Even though we’ve had an incredibly mild winter I still can’t help but want some of the comfort foods that go along with this time of year. This is a classic rendition of that childhood favorite (at least mine anyway). It’s simple to prepare and any leftovers will freeze and reheat well.
Split Pea Soup w/ Ham
1 Pound dried split peas
1 Smoked ham hock
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Cup finely chopped yellow onions
1/2 Cup finely chopped celery
1/2 Cup finely chopped carrots
2 Teaspoons minced garlic
1 Pound Smithfield ham, chopped
1 Teaspoon salt
3/4 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 Teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 Cups water
1 Bay leaf
2 Teaspoons fresh thyme
Place the peas in a large pot or bowl, cover with water by 2 inches and soak 8 hours or overnight.
Drain the peas and set aside.
Score the ham hock. Place in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Add the celery and carrots and cook, stirring, until just soft, about 3 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
Add the ham hock and ham and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown.
Add the drained peas, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes, and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
Add 8 cups of water, the bay leaf and thyme, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender, about 1 hour. (Add more water as needed, if the soup becomes too thick or dry.)
Remove the bay leaf and discard. Adjust the seasoning, to taste, and serve immediately.
Optional – Top with homemade croutons and/or crumbled bacon!
What do you do when the kids didn’t eat all of the bananas they asked you to get at the store last week? Easy, make some banana bread and get a few more days use out of that over ripe fruit.
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon Baking Soda
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup Walnuts, or Pecans (optional)
In electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar and butter until fluffy.
Add baking soda to milk and stir well. Next add the white vinegar to the milk and stir again. Add mixture to batter along with bananas, vanilla lemon juice and salt and mix will.
Add flour and beat until smooth. Remove bowl from mixer. At this time you may stir in the nuts, if you prefer.
Bake in large greased loaf pan for 1 hour at 350 degrees, or until toothpick in center comes out clean. Remove from oven unto wire rack immediately. Wrap in plastic wrap when still warm to keep moist.
Served warm with a little softened cream cheese this makes a great breakfast.
Thai Orchid, located at 86th St. and I-69, is just north of my office. For whatever reason, it took me a long time to try this place. I kept driving past and thinking “I should try that place sometime”. The day I finally took the plunge (about two years ago) I was not sure what I would be in for. I’ve been there countless times since and thought it was time for a review.
The restaurant is right next to the Phantom Fireworks mega-store and seats about 60. There’s a cash register/bar in the back and the overall decor is nice. Wait staff are always very attentive and always helpful with questions you might have about a dish.
I always assumed Thai food would be similar to Chinese food. I could not have been more wrong. Being a big fan of noodle dishes the Pad Thai was the only way to go for my first Thai dish.
When my server asked “how hot?” (mild, medium, medium hot, hot, extra hot, and Thai hot) and not knowing the heat scale I decided to opt for “medium”. It turned out to be the right choice for a Thai novice. I’m now requesting medium-hot and will someday be adventurous and attempt the hot. I can’t ever see me requesting “Thai-hot”. That sounds like a death wish to me!
If you’ve never had Pad Thai here’s what you’re missing… Tender rice noodles and bean sprouts mixed with a somewhat sweet and spicy (you decide the heat level) sauce. Add your favorite protein (shrimp, chicken, pork, tofu) or vegetables then top with scallions, and crushed peanuts. I’m a big fan of the pork and chicken versions.
The flavors are unique and very addictive. I can’t think of another noodle dish that tastes anything like Pad Thai. Of course this just scratches the surface of the Thai menu. There are a lot of items to choose from including many curries and seafood dishes.
The one appetizer always ordered by my family, without exception, is the Golden Bags. Golden Bags are stir-fried ground chicken, carrot, and corn wrapped in a wonton skin. It’s then tied with green onion and lightly deep-fried. They come 6 to an order and have a sweet dipping sauce on the side.
Thai Orchid has a great lunch combo too. You get a coconut based soup, salad, spring roll, wonton and your choice of main course (curry or noodle dish). All of this for $6.99! It’s a great value and a lot of people take advantage of it during the week.
Here’s where I think a lot of “ethnic” restaurants miss the mark. I have NO idea what any of the curries are going to taste like and I’m hesitant to shell out the money to end up getting something I don’t like. I would LOVE to see a sampler/combination option that allows you to taste the various dishes (or sauces) without having to order one at a time. A lot of Greek places do this and I’ve found things I like and dislike (and I was able to expand my knowledge of Greek cuisine). This may not be possible (or practical) with the cook to order format of a lot of Asian dishes. That’s a lot of pans for a lot of little portions.
After dining at other Thai places on Indy’s north side my family and I have decided Thai Orchid is our favorite. I wouldn’t hesitate recommend it to anyone. If you’ve stayed away from Thai food because you weren’t sure what it was all about (like I did) I think you’ll be in for a nice surprise (like I was). Give it a try and let me know what you think!
I’m a list maker. I find lists are the best way for me to get things out of my head and free that thinking energy up for more important things. To keep all of our family lists in sync we uses the Our Groceries application.
Our Groceries is a free “cloud” based tool that’s accessible via the web, and applications designed for Blackberry, iPhone and Android. It’s a simple list maker that keeps everyone updated in near real-time. The free version is ad-supported and has small ads at the top of the screen. You can purchase an ad free version for Android and Apple.
My family uses Our Groceries for our master grocery list as well as errands, gift ideas, and even dinner ideas. It’s also a great way to make a packing list for vacation. Creating a list is a one step process and once it’s created you can start populating it right away. One of the cool features is that Our Groceries remembers your list items even after you check them off. Enter an item once and it’s always available for quick entry in the future. This is great for grocery lists where you’re adding the same things every week.
The magic of Our Groceries is in the synchronization. Once all the users in your family are connected (a very simple process that’s done via email) every time you add an item it’s automatically synchronized to the other users lists. Cross something off and it crosses that item off on their list. This all occurs within about 10 seconds.
When our daughter says she needs something from the store, we tell her “add it to the list”. There have been times where I’ll be at the grocery store and my wife will remember that we need something. Se adds it to Our Groceries on her phone and it magically shows up on my phone just a few seconds later. I really can’t stress enough how cool this application is.
Other features of Our Groceries allow you to input your favorite recipes and with one click all the ingredients get added to the shopping list.. Using the web you can drag and drop items so they are in the proper order when you walk through the store. I always put all of the produce at the top and frozen items at the bottom. The next time that produce item is added it will automatically end up at the top of the list. If you want to get really fancy you can assign categories to items so they’re grouped together.
The uses for Our Groceries are nearly endless. You don’t have to synchronize with other people, you can use the application by itself as well. Check it out and let us know what you think!
IndyScan.com always get lots of hits from people looking for holiday food ideas. I first posted this back in 2008 and every December it gets several hundred views. I thought I’d re-post this to make it easier to find for those of you looking for it.
The holidays are the time to break out the big guns and impress your friends and family. We cooked our first standing rib roast a few years ago and it’s the go to dish for at least one family gathering each year. A standing rib roast is NOT a cheap cut of meat but you’ll be surprised how many people you can feed with one of these, so when you break it down per person it’s not as bad as you think.
You order your standing rib roast by the bone. Plan on feeding 2 people per bone and don’t go less than 3-4 bones or you might as well cook streaks. A quality instant read thermometer is key to cooking the perfect roast. You can ball park the doneness with a timer but only a thermometer will tell you how far the inside has cooked. Do yourself a favor & don’t ruin an expensive piece of meat by winging it.
I keep it simple when cooking my roast:
Herbs de Provence
That’s it! Make sure you bring your roast to room temperature (30-45 min) before cooking or you can guarantee it will be raw when the outside is done.
Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.
Put beef, fat side up, in a small roasting pan and brush on a light coating of olive oil. Sprinkle all over with salt, pepper and herbs.
Roast beef 20 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and roast until thermometer inserted into center of meat registers 115°F, about 1 1/4 hours more.
Transfer beef to a cutting board and let stand, uncovered, 25-30 minutes.
Meat will eventually reach 125°F (medium-rare).
Adjust the cooking time accordingly to reach the desired doneness. End pieces will be more done than the center pieces so you should be able to make everyone happy.
Be sure to accompany this roast with a delicious Red Wine Sauce. Enjoy & happy holidays!
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