with remaining log and remaining 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

NOTE: The dough for these slice-and-bake cookies can be shaped into logs and frozen for up to two weeks.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Biscotti with Cranberries & Pistachios

Wow! I didn't think I had been gone from the blog this long. It certainly doesn't mean that I haven't been cooking. In fact, I think I have done more so in the last couple of weeks than ever before.

Just as the month of December started, I got out some holiday/Christmas cookbooks so that I could experiment with new cookies recipes. The more I did, however, the more I came back to some tried and true recipes . . . and one of my favorite holiday cookies -- Holiday Biscotti with Cranberries and Pistachios.

I was lucky to contribute this recipe on:, though I didn't add the entire recipe.

People always think biscotti are difficult to execute, but my experience is just the opposite. It may take a bit more time because you have to shape, cook, cut into slices, cook again and then dip. However, all of the steps are quite easy.

These are one of my favorite holiday treats because they simply look like Christmas -- red and green with white chocolate looking like snow peaks on the biscotti pieces. Put in a cellophane bag and tied with the same color ribbon, and you have a delectable goodie for your friends, neighbors and co-workers.

One of the ingredients in the biscotti is anise seed. It's something the ordinary household may not carry, however, it's a critical ingredient for the recipe. It seems like a lot when you put in the butter, but it dissolves during the cooking process and imparts a lovely taste when you eat it. Whole Foods also has shelled natural unsalted pistachios, which make the recipe even easier to make.
Here's the recipe! It's sure to become one of your family favorites!

Yield: 3-1/2 Dozen

2-1/4 c. all purpose flour
1-1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
6T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1T grated lemon peel
1-1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 t. whole aniseed
1 c. dried sweetened cranberries
3/4 c. shelled natural unsalted pistachios
6 oz. imported white chocolate, chopped (Perugina or Lindt)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift first 3 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar into large bowl to blend well. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in lemon peel, vanilla, and aniseed. Beat in flour mixture until just blended. Stir in cranberries and pistachios (dough will be sticky). Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Gather dough together; divide in half. Roll each half into 15-inch long log (about 1-1/4 inches wide). Carefully transfer logs to 1 prepared baking sheet, spacing 3 inches apart.
2. Bake logs until almost firm to touch but still pale, about 28 minutes. Cool logs on baking sheet 10 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.
3. Carefully transfer logs still on parchment to cutting board. Using serrated knife and gentle sawing motion, cut logs crosswise into generous 1/2-inch thick slices. Place slices 1 cut side down on remaining prepared sheet pans. Bake until firm and pale golden, about 9 minutes per side. Transfer to racks and cool.
4. Line another baking sheet with waxed paper. Stir white chocolate in top of double boiler over barely simmering water until just smooth. Remove from water. Dip 1 end of each cookie into melted chocolate, tilting pan if necessary. Shake off excess chocolate. Place cookies on prepared sheet. Chill until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature.)