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Winter is Coming

So Rip saw his first snow yesterday, and just as quickly as it blew in, the sun melted it off today. (See left and right above.) What he doesn't know is it's coming again TONIGHT. The "Winter Storm Warning" for Clark, CO says 10 - 20 inches? Surely not. But just in case, we hiked over six miles today. 3 miles around a snowy Alpine lake in the morning, then our favorite Pearl Lake walk around the man made dam. One reason it's my favorite walk is we have found a different off shoot every time we have done it. Today, following a stranger's boot prints in shady places where the sun hadn't melted his tracks, we ventured into the woods and came upon the largest grove of quaking Aspens I've ever seen. The picture doesn't even get the full panorama or scale.

I suppose a month ago they were in full golden glory, their leaves quaking with every shutter of a breeze. But I won't be telling this with a sigh, yellow wood or not. I took the road less traveled by, and that means SNOW tomorrow. Knowing we aren't driving anywhere for the weekend, it was a tale of two soups today - both revisited: One from Panera, my favorite Chicken and Wild Rice which unforgivably disappeared for a while. The other split pea, but with a slow cooker since . . . well, since I hadn't done it before.

It all started with boiling a whole chicken, so I had the broth for both.

Copycat Panera Chicken and Wild Rice (adapted from

6 cups chicken broth

Shredded whole chicken (poached to make the broth)

1 package long grain and wild rice with seasoning packet*

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 cup flour

12 T of salted butter!

1 cup of carrot

1 1/2 cup onion

2 tsp celery salt**

2 1/2 cups Half and Half or Whole Milk***

1 sprig of fresh thyme (cause I had it)

1 T salt

* - I don't know that I would do this again. I'd rather buy my own rice mix and then use my own seasoning blend. I added the oregano because I remember another copycat recipe stating THAT was the difference. I'd rather play with my own thyme, oregano. . . turmeric??? . . . . garlic powder. . who knows?

** - Oops. Was supposed to use 1 cup of celery, and I found out long ago that celery (while considered pointless by my father) adds salt to dishes in its own way. . . I had already used the celery for the split pea - so. . . celery salt.

*** - Cannot use skim here, especially if you want to freeze it.

~ Boil the chicken broth with the rice mix for 20 minutes. DO NOT use the seasoning packet yet!

~ Mix pepper, flour, and oregano In a small bowl and set aside.

~ Melt the butter in a LARGE sauté pan or saucier then sauté the onion and carrot for five minutes.

~ Add seasoning packet to butter and vegetables and continue to cook for five minutes.

~ Slowly add flour mixture to butter and vegetables to make a roux. Brown this while heating the half and half in the microwave for 1 minute. (It's better to add WARM or hot liquid to a roux.)

~ Slowly add half and half. IT WILL BE THICK.

~ Add chicken to broth and rice mixture, then slowly add roux mixture to broth mixture.

~ Simmer UNCOVERED for 20 minutes. THIS was crucial for thickness and flavor. I was surprised how much salt I needed to add, but the homemade broth wasn't salted very much AND the seasoning packet must have less salt than I thought. After some tasting and simmering, it was pretty darn close to Panera.

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup (adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

1 lb. dried split green peas

1/2 onion, chopped

3 carrots, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 ham hocks

1 qt. chicken stock

1 1/2 cups WATER

4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs parsley

1 bay leaf, optional

Salt and pepper, to taste***

*** - DO NOT ADD ANY SALT TILL IT IS ALL OVER! THE HAM HOCKS MADE THIS WAY TOO SALTY. I had to add some stock at the end to temper the saltiness!

~ Rinse the peas and drain. (People say to check and look for pebbles. In all my batches of split pea, I have NEVER found a pebble. . . . What the heck?)

~ This slow cooker had a sauté option, so I sautéed the ham hocks for five minutes rendering just enough fat to add the onions.

~ Once I added the water and broth, I added the carrots, celery, and garlic. (I almost didn't add the carrots worried they would disintegrate when slow cooking for 5 hours! They turned out great.)

~ Add thyme, parsley, bay leaf, and pepper. NO SALT yet, please!

~ Slow cook on high for 5 hours. (Go on a three-mile hike with the dogs.)

~ After 4 hours and 45 minutes, I took the ham hocks out, removed most of the fat, gave the bones to the dogs, and shredded as much meat as I could.

~ Add the ham hock back to the soup and THEN decide if you need ANY salt - or add more broth if it's too salty. (You could even add cream or milk if you wanted to be decadent about it.)

NOTE: I liked this better than when I make it on the stove. I think a slow cooker wins when it comes to split pea.

All set for the impending snow storm, but I do plan on tackling a slow cooker beef stew tomorrow, cause we are sure as heck not leaving the house! And how good will THAT be cozy by a fire tomorrow night?



Frankie's Olive Oil

Williams Sonoma Croissants

Joe's Stone Crab Claws

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