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Friday, February 27, 2015

(EASY) Hearty Split Pea and Ham Soup

  Winter is really giving us something to talk about this year here in lovely New Hampshire.  It is COLD outside. There is a @#%^ ton of SNOW every where you look. And there is even icicles hanging from any possible place they can hang from. It is just hard core Winter time.  That is that.  All we can do it complain, pretend to like it, bundle up, lather on lots of lotion to remedy our dry skin, crank up the humidifiers and eat LOTS of soup.  We have to survive it some how! 

 Split Pea and Ham Soup has always been a favorite of mine.  It is delicious, filling and plain old comforting. Believe it or not this was the first time I ever made it.  I have made many a soup in my adventures in the kitchen but not a split pea soup.  I was delighted with this recipe as it is super simple,  foul proof (especially if you follow the directions) and can easily be adjusted to your liking.  If you don't like carrots go ahead an omit them - just add in more of another veggie.  If you wish to keep the soup vegetarian no worries - use vegetable bouillon instead of chicken and replace the ham meat with more vegetables.   I chose to make my broth with a nice big meaty ham bone.  I placed the ham bone in a large pot and covered it with good water (such as filtered or spring water).  I then brought the water to a nice gentle boil and then simmered it for about an hour to get all the flavor possible out of the bone.  Bones truly do give off the best flavor for a broth in my opinion. If you would like to keep things super simple for this soup go ahead and skip the ham bone and toss in some nice bouillon cubes of your choice into good water. 

So please,  join me in warming your bones and embracing the rest of this looooong WINTER to the fullest and make a pot of this soup.  Your bones will be happy as will your tummy.

Hearty Split Pea and Ham Soup
(recipe slightly adapted from Taste of Home)

*1 large meaty ham bone
good water (spring or filtered) - enough to cover bone completely plus more to make 8 full cups
1 16oz. bag or 2 cups dried split peas
2 medium onions - chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup sliced celery
2 cups chopped ham
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp dried marjoram
3 chicken bouillon cubes (6 cubes if you don't use a ham bone to make the broth)
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt 
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish/topping


*If want to make your broth with the ham bone* - place ham bone in a large pot and cover with good water. Bring to a gentle boil and then lower heat to simmer for another 30-60 minutes.  Remove bone from water and set aside to cool. Once bone is cool enough to handle cut off any meat that is not too fatty and add to soup.  Measure broth and then add in additional water to make 8 cups of liquid. ~ If you chose not to make your broth with a bone just add in 8 cups of water and 6 bouillon cubes along with the rest of the ingredients of the soup ~

Pour the 8 cups of liquid back into your large pot along with all the remaining ingredients.  Stir well and bring to boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook soup for at least 1 hour or until all veggies are tender and soup is thick. Adjust seasoning if you wish and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a piece of yummy bread on the side.  Enjoy! 

 Happy Hearty Split Pea and Ham Soup Making!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Italian Orange Almond Cake

To me, there is no better feeling than happiness.  Happiness makes my skin tingle, my smile grow so big it makes my cheeks hurt and my eyes to tear in elation.  Happiness is such a wonderful emotion.  And it's the simple things in life that brings me to happiness; the laughter of my girls, biting into a fresh sweet peach, walking along the beach and having the feeling of the warm grainy sand on my feet or curling up into the sun for an afternoon nap.  simple yet meaningful experiences in life bring me happiness.  

Baking also makes me happy (no surprise there!). One of the biggest reasons baking makes me happy is that I can take a handful of the simplest ingredients and create the most delicious, melt-in-your-mouth sweet. This Italian Orange Almond Cake is the perfect example of such a creation.  Simple, simple ingredients formed into a deliciously amazing cake.  If possible I would've burst with happiness as I made this cake.  I blame the beautiful, Francesca for my immense happiness as this recipe came from her blog, Della Cucina Povera.  I was assigned to Della Cucina Povera via the Secret Recipe Club this month. I loved and treasured every moment of this assignment. Francesca has a collection of recipes that are deliciously beautiful.  She has a true talent in the kitchen with all the food she puts on her table.  I plan on making the Greek Stuffed Tomatoes along with Creamy Broccoli and Cannellini Soup
that have both caught my eye.

I chose to bake Francesca's recipe for Italian Orange Almond Cake not only because it featured simple ingredients that I had on hand but also because the technique to make it fascinated me. The whole batter is made in a food processor (LOVE it!) which is perfect as 2 whole oranges that have been cooked and cut up into chunks are added into the batter.  Mixing the batter in the food processor allows for everything to come together smoothly.   Almond meal and eggs will hold everything together giving the final outcome a dense texture that is deliciously exotic.   It's truly a very special cake. 

Italian Orange Almond Cake 
            (recipe from Della Cucina Provera)


2 whole oranges
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
1 1/4 cup almond flour/meal
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
powdered sugar and grated orange rind  for garnish


1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a gentle boil.  Add in the whole oranges and cook at a gentle boil for 1 hour - add in more water if needed as the water will evaporate as it the oranges cook.  After an hour remove the oranges from the water and cool completely.

2. In a food processor pulse together the sugars. Add in the eggs. Mix well all together until light and fluffy.  Add in almond flour/meal and baking powder. Again mixing well all together.

3. Cut up the cooked oranges into chunks.  Remove seeds if you find any. Place orange chunks into batter and process for a good 1-2 minutes or until batter is smooth with no large chunks remain.  Pour batter into a well greased 9 " round cake pan that is lined with parchment paper on the bottom.

4. Bake in a 350 degrees F. oven for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for at least 30 minutes before inverting cake onto serving plate. Serve and enjoy! 

Happy Italian Orange Almond Cake Baking!


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