Simple – Split Pea Soup

I like simple. Simple pleasures, simple life, simple food. Simple is flexible. Go with the flow. Simple is something you can make when it’s 2am and you just got home from a late night at the bars and, suddenly, have this weird craving for soup. Yes sir, simple is my friend.

Split Peas

Take this recipe as a gentle suggestion on the path towards deliciousness; with many side trails to take and trees to climb. Don’t like the green color? Go with yellow, or half and half (I tossed in some leftover yellow). Tarragon not your thing? Go with thyme, or rosemary, or whatever fresh leftover herbs you have sitting in your fridge, otherwise destined for the trash. Go nuts. Hooray simple.

Split Pea Blend

Simple Split Pea Soup

1 onion; chopped
1 large carrot; chopped
1 celery stalk; chopped
1 russet potato; chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups split peas; rinsed and drained
4 or more cups of stock (or water)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
salt to taste

Heat your pot medium and sweat the onion, carrot and celery until the onion is transclucent. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until everything is soft and smells (tastes!) delicious. Remove from heat and let cool a bit and either blend with an immersion blender or in a standard drink blender a few cups at a time. Enjoy.

Kitchen Tips – Avoiding Bean Soak

As a flexitarian, a significant portion of my diet is composed of beans which are a great source of protein. I prefer dried beans over canned because, not only are they “fresher” (in a sense that less is done to them before you get them), they are significantly cheaper. The problem with dried beans is the need to soak them. Just about every bean needs to be pre-soaked before cooking; usually overnight. That requires you to plan ahead, which doesn’t always happen.

My trick to avoiding this complication is a magical little device called a pressure cooker. I have to admit, when I first received this as a gift from my sister, I was quite unimpressed. “What am I going to do with this thing?” Answer: speed soaking beans. Stick in some beans, some water, cook for the appropriate time, viola! Good to go in less than an hour.

Pressure cookers are not a new invention. In fact, they’ve been around for quite some time with a bit a bad reputation. Old pressure cookers use to be quite messy but more importantly dangerous with the risk of exploding. Not today. Of course, anything under incredibly high pressure is in risk of exploding, but advances in technology and design has made this virtually impossible.

If you decide to buy a pressure cooker, I strongly recommend a stove-less version. Much more convenient. To top it off, pressure cookers are great for many other things, such as canning and general quick cooking. Check it out. It can be a worthy investment.

Taco Salad with Drunken Black Beans

So remember back when I said I had seen a great recipe for a layered tortilla pie, but then I lost it? Well a few weeks ago I found the recipe and wow it was good. What really made it different and delicious was the way the black beans were cooked – soaked in beer!

black beans

It occurred to me on Friday that this style of cooking beans would be amazing in a taco salad. I’d never actually made a taco salad before, and without the assistance of a giant taco shell to throw everything in I’m not sure how authentic it is, but I thoroughly enjoyed the final product. The husband loved it, I loved it, it got me to eat lettuce (even if it was only iceberg lettuce) and all was right with the world.


This is also one of those meals that I think you could stretch to feed any amount of people. I’ll warn you that the two of us had a lot of leftover black beans, but I knew that going in to it and actually wanted leftovers to throw in tortilla shells and try other things. If you’re serving one or two people and you don’t want leftovers, just cut the black bean recipe in half. Of course, if you do this you’ll have to finish off half a can or bottle of beer on your own instead of using the whole can for the beans… hopefully this isn’t a problem for anyone.

taco salad with guac

The chicken plays a relatively minor role here, and if you’re a vegetarian or just not that into meat I think you could leave it out and still have a great dinner (or very large lunch!). The black beans really make up the main flavor. You can definitely taste the beer that they’re soaked in, and I think it’s excellent. I’m actually tempted never to make black beans again unless they’re cooked in beer. You don’t even need to use a fancy one – we just used a can of Bud Light. It works; trust me!

taco salad

Taco Salad with Drunken Black Beans
(black bean recipe adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast)

1 head of ice berg lettuce, rinsed and shredded
1 can refried beans (15 oz.), heated in a small saucepan
bag of tortilla chips
1 lb. chicken, marinated in some lime juice, salt and pepper, then grilled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces

For Guacamole:
1 medium Haas avocado, peeled and sliced
1 chili, minced with seeds removed (or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon sweetened lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
dash black pepper
dash cayenne

For the Black Beans:
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (use less for less heat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
dash of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cans black beans (15 oz. each), drained and rinsed
12 oz. beer
1 can whole kernels of corn (15 oz.), drained

To make the black beans – Add onion, red pepper flakes, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper to a large skillet on medium for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add rinsed and drained black beans and beer to the skillet and bring to boil. When boiling, reduce to medium-low and simmer until most of the beer evaporates; approximately 15 minutes. Stir in corn and remove from heat.

To make the guacamole – Peel and slice avocado and place in a medium size bowl. Add minced chili or red pepper flakes, sweetened lime juice, salt, minced garlic, black pepper and cayenne. Mash avocado with the back of a fork while combining ingredients. Don’t mash too much, you want it to be a little chunky.

To put the taco salad together – Create a layer of tortilla chips on the the bottom of several dinner plates or one very large serving plate. Next smooth heated refried beans over the tortilla chips. Add a layer of shredded lettuce, followed by the black bean mixture and chicken, then topped off with another layer of lettuce. Add dollops of guacamole to the sides of the plate or in separate bowls for serving.

Sante Fe Soup with Chicken, A Super Bowl Savior

If you’re like me when planning a party, then you’ll probably make too much food. You’ll also choose things that all need to go into the oven at once, are too time-consuming, and keep you in the kitchen while everyone else is waving their Terrible Towel at the tv.

Sante Fe Soup

I’ll be trying to avoid that problem on Sunday by including an enormous, hearty bowl of chili on the menu.

This “Santa Fe Soup” recipe was given to me by a co-worker at a previous job. I normally don’t go wild for chili, but the chili’s great look and smell won me over when he brought it in for lunch one day. Unfortunately he didn’t tell me where he got the original recipe, and when I googled it I came up with hundreds of variations. I did, however, make a few changes.

Chili and Beer

The recipe I was given called for 2 pounds of ground round, but I substituted beef for rotisserie chicken. I also substituted chunky stewed tomatoes and tomato paste for crushed tomatoes. The recipe called for two packages of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing dry mix and one package of taco seasoning mix for seasoning, but I decided just to recreate these mixes using the spices in my kitchen and season it myself. I also halved the recipe, and it still almost filled my spaghetti pot.

This chili is excellent – spicy but not too spicy, thick, and full of variety. I hope you’ll consider it either for your Super Bowl party or a cold winter night!

Close up Sante Fe Soup

Sante Fe Soup with Chicken
(recipe below is a half batch, which still makes enough for several dinners for two!)

1/2 cooked rotisserie chicken, cut into bite size pieces (you could also use 1 pound of chicken breast cooked using a method of your choice)
1 chopped onion
4 cloves garlic
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can white niblet corn, canned
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste, 6 oz.
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
15 saltines, crushed
1 tablespoon Nature’s seasoning
1 tablespoon parsley flakes

Combine all ingredients, beginning with beans and cooked chicken, in a large pot on medium low heat. Simmer approximately 20 minutes, but the longer the better. Top with tortilla chips, sour cream, or grated cheese to serve, or enjoy it “plain!”

Hooray For Soup

Soup. Is. Awesome. That’s right, I said it. I am no longer the reckless youth I once was. I no longer eat what can be barely considered food. I no longer leave a pot of Campbell’s Soup sitting on the stove over night only to eat it the next day. No, today I am mature. Sophisticated. And sophisticated, mature people (read: OLD) eat mature things, like soup.

The Essential Mir Poix

It’s safe to say there is rarely a week that I don’t eat some kind of soup. It’s delicious (when done right), it’s healthy (when done right) and if you prepare a big enough pot it can last you the whole week (or you could freeze it, depending on the soup). This is usually want I do. Come the weekend I cook a pot of soup for lunch throughout the week. It’s also nice for a quick last minute dinner, but when you’re already eating the stuff once a day for a week already, the addition of it on the dinner menu gets old.

Sweating Our Mix Poix

One of my staples is lentil soup. Legumes (beans) are an excellent source of protein and lentils are the second highest source in the legume family (soy takes first). Lentils are also great because you can buy them dried (cheap) and don’t have to worry about softening them prior to cooking. This dish also demonstrates another great thing about soups: their flexibility and versatility. You can really do a lot to vary this recipe and chances are it’ll still come out delicious (unless you do something wacky like add peanut butter or cheese or something. i offer no guarantees if you go all “mad scientist” on this thing). This can really be considered a “base” recipe. I often up the veggie ratio. Go nuts with this one. And better yet, let us know how it turns out!

And yes, I totally acknowledge how visually unappealing this soup is.

Lentil Soup

Simple (Healthy!) Lentil Soup
adapted from Alton Brown

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion; chopped
1 carrot; chopped
1 celery stalk; chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
8 cups of water or broth (I normally use eight cups of water and some frozen stock, but bouillon cubes could also work)
10 oz of lentils; picked over, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (whole or stewed could also work in a pinch)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp pepper
salt to taste

Sweat the onions, carrots, celery and garlic with the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot for about 10 minutes. The onion should start appearing translucent.

Add everything but the salt (simple, huh?). Let simmer for 45 minutes. Add salt to taste. Done. Eat. Be full.