jicama-lime slaw

Summer seems to be upon us here in Arizona, even though I think spring only officially got started a couple of weeks ago.  So, with temps in the 90s, and our grill performing its usual work-horse duties, I wanted a side that could herald summer.  Spring is fleeting.  Summer, well that just seems to go on forever.

I have my faithful stand-by recipes, but I like to experiment early in the season to find out if there’s anything worth making for upcoming picnics, get-togethers with friends, etc.  And I’m always enticed by oft-overlooked veggies.  Like the jicama, for instance.  You can find them in pretty much any grocery store, but it’s rare you see recipes calling for this uber-nutritious, fibrous root veggie.  And I’m surprised it took me this long to think of it as perfect for cole slaw.  The flavor and texture are spot on – crisp and sweet, somewhere between a water chestnut and a pear.  The jicama’s flavor is enhanced by the lime and doesn’t give way to sogginess when the dressing is applied.

If you’ve looking for a change of pace from a traditional mayo-based slaw, this one is perfect.  It’s tangy, zesty, and perfectly fresh for summer.  Enjoy!

 

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Jicama-Lime Slaw (recipe adapted from Cooking Light Superfast Suppers)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium jicama, peeled and shredded
  • 1 c green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 c red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 c fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine first three ingredients in a medium bowl, tossing well.  Set aside. t
  2. Whisk together lime juice, EVOO, sugar, salt, and black pepper.
  3. Pour dressing over slaw mixture and toss well to coat.
  4. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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***Cook’s Notes:  I was in time-saving mode, so I grabbed a bag of pre-shredded cabbage in the produce aisle.  Turns out it was the angel hair variety, so a bit too flimsy for my taste, but worked fine.  Next time I’ll either shred my own or make sure I buy a thicker shred.

 

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cranberry-cinnamon goat cheese

Just before Christmas, one of the moms from our 3rd grade class hosted a gingerbread house decorating party for some of her daughter’s friends.  We happened to be on the guest list and had a blast.  Not only was it fun because the kids had a ball decorating their houses with all sorts of edible sweeties, but she had a spread of real food (and beverages) for those of us who don’t find Skittles and Everlasting Gob-Stoppers nearly as interesting as we used to.

One of the appetizers she served was a goat cheese roll smothered in the most delicious cranberry sauce ever.  I begged her for the recipe.  She said, “I got it at Costco.”

Now, if you know me at all, you know I’m not a fan of Costco for a litany of reasons, and I had successfully avoided becoming a Costco member for a long, long, long time.  But then we got a dog.  And dog food is a lot cheaper at Costco.  Also, apparently I can buy Fage yogurt and 12-grain bread at a deep discount.  Not to mention, gas is 30 cents a gallon less expensive, and when you’re fueling with premium gasoline that’s a big deal.  So, now we’re Costco members.  Yippee!!

But I’m not buying prepared appetizers at Costco!  No matter how yummy they are!!

This recipe was easy enough to find and easy to put together.  On top of that, I’d put it up against the mass-produced Costco version (admittedly delicious) any day.  It was wonderful.  The cranberry sauce is tangy and lemony, yet with the warmth and savoriness of cinnamon.  It was one of my favorite appetizers on New Year’s Day.  I think it would also work as a Super Bowl party appetizer – the cranberries are pretty festive, but we’re not so far removed from the holidays that you couldn’t pull it off on game day.  Enjoy!

Cranberry-Cinnamon Goat Cheese (recipe courtesy Mission Food)

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 11 oz. log goat cheese
  • Crackers, for serving

Directions:

  1. Add cranberries, sugar, water, orange zest, and cinnamon to saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for about 8 to 10 minutes. The cranberries will pop, the mixture will foam and subside, and the sauce will thicken as the cranberries break down.
  2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Spread about 1/2 cup of the cranberry mixture onto the plastic wrap, a little longer and wider than the goat cheese log. Lay the goat cheese log on top of the cranberry sauce and spread more sauce over the top and sides of the goat cheese (much like frosting a cake). There should be about 1/4-inch thick layer of cranberry sauce over all the sides of the goat cheese.
  4. Wrap the plastic wrap around the cranberry-coated goat cheese log and refrigerate.
  5. Remove the goat cheese from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to allow the cheese to slightly soften and become easier to spread. Remove plastic wrap before serving!

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white bean dip with rosemary and sage

Well, hello there,  2014!!!  By my calculations, I’m only about two weeks late to the party, but, hey…life has a way of being lived sometimes and I have to admit there’s been little time for cooking AND photographing.  Just cooking, lately, and Brownie meetings to supervise, and piano lessons to patiently sit through, and puppy obedience classes to attend.  Also, believe it or not, it gets dark really early this time of year in the desert.  By 5:30, if I haven’t cooked, plated, and photographed, there’s just not enough natural light.

Ahhh, excuses, excuses, excuses.  Enough of that, on to the bean dip.

I made this for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2012.  It was a huge hit with our guests and, even though it was just going to be the three of us this year (one of whom wouldn’t touch the stuff with a ten foot pole), I decided to do it again for our New Year’s Day feast.  We already had too much food, but this dip is so good (and gets better with each passing day), I was happy to have the leftovers for some post-celebration snacking.  It’s low in fat, high in flavor (lots of garlic goodness), and a good source of protein and fiber from the beans.  It’s also really fast and easy to assemble.  Put it together the day before you plan to serve it for maximum flavor mingling!  (I hear there’s a big football game in the not-too-distant future).  Serve with the crackers or crudités of your choice.  Enjoy!!

White Bean Dip with Rosemary and Sage (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, Aug 2007)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • Fresh sage sprig (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Serve with pita wedges crackers, fresh veggies. Garnish with sage sprig, if desired.

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white bean chicken chili

I’ve never been a huge chili fan.  As an adult, I’ll be polite and eat it if someone invites me to dinner and serves chili.  I’ll eat, but I wouldn’t ask for seconds.  In fact, I’ll probably feign fullness about 3/4 of the way through the bowl.  If there’s anything else on the menu, I’ll order that.  My poor mom, though.  Oh, the torment.  As a child, I hated chili.  The world record for the longest time taken to eat a teaspoon of chili was most certainly set by yours truly in 1973.  If there was a way to consume that teaspoon of chili without ever allowing said chili to touch my teeth, lips, or tongue, I mastered it.  There weren’t enough Saltine Crackers in a box to make a bowl of chili palatable to my budding taste buds.

And my mom was a good cook!

So how I became fixated upon white bean chicken chili, I have no idea.  For some reason, a couple of years ago, I began ruminating.  White beans instead of kidney, chicken instead of ground beef, lots of flavor from fresh veggies in lieu of dried spices, etc., etc., and the obsession was born.

This recipe is absolutely, positively going in the regular rotation.  It’s so good, so flavorful, so healthy and delicious, I can’t wait to make it again.  Even the kiddo, who has the world’s slowest chili eating record in her cross-hairs, wasn’t terribly offended by getting chili on her teeth, lips, or tongue!  How’s that for raves from an 8-year-old??

If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional red bean and beef chili, this one is an excellent replacement.  It goes together quickly and doesn’t require a lot of attention while it simmers to perfection.  It was even better the next day, too.  Serve it with some baked tortilla chips, cheese, cilantro, and/or low-fat sour cream to adapt to your particular tastes.  I think it’ll be a hit.  Enjoy!

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White Bean Chicken Chili (recipe courtesy Mayo Clinic Diet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz diced chicken (I used a roasted chicken)
  • 3 C white beans, cooked, or 2 14-oz cans
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) low-sodium diced tomatoes
  • 4 C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 medium orange or yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 6 Tbsp reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • low-fat baked tortilla chips

Directions:

  1. In a large soup pot, add chicken, beans, tomatoes and chicken broth.  Cover and simmer over medium heat.
  2. While soup mixture is simmering, spray a nonstick pay w/cooking spray.  Add onions, peppers, and garlic, and saute approx 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the onion and pepper mixture to the soup pot.  Stir in the spices and simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes, or until veggies are soft.
  4. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with cheese (optional) and cilantro.  Serve with baked chips.

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tangy vinegar coleslaw

What should you do when you’re having a small 4th of July gathering (3 adults, and a child who wouldn’t touch cabbage with a ten foot pole)?  Why, make 3 pounds of coleslaw, of course.  Actually, I had the foresight to cut this recipe in half, but it still makes a ton.  And, frankly, while I prefer a vinegar-based slaw, I don’t think they keep as well.  So, serve it to a lot of people and eat it all.

With that said, this was a really tasty recipe and I’d definitely make it again.   It had great texture and a nice variety of flavors.  I opted to use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, which is a little more subtle in flavor.  Not too vinegar-y.  The onions gave it a nice little kick, too.  I served it as a side dish, but this would be great on pulled pork or shredded beef sandwiches, as well.  Easy-peasy!  Enjoy!!

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Tangy Vinegar Coleslaw (recipe courtesy Food For My Family)

Ingredients: (I’ve halved all the ingredients from the original recipe)

1/2  head green cabbage, shredded
1/4 head red cabbage, finely shredded (or 1/2 head radicchio for a spicy kick)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup white vinegar*
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1/8 cup oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon celery seed

Directions:

In a large bowl toss the green cabbage, red cabbage, and red onion until mixed. Set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the vinegar, honey, and oil. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt, dry mustard, and the celery seed. Pour the dressing over the cabbage. Toss to combine.  Refrigerate and serve chilled.

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mom’s [shake shake shake] potato salad with dill

So, this is one of those recipe-less recipes; the type of which I’m not so fond because I’m a direction-taker.  I like my recipes mapped out like a well-worn road atlas.  Improv gives me cold sweats.  Not that I haven’t occasionally had to cobble together a meal with the handful of unexpired ingredients in my refrigerator, but…a list of ingredients and their corresponding quantities makes me feel so much more competent in the kitchen.

My mom got this recipe from an old next door neighbor several many years ago.  I’m assuming our neighbor gave her the recipe the same way she gave it to me.  There is no written version, apparently, so I’ll share with you, verbatim, how my mom taught me to make it:

Mom:  I use a 1:1:1 ratio, eggs to potatoes to people, and then I add an extra egg.  I like a little more egg.

Me:  How about the seasonings?

Mom:  Well, I don’t really measure them.  It’s more like, potato, egg, dollop of dressing, salt, shake shake shake, pepper, shake shake shake, dill, shake shake shake.  Mix.  Potato, egg, dollop of dressing, salt, shake shake shake, pepper, shake shake shake, dill, shake shake shake.

Me:  {Sigh}

And that’s it.  Shake.  Shake.  Shake.  This potato salad is left entirely to your own whim as to more or less dressing, more or less salt, more or less….well, you get it.  It’s the potato salad that spawned my love for potato salad (at least this one), and is at the top of the request list when warm(er) weather rolls around.  It’s picnic-friendly, perfect for block party BBQs, or holiday weekend festivities (hint, hint, Memorial Day is right around the corner).  Grill some burgers, hotdogs, steaks…whatever.  This salad is the perfect complement.  Enjoy!

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Mom’s [shake shake shake] Potato Salad with Dill

Ingredients:

  • 6 potatoes, cooked and peeled
  • 7 eggs, hard-boiled
  • Miracle Whip (I use light or low fat variety), to taste and texture
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Dill, dried, to taste

Directions:

Boil potatoes, skins on, until a little less than fork tender.  Remove from water, cool completely.  At the same time, cook eggs until hard-boiled, remove from heat, cool completely.  When potatoes are fully cooled, remove skins.  Peel and wash eggs.

In medium bowl, cut one potato into one inch (bite sized pieces).  Slice one egg into bite sized pieces, as well.  Spoon in about two heaping tablespoons of Miracle Whip.  Add salt, pepper, and dried dill weed to taste.  Mix gently until well combined.  Repeat process with remaining potatoes and eggs.

Keep refrigerated until you’re ready to serve.

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italian basil pasta salad

This post really needs to start with a confession:  I did not make this dish.  I bought the ingredients, but I had absolutely nothing to do with the assembly.  Not that I don’t want to take credit for it.  It was superb.  But I was off-duty enjoying a lovely, chore-free Mother’s Day.  The husband and the world’s greatest kid put this together as part of a truly relaxing, enjoyable day for moi!  No cooking, no dishes, re-fills on wine, plentiful hugs.  It was all good!

Including this pasta salad, which should go on every picnic menu you put together from now until you can’t eat another pickled banana pepper.  It deviated wonderfully from the all-too-predictable pasta salad of  yesteryear: tomatoes, broccoli, green onions, yada yada yada, slathered in Kraft Italian Dressing.  Don’t make that one again.  Make this one.  Great flavors from sweet to savory, great textures from crisp and crunchy to smooth and creamy.  When I tried it, Kat asked what I thought and I blurted out, “It’s like a fiesta in your mouth!”  I’ll probably regret that later, but at the time it caused endless giggles and was a spot on description.

Let the fiesta begin.  Enjoy!

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Italian Basil Pasta Salad (recipe adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (16 oz) bow tie pasta
  • 2 c grape tomatoes
  • 7 oz mozzarella cheese pearls, halved
  • 1 medium sweet yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 c pickled banana pepper rings, diced
  • 1 can (2 1/4 oz) sliced ripe olives, drained (the husband used capers)
  • 4 thin slices hard salami, chopped
  • 1/2 c fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Dressing:

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 3/4 c red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil

Directions:

  • Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, tomatoes, cheese, yellow pepper, onion, pepper rings, olives (or, capers, if you’re so inclined), salami and basil.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

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Cook’s Notes:  Make this a day ahead if you can, to let the flavors really come together.

pulled pork bbq (slow cooker style)

Can you ever get enough pulled pork?  I think not.

A friend gave  me this recipe a while back and I hadn’t made it for fear of being accused of being on some strange shredded meat binge.  Finally, the temptation was too great and I gave in, even though I had made shredded something-or-other fairly recently.  But it’s about the easiest recipe ever written and I was in an “I don’t want feel like lingering over dinner” kind of mood.  Four ingredients, people.  Four ingredients and that’s about all the lingering over dinner you’ll need to do.  I always feel like there’s some kitchen fairy magic going on with these meals.  Ingredients in, lid on, twelve hours later, dinner is served.

I’ve seen various recipes like this one calling for the addition of a carbonated beverage.  Does anyone know why?  Honestly, I’m not sure what the added benefit might be, because I think the meat really gets it flavor from the onions and whatever spectacular bbq sauce you choose.  So, if anyone can offer any hints as to why soda of any kind is frequently seen in slow cooker recipes like this, I’d love to know.  The finished product had absolutely no Ginger Ale overtones, whatsoever.

We always top our shredded meat with coleslaw.  We’re quirky that way.  Feel free to do the same, or just slather in more saucy deliciousness.  Enjoy!

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Pulled Pork BBQ

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs pork roast (shoulder or butt)
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 cup ginger ale
  • 1 (18 ounce) bottle favorite barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s) barbecue sauce, for serving (optional)

Directions:

  • Slice one onion and place in crock pot.
  • Put in the roast and cover with the other onion, sliced. Pour over the ginger ale. Cover and cook on LOW for about 12 hours.
  • Remove the meat, strain and save the onions, discard all liquid. With two forks, shred the meat, discarding any remaining fat, bones or skin.
  • Return the shredded meat and the onions to the crock pot and stir in the barbecue sauce. Continue to cook for about another 2 hours on LOW.
  • Serve with hardy rolls and additional barbecue sauce. Any leftovers freeze very well.

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Cook’s Notes:  Shoulder or butt are recommended because the meat shreds very well.  It is a fattier cut, but the fat pretty much falls away after cooking and is easily removed from the crock pot before shredding.  Also,  the original recipe cooked for 12 hours the first round, and another 4 to 6 after straining, shredding, and adding the sauce.  I think mine would have been cooked to mush by that point.  Another 2 hours to let the flavors develop was plenty for us.  Also, the original recipe gave a tip on how to freeze ready-made sandwiches.  Personally, that just sounds disgusting.  I can only envision a soggy pile of goo coming out of the microwave upon re-heating.  My preference is to keep the meat and bread separate until I’m ready to eat.  Most importantly (as with any shredded meat sandwich where sauce or coleslaw is involved), make sure your sandwich buns can stand up to all that moisture.  I noted to serve with “hardy rolls” in the directions above, and I can’t emphasize that enough.  Unless you don’t mind eating your pulled pork with a fork.  In which case you can simply call this recipe pork-on-a-fork!

slow cooker steel cut oatmeal

The forecast has a day close to 90° in it, which means the season for comfort foods is quickly coming to an end here in the Arizona desert.  We all know what happens after the scale tips in that direction:  90s, 100s, 110s.  Yeah, it’s not pretty.  Comfort food will be the last thing on my mind.  Bring on the salads, please and thank you.

But for now I managed to squeak one in just before the mercury inches toward the 90° mark.  We actually had the perfect weekend for it with what was probably our last winter rain.

This is one of my favorite slow cooker oatmeals.  It’s thick and hearty and I love the flavor play between the sweetness of the apples and the tartness of the dried cherries.  I’d call it healthy, but it’s got a fair amount of brown sugar in it which sends the health-o-meter swinging in the other direction.  You could remedy that by exchanging the brown sugar for an agave/molasses concoction, but…well, I like brown sugar, and my diet is pretty low in processed sugar, anyway.  So, I splurge.

While I love the flavor of this oatmeal, I should forewarn that after it’s refrigerated it’s not nearly as pretty.  It’s really, really thick and needs to be thinned out substantially with additional water or milk when you re-heat it.  My husband even went so far as to call it, “gelatinous,” which has very negative connotations in an 8th grade science sort of way.  But it’s delicious!  Top with more fruit or nuts, a sprinkle of brown sugar or swirl of honey and it’s all good.   Enjoy!

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Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 2 c steel cut oats (not rolled or quick cooking)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 apples, peeled and diced (I used Gala)
  • 1 c dried tart cherries

Directions:

  • Spray inside of slow cooker with a non-stick cooking spray, i.e., Pam. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.
  • Serve and top with sliced banana, walnuts, a smidgen more brown sugar, honey, or whatever your heart’s desire.

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winter vegetable and barley soup

It’s the perfect day for a soup post.  There’s a cold front lingering, skies full of low clouds, and rain.  I love me some rain.  And I love me some soup on a rainy day!  Love.  Love.  Love.  The only caveat is this recipe was only rated two out of five stars, so whether it qualifies as good eats is debatable.  Having now cooked and served it, I think two stars is probably about right if you prepare the soup as suggested.  Personally, I found it a bit too sweet; the result of using both carrots and parsnips, both of which have a very sweet taste.

The first thing I’d do differently to bump up the savoriness would be to swap out the carrots or parsnips for another veggie.  I might replace the parsnips with potatoes, for instance.  Or, leave the parsnips and replace the carrots with tomatoes so you still have some nice color in the finished product.  Unless you like sweet soup, that is.  My husband said he thought it was good, but probably because I had warned him ahead of time it was fairly sweet.  Another option would be to hit it with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a little extra salt once you’ve ladled it into bowls.

Either way, this soup was really hearty and filling, and scored high in the healthy eating category.  The kid-rating was notably low, though, but I think she picked up on my “too sweet” vibe.  Make a few alterations to bring out a more savory quality and I think it would actually please everyone.  Enjoy!

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wintervegetablesoup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into small dice (1 cup)
  • 1 large rib celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)
  • 1 pound assorted root vegetables, such as parsnips, carrots, rutabaga and/or turnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup pearled barley
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas
  • 4 ounces cooked ham, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives
 Directions:

Heat the oil in a 4- to 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery; cook for 3 minutes, stirring, then add the diced root vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.

Stir in the broth and barley. Once the liquid begins bubbling at the edges, cover the pot and adjust the heat so the liquid maintains a little movement. Cook for 45 to 55 minutes or until the barley is done and the vegetables are tender.

Uncover; add the peas and ham. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring a few times, until the peas are tender. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the chives.

Divide among individual bowls; top each portion with a sprinkling of the remaining chives, or some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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