Hale & Hearty Ain’t Got Nothing on Me

In American, Bread, Saving Money, Soup, Vegetables on December 20, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I love soup.  I’ve talked about it here, here, and here.  That’s probably why back in the day I’d used more than 10 Hale & Hearty bean counter cards a year.  With the average medium sized (12 oz) soup calculating in at $7 a pop, and only 10% of those were redeemed for free, my soup habit became really, really expensive.  For seven dollars, I could make enough split pea soup for 20 medium servings.  All you need are dried split peas (the organic kind are usually $1.99/lb), a carrot, celery, onion, and water.  That’s it.  Just to give you a visual, a pound of split peas renders about ten 1/4 cup servings, which cooked is 10 1/2 cup servings.  Making that into soup doubles the volume, so you have 80 ounces (nearly 7 servings) of soup, and only for $1.99 + a few cents extra for the veggies.  That’s why they can afford to have somebody serve you soup, AND another person to serve you bread or crackers.

Sticking with the split pea topic, until I met my husband I never knew that split pea soup wasn’t automatically vegetarian.  I just assumed that unless chicken or beef was in the title, I was pretty safe to order it.  However, most people make this soup with either a ham hock, or some other smokey pig product.  I suppose that could make the soup more expensive, but probably not that much.  When I make it, it’s still vegetarian, but Nick will sometimes sprinkle in bacon bits to garner that ham hock flavor.  The trick I’ve learned to make split pea soup really flavorful is to cook it slow and low.  If you have a slow cooker, even better, but a stove top version will do.  Just a warning, it takes at least 4 hours, so I usually only make it when I’m home for the day or on a weekend.  I also make sure to make enough to freeze for later.

In case you haven’t guessed yet, this post will chronicle split pea soup making.  Shocking, I know.  But I had not explicitly mentioned it yet, so I don’t want anyone to be confused :).  Earlier that morning, I soaked the peas in some water.  This helps to ease the cooking process later, and prevents the pot from drying out.  Then I drained/rinsed the peas, and added some carrots, celery, and onion.  Then I added enough water to cover about 2 inches above.

I brought the soup to a boil, and skimmed off some of the foam.

After 5 minutes, I covered the pot, lowered the heat, and let it simmer for 4 hours.  I checked on it every 30-45 minutes or so, just to give it a quick stir and make sure it wasn’t drying out.  When it was done, it looked like this.

You could serve it as is, but sometimes I like it more pureed.  I used an immersion blender for that purpose.

To accompany the soup for Nick (I was back on track and not eating grains for dinner) I decided to make a grilled cheese sandwich.  I usually use whatever cheese I have on hand.  Since I had mozzarella and parmesan leftover from the last night’s meal, I knew I’d use those.

I also wanted to add some tomato and onion, since Nick loves both of those.  Unlike diner grilled cheese, I actually cook the veggies separately before adding to the sandwich.  I hate getting a cold tomato slice wedged in between 8 slices of non-melted cheddar.  So unappetizing.

After sauteing those veggies in a nonstick pan, I removed them to the side, and began to prepare the sandwich.  I melted some butter to brush on to bread.  I find it required less butter (and more evenness) using this method than trying to spread solid butter with a knife.  I also used some hearty whole grain health bread, instead of white bread.  This makes it more nutritious, filling, sturdier, and less likely to burn in the pan.

Now begins the assembly.  I placed one slice butter side down on the nonstick pan, and layered the mozzarella.

Then I added the tomato…

…followed by the red onion…

…topped with sliced parmesan…

…and finished with the second slice of bread, butter side up.

To give it a panini flair, I used the lid from another smaller pan to press down on the sandwich and apply pressure.

Once I could see that the mozzarella was melting (about 3-4 minutes), I flipped the sandwich over to brown on the other side.

I cut the sandwich in half so you could see the insides!  It’s also easier for dunking, if so desired.

Paired with the soup, this provides an excellently comforting meal, and much cheaper than its retail counterparts.

I have to admit, I missed eating that sandwich, but the soup was so yummy and filling I was more than fine without it.  I felt like I was treating myself to an expensive chain store soup, only my wallet didn’t notice the difference.

What are your favorite retail foods to replicate?

  1. […] written previously about my love/hate relationship with Hale & Hearty (“H&H”).  They make some […]

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