Posted in Fiction Diner

Fiction Diner Chat

A Quick Update: I had started the Fiction Diner series as a way to document and share recipes as I challenged myself to try a new recipe every week of 2017. While I’m having loads of fun cooking up new food and sharing the results with you, I just don’t have the time to keep up with the blog series right now.
Besides trying to wrap up edits and publish my 3rd novel, finish the 1st draft of 4th novel, plot 3 additional novels, I also have 2 birthday parties and a wedding to provide cake for, a teenager in football and youth for the first time, 3 other active children, and a laundry pile–much like my reading pile–that never disappears. Lol
Needless to say, the additional work of the weekly Fiction Diner series is an added stress that I don’t need.

New Plans: However, I plan to bring it back later in the year. But it’ll most likely return as an occasional post instead of a weekly post.

FOOD CHAT!!!: But I didn’t just bring you here to listen to me whine about my workload, let’s talk food!!
Name a recipe that you’ve always wanted to try to make but haven’t done it yet?
How about a recipe that you’ve always wanted to master, but have been unsuccessful at so far?
As for me, I’ve always wanted to try to make Fried Ice Cream. Those words don’t even belong together so it MUST be good. Lol
And I’ve always wanted to master pie crust and biscuits, but so far my attempts aren’t worth bragging over.

Book Quote: It wouldn’t be Fiction Diner without a quote from a fiction novel. Enjoy this lovely graphic and beautiful words from Katie Ganshert’s latest release, Life After. 

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Posted in Fiction Diner

Fiction Diner: Cake Batter Mini Cheesecakes

I made these for a friend’s birthday, and, boy, were they a treat! You can read the original post from the author of the recipe by visiting Catch My Party.

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Is there anything more fun than mini cheesecakes? The addition of sprinkles only increases the fun. Throw on some whipped cream and a candle and you have yourself a party. Lol
I loved the idea of these cheesecakes. Mine didn’t come out near as white or as thick as the creator’s, but we still really enjoyed them.
I LOVED the crust. There isn’t any sugar in this crust. The pinch of salt and walnuts add a nice bite to the crust that helps balance out the filling. I’ll certainly add these to my personal recipe collection to make again.

Ingredients: 
Filling:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 8oz packages)
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vanilla cake mix
  • 1/4 cup sprinkles

Crust:

  • 1/4 box graham crackers
  • 2 tablespoons walnut pieces
  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Melt the butter (about 30 seconds on high in the microwave). Put the graham crackers, walnuts, and salt into a food processor and pulse until broken down into crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse until combined. Spray the pan with some non stick spray. Place 2 teaspoons of graham cracker into each mini cheesecake container and pack firmly with a spoon.

In a large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, sour cream, and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Add the egg, mixing until incorporated. Mix in the sugar and cake batter, adding a few tablespoons at a time. You don’t want to over mix, you just want a smooth consistency.

Stir in the sprinkles, reserving a few pinches for garnish.

Pour the mixture into the mini cheesecake pan, about 1 1/2 tablespoons for each mini cheesecake.

Optional: Sprinkle the top of each cheesecake with sprinkles before baking.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Let it cool on the counter until you can handle the pan, pop out each cheesecake, and chill for an hour or two. They will fall a little while cooling.

Top with a dollop of whipped cream and add a few sprinkles. Aren’t they adorable and divine?!

Tips: 
There were a couple of questions that the author of the recipe left blank. I’ll tell you what I did.
In the ingredient list, she calls for cake mix and then in the directions she mentions adding batter. On her blog, someone asked whether it was dry mix or batter but she never replied back. I chose to use dry mix, and they came out great. So I suppose I chose right.
She also doesn’t tell how many cakes the recipe makes. Based on other recipes I saw that required 2 blocks of cream cheese, I didn’t expect the recipe to make very many. I doubled the recipe and barely scrapped out 24. I’m going to guess that the original recipe made about 10.
I doubled the recipe for both the filling and the crust. And I threw away half of the crust. I’m guessing 1 recipe of crust would have done just as well for double the filling.
My son complained about the salty crust. In hindsight, the full 1/4 teaspoon may have been a bit much. I’ll tone it down in the future by either using 1/8 teaspoon or just a pinch with my fingers instead.

202Novel Quote:

“So, you see, a man can love you, but only imperfectly. It is God alone who can be God.” – The Golden Braid

I simply love this quote. We can be so unbalanced in our expectations of love.

 

Posted in Fiction Diner

Fiction Diner: Crockpot Alcohol-free Irish Stew

I found the inspiration for this recipe while scrolling through Pinterest. After viewing a variety of recipes and crockpot directions, I developed this recipe for you. Let me just say that it tastes as good as it smells and it goes great with a tall glass of sweet tea! 🙂 

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Crockpot Alcohol-free Irish Stew: 

You can serve this stew over a mound of mashed potatoes as I did or chop the potatoes up and add them to the stew and enjoy in a bowl. It’s your call. For me, I was itching to try it out over a mound of mashed potatoes since this was a new idea for me.

Ingredients:
1-2 lbs of stew meat
4 Tb tomato sauce
3 Tb flour
drizzle of olive oil
4 large carrots
2 cans of beef stock
*1 can of peas

Directions: 
Coat meat in salt, pepper, and flour. Toss to coat evenly, adding another tablespoon of flour if needed for an even coat. Drizzle olive oil in a pan and sear the beef until it’s brown on all sides.
Peel and chop carrots.
Add beef stock, meat, tomato sauce, and carrots into crockpot. Season to taste. Cook on high for 4 hr or until meat is tender.
Add peas into the pot in the last hour.

Tips:
As mentioned this recipe can be served over mashed potatoes or you could add potatoes into the pot at the same time as the carrots.
The gravy didn’t thicken up as much as I would have liked, so if you have a preferred thickening method feel free to add that step to your process…and tell me about it so I can try it next time. 😉

Novel Quote:

85 Let me set the stage for this quote. We’re in Ireland in 1170 on the eve of battle. The faithful warrior enters in and informs our heroine of their plan to keep her safe. She thanks him, and he replies,

“You are my princess.” -The Distant Tide by Heather Day Gilbert, The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection. 

There’s something so beautiful and simplistic about that line that made me sigh every time I read it.

 

Posted in Fiction Diner

Fiction Diner: Irish Scones

In preparation for St. Patrick’s Day, I’m dusting off a recipe that I’ve always wanted to try. You can visit I Heart Naptime where I found this recipe. 

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Irish Scones: 

In case you’re unfamiliar with scones, they are almost biscuit-like in texture but are usually a bit more dense than your common biscuit. Irish Scones are on the bland side of the equation, making this taste more like a biscuit. They were really good, but you won’t want to skip the sugar dusting step since it’s what gives the scones that pop of flavor. You also may want to bring along your favorite jam, curd, or cream when enjoying these. I’m rating the recipe 9 stars. I’ll make it again, but I don’t foresee it becoming my favorite recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons sugar plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter cut into pieces
  • 3 eggs divided
  • 3/4 cup milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 475*. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder with a fork. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or two knives, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
In a measuring cup, mix together eggs and milk. Add to dry mixture and mix until just combined. Turn out onto a floured counter or cutting board and knead lightly until it comes together.
Pat into a large rectangle about 1 inch thick (using a rolling pin if needed) and cut into twelve equal sized rectangles.
Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl and brush over each scone rectangle. Sprinkle with sugar and place on baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Cool and serve with fresh whipped cream and jam.

Tips:
*The 475 temperature alarmed me since I normally bake my scones between 375-425. I tested a couple out at the 475 temp, but found better results at 425.
I cut this recipe in half because I’ve made enough scones in my life to know that a recipe with 4 cups of flour would not fit comfortably in my food processor.
I also needed to add another splash or two of milk because the dough was too dry to form properly. So take note: if your dough is crumbly, add a splash of milk and try again.
Food Processor Directions: If you have a processor, you can take the tedious work out of scones by blending your dough from start to finish. I start with the flour and other powder ingredients. Do a quick pulse to mix things up. Add chunks of cold butter and blend until it looks more like cornmeal and you can’t see the individual chunks of butter. Then add your wet ingredients and blend just until fully incorporated. *Warning, this recipe may be too large to fit in your processor. All of the recipes I’ve used in the processor contained only 2 cups of flour…but mine may be smaller than yours.

117Novel Quote: 

“Don’t just jump willy-nilly into something because it feels right in the moment. Really, truly seek the Lord…” – Every Bride Needs a Groom

Don’t you just love it when you brush up against such sound wisdom while you’re reading?

Check Amazon!! This book just might be a FREEBIE today!! It was free the last time I looked. 

Posted in Fiction Diner

Fiction Diner: The Official Williams Cranberry Cake

Happy (belated) Birthday to a beloved character, Ralph Williams!
Today, Fiction Diner meets the pages of my own work as we celebrate one of my characters with food. Throughout my novels, I’ve made mention of a special cranberry cake. This recipe belonged to the Williams family and was only baked twice a year: Christmas and Ralph’s birthday.
When readers started asking me for this fictionalized recipe, I began searching for one. With the help of my readers, I present to you today the official Williams Family Cranberry Cake. I hope you enjoy!!

 

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I’m about to share with you a recipe that was adapted from two different jam cake recipes. I followed the ingredients of one recipe, with the slight alteration, and the directions from a local community cookbook, and I created for you a brand new recipe.
The cranberry flavor isn’t very strong. In fact, none of my kids knew what they were eating. The spices used in this cake stands out more and is perfect for the winter months when this cake was fictionally known for being served. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
There is some interesting history behind one of the recipes I had used. The ingredients were, ironically enough, found in The Confederate Cookbook. It’s a Sons of Confederate Veterans publication, and each recipe submitted shares the brief history of a real Confederate Vet. But let’s continue down this reality-is-stranger-than-fiction path. The recipe I used shared the page with a Cpl. George Washington Small who was named after George Washington. Oddly enough, Cpl. Small died on Feb. 22 of 1925 which also happens to be George Washington’s birthday…and Ralph’s birthday! How neat is that?! When I assigned Ralph his birthday, I didn’t realize I had chosen Washington’s birthday until I was preparing for this post. But enough coincidences, let’s get on to the dessert, shall we!

Williams Cranberry Cake: 

Ingredients: 
1 cup of soft butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup cranberry sauce
1 cup walnuts

Directions: 
Set your oven to 350. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
I used canned cranberry sauce. You know, the kind you can actually slice up because it’s so thick. Because it’s so thick, the consistency isn’t as loose as jam. In order for the sauce to mix into the batter better, I first put my can-shaped sauce in a bowl and took the potato masher to it. I used the plain jelly kind, not the one with the berries, but I don’t see why this recipe wouldn’t work with either variety. When I made the recipe the first time, I attempted to toss in spoonfuls of cranberry sauce the same as I would have with jam, but I ended up with clumps of sauce in my cake. So the only thing you’re doing in this step is simply breaking it down because your mixer isn’t going to later.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add  vanilla and eggs, one egg at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift all dry ingredients together and add alternately with buttermilk, beating vigorously after each addition.
Mix in cranberry sauce.
Fold in nuts.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until cake is leaving the sides of the pan and the toothpick is clean when you insert it.

Tips: 
This cake goes great with a pot of tea!
You can dust it with powder sugar for decoration or an extra kick of sugar. The cake is fairly sweet on its own, though.
If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own. I do this all the time and haven’t bought buttermilk in nearly 10 years. Here’s how you do it: Pour 1 Tb vinegar or lemon juice into the measuring cup BEFORE you add the milk. Pour the milk in next, measuring up to the desired amount. I’ve always done 1 Tb per cup of milk. If you need more buttermilk, adjust accordingly. Stir and let sit for about 15 minutes, then you have buttermilk.
Because this recipe was taken from a jam cake recipe, you could alter it by using 1 cup of seedless blackberry jam instead of the cranberry sauce.

cover22Novel Quote: 
“I might be a Yankee in serious need of a shower, but I ain’t never been a dirty Reb.” ~ Ralph Williams, In the Shadow of Thy Wings by A.M. Heath

 

Posted in Fiction Diner

Fiction Diner Recipe: Alfredo Meatballs

This Alfredo Meatball recipe was inspired by my pantry and two hours of Pinterest scrolling. My mouth waters every time I come across a recipe for Swedish meatballs. I’ll have to gather the ingredients to give this a try later in the year, but, for now, I’m working with what I have on hand.

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Alfredo Meatballs:

Ingredients:
Frozen meatballs (or your favorite recipe)
Your choice of pasta (I’m using elbow)
Jar of Alfredo sauce (or your favorite recipe)
Broccoli (optional, although I don’t know why someone would dare to leave it out. lol)

Directions:
It doesn’t get any simpler than a quick throw together recipe! I’ll even share two variations with you.

On Pot Wonder: You’re welcomed to throw your pasta, (cooked) meatballs, and broccoli together in one pot of water and cook until pasta is done and broccoli is tender. Then drain and add your sauce, warming it up until the sauce is brought up to temp. Season to taste and call it done!

Three Pots a Charm: Or cook pasta separately. At the same time, warm meatballs and sauce together, and cook the broccoli solo. When all is cooked and ready, drain and season the pasta and serve it on the plate dry. Top the pasta with the meatballs and sauce. Drain and season the broccoli and top the sauce with a healthy spoonful. It makes for a prettier dish this way. Tastes all the same once you put your fork into it, though. So you decide if you want to dirty one pot or three. 😉

Tips:
*I cooked my pasta and broccoli separate. Why? Because it hurts my heart to see broccoli break down in the pan as I stir it with the other ingredients. Lol Plus I can better control how long it cooks. We can’t have the pasta and broccoli finishing at different times while in the same pot. 😉
*When I work with frozen meatballs, I like to pop them in the microwave for a couple of minutes to help them thaw. Then cut them either in half or in quarters. I like bite-sized meatballs and don’t appreciate trying to cut them on my plate or in my soup while I’m eating. This habit comes in handy when you’re cooking for children or trying to spread the meat a little further.

50Novel Quote: 

“Beneath hollowed cheeks and bruises, beauty sleeps.” ~ For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

Sometimes you just have to stop and pause after reading a line. This was one of those times for me.

Posted in Fiction Diner

Fiction Diner: Cherry Almond Bread

I found this recipe on The Recipe Critic. The beautiful color called out to me the moment I saw it. View the link to see her lovely pictures. 

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Cherry Almond Bread

I’ve already mentioned that what drew me to this recipe was the vibrant pink color of the bread that I saw on the original blog post. Naturally, my pink-loving heart was disappointed with the pinky-orange that I saw in my version. A few drops of food coloring will cure this next time.
The bread was super easy to make as all quick breads are. It came out dense but not dry. It wasn’t too sweet. The powder sugar was a perfect addition. This bread would go great with a cup of tea.
I’m giving this recipe 9 stars.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 c. sugar
  • ½ c. vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1½ tsp. almond extract
  • 2¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 (8 oz.) jar maraschino cherries, chopped, juice reserved
  • powdered sugar, for garnish

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour (or line with parchment paper) two 8×4-inch loaf pans; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar and oil; add eggs, vanilla and almond extract and beat well. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Measure out ½ cup of the reserved maraschino cherry juice. If juice does not equal ½ cup, add enough water to make up the rest. Alternately add the flour mixture and cherry juice to the sugar mixture until it is just combined. Stir in the chopped cherries.
  2. Divide batter evenly between both loaf pans. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert to a wire rack and cool completely. Dust tops of bread with powdered sugar, if desired, slice and serve. Makes: 2 loaves.

Note: If you’re looking for a more vibrant color, add a few drops of red food coloring.

I baked mine in the Pampered Chef loaf stone which is a tad larger than the one she mentions in the directions above. It fit perfectly in mine and I only baked one loaf.

These would also make good muffins.

19Novel Quote: 

“Because I think it’s wise for the man who is king, as you say, to remember what it’s like…not to be.” – A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

Such a helpful tip on how to stay humble.

Posted in Fiction Diner

Fiction Diner Recipe: Gummy Bear Heart Cookies

I found this recipe on One Little Project at a Time just in time for Valentine’s Day. The kids adored them, especially when they knew that the main ingredient was Gummy Bears.

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Gummy Bear Heart Cookies

First of all, I want to say how great these went over. But sadly, they weren’t without fail. I’ll share my personal pitfalls and tips further down. I hope you give them a  try. I’m giving the over all recipe 9 stars.
The cookie itself was similar to a shortbread. It was slightly bland but this wasn’t a hardship since the gummy bears offer a punch of flavor. The two balanced each other nicely. However, the cookies were extremely crumbly, so make sure your sweethearts enjoy these over a plate.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 24 gummy bears, cut in half

 

Directions: 

  • Preheat the oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners.
  • In a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg yolk, and mix until smooth. Add the flour and salt, and mix to form a thick dough.
  • Roll the dough into one inch balls and place on prepared baking sheets. Use your finger to press down twice on each ball, making a heart-shaped indent. Place two gummy bear halves into each indent in a v shape.
  • Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until the cookies are just slightly golden at the bottom and the gummy bears are melty. If the gummy bears do not melt all the way, use a toothpick to gently spread them throughout the indent in the cookie.
  • Cool completely before eating.

 

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A dose of reality! While these cookies were super yummy, they were also a bit on the messy side. I encourage you to check out the blog where I had first found the recipe (the link is at the top of this page). She offers several pictures and a tip for working with gummy bears when they don’t melt all the way. Clearly, that was NOT my problem. Lol

Tips:
I used the Kroger gummy bear brand. The flavors were fantastic. I don’t recall gummy bears having different flavors but maybe I had never slowed down to taste them when I was younger.

If you’re using the Kroger brand, you’ll want to know that these melt REALLY well as you can tell from the picture above. When I make these in the future, I plan to bake the cookies 1/2 – 3/4 of the way before adding the gummy bears.

I would also suggest baking one cookie solo to see how your candy melts before you pop the entire tray in the oven on good faith.

If you manage to melt your gummies, you’ll notice that the cookie soaks up a great deal of the liquid. I didn’t think the cookies would have baked all the way underneath this and was afraid I accidentally made a bread pudding…which I hate, by the way. I was surprised to see how dry and perfect they were once they cooled.

Clean up tip: If some of your gummies wind up on the tray, don’t fret. Just run hot water over the tray until all is melted off. For some strange reason, scrapping the cooked gummy bears wasn’t an option no matter how hard I tried. I left water running over the pan while I wandered off to answer a text message and came back to disappearing goo! I can’t tell you how thrilled I was since I was about to toss the entire tray.

Novel Quote: 
In light of Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing a quote from the Queen of classic romance. 🙂 Enjoy!! Feel free to share your favorite Austen quote with me!

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Posted in Fiction Diner

Fiction Diner Recipe: Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

I ran across this delightful recipe on Pinterest and knew that I had to give it a try. You’ll find the author of this recipe, originally titled Downtown Abbey’s Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies, and the story behind it here.

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Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies:

There are few roll out cookie recipes easier than this one! I was a little skeptical at first about making cookies without any wet ingredients, but they turned out perfect. Who knew?! These cookies practically melt in your mouth and the Earl Grey flavor is a nice addition. For those that don’t drink tea, Earl Grey has a slight citrus flavor that tastes so beautiful. I’m happily rating this recipe with 10 stars.

Ingredients:
1 cup of butter, soft
1/2 cup powder sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 or 2 tea bags of Earl Grey tea leaves

Directions:
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix until dough forms. Roll out onto a lightly floured surface and cut out with a cookie cutter.
Bake at 350 on a lined cookie sheet for 20-22 minutes or until edges are slightly brown.

Note:
I used only 1 tea bag when I tested the recipe. I found the Earl Grey flavor to be a light flavor in the background. It was good without being overwhelming. I could stand a stronger Earl Grey influence and expect to find a better balance with 1 1/2 bags next time. However, my husband who HATES tea ate half of my cookies…so I may just be leaving it well enough alone. 😉

112Novel Quote: 

“All the time I’ve known you, no one has made you happier, sadder, or angrier than Coop. I’m just in the background, a friend.” ~ In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin

Awwww…I just loved the quote.

Posted in Fiction Diner

Fiction Diner Recipe: Smoked Sausage and Black-eyed Pea Soup

Get ready to warm up with this dish I found on a recent Pinterest search. You can read the original post here on Aunt Bee’s recipes.

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Smoked Sausage and Black-eyed Pea Soup:

This was like heaven on a spoon. Seriously! Now, I’ve come to understand that not everyone appreciates the flavor of black-eyed peas. I can remember kicking against the yearly spoonful my mother insisted we eat on New Year’s Day. But as I’ve grown and my taste buds have changed, I’ve come to enjoy their unique flavor. Paired with smoked sausage and peppers and the black-eyed pea is even more dear.
Needless to say, I rate it 10 stars and look forward to the next pot.

Ingredients:
16 oz bag of dried black-eyed peas
2 lbs smoked sausage, sliced
2 Tbsp bacon drippings or oil
1 onion diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can of rotel, mild or original
1 quart chicken broth
3 cups water

Directions:
Soak peas in cold water overnight. Drain the next day. In a dutch oven or large soup pot, brown smoked sausage in oil over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add onion and cook for 5 more minutes, Reduce heat to medium and add jalapeno and garlic and cook stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Add soaked peas, rotel with juice, chicken broth and water. Bring to a hard boil. Reduce heat to medium/medium low and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally for 2 hours or until peas are tender. Salt and pepper to taste.

Note: I’m sharing the original recipe which has this soup being cooked on the stove top. I chose to work with my crock pot and tossed everything inside and cooked until the peas were soft.
Since I don’t like onions and I happened to be out of garlic, I exchanged both for onion and garlic powders. The flavor was still wonderful.
The original recipe also had you adding a whole diced jalapeno but since I didn’t use it, I chose not to include it in the ingredients above. But if you enjoy a little extra spice, toss it in!
This goes great with a side of corn bread!

26Novel Quote:

“Promises are more easily made. I’m more interested in seeing them kept.” ~Flirtation Walk by Siri Mitchell

Great words to live by!