Sunday, January 31, 2016

Positivity in Cooking/Recipe Review

I find great comfort in my kitchen when I cook, even more so since we moved into our new home almost three years ago. My current kitchen isn't really what some would consider to be a "gourmet kitchen", but to me, it's my gourmet kitchen. I love it, and it makes me happy! 

In our other home, my kitchen was rather small with very little room to work. It was hard to move around because the kitchen table was right smack dab in the center of the kitchen. I didn't have very much counter top space, and that tended to make meal preparation a little daunting. 

What makes my new kitchen so nice is that my table now has its own corner, out of the way from everything else. So what you are seeing above here is my whole work space, and for me, it's just enough. In our new kitchen, I love to cook. I love to experiment with new recipe's as well as being creative when I can. That is one thing I wish I could do more of and have a little flare for is being more out of the box creative. For me, cooking has become a very positive and a mentally healing experience for me. But I also think it can be a totally magical experience when you're creating new dishes!

As I said though, I do enjoy finding new recipes to try, so per my daughter's request today, she wanted split pea soup. Off to pintrest I went to look for a delicious, but simple recipe for split pea soup. I don't like to make certain things that are overly complicated with a ton of ingredients, if I can help it. So I found this great recipe from Valerie's Kitchen. Sometimes when I make these recipes, I do them as written. The next time I make them, I often put my own spin on it, but I have to say, this recipe is amazing as is, if you LOVE a good, yet simple split pea soup recipe. So let's get started, shall we?! 

I always double all soup recipe's because I am usually feeding at least 3-4 people, as well as I love to have left over soup, and sometimes I send some home with mom too!! So here we started out with 2-16oz bags of dried split peas and 2 Tbsp of minced garlic. I just used the minced garlic in the jar. I love that stuff. It's easy peasy and always ready to use. 

My next layer here is 4 peeled and chopped carrots, 4 celery ribs and 2 medium white onions. The recipe instructions said to chop small, but to be completely honest, I chopped them, not small, but not really big chunks either because as it cooks, and you're stirring, they're going to get soft and break down anyway. So I wouldn't worry about chopping them too small. 

Here we have some fresh thyme. I needed 2 Tbsp for my double recipe. I have never worked with fresh thyme before and it said chopped thyme. I had no clue what I was doing with my thyme! So I found a really informative video on Youtube. So if you don't know what you're doing with your thyme either, you can watch what to do here. 

So here is the thyme all pulled off from the stems, and then I just gave it a quick run through with my knife per the video before I put it into my crock pot.

So far now in my pot, I have the dried split peas, garlic, onions, carrots, celery and fresh thyme. 

Now, the recipe called for a meaty ham bone to be shoved down into all those yummy vegetables and then pour your chicken broth over just to cover. One of the past recipes I have used before called for a pork hock. It's a part of the pigs leg that is just above the foot and below the knee. I couldn't find any at my local store this time, plus I thought I had a few left in my freezer, but when I got home, I found out I didn't. Now, I always buy a ham steak to chop up into my split pea soup anyway, so as you can see, I have two ham steaks, one already chopped. I feared if that would be enough for flavor, but I called Mom and she said it would be fine. Plus these ham steaks have a little fat in them and that's where you get most of the flavor from. As I was chopping up these ham steaks, I did do a little taste test. They had a very nice smoked flavor and that did end up coming through in my finished soup. 

I layered the ham on top, threw in a few bay leaves and then I poured in about 10 cups of my chicken broth. I had a total of 12 cups as again, I doubled this recipe. As you can see, with all that goodness in the crock pot, I poured in what I could fit and then set the other 2 cups aside. I did end up putting in the rest later on. 

I set the crock pot on high with a plan of letting it cook around 8 hours. This was after about an hour of cooking. I gave everything a stir before going out to run a few errands for my Saturday afternoon. So my hope was to come back to an amazing smelling home. There is nothing quite like coming home to a really good soup cooking in the crock pot and the aroma is just filling the house. It's awesome!!

Now this is my favorite part. This is where cooking feels almost magical to me. We came home from running a few errands and as I had hoped, the house smelled so good. I just let everything simmer, the crock pot still on high and this was where I was at about 6 hours later. The magic that split pea soup is to me had taken place. This might seem silly, but this is just one thing I love about split pea soup! It starts out as this chicken broth based soup and you wonder how is that (see pic above) going to get to this amazing, warmth of comforting, creamy deliciousness?! It just does. The peas soften, the vegetables cook and as you stir it up, that creamy goodness just starts to form and you have this beautiful, split pea soup.

We weren't planning on eating for a couple of hours yet, so once the magic happened, I turned the pot on low and just let it simmer, stirring it occasionally because it does tend to separate as it continues to cook. It was fine though after stirring it a couple of times. I always serve a soup like this with a crusty bread, again, it's a comfort thing. 

Mom was over for dinner last night and we all enjoyed this wonderful soup. The recipe I found is definitely not one that I would do much tweaking to. The only difference I did was I used the ham steaks instead of a meaty ham bone. The steaks worked great, and gave some amazing flavor, but that wouldn't stop me from using a nice meaty ham bone if I found one the next time I plan on making this soup. 

I think out of everything I do make, soups are one of my favorites, especially during the winter months. I love having my mom over to visit. I love cooking for her and the kids. There is nothing quite like gathering around the table over some hearty soup, fresh bread (even if I didn't make that myself) and having family togetherness with some good conversation. That to me is everything. My life has become all about those little moments that I cherish. Life is too short. So find the moments that make you happy, cherish them and embrace the positivity. 

**Note** The original recipe called for fresh Italian parsley, which I just found in my fridge with my soup leftovers in the fridge. I completely forgot that I bought it and it never made the soup. It wasn't missed. But I'll definitely have to make this soup again and include the parsley! Sorry about that. 


  1. Sounds yummy on these Winter day's.

  2. Your kitchen looks great. Very neat and minimal. Great recipeof the soup. Hope to try it soon.

    Fatima |

  3. Nice post and great meal I see here, this sure looks/tastes good.


  4. Very nice post and kitchen.... Keep writing.

  5. Nice post! The soup looks delicious! :)

  6. Your kitchen looks calm and cozy. That soup looks delish.

  7. I love that you said it isn't a gourmet kitchen but it is YOUR gourmet kitchen! I totally agree, I recently moved into my first apartment and I've found enjoyment in whopping out my recipe books and baking and cooking new meals!

    1. Very cool!!!! Congrats on your new independence and your new place!!

  8. Loved your post, was great! Nice pics :)

  9. Great recipe, I love cooking soups as well as they are so easy and healthy and cook a lot of ramen. But because I am not Japanese, I put my own fantasy into it.