Split Pea Soup: the quest continues

For our third anniversary Eric and I had dinner at Smith and Wollensky downtown Chicago and absolutely fell in love with their split pea soup! It was heavenly.  The perfect texture, smooth and creamy, mixed with the perfect flavor! It was the best split pea soup I have ever tasted! Honestly, it was out of this world! So good that after a delicious filet dinner here we are years later talking only about the soup;) Since that cold December day in 2009 I have been on a hunt for a soup that could compare.  Zoup’s was ok, but a little to thick, any from the store: Kroger, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, could not come close! I decided to take a crack at it myself. My first attempt was …

… ehh, not the best. Texture was spot on, but the taste was so so. I will have to try again.  The recipe I used, I found on pinterest. You can view it here.  After making it I’ve decided a few things:

1.) I definitely need to use a hambone next time. The recipe didn’t call for it, and since we never have ham I didn’t feel the need to add it.  Next time I’ll try to check with the butcher and see if I can just buy the bone. Or I may have to wait until the day I host a holiday that calls for ham;)

2.) Thinking if I add salted pork or bacon next time, it may enhance the flavor.  And when has adding bacon to a dish ever been a bad decision??

All in all, I would not reccommend this recipe with high ratings. Mediocre at best.  It was by no means a complete failure, the girls gobbled it up and when served with a BLT on the side it makes for a great meal! It just didn’t do Smith and Wollensky justice. My quest for the best split pea soup is not finished yet.  One day I hope to share my victory recipe with all of you! Until then here are a few pictures from my first adventures with Split Pea Soup.

First you start with this:
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After two and a half hours of simmering you get this:
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Serve it with a yummy sandwich and your family’s sure to enjoy it!
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Blessed

Three and a half years ago Eric and I moved to Indiana.  Crazy how time flies!! When we moved from Michigan we left a huge support system made up of dear friends and family.  I knew none of our friendships from back home could ever be replaced but I prayed and prayed that God would provide us a community of support in our new home in Indiana.  The first few weeks Eric and I went on finding friend missions.  These proved unfruitful and I began to get discouraged.  I know Rome wasn’t built in a day but… couldn’t one bosom friend be sent my way??? I was used to my weekly girl time and, although Eric is a fabulous communicator, I was desperate for friend.

Over the next few months God answered our prayers. We became connected to our church, Carmel Lutheran and by fall of 2009 had joined a small group. We have been so so blessed by our friends here in Indiana! They helped us prepare and welcome our two baby girls. They made it so, for the first month after giving birth to both girls, I never had to cook a single meal. They helped us move into our house, even though it was almost 90 degrees and our air conditioning was not working. They have laughed with us, prayed with us and loved us as Christ shows us how.

This past weekend in particular I was blown away by the love shown through our dear friends. Eric had a special work banquet to celebrate the 2012 year and to kickoff the start to 2013. I wanted desperately to be there. It is so important for me to stand by Eric’s side at these events. I am ridiculously proud of him and love that he is in a job that allows me to be home with my girls!! However, we had one slight problem…a sitter. Being that Eric and his Stepdad both work for the same company, our go to sitters Mimi and Papa were out. With only a few weeks until the event I called on some friends to see if they’d be open to taking the girls. Without a single hesitation, both families happily agreed. Mind you they would be watching the girls during dinner and bedtime, and they already have their own children to deal with! Needless to say we were grateful.

But out gratitude does not end there. After assuring both couples we would be back to pick up the girls by 11pm at the very latest, we did not end up getting the girls until 1am!!! Now before you think we decided to hit up a bar after the banquet or some other way we wanted to milk our night out;) be assured, it was not intentional! Eric and I left the Marriot at 10pm and stepped into our car around 10:15. The parking garage was a mess. Complete standstill. I could not believe it. After sitting in our car, and not moving, for twenty minutes, I decided it was time to face the facts and contact our friends. Of course they told us not to worry, all was well. But we felt terrible!!! We did not end up getting out of the garage until after midnight. What a nightmare. Apparently there was a Monster Jam thing at Conseco and an all area volleyball tournament…ugh.

When we picked up the girls, both of whom were peacefully asleep, we could not thank the families enough. That night and next day I kept thanking God for these wonderful friends he put in our lives. Friends that truly love and care for us and our family. Friends who barely blinked an eye when they had to stay up way later than any of us do on a Saturday night. And friends who prove the importance of living in a community with one another.

Soup Challenge

With temperatures this past week in the single digits, nothing sounded better than soup glorious, soup!! There is something so warming, so comforting and so wonderful about a nice hearty bowl of soup.  However, when I went to my recipes I found my soup collection to be sparse and in need of some additions, pronto! So, I have decided that from now until the end of February I will be trying and making one new soup recipe a week.  If the recipe was a hit, I’ll definitely share it with you all.  If it was a flop, I’ll probably just report it:)  hoping successes are abundant; we need more soup around here!

This week the recipe I tried was a Tomato Basil recipe I had found from the website, Here. The soup was a hit in our house at only 150 calories a cup, how could you go wrong?! It was creamy and full of flavor! I served it with some yummy white cheddar grilled cheese sandwichs; it definitely hit the spot on a cold winter night!

Tomato Basil Soup
1TB olive oil
1c onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1(28oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
3/4c fresh basil, chopped
4oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, cubed
1 1/2c milk
1/4tsp salt
1/4tsp pepper

Heat olive oil on medium- medium high heat. Add onions and cook for about 3 minutes. Then add in garlic and continue cooking for an additional minute. Next, pour in tomatoes and basil. Cook until liquid is boiling. The aroma is amazing!! Once liquid is boiling add in cream cheese cubes and stir until cheese is melted. Transfer soup into a blender or food processor and liquify.
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Once soup is a desired consistancy, pour mixture back into pot. Add milk, salt and pepper, and continue cooking for another 1-3 minutes. Just to warm it. Serve with a side of grilled cheese or delicious bread, and you have yourself a fabulous winter meal!
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Liesel School Update

We have just completed our twelfth week of Liesel School.  With a few weeks off around Christmas, we are almost to our halfway mark!  What a fun adventure it has been!!  If it was up to Liesel I think we would have lessons all day long.  Unfortunately I can only come up with a few activities per day, so she is stuck with this limited approach:)

So far we have learned names and sounds of letters A-L, numbers 1-12, numerous shapes and colors, and tons of fun themes!! I can’t wait to continue on in our adventure for years to come! Liesel really makes learning easy.  The other day we were driving home from Target and got stuck in traffic.  To pass the time I decided to play a game with letters and sounds.  We started with me saying the letter and Liesel saying the sound that matched.  We quickly changed to Liesel saying the sound and me guessing the letter.  All was great until she began doing sounds for x and s and t( all of which we haven’t learned yet ).  I tried to trick her thinking she was maybe just throwing sounds out there and didn’t quite know what letter correlated.  WRONG. She was no fool! This girl.  Not sure who should be the teacher these days;)

This past week our theme was Penguins.  Here are a few highlights from our fun week!

Our vocabulary word was waddle. We had too much fun waddling to music! MJ joined in too. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera ready to capture our moves, but I’m sure you can imagine the sight as well as the sounds of constant giggling:).

A fun craft we did was to make a penguin out of a water bottle. If you are like us I’m sure you have far too many of them lying around… this is the perfect way to put them to good use! We stuffed the bottle full of fiberfill ( cotton balls work great too! I just have a TON of fiberfill left over from the stockings). Than out of construction paper we made the rest of the penguin.image

For a game during penguin week we went fishing in an ice pond for letters. Since our number of the week was 12, I had hidden twelve letters for Miss L to fish out. She placed them in a baking sheet and counted them all at the end. imageimage

Moira loved the ice:)image

Here is my sorry attempt at a penguin snack. You may have to use a bit of your imagination;) However, both girls gobbled it up nonetheless !image

Lastly, to review out past letters and sounds, I made a search game. Our shape for the week was a triangle, so each letter was written on one. During naptime I taped the triangles all over the house. When Liesel woke up she had to find all the letters. Saying both letter and sound before she could place the triangle in her basket. Liesel loved this game! We played it over and over and over again. Taking turns who did the hiding.
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Looking forward to next week where the theme will be Teddy bears and we will be going on our very own indoor bear hunt picnic:)

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie

This is a bold statement. But, honestly, it is true so therefore I had to use it! Anyone who knows Eric and I knows we love to eat. Even more so, we love desserts! A little over a year ago a friend gave me a recipe for some chocolate chip cookies. She claimed they were to die for. Being 9 months pregnant at the time, I was more than intrigued and had no problem trying them out.

I have often been dissappointed with chocolate chip cookies. Too cakey, too crunchy, too doughy, too bland…the list goes on and on. But I am happy to report that these cookies came out absolutely perfect! Soft and gooey inside with a crisp outer edge and a bittersweet chocolate finish. Mmm Mmm Mmm! The perfect results, for the perfect cookie. Here is this delicious recipe that I found from http://www.tidymom.net. It is a bit involved, but I assure you, every step is absolutely necessary and worth it when you bite into one of these deliciously amazing cookies.

Ingredients:

2 cups minus 2 TB cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter *how can any recipe be bad when it calls for that much butter??!!
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 TB granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds of bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions:

First, whisk together flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and set aside. In a mixer beat butter and sugars on med-high speed for 5 minutes, until well blended and fluffy. Then add in eggs one at a time. Once eggs are completed mixed, stir in vanilla.

On low speed add your dry ingredients to your mixture. Once completely mixed together it is time to add the chocolate. I like to use Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips ( usually on sale at Target). Mix chocolate in by hand SAMSUNG

Now for the hardest step. Allow dough to chill for 24 hours! I know, crazy right?! There have been times where we were too impatient to wait the full amount of time and made them early. The cookies still came out great. But for some reason the overnight chill time allows for the cookies to be that absolute perfect consistency. If you can, wait!

Once cookie dough has been chilled. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into large balls about the size of a golf ball SAMSUNG

This allows for the gooey inside we all love, with that crisp outer edge.

Then place cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. Once a light brown tint is formed on the rim, remove from oven immediately! Allow cookies to cool completely, then dig in! You will love every bite, I promise!!!
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Our Homemade Christmas

This year was a year of firsts.  MJ’s first Christmas,  our first Christmas as a family of four, Liesel’s first memorable Christmas, and our first Christmas to start lasting traditions!

We have had such an enjoyable holiday season beginning with getting our tree! Here are a few more ways that we made this Christmas full of traditions and homemade holiday cheer!

Winter Wonderland: this new tradition we started I give complete credit to Eric.  Back in November he kept saying that I should make and hang snowflakes with Liesel this year.  I kind of shook the idea off because Liesel and scissors did not sound like the best idea…  Eric, however kept on the topic.  Finally one evening in December when the notion came up once again, I told Eric that we should make the snowflakes and surprise Liesel with her own winter wonderland!  That night Eric and I stayed up until after midnight cutting and hanging snowflakes all over the house.  The reaction Liesel gave in the morning was perfect. Her mouth dropped open when we flicked on the lights and she squealed, ” wow!  Isn’t this amazing?!”  Eric and I decided then and there this is a tradition to keep.

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Christmas Lights and Cocoa: this tradition we started last year.  When it is close to bedtime we jammie the girls up.  Make a fresh batch of Eric’s homemade hot cocoa and pile into the car.  Liesel loved it last year and even more so this year!  MJ was oooing and ahhing herself:)  We made three separate trips and enjoyed every one of them!
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Felt Tree:  this idea I owe to pinterest:)  I bought the felt from Walmart for less than $5!  I introduced the tree during Christmas Tree week, and the girls loved decorating and redecorating it. 

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Christmas at the Zoo: thanks to Mimi and Papa we were able to enjoy a fun-filled evening at the zoo. Amazingly the weather was perfect and despite a napping strike that day, both girls were alert and loved every minute of it!! The lights were gorgeous. And there were animals to see, carolers to hear, and tons of fun to be had! Thanks Mimi and Papa, can’t wait to go next year:)
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Homemade Gifts: in an attempt to be crafty and save money, I decided to do some diy projects. The first was for the grandparents. Our family is blessed by the most AMAZING grandparents. They love our girls more than I could have ever dreamed possible and are such a blessing. I wanted to do something special for these angels in our lives, so the girls and I made Mistletoes decorative plates. The girls loved having green feet and I loved all the painting:) so happy with how they turned out!
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I also made granola as a gift. This recipe is so.good. Crammed with pecans, sunflower seeds, and golden raisins, and sweetened with coconut oil and pure maple syrup; it is delish!
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Here is the recipe:)
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Decorating with Candy: in years past we have always decorated gingerbread houses. This year , in an attemot to try something new,we decorated Christmas trees. Using ice cream cones and frosting and lots of sprinkles and candy. We invited a few friends over and had a blast!! Although the outcome was cute, Eric and I decided we missed our gingerbread houses and will be decorating those again next year! Perhaps we will do both:)
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Wooden Blocks: this is 100% my awesome husband. I have been wanting to get Liesel wooden blocks for forever! But I have never seen them at garage sales or on craigslist and the Melissa and Doug going rate is around $60. Sorry, can’t come to terms with that…. so Eric had the idea that he would make them! I instantly loved this and adored watching erics excitement! He bought a 2×4 from Lowes for like $3 and measured out all the size blocks he wanted. Squares, rectangles (big and small), and triangles. Using a friends hand saw and a Saturday morning, Eric successfully cut about 40 blocks. They really looked great; all that was left was the sanding! This task was a little more involved. I think Eric spent about three separate nights sanding the blocks to perfection. His poor hands ( yes he used paper). But boy did the turn out wonderful! Liesel opened them Christmas morning and instantly began building. This gift was a hit and one our kids will enjoy for years to come! Thanks babe, you are the best dad!!!
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We also enjoyed numerous Christmas crafts that went along with our Liesel school themes: Snow, Reindeer, Christmas Trees, and The Nativity. The Christmas movie vault was opened and we enjoyed watching the cartoon movies with Liesel for the first time. And around 3-4 dozen cookies were made, decorated and consumed ( myfitnesspal we will meet again once we return home from Michigan;)). So, as you can see this year was one for the books! I look forward to keeping these traditions and adding more down the road. Would love to hear any traditions you do, old or new!