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Monday, March 30, 2009

Lemon Raspberry Bars/Torte/Dessert

What's in a name? Sometimes, in baking, the shape of the pan in which a recipe is baked will affect what the final product is named. Today's main recipe is like that. Baked in a springform or other straight-sided round pan, it is likely to be called a torte; in a 7 X 11 pan, it becomes a bar cookie. Either way, my variation is a simple and fast to make dessert that is rich yet relatively inexpensive.

Raspberry Lemon Dessert

Crust:
1/3 c butter
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c flour

12 oz frozen raspberries, thawed and drained (See NOTE)

Filling:
3 eggs
Juice of 2 lemons, enough for 1/3 c juice
Zest of 2 lemons
3/4 c sugar
1/4 c flour

1. Prepare the crust:
Melt butter in 7 X 11 pan. Cut in the sugar and flour with a fork and then use your fingers to press the well-mixed dough evenly over the pan.

Spread with the well-drained raspberries and bake at 375 for about 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and 3/4 cup of sugar until thick and light colored. Fold in the lemon juice and zest and the 1/4 cup flour, stirring just until blended. Pour over the raspberries and crust and bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. (If the top begins to brown too soon, cover lightly with a piece of aluminum foil.)

3. When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut in small squares after cooling. Store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

Makes 18 to 24 squares, depending on the size serving you prefer.

NOTE: I have raspberries in my garden and freeze them in 8 to 12 oz bags. I thaw the berries and then, while still in the bag, allow the juice to flow into a bowl, squeezing the berries to be sure they are well-drained. You could also put the berries in a colander and press lightly with the back of a spoon. The berries should not be very juicy for this recipe, but you also do not want to squeeze out all the pulp and be left only with the seeds!

What to do with the Raspberry Juice?
I usually have as much as half a cup of raspberry juice left from the squeezing. That is just too wonderful to throw away so here are a couple of uses for the juice:

Stir a half cup in with the water used to reconstitute a 12 oz can of frozen lemonade concentrate for a brisk summery cooler.

Add the juice to your next slushy drink; this is especially good with an orange or apple juice and frozen banana combination.

Make a raspberry sauce for serving over a basic cake, ice cream, vanilla yoghurt, or even rice pudding.

Raspberry Sauce

1/2 c raspberry juice
1/4 c water
1/4 to 1/3 c sugar--to taste
1 T cornstarch

Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a microwave-safe bowl. Because the sauce will bubble up when cooked, be sure the bowl is large enough. Stir in the water to make a thick paste and then gradually stir in the raspberry juice. When well blended, put in microwave on medium power for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice, until it has bubbled up and become clear. Store in the refrigerator.

Variations: May add a half teaspoon of lemon juice or a quarter teaspoon of almond extract.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Basic Tutorial on Separating Eggs

Cracking an egg seems about as basic as boiling water, but separating yolks from whites can seem a little trickier, especially if you have never been able to watch someone else do this. Since the separation step is probably the hardest part of the Lemon Pudding Cake, here are a few hints to

1. If you will be separating more than one egg, you will need three bowls. The good news is that one of these will be the bowl you will be beating the egg whites in. The other bowls can be quite small.

2. Crack the egg, holding it over one of the smaller bowls. Then, shifting the yolk from one side of the shell to the other, let the egg white flow into the bowl.

3. When as much of the white is removed from the shell as possible, put the yolk into one of the other dishes and pour the saved egg white into the mixing bowl.
Here is the reason for the three bowls: When you are separating the eggs, it is possible that the yolk may break and some of the yolk will fall into the egg white in the bowl. However, even the tiniest bit of egg yolk will keep the whites from forming the foamy texture you want when beating them. By putting each egg white into another bowl as you separate the eggs, you avoid having all the egg whites spoiled should a bit of yolk get in them.
If you want to see some videos with a couple of other methods—including using your hand instead of the shell to do the separating, go to http://www.wikihow.com/Separate-an-Egg
One more thing: if you do get egg yolk into one of the egg whites, DON'T throw it out! If you have no other baking to do right away, an egg out of the shell like this can be tightly covered and refrigerated for a day or two or used for an impromptu scrambled egg supper.

Pudding Cakes











Over the years, one of our family's favorite comfort foods has been a brownie pudding cake from a very old edition of the basic Betty Crocker cookbook. It's a good recipe to use when there isn't an egg in the house, doesn't cost a lot, and is fun and easy for kids to help make—as long as there is an adult around to handle the very hot water. (And do be sure the water is very hot, even boiling.)

Hot Fudge Pudding

1 c flour
3/4 c sugar
3 T cocoa
2 t baking powder
2 T melted butter (or oil)
1/2 c milk
Topping:
1 c brown sugar
4 T cocoa
1 3/4 c very hot water
1 c chopped nuts (optional)



1. Sift dry ingredients and stir in milk, butter, and nuts. Spread in oiled 9” square pan.
2. Mix brown sugar and cocoa and sprinkle over batter.
3. Pour hot water over entire batter.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm or cold.













The following Lemon Pudding Cake results in a similar cake over sauce dessert, but it uses a slightly different method. It does involve some beating of egg whites but is still very easy--and a lot quicker than lemon meringue pie!

Lemon Pudding Cake

4 eggs, separated
1/3 c lemon juice
1 t lemon zest
1 T butter
1 1/4 c white sugar
1/2 c sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c milk

Prepare oven and pan. Place a large baking dish in the oven and add hot water to about 1 inch in depth. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Beat the egg whites until stiff and set aside.
2. Combine egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon rind, and butter or margarine and beat until thick and lemon colored.
3. Add dry ingredients alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition. NOTE: Batter will be very thin; don't worry!!
4. Fold in egg whites until just blended.
5. Pour into 8 inch square baking dish and set this into the pan of hot water.
6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. If the pudding begins to brown a little too much before the time is up, cover the pan loosely with foil.

Note: I used 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder and 1 1/2 cups water for the liquid. For a stronger lemon flavor, use an extra 1/4 cup of lemon juice and reduce the water to 1 1/4 cups, keeping the dry milk powder amount the same.


Why do I need to bake this in a pan of water?

Don't eliminate this step! Using a "water bath" ensures even cooking for delicate dishes like custards and this pudding. The water "insulates" the edges so that they do not become too brown or even burned before the center is adequately baked.

The biggest challenge this method presents is in finding the right combination of pans to hold both the pudding and the water bath. Here are a few suggestions you might have available:
• A 12 inch straight sided—and ovenproof—frying pan
• A small roaster
• A Dutch oven
• If your pudding will be baked in an aluminum or steel pan, a 9 X 13 pan may be large enough to accommodate it. 8 inch square glass or ceramic baking dishes will probably not fit.
Remember, there will need to be water on all four sides of the pan, so don't use something that is just barely bigger than the pudding pan itself.

If you don't have anything large enough to accommodate your 8 inch square pan, try an 8 inch round pan in some of your options. Another way to address the problem is to bake the pudding in 6 to 8 individual ramekins. (If you use this alternative, the baking time should be reduced to 30 to 35 minutes.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Note on Salt

I probably should have included a comment in yesterday's Cabbage Rolls recipe, that it was no typo that there is no salt added anywhere. Then I decided the subject of salt is important enough to have its own entry.

An article in the August 1, 2008, Woman's Day quoted our own Mayo Clinic with these statistics: 6% of our daily salt intake comes from what we add at the table and another 5% is added while cooking. Meanwhile, fully 77% comes from processed and already prepared food we buy at the supermarket. (I guess the remainder must come from the meals we eat out--the article doesn't give us info on the missing 12%!)

One of the ways that I have found to cut back at least a little on overall sodium levels in my recipes is to rely on all that salt in the processed ingredients. Spaghetti sauce is one of my favorite "convenience" foods, but almost all brands are high in sodium. There are only a few low sodium options, and these are both expensive and not always well-seasoned in other ways. However, I have learned never to add salt to any dish where I will be using spaghetti sauce until I have tasted the final product. For example, there is enough salt in the Cabbage Roll sauce to season the pound of meat and all the other ingredients as well.

Other sodium lowering tricks:

I never salt the water in which I cook pasta and often eliminate the salt in rice if the food being served over it will be high in salt--think of all those wonderful Chinese dishes that include very salty soy sauce.

Mexican food ingredients--salsa, enchilada sauce, canned beans--can be very high in salt but there are ways to get around this. If you prepare your own pinto and other beans (really very easy and something I'll be covering soon), don't add salt. Most cooks will tell you that salt added too early when cooking beans is a problem for getting them soft anyway. Don't salt the guacamole, and use fresh tomatoes whenever possible. Make taco meat with chili powder, oregano, and garlic and don't add any salt.

Unless you buy expensive (and often not too flavorful) low sodium cheese, you will be getting a lot of salt when you include cheese in your dishes. Try using aged cheddar instead of mild and you can cut the total amount of cheese and thus sodium--along with a lot of unnecessary fat. Stir some plain yogurt into your casseroles (hotdishes) along with a reduced amount of cheese and you'll have a creamy sauce without as much salt. Add more pepper or some extra seasoning (oregano, cumin, basil, etc.) to boost the flavor if necessary.

Never salt vegetables that to which you will be adding sauce. Skip the salt even for those that will be served steamed and plain. A little pepper, a favorite herb combination, even a dollop of yogurt might be enough to cover for the "missing" salt. If you butter your vegetables, try using unsalted butter.

Never add salt to scrambled or fried eggs. It may sound strange, but you might just find you like these better without. Even if you do add salt at the table, you probably will be able to get by with using less at this point, since you will be able to get that "salty" taste on the tongue from the grains added afterward.

A lot of pie and other fruit desserts include salt; just don't include it and see if anyone even notices. Sometimes a tiny amount of lemon juice or vinegar can enhance the flavor more than any salt would have.

In other baking, I long ago stopped putting added salt in anything that includes baking powder or baking soda--those both already have plenty of sodium in them, and I would guess you will not miss the salt at all. If you really worry about the final result being too bland, add a few extra drops of vanilla or lemon juice or an extra shake of cinnamon or other spices already included in the recipe.

Don't however, eliminate salt in any yeast breads. Here, salt is not just a seasoning but also a control over the growth of the yeast. If you really have to eliminate salt from your diet, you may need to do a little research and testing to find an acceptable recipe for salt-free bread. I found one recipe at http://www.lowsodiumcooking.com/free/HoneyWheatBread.htm but have not tested it myself to know if it will work.


Above all, of course, try to use fresh or unadorned frozen foods as much as possible. The more of these you use in your recipes, the more you can "dilute" the saltiness of any processed ingredients you may include. For those processed ingredients you do use and for which you can't afford salt-free substitutes, try a few of these hints to lower your sodium intake without blowing the food budget.

June 4, 2012 update:

Here is a very interesting article on the topic of salt:

We only think we know the truth about salt

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cabbage Rolls





Starting this blog has caused me to change a lot of habits! I am far more a "dump and taste" than a "measure everything" cook, which means my usual instructions and amounts are sometimes more than a little hazy! To be sure any recipes I provide are workable for any reader so inclined to make them, I will be testing each one with measuring spoon and cup in hand before including them here.

Still, there will always be some "about" or "approximately" to describe amounts. That actually should be encouraging for even beginning cooks. For example, in the recipe for cabbage rolls below, I have included volume measurements for the onions, celery, and carrots but these really should be approximations only.

Why?

First, there are the definitions of "large," "medium," etc. I normally would have written the recipe to include a large onion, one medium carrot, and a stalk of celery, but what do those size descriptions really mean? As it turns out, the "large" onion I used was just under two cups after being coarsely chopped. What if you start out with a "large" onion and find that you have three cups of chopped onion, or maybe only a cup and a half? It won't mean that the chemistry of the dish will be ruined—this isn't like using only half a cup of sugar in a cake instead of two cups—but it will mean you will end up with quite a different flavor. The same differences apply to the meaning of "medium" carrots and a "stalk" of celery.

Even if we have similar ideas of what constitutes a large onion, however, the likelihood of any onion yielding exactly two cups after chopping is pretty slim. You might have a couple of tablespoons less or maybe a third of a cup more. You might chop yours more finely or pack the pieces down more firmly. The point is—if you end up with 2 1/4 cups of chopped onion, don't throw out the extra quarter cup, and if you have only a cup and a half, don't feel like you must cut up another one to fill up the measure. Approximations are fine!

Not everything, of course, is ever going to be completely measured. You will still find a lot of seasoning that will be listed as "to taste." Two reasons for this: these wonderfully natural flavors—whether it be apples in a pie or a stir fry of many kinds of vegetables—will vary from one batch to the next. The carrots in one day's stir-fry will be far sweeter than those tossed into the same mixture next week. Your dried basil may be fresher than mine and so you will need less.

And of course there is that matter of personal taste itself; perhaps I like thyme and you do not or you avoid black pepper while I might lay it on with a heavy hand. Adjusting seasonings to your taste is what will make each recipe truly your own.

Remember--cooking is both science and art. Measurements help get the basic "science" right, but your adjustments make each dish your own work of art.

So here is today's first cabbage recipe, measured to a science and then open to your own adaptations. Enjoy!


Cabbage rolls

NOTE: I had four large cabbages from my pre-Saint Patrick Day shopping so had plenty of loose, easy to work, leaves. While you can buy a large head of cabbage and work to carefully unwrap the outer leaves, a far better way to make this dish is to take the largest leaves off each cabbage you buy over time; wash the leaves well and put in a large plastic bag in the freezer. When you have accumulated 15 to 20 leaves, just remove them from the freezer and prepare as in the recipe instructions.

Ingredients
Approximately 17 medium to large cabbage leaves
Filling
1 pound ground turkey, 85% lean
2 c chopped onion
1 c fine breadcrumbs
1/2 c diced celery—including leaves
1/2 c finely grated or chopped carrot
1/3 yellow pepper, diced (okay, so I forgot to measure this before I put it in the mixture!)
1/2 c nonfat dry milk powder
2 jumbo eggs (that was the only size I had in the house; extra large or even large could be substituted without any adjustment in total number)
Sauce
1 28 ounce can or jar spaghetti sauce, any flavor
Approximately 1 cup cooking water from cabbage (optional)

1. Prepare cabbage.
Put about three inches of water in a large Dutch oven (or deep sided 12 inch skillet) and bring the water to a boil. Meanwhile, remove and wash well the coarse outer leaves from several large cabbages, trimming off any very coarse area near the base. Place the leaves in the water and cook just until they are bright green and pliable. Remove immediately and drain. Reserve the cooking water.
2. Prepare the filling.
Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well blended.
3. Make the rolls.
Spread out a cabbage leaf and spoon about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the filling mixture in the middle. Try to be sure that no part of the filling is more than 2 inches across so that all the meat will be fully cooked. The larger the leaf, the more filling you can include. Unless all your leaves are very uniform in size, don't worry about using different amounts of filling!
Roll the leaf around the filling, kind of like a burrito, tucking in the edges so that the filling is completely wrapped up.
4. Place each cabbage roll back in the pan used to boil the leaves. put the largest rolls around the outside edge. This number of rolls fit snugly in my 12 inch Dutch oven. You may need to stack a few of your rolls if your pan is not as large. If so, try to keep the center less densely packed, to be sure that you do not have an area of undercooked rolls.
5. When all the rolls have been placed in the pan, pour the spaghetti sauce over all the rolls. If this does not completely cover the rolls, add a little of the reserved cooking water.
6. Cover the pan and place in a 325 degree oven for an hour. Check after about 45 minutes; if necessary, move some of the rolls from the center to the outside edges.

These freeze well and can be quickly reheated in the microwave.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Corned Beef and Cabbage-Take Advantage of the Specials This Week

Almost the Ides of March and what does that mean for those of us who cook? Cabbage, potatoes, corned beef, and, sometimes onions, are all on sale this week. No matter where I have moved, I have learned to watch for really big cuts on prices for these foods at some of the grocery chains, and this year is no exception.

As a result of loss leaders prices this week, I was able to buy twenty pounds of cabbage today (four really big heads) for 15 cents a pound. The lowest price over most of the winter has been 59 cents a pound, so I paid only $3 today for what would have been almost $12 last week. Then there were the two "point cut" corned beef portions; at $1.49 a pound, these will provide a lot of boneless meat at about $2.50 a pound less than these were running just a week or two ago. Ten pounds of all purpose potatoes at another store were only $1.99, right next to some five pound bags of red potatoes that were going for $2.29.


All well and good you say, but what to do with twenty pounds of cabbage? Or even one piece of corned beef?

Good questions, so here are some ideas.

First, the traditional corned beef and cabbage meal.

Today's corned beef is probably one of the greatest convenience foods in the meat counter. You just put it in a pot with water to cover, add the seasoning packet that seems universally packed with these things, and then simmer the meat for the amount of time noted on the package. Only when the meat is tender will you add the vegetables. Usual additions are potatoes, carrots, and onions, added about 45 minutes before you are ready to eat. If you cut these in large chunks, they will not only cook more quickly than if they are left whole; they will more uniformly absorb the flavor of the broth.

And no, I didn't forget the cabbage. One of the biggest mistakes many people make is to put the cabbage in too early. Cut it in wedges no more than 2 inches wide and then add it only about 20 minutes before you are ready to serve the meal. This will allow the cabbage to cook and soak up the corned beef flavor without getting mushy and discolored.

How many vegetables should you include? This is where you adjust to your family's tastes; a general rule of thumb would be to use a medium to large potato (or two small potatoes) and a small to medium carrot for each person to be served. If you want onions (and I always do), use about half a medium onion per person; cut these in quarters. Depending on your family's taste for cabbage, plan about 2 to 3 two-inch wedges of cabbage for each person. Keep in mind that the more vegetables you have in proportion to the meat, the less salty will be the final result.

And the meat? Cook a three to four pound brisket for up to six or seven people. The meat is boneless, but somehow it does seem to cook down more than other cuts. Besides, you'll want leftovers for Reuben sandwiches or corned beef hash.

Leftover corned beef

What else to do with the leftover meat? Actually, you can use it in any casserole (hot dish for Minnesotans) that calls for ham. I have not tried the recipes at http://southernfood.about.com/od/cornedbeefandbrisket/tp/leftovercb.htm, but this might be a good site to visit just to get some other ideas. The meat can also be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to a month.

Cabbage

Now, for all that cabbage. Keep in mind that cabbage will keep in the crisper drawer of most refrigerators for weeks and weeks. Don't keep it tightly wrapped in plastic and, if you keep it for an extended period of time, don't be surprised if you need to peel off an outer leaf or two that may have dried a bit.

Cabbage is far more versatile than we sometimes realize. For example:
  • Coleslaw—this is always good, especially in the winter when the choices for tossed salads are often very limited. 
  • Stir fries—shredded cabbage mixes remarkably well with other vegetables in all kinds of stir fries.
  • As a lettuce replacement in tacos and other Mexican foods. Don't be surprised; you may stumble across some "authentic" Mexican restaurants that routinely make this substitution.
  • Stuffed cabbage leaves—if your heritage includes some of these recipes, the St. Patrick's day cabbage is often the best of the year. You may have noticed that there is much less trimming of the cabbage when it is on sale for only pennies a pound, but take advantage of this and use those large outer deep green leaves (with even more food value than usual) to make some savory cabbage rolls.

Shredding the Cabbage

The hardest thing about cabbage is probably the shredding. If you have a food processor, this is  the easiest way to get the fine shreds we all seem to prefer. But what if you don't have one, or you just want to shred a wedge or two? Here is the basic technique:

Use a large, very sharp knife; I like my cheap, serrated, "Ginzu kitchen knife as seen on TV."
Place the head of cabbage on a large cutting board and cut in half and then in quarters. If the head is very large, cut the quarters in half (or even quarters) again. The key to fine shreds is to have pieces of cabbage that are not too large as you begin cutting. Remove all but one wedge from the cutting board.

Turn the wedge of cabbage so that the larger, outer side is away from you. Hold the wedge firmly with your left hand (reverse for you lefties) and begin cutting very narrow strips from the cabbage, starting at the right end. If the shreds are too long, grasp the bunch of shreds and cut across the other direction. Repeat with as many wedges of cabbage as you need for your recipe.

While you are cutting, you may want to shred extra for future recipes. Put leftover shredded cabbage in a plastic bag, sprinkle with just a few drops of water, and store—without being tightly sealed—for three to four days in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator.



Don't forget the color--red cabbage is often featured at this time of the year too. Cutting it into somewhat thicker shreds will help emphasize its color even more. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stone Soup

Here it is, less than two weeks from the first day of spring, and the wind chill even in the middle of the day stands at 11 below zero. Meanwhile, the economic news continues to be dismal, and we all try to tighten our belts just a little more.

Friends will be coming for lunch tomorrow, and this seems like an ideal time for some Stone Soup, warming the house and giving off those wonderful comfort food aromas.

Stone Soup? What is that? If you haven't heard the story of Stone Soup, you can find one version of the legend here:

http://www.kousi.gr.jp/kousi/syoukai/hp-siryou/stone-soup.html

When my kids were young and our budget was especially tight, I started making Stone Soup with a package of ramen noodles as the "stone." I knew that the nutritive value of these little packets was dismal, but the flavoring packet combined with lots of cheap basic vegetables made a wonderfully filling meal. The high sodium content was reduced per serving because we stretched the same amount of seasoning over 3 or even 4 times as many servings.

Today's stone soup will be quite different, because the "stone" that I will be starting with is a free ham bone. A friend of mine had made ham for a gathering and was not going to have enough time to use the bone so she wrapped it up and gave it to me a few weeks ago. The return of frigid weather was a perfect time to pull it out of the freezer.

Just as in the story, the "stone" that gives the soup its name is really just a starter. Start thinking of leftovers as the beginning of a new and wonderful soup and who knows what you can come up with? Try these for ideas:
  • Restaurant carry out—those odds and ends of stir fry and rice and broccoli chicken might be just the things to put together in a pot with some additional vegetables and broth from the freezer
  • Leftover spaghetti—make a basic chicken vegetable soup and cut the spaghetti into it instead of using noodles
  • Chicken wing tips—I am always saddened to see recipes for things like buffalo wings that include instructions to "cut off the wing tips and discard." Of course, you don't discard good food! Toss them in a pan with some water and a little poultry seasoning and simmer while you are doing other things. Strain the broth when the meat is falling off the bones and use it for a great soup base.
  • I even have heard of sautéing a little onion and then adding leftover macaroni and cheese, some frozen vegetables and either spaghetti sauce or a can of tomato soup. Throw in a couple of leftover hotdogs, sliced, and it sounds like it might be a filling meal a lot of mac-and-cheese-only kids might gobble up

The point is—starting with an unexpected or almost free ingredient can result in some really creative and wonderful soups. Following are two general recipes to try.

Traditional Stone Soup

1 package ramen noodles with seasoning, any favorite flavor
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1 to 2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1 to 2 c shredded cabbage
1 large potato, scrubbed and diced—does not need to be peeled
Other fresh or frozen vegetables to taste: corn, peas, chopped spinach or other greens, etc.
Sauté the onion in a little oil, just until it begins to turn golden. Stir in other raw vegetables and seasoning packet from soup and allow to cook for a few minutes. Add about two to three quarts of water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are soft. If soup seems too thick, add a little more water. Turn up heat and stir in the frozen or cooked (leftover) vegetables and the ramen noodles, broken into small pieces. Cook for about 10 minutes or until noodles are cooked. Taste for seasoning and serve.

The amount of water used will be variable, depending on how many additions you are making to the soup and whether you prefer a thicker stew-like consistency or something more traditionally soupy.

Other seasonings you might want to add:
• Fresh grated pepper
• Minced garlic or garlic powder
• Wine or cider vinegar (don't be afraid to stir in a teaspoon or so of vinegar in any soup, stew, or chili that seems a little bland—it is amazing what this shot of acid does to brighten up the flavor.)
• Chiles or jalapenos, finely diced
• Herbs of your choice


Ham Bone Stone Soup

1 ham bone, with some scraps of meat left on it
1 large onion, chopped
4 ribs celery, diced
1 lb carrots, finely diced or grated
1 lb split peas, washed and drained
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T mixed herbs—rosemary, thyme, basil, and marjoram (OR your own favorite blend)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 T cider vinegar
Salt to taste (optional)

Put ham bone in a large pot with enough water to cover. Simmer for an hour or two until the meat falls off the bone. (This can also be done in a slow cooker overnight or while you are at work.) You should have at least three quarts of liquid to start the soup.

Remove the ham bone from the broth and set aside. When cool enough to handle, cut the meat off the bone, dice into bite-sized pieces, and refrigerate.

Sauté the onion, celery and carrots in a little oil (or some of the ham fat that you have cut off the bone) until onions are translucent. Add to the ham and broth along with the split peas, garlic, and herbs. Continue simmering for an hour or so, until the peas are very soft. Taste for seasoning and add pepper, vinegar, and salt as needed. When the peas and other vegetables are done, stir in the diced ham and continue cooking long enough to be sure the meat is heated through. (If desired, you may puree the soup before adding the ham.)