Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Cabbage Soup

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister

This soup is thick, hearty, full of flavor, and perfect for the beginner cook. It was taught to me by my Dad, who did not cook very often but who had a few specialties that were his “signature dishes.” Cabbage soup was one of his best! He always made it as part of a traditional Polish Christmas Eve celebration dinner. I like making his recipe as soon as the weather turns cold. Be sure to pick up a loaf of (Polish) rye bread at the grocery store – it is perfect with this soup!

You might already have most of the ingredients for this soup in your kitchen. Onion, celery, carrot, olive oil and chicken or vegetable broth are the basic ingredients. Add a bag of dry yellow split peasand a bag of sauerkraut and the list is complete! (Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage.)

Let’s startcooking!

One medium onion needs to get peeled and chopped.
(Check out my video for a quick review on How to Chop an Onion)

Dice one stalk of celery. Cut the stalk in half, and then in strips. From there it is really simple to dice the celery.

Do the same for the carrot – cut it in half, then strips, then into a dice. (My Dad never put carrots in his cabbage soup, but I like to start with a combination of carrots, celery and onions for almost all the soups I make.)

Dried split peas that have been mechanically split along a natural seam, so that they cook faster. You can buy either green or yellow split peas. It is not necessary to soak split peas, but they do require rinsing and sorting.


(Note: Do not soak the split peas in water before cooking. Be sure to check out my post How to: Beans, Split Peas and Lentils which is a great primer on “pulses”.)


Variety of Dried Beans, Split Peas and Lentils

Now back to the cabbage soup…

Put the dry yellow split peas into a colander and sort them. That just means to look though them to make sure there are no tiny stones that ended up in the peas. Sometimes you will see a green split pea mixed in with the yellow ones – you can leave it in or take it out!

Now rinse the peas under cold running water.

As always, it is really important to get all your ingredients prepared in advance.

Heat the oil in a large (6 quart) pot, on medium heat, until it shimmers.

Add the chopped onions…

…and the diced celery…

…and the diced carrot.

Stir the vegetables.

Then let them cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft.

Add the rinsed peas to the soup pot…

…and the broth. You can use either chicken or vegetable broth.

Bring the soup to a boil.

Turn the stove down to simmer and cover the pot.

Simmer the soup for about one hour, giving it an occasional stir.

This soup gets VERY thick. You can add up to 2 cups of water (or even more!) to thin down the soup.

My Dad always used sauerkraut from a bag rather than buying it in a tin can. The sauerkraut from the tin can always tasted a bit “tinny.” You can find bagged sauerkraut in the “refrigerated pre-package deli meat section” of the grocery store.

Put the sauerkraut into a colander. Drain and rinse it under running cold water. Sauerkraut can be very tart. Rinsing it removes some of the tartness. (You can drain it in a bowl and save some of the juice. Then after the soup is cooked you can adjust the flavor by adding some of it back into the soup. This will add a bit of tanginess to the soup.)

Add the sauerkraut to the soup.

Stir everything together. You can see how really thick this soup is. At this point I have already added about 1 and 1/2 cups of water. I think I do need to add a bit more!

Season the soup with some salt…

…and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve the soup with some nice Polish rye bread.


This soup tastes even better a day or two after it is made! When you take the soup out of the refrigerator to reheat it, it will have become very thick. Gently reheat it, stirring it often. You may have to add a bit more liquid to this soup if it has gotten too thick. It also freezes beautifully!

If you are a fan of split-pea soup you might also want to try my Green Split Pea Soup which has chunks of turkey kielbasa in it.


If you are new to startcooking, or are a regular visitor here, please consider subscribing for free.

Graham Cracker Pie Crust

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister

Learning how to make a graham cracker pie crust will open the door to making all sorts of tempting dessert pies including the Chocolate Fudge Pie pictured above.

Most people learning how to cook are totally terrified at the thought of making a pie crust. This graham cracker crust may well change your mind! It is about 1,000 times easier to make than making and rolling out a pie crust made of dough. (For the more adventurous beginner cooks, be sure to check out the bottom of this post for links on making a pie crust made of dough from scratch)

(For my international readers, graham crackers are readily available in the USA. I am not sure what the equivalent ingredient would be elsewhere. If anyone can recommend a plain, sweet cracker that is used in your country for a crumb crust, I would appreciate you adding it to the comments!)

You may be asking, “why should I bother making it myself?” You can buy a pre-made graham cracker pie crust, usually in two different sizes; 9-inch or a package of minis.

The answer is that the taste and texture of a home-made graham cracker crust is far superior to that of the pre-made variety. Plus, it just looks better presenting a dessert in a proper pie dish rather than a tin-foil pan!

Making the crust yourself is not complicated at all. It only takes three ingredients – butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs.

(An alternative to the butter and sugar would be to use 3 Tablespoons of canola oil and 3 Tablespoons of maple syrup.)

There are usually three packets of crackers each in a box. Each packet contains 9 crackers, and when crushed, will equal 1 and 1/4 cups of cracker crumbs.

To crush the crackers into crumbs, put the crackers in a zip-lock bag and, with a heavy can, start crushing.

Or just buy a box of the crumbs and ….

measure out 1 and 1/4 cups of crumbs.

In the USA, butter comes in sticks.

(One stick has 8 Tablespoons, which equals 1/2 cup or 4 ounces or 113 grams.)

Put 5 Tablespoons of butter into a med-large microwave safe mixing bowl.

Melt the butter. This will take about 1 minute, depending on your microwave.

Add the crumbs to the bowl along with 1/4 cup of sugar.

Using a fork, mix these ingredients together.

It should be all blended, but still crumbly.

Put the crumbs into a 9-inch pie dish and press them in place with your fingers…..

or a one-cup measuring cup.

When making a frozen or refrigerated pie filling, put the crust in the refrigerator to chill while making the filling. The crust should chill for about 10 minutes before adding the filling.

It is not necessary to bake the crust, unless your recipe specifically says to do so. But, baking the crust will give it a wonderful taste and a crispier texture.

To bake a graham cracker pie crust, preheat the oven to 350 degree oven and bake the crust for 8 minutes.

Cool the crust completely before adding the filling.

A tart pan with a removable bottom is also a great option instead of using a pie dish.

If you have never seen a pan with a removable bottom it really does look odd. Press the crumbs into the pan the same way you would a regular pie dish.

When it comes time to serve from a pie made in a tart pan, place the tart on a large can.

The ring drops down…

And the pie is ready to serve!



Here are some great pie crust links:

Pie Crusts – Ready Made – tips from startcooking.com

Food Wishes recipe video on Easy Homemade Pie Crust

Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pie Crust

The Barefoot Contessa – Ina Garten’s video on making a pie crust

Simply Recipes – Lattice Top Pie Crust

If you are new to startcooking, or are a regular visitor here, please consider subscribing for free.

The Best Hot Spinach Dip Ever!

print recipe card posted in Appetizers and Snacks by Kathy Maister

Deceptively simple to make, this is the best hot spinach dip you will ever eat!

Ramona Woo and my sister Marie Woolf, both of Greenville, South Carolina, have figured out the perfect balance of ingredients to make this version of spinach dip a real winner!

The only two skills you need to make this dip are cooking bacon and grating cheese.

If you need a quick review, I have a photo-tutorial on cooking bacon in the microwave and one on grating cheese as well.

You will need the following ingredients:

  • A 10-ounce box of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • ¼ cup of mayonnaise (light or regular)
  • 1 cup of sour cream (light or regular)
  • 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream (or half and half)
  • 4 ounces of Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 4 ounces of Swiss cheese, grated
  • ½ pound of bacon (about 8 slices)

Once cooked, crumble the bacon by chopping it with a knife or just snipping it with a pair of scissors. Divide the bacon into two piles. One third will get mixed in the dip and the remaining two thirds will go on top of the dip.

(You could crumble it a bit finer if you prefer!)

Using a microwave-safe dish, defrost the spinach in the microwave.

Follow the cooking directions on the back of the box but cook it for about 1/2 of the time indicated. You only want to defrost it at this stage, not cook it through.

Squeeze out all excess water from the spinach. You could put it in a colander and press out the water with your fingers but I usually just squeeze it like a sponge.

Using a grater, grate the Monterey Jack and the Swiss cheese. (4 ounces equals about 1 cup of grated cheese.)

In a large mixing bowl, put the spinach, the cheeses, 1/3 of the bacon, 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, 1 cup of sour cream, and 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream.

Mix everything together.

Spread the mixture out in a 10 inch round baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining bacon on the top.

Bake the dip in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until it’s bubbly around the edges.

Serve this fabulous dip with your favorite tortilla chips.

Thanks Marie and Ramona for sharing this recipe with us at startcooking.com!


If you are new to startcooking, or are a regular visitor here, please consider subscribing for free.