Split Pea Soup with Canadian Bacon and Miniature Open-Faced Grilled Cheese “Sandwiches”

Split pea soup is ONE of my many favorite comfort foods starting today. Yes, you read that correctly. Today. I’ve only had split pea soup once in my lifetime before today, and I was in my early adolescent years when I tried it. We were taking a family trip to the Bay Area to see some friends and family for dinner, and decided to stop at Pea Soup Andersen’s for, well, a bathroom break. But what was supposed to be a bathroom break turned into an early lunch. We had always heard rave reviews of this place, and decided to see what all the hype was about for ourselves. For those who are unfamiliar with Pea Soup Andersen’s, it’s a California classic famed for its all-you-can-eat split pea soup, with a few restaurants found up and down California.

Well, we came, we saw, we conquered. And me no likey-likey at that time. I didn’t understand split pea soup. It looked like a big glop of green goo in my bowl. The texture, the color, and the flavors were unappealing. I had half a bowl, and did not pursue any further all-you-can-eat bowls. I mean, that’s what all the hype was about? Blech. So as a finicky teenager eater, I opted for some “real food” – pancakes – while my parents were eating bowl after bowl of soup. And to drive home my point of how “gross” I thought split pea soup was at that time, my brother also had the same experience as I and opted for pancakes, too.

One of our New Year’s resolution for this year was to make more soups. I was going down a list of soups to make today, and none seemed to appeal to my partner. Actually, she’d interject “split pea soup” after each soup suggestion I made. I made a yucky face at my partner’s suggestion, and was not excited. But I agreed, with some hesitation, which she doesn’t know (at least up until now). So I decided to give split pea soup another chance today. And I’m sure glad I did! OH EM GEE, I can’t believe what I missed all these years! I can’t wait to make this again.

I’m realizing I should listen to my partner more often… this seems to be a common theme this week :)

The recipe below is my own take on split pea soup. I searched through many different split pea soup recipes, but just wasn’t excited about any one in particular. I decided to use a few ideas here and there from several recipes, and added my own twists to make this fantabulous soup.

Split Pea Soup with Canadian Bacon and Miniature Open-Faced Grilled Cheese “Sandwiches”

5 cloves garlic, minced
4 large leeks, cleaned and dark green sections removed, chopped into small pieces
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large yukon potato, diced
1 pound (one 16 ounce bag) of dried green split peas, rinsed
2 bay leaves
2 quarts (8 cups) of low-sodium chicken broth
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
6 slices of canadian bacon

Heat a large pot or a dutch oven over medium-high heat, and heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add garlic, leeks, carrots, celery, and bay leaf. Cook until vegetables have softened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add potatoes, split peas and chicken broth.

Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about two hours, until soup is thick. Remove the bay leaves at this time. With a hand-held immersion blender, pulse until you achieve a smoother texture. If the soup is too thick for your liking, thin out the soup with more broth (if you have extra on hand) or water. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into soup bowls and enjoy!

Optional toppings:
1) Crispy, crumbled bacon, pancetta, canadian bacon, or Spam

Heat a nonstick skillet lightly coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Pan-fry your choice of pork on both sides until lightly browned. Remove from skillet, and when cool to handle, dicepork into small pieces. Mix into the soup, or topped on the soup.

2) Miniature grilled cheese “sandwiches”

4 slices ciabatta bread, cut into bite-size squares
1 tablespoon melted butter
Smoked Gouda cheese, cut into thin slices

Brush butter on bread. Spread bread on a cookie sheet and place cheese on about half of the pieces. Broil bread until cheese is melted. Then, sandwich pieces together and broil until golden brown.

Healthy Mini (Almost) Egg White Breakfast Frittata

I wanted to surprise my partner with a Valenine’s Day breakfast before she went to work.  Why not a romantic candle-lit dinner?  Well, she was planning to help my parents out at their restaurant for dinner service since it can be one of the busiest nights of the year.  And even though breakfasts are not the most romantic meals of the day, I thought it would be something special to wake up to.  So I perused through the various recipes that I had bookmarked and was specifically looking for something healthy.  Something tasty, filling, but low in calories.  I was super excited when I came across this frittata recipe!

If you’re wondering what a frittata is, it’s an Italian version of the French omelette.  Omelettes traditionally have the egg mixture cooked and folded around a filling, while a frittata just mixes it all up, cooked in a mishmash combination all at once.  It may be baked, or it may be started in a frying pan. When started on a stove top the frittata can be finished in an oven, under a broiler, or it may be flipped and finished in the pan.

So I went to the grocery store at 9:30 p.m. after I finished work on Sunday evening with my list in one hand, and the basket in the other.  Shopping was like a race to the proverbial finish line.  I wanted to make sure my partner wasn’t suspicious of why I was getting home so late.  The real dilemma was trying to get the groceries into the house!  I set the groceries on the counter of the laundry room right as I walked through the house, hoping she didn’t hear the rustling of the shopping bags.  Luckily, she didn’t.  As my partner was getting ready for bed, I slipped to the kitchen to put the groceries away.

I waited, and waited, and waited until my partner finally fell asleep so that I could sneak away to the kitchen to prep the ingredients.  I wanted to ensure the perfect timing of the dish as she finished getting ready for work, but also a little sit down time to eat together.  As I was about to sneak away, my partner sort of woke up from her slumber and asked if I was okay.  I said that everything was okay, and wondered if I was ever going to make it to the kitchen.  She fell asleep, and waited for another five minutes before I thought it was safe.  I was able to sneak out, but our little dog who sleeps with us got out of bed to check on me.  This really made me nervous because he isn’t always quiet, and I just knew he was going to wake her up.  I’m so happy she can be a deep sleeper because she didn’t stir from him at all!  So I started chopping and prepping away.

Well, needless to say, everything went perfectly on Valentine’s Day.  Her alarm sounded off at 6:09 a.m. and as I realized she woke up a little later than I had hoped, I jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen to preheat the oven.  The latter is what I was afraid was going to foil my entire plan.  I don’t even know if the oven preheated to the desired temperature, but I popped the muffin into the oven and waited very (in)patiently.  As nervous as I was, the frittatas cooked perfectly and in the right about of time!  Yay!

Mini Egg White Breakfast Frittata

5 egg whites
1 egg with yolk
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup baby spinach
1/3 cup bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup low-fat shredded cheese
2 slices canadian bacon, diced
Olive oil spray such as Pam
Muffin tin

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat egg whites with whole egg.  Fold in baby spinach, cheese, bell pepper, and canadian bacon.  Mix ingredients together.  Add a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper if you’d like.  I omitted the salt since the canadian bacon adds a bit of saltiness to the dish already.

Lightly spray the muffin tin.  Use a measuring cup to pour the egg mixture into the muffin tin, filling each over a little more than half full.  Place muffin tin into pre-heated oven, and bake for 30 minutes.

Makes 3 servings of 2 frittatas each.

Calories per serving: 55 calories

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