Sunday, March 3, 2019

Heavens to Betsy...

 I have been MIA...but I haven't stopped cooking !  My kitchen stays as busy as ever, no matter what's going on. In August of 2017 I took a part time job with a senior help at home agency and was back to work for the first time in 17 years. Never thought anyone would hire me at 65 years old with a 17 year gap in work history. But amazingly I got offers from 2 different places I applied and took this one. I only wanted to work 25 hours a week since I was still on disability and there's a limit to what you can earn on their right to work ticket. So I jumped in and loved it. And the extra money was a godsend.  Then in January I turned 66 and they kicked me off disability and put me on regular social security which is a total game changer.  My benefits stayed the same, but was now allowed to earn up to 3.5 times more than before. But I still only wanted to work part time. The day after my birthday [the first week of January] I had an attack of acute diverticulitis. Wound up at the hospital, thought I was dying. I have never had intestinal issues before, so this was a shocker. They gave me pain medication (the pain was awful) and they did an MRI and came back with the diagnosis. I was put on a heavy hitter antibiotic which made me sicker since I almost never take antibiotics.  I had a couple more mild attacks as the month wore on. Saw a gastro doc who wanted to do some tests and make sure I didn't have colon cancer hiding in there behind the diverticulitis, but had to wait until the 3rd of Feb to let the other stuff calm down. That helped my anxiety a LOT lol.  Finally got them done everything checked out fine and the very next day...I got hit with a virus that has been making the rounds. That was Feb 4th. I am still sick.  I get a little better and then get it again. Wicked sore throat, coughing like a TB patient and exhaustion. All the headachy sinus-y crap that goes with that.  The Irishman had it too. We were a pair. He was even home sick for the better part of a week, which is something he NEVER does. Then he went back, I got a little better and Friday he came home feeling crappy again. Last night I started getting a sire throat again. This morning... blech.   I went to the urgent care back at the beginning of this and they tested me for strep and it was negative.  Told me it was viral, just keep doing what I'm doing with OTC  cough syrup and Tylenol. And now, here I am ...On the bright side... I am getting rested up.  lol  I had to quit my job because I couldn't do it and couldn't be counted on and they assured me that if I wanted to come back I always had a place on their team. That was encouraging. And so here I stand. Unemployed. Sick again. And wondering if I'm ever going to get well and if winter is ever going to be over.  

  It's been a pretty brutal winter around these parts.  So I've been cooking loads of soups and stews, lots of comfort foods, and sitting around the house getting fatter by the day. This weekend I was supposed to be in Southern IL for a business meeting, but they cancelled it because they're supposed to get over a foot of snow between last night and today.  Good. I didn't want to go anyway. It's snowing here  for the past few hours, but it's a relatively light snow so far.  Supposed to get down to 3 degrees or something stupid tonight. And snow until Wednesday I guess. Oh well.  I don't have to leave Honeysuckle Hill. I'll sit it out. lol  As always, I have a stocked pantry, so I don't have to worry about anything foodwise.  

  In the middle of last week I had the urge for a lentil or split pea soup.  I love the lentils cooked with coconut cream, but I have made that several times in a row.  Then I remembered I had a lovely half an H&B ham in my freezer. On Christmas Eve day I had baked a ham and roasted a turkey. We had our usual Christmas Eve supper guests and had a great time. I froze half that ham and some of the turkey that was leftover. SO, I thought-yum, split pea and ham soup. 

It was awesome. I made some of Mary's buttermilk biscuits to go with it and the cookies at the top of the page. Wowza. We ate like royalty !  Here's my recipe for ham and split pea soup:

You'll need:
1 pound or so of green or yellow split peas.
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, sliced thin
2 carrots, sliced thin
Ham-sometimes I use a ham hock, but more likely I'll use about a cup of cubed ham or a little more.
2 bay leaves 
1 chopped garlic clove
Black pepper to taste

 Rinse the split peas and set aside.  This soup cooks quickly (if you use chopped ham) and I would guess it's around 45 minutes to make, counting prep. Take your  veggies and sweat them in a large sized saucepan in a little olive oil. In about 10 minutes or so, they'll be slightly tender, add the cubed ham and stir it all together. Cover with water, add the bay leaves and pepper and put the lid on it. Keep an eye out and stir it from time to time. If it needs a little more water, add some.  Some folks like their split pea soup extra thick, some like it's not rocket science.  I like mine in the middle-- not too thick and not too thin. I like to add a little liquid smoke to my soup if the ham isn't nicely smoked. The H&B hams are almost perfect...they are raised and processed right here in a little town about 15 minutes from me. Let it simmer for about 20-25 minutes, and you should have a yummy bowl of soup in front of you and your loved ones. I like chewy Italian bread, or biscuits with it.  It satisfying and healthy and makes a great winter meal.

  Bon Apetit, baby.

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