Monday, July 22, 2013

Buttons and Bowties

My poor, neglected little blog!  I haven't forgotten about it, I just haven't really been cooking a lot of new things.  Or at least not new things that I think are worth sharing because they're either way too easy or kind of embarrassing.  We've been eating a lot of the following: Avocado toast (avocado slightly mashed on a piece of toast, with salt, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes optional).  Salad.  Baked potatoes with assorted toppings such as chili.  Steamed rice with sauteed turkey Spam, scrambled eggs, and a sprinkle of soy sauce (this would be one of the embarrassing ones, but it's good!).  None of those require recipes.

The recipe I'm sharing today is pretty brainless, too, but my poor blog was getting so lonely that I decided to post it, anyway.  It's perfect for hot days and also really yummy!  Oh and kudos to my husband for thinking of the cute name, he thought the sliced olives looked like buttons.

Buttons and Bowties (aka Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad)

1 lb bowtie pasta
2 small cans sliced black olives, drained
8 oz grape tomatoes, halved
1 large cucumber, diced large
1/4 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 C ranch dressing (can use my recipe or the kind in a jar, if you get a jar, get the good stuff from the refrigerated section!)
salt to taste

Boil the pasta in lightly salted water, be sure not to overcook it.  Drain and rinse with cold water until cool.  I usually let it sit in super cold water for a minute, drain it, then do it again a couple of times and it works well to chill the pasta.  Drain thoroughly, and add all other ingredients ONLY if it will be served immediately.  If you won't be serving it right away, I suggest leaving the tomatoes, cucumber, and bacon out and only add them when you're about to eat it because the ranch will do weird things to the veggies if left too long and the bacon will get soggy.

Yield: About 10 side portions or 6 main dishes

Friday, July 5, 2013

Slow Cooker Split Pea and Barley Soup

Okay, I realize that July is the wrong time of year to be sharing a soup recipe.  But the latter half of June was SO HOT here in Interior Alaska (as in, mid 90s- fun when you don't have air conditioning) and so far July has been so very mild by comparison, with temperatures in the 60s-70s.

I like soup in general, but split pea is among my favorites and always has been.  Peas are my favorite veggie, maybe that's why.  It's also a major comfort food for me, maybe because my mom made it just for me for holidays when I was vegan as a teenager.  Usually I make mine the same way- split peas, broth of some variety (can be chicken or veggie), onion, garlic, carrots, potato, rosemary, and bay leaf.  I don't use a specific amount of anything, just start tossing things into the crock pot and it always turns out perfectly.

This time though I wanted to try split pea and barley soup.  We were in Washington visiting family last month and I tried this soup at the California Pizza Kitchen and loved it.  Found a copycat recipe last night, fiddled with it a bit, and was able to toss all the ingredients together in 10 minutes this morning before leaving for work.  Came home 5 hours later to the best lunch you could hope for!  To my delight, it needed no further tweaking at all.  Just split pea and barley perfection.  The lemon seemed like a rather odd ingredient, but brightens the flavors just a bit and was very nice.  Can't say for sure whether it tastes just like the restaurant version, but I loved it.

The original recipe is here, I streamlined the recipe so it could go in the crock pot and also adjusted it according to my tastes and what I had.  Feel free to add diced carrots, the only reason I didn't do this was because I wanted it to be different from my regular recipe and I didn't want to mess with chopping things up this morning.  Since I use frozen diced onion (can't stand cutting them up myself!) and jarred minced garlic, I didn't have to chop or peel anything!

Split Pea and Barley Soup

8 C veggie or chicken broth
3 C water
1 lb dried split peas
1 C barley
about 1 1/2 C diced onion (I used half of a 12 oz bag of frozen diced onions)
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 t black pepper
1 1/2 t dried summer savory
1 T sugar
salt to taste (I used a full tablespoon)
2 T lemon juice

Stir everything together in a 6 quart slow cooker.  Cook on low until peas and barley are tender, which took 5 hours in my slow cooker.

Yield: about 10 servings