Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quick Cool Cucs

When I had gestational diabetes, "carb" was a bad word, right up there with the words that could get your mouth washed out with soap as a kid. (Side note: Ask our daughter to say "fork" .... it's really funny and makes us laugh knowing it sounds naughty!)

My sister, the recipe guru, told me about this snack. I made it a few times while pregnant, but kind of forgot about it until I visited her last week and she whipped up a batch for a family BBQ. They are super simple and fantastic... not to mention refreshing!

Quick, Cool Cucs


  • 1 English cucumber
  • 2 T water
  • 2 T white vinegar
  • 2 packets Equal


  1. Wash and then slice the cucumber into 1/4" (or so) slices.
  2. Soad the slices in a salt water bath for 20 minutes (give or take).
  3. Drain, but don't rinse, the cucumbers.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the water, vinegar, and Equal together until the Equal dissolves.
  5. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumber slices.
  6. Enjoy! (They're best if you let them sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before eating, but you don't have to.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Artichoke bruschetta

It never fails that as I'm planning a meal, I neglect to think about snacks and appetizers for our guests to nibble on as the final touches are put on our meal. Dessert is covered from the get-go. In fact, I usually have dessert figured out before the main meal! Focusing on the dessert and entree typically leave me scrambling at the last minute for a good appetizer. Here's my solution and I hope it quickly becomes yours!

Artichoke Bruschetta
1 bag pre-sliced baguette (or slice a whole baguette into 1-inch slices)
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts - drained and diced (I use kitchen sheers and cut them right in the jar
5 T red onion - finely chopped
3 T mayonnaise
1/3 c. parmesan cheese - grated
1/8 c. mozzarella cheese - grated
Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

  1. Place bread in a single layer on a jelly roll pan.
  2. Lightly drizzle bread with olive oil.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium-size bowl and stir until well combined.
  4. Place a heaping spoonful of artichoke mixture on each piece of bread - slightly smooshing it with the back of the spoon to evenly distribute the topping.
  5. Place under broiler until the cheese melts and begins to brown.
  6. Serve warm.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Grilled Tomatoes

When I was a little kid, my family spend a 3 year stint in California. I was very young at that time and have very few memories of our time there. One very distinct memory I do have, though, is the smell of wet tomatoes. I recall seeing my father standing in the garden we had in the back yard; he was watering the tomatoes with the garden hose. To this day, when I smell fresh tomatoes, I am transported back to our Cupertino house's yard.

We had a mini dinner party at our house a week ago. It was hot and I didn't want to heat up the house by using the oven. So, we grilled some fresh Copper River salmon (to die for!) and some grilled tomatoes. There's no sciene to the amounts used in the grilled tomato recipe; it's a pinch here and "to taste" there. You can't go wrong ... except if you don't make enough!

Simply Wonderful Grilled Tomatoes
  • Beefsteak or large roma tomatoes (1 beefsteak per 2 people, 1 roma per person)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper (fresh ground is best)
  • Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • Fresh basil, torn into small pieces


  1. Wash the tomatoes and then slice them horizontally.
  2. Remove the stems
  3. Arrange tomatoes (cut side up) on cookie sheet or plate
  4. Season with salt and pepper (to taste)
  5. Generously coat BBQ grill with olive oil and preheat grill (about 400 degrees).
  6. Place tomatoes (cut side down) on hot grill and close BBQ's lid.
  7. Flip tomatoes over after 3 minutes.
  8. Top with a pinch of basil leaves and then sprinkle with a couple pinches of parmesan cheese.
  9. Close BBQ lid and allow cheese to melt (2-3 minutes)
  10. Remove tomatoes from grill and serve.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

World's Easist Chicken Pot Pies

When I was a kid, my parents let us have Swansons pot pies (I liked the chicken ones the best) on the nights they went out. I recall them going to a lot of bridge parties when I was little. (Will bridge exist in another generation?) The best part of the pot pies was the little disposable pan that they came in. I was intrigued by those little pans and always wanted to save them long after my food was gone. Last year, my father's health declined to the point that he wasn't really able to cook for himself. So, I made a variety of entrees in single serving portions that he could simply pull out of the freezer and put into his oven.... no fuss, no muss. While preparing his menus, I decided chicken pot pies would be a good meal option - protein, carbs, and veggies all in one dish. The best part about the pot pies was I found the mini disposable pie dishes that the Swansons pot pies came in that I remembered so fondly.

When you are part of a family, some dynamics never change. For example, my family is always loud; we perpetually interrupt each other; we laugh a lot. As time passes, other dynamics have changed. Now the "kids" are the ones checking up on the parents; we check that they're getting the right care, get home safely, and have the proper food to eat. Evolution exists .... our roles change was we progress through life. Currently, my generation is responsible for our parents and our children. That's a lot of responsibility, but in the big scheme of things, that is how it should be. We're cared for, take care of others, and eventually circle back to being cared for.

The following recipe is quite a step up from the Swansons pies in terms of flavor, but just about as simple!

World's Easiest Chicken Pot Pies

  • 2 frozen or refrigerated pie crusts (frozen are easier because they are in the pan ready to go)
  • 1-2 packages pre-cooked chicken strips (usually in the refrigerator section with cheeses)
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (no need to defrost, use them frozen)
  • 1 can cream of X (mushroom or chicken work best) soup
  • 1 soup can of milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon of salt and 3/4 teaspoon of pepper)
  • Poultry seasoning, to taste (I use about 1/2 teaspoon-ish)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. If using frozen pie crust, allow to thaw. If using refrigerated pie crust, place lower crust in a 9-inch pie pan and set aside.
  3. Cut the pre-cooked chicken (quantity depends upon how "chickeny" you like your pot pies) into bite-size pieces.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, vegetables (again, amount depends upon how "vegetabley" you want your pot pie and how big your pie pan is), soup, milk, and seasonings. Stir well until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  5. Pour chicken/vegetable mixture into the lower pie crust. Top with second pie crust and firmly pinch the two crusts at the edge to create a seal.
  6. Cut a few vents (3-5) in the middle of the top crust for steam to escape.
  7. Bake for 30-45 minutes. If the crust begins to brown too much, lightly cover with aluminum foil until the pie's filling is hot.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Super Simple Split Pea Soup

Like I've mentioned previously, I'm a recovering vegetarian. As a vegetarian, I thought split pea soup was good. As a meatatarian, I find the ham makes a world of difference in the depth of flavor in split pea soup. This recipe is a conglomeration a few recipes and a few additions of my own.

There are moments when your child (or someone else) reminds you that your child is maturing and growing up. I had a moment like that when I saw a picture of our daughter (who was about 15 months old) eating tomato soup at day care. I thought they were crazy to feed her soup, considering most if it would run down her arm and then my poor baby would be starving because she wasn't getting enough lunch and how dare they! They I put the brakes on my brain and realized the day care staff wouldn't let her starve; they'd simply refill her bowl until she was done eating. (Note: Moms tend to panic from time to time. It is normal and expected. Any mother who says she hasn't panicked about something that turned out to be insignificant is a liar, liar pants on fire.) It was then that I realized our daughter was gaining momentum in the change from baby to little girl. Now she enjoys a wide variety of soup; one of her favorites is the following split pea soup recipe. The first time she had it, she took a bite (I leave most of the "soup" behind and give her the chunks) and proclaimed "MMMMM!" with wide eyes and a satisfied grin.

1 bag (2 c) green split peas
8 cups chicken broth
2 lb ham bone (with a good amount of meat)
2 carrots (thinly sliced) (can use a few handfuls of baby carrots instead of big carrots)
3 celery ribs (thinly sliced)
2 medium onions (thinly sliced)
1 medium potato (peeled and finely diced)
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf

Rinse and sort split peas.

In large pot, combine the broth, split peas, onions, and ham bone. Add the salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover the pot and bring to light boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, sauté the carrots, potato, and celery in 2T butter and garlic in a medium size pan.

Remove the ham bone from pot and then remove the meat from the bone. Dice the meat and return it to the pot. Add the sautéed veggies. Simmer (uncovered) for 30-40 minutes or until the veggies are tender.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bengal Tiger Chicken

I'm a firm believer in the "try one bite" rule of eating. Some child-rearing professionals proclaim that approach to food can scar children and create power struggles. Whatever! If the child doesn't like the food, then stop forcing it. If you don't, that truly could cause psychological damage. If no one tried a new food, we'd all still be drinking mother's milk and call it done with that. Personally, not something I'm even remotely interested in doing.

Our daughter is 21 months old and eats chicken enchiladas, Tikka Masala, curry chicken, and whatever else we put in front of her. Does she reject some things? Sure. But she typically tries everything that we give her.... the degree of success varies moment by moment. For example, we gave her teriyaki chicken a few months ago and it came out as soon as it went it. OK, she doesn't like it... or didn't like it then, but we'll give it a go again in a few months to see if she changes her mind.

Last night, she tried Bengal Tiger Chicken and coconut rice and seemed to like both quite a bit. She REALLY liked the naan, however. My husband and I were perpetually asked for "toast!" (All bread is "toast" right now.) I got this chicken recipe I from my sister, who is a nurse and mother of four and one of the busiest people I know. If she has time to whip up a recipe, I know I do, too.

Bengal Tiger Chicken
8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I use 4 because we simply don't need 8, but the original recipe calls for 8)
1 c. mayonnaise
1 tsp. curry powder
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. bread crumbs (my sister's recipe calls for seasoned, but I used plain last night and it was great, too)
1 c. parmesan cheese
2 T butter (melted)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick spray and place chicken in the pan, overlapping the pieces as needed.
  3. In a medium bowl (I use a cereal bowl), stir the mayonnaise, curry powder, and cream of mushroom soup until well mixed. Pour the soup mixture over the chicken.
  4. Bake (uncovered) for 40 minutes.
  5. In another medium bowl (a bit bigger than our cereal bowls was needed this time), combine bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and melted butter. Stir until well combined.
  6. Spread bread crumb mixture over the chicken. Return to oven for another 20 minutes.

This chicken goes very well with naan and coconut rice. (Stay tuned for the coconut rice recipe.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dippy, Dippy, Dippy Turkey Loaf

Our kitchen has a plethora of gadgets. I think gadgets may be one of the sole reasons I love cooking (OK, I’m also quite partial to the food that results from my efforts). We have knives, a variety of spatulas and spoons, an egg poacher (I do love my eggs Benedict!!), pastry bags, decorating tips, cookies cutters galore, more pans and mixing bowls than I can shake a wooden spoon at, and exam gloves. Yes, you read that right. I said exam gloves. They are a definite staple kitchen gadget in our home.

As a reformed vegetarian, I’m still not overly eager to touch raw meat, but that isn’t why I wear gloves when prepping some of our food. It is a safety and quick response measure that I adopted after becoming a mom. If I hear a bump, crash, cry, or scream, my first instinct as a mother is to drop what I’m doing and rush to the scene of the drama. The last thing I’m going to do is stop by the sink and carefully wash my hands under hot water with soap for a minimum of 30 seconds while I de-gross my hands. That simply isn’t a mom’s natural instinct. As mothers, we are hardwired to protect and comfort our children. By wearing exam gloves while doing food prep, I can get to our child faster and keep her from getting infested with random germ and bacteria …. Not to mention the heat from any jalapeno peppers I may be chopping. (If you wear contact lenses and like to cook with peppers and chilies, exam gloves are a MUST!)

Our daughter, Annika, recently discovered the joys of dipping food in a sauce. It started out a few weeks ago when we got some take-out Indian food. I showed her how to dip the naan in the butter chicken gravy. (TO DIE FOR!) I demonstrated the art of dipping naan and said “dip, dip, dip” as I did so. Our daughter took a piece of naan and imitated my actions, saying “dippy, dippy, dippy” in a falsetto voice that could shatter crystal. In truth, she said “dippy” once or twice and then proceeded to have tongue thrusts and spit replace various letters each time she said the word. Now, EVERYTHING must be “dippied” in sauce. I made turkey loaf and green beans for dinner a few nights ago and lo and behold! Annika insisted in “dippy, dippy, dippying” her beans and cubes of turkey loaf in the ketchup…. Not to mention a few of her fingers.

2.5 lb ground turkey
1 c. milk
1 c. breadcrumbs (I like the Italian seasoned ones the best)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 eggs
2 (or so) handfuls of diced (small) or shredded cheddar cheese or pepperjack cheese if you like a little "zip"
Ketchup (optional)

After donning exam gloves, mix all ingredients (except ketchup) in a dishwasher-safe mixing bowl with either the one or two-hand method. Two hand method: use a hefty wooden spoon. One hand method: use your free hand and squish the ingredients until they’re well mixed.

Transfer meat mixture to a bread pan that has been coated with non-stick baking spray. (if using standard glass pans, you might want to split between two pans. I can fit one loaf in my stoneware bread pan, though.)

Top with as much ketchup as looks good to you …. Which may be none or may be ¼ cup. It’s up to you. I tend to squirt enough on the loaf to cover the majority of the top of the loaf.

If freezing, cover with aluminum foil and freeze. Use within 2 months to avoid freezer burn.

Bake in 400 degree oven for 1 hour (1.5 hours if frozen).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


A few weeks ago, I was cooking dinner with our toddler on my hip. As I was prepping our food, I realized that I can do a lot more things one handed than I ever expected possible. I also had a mental flash to a story that my sister told me months ago.... when her girls were little (they're now teens), my sister watched the two older ones (then 2 and 4 years old) "read" books to each other and play while cooking dinner and nursing her 3rd daughter. Talk about multi-tasking!!

I had an epiphany. A book. Yes, a book from the woman who is famous for starting, yet rarely finishing, projects. (If you were to look in my craft room, you'd see yarn galore, often half knit into something brilliant, fabric diligently waiting to become a quilt, half made cross stitching projects, and a children's book just waiting for my return.)

Oh, where was I? OH YES.... my book. No, not the children's book (fear not, that project isn’t dead). This book is for moms (and any interested dads) who have become the jugglers they never thought possible. No, not with balls, but with cooking while having a child (or children) right there. I'm going to create a collection of recipes that parents can actually prepare with a child in hand ... or stuck to leg, which is often the case in our home. It isn't only a recipe book, it is also a collection of short parenting-related antic dotes and stories.... hopefully to amuse, inspire, and encourage. Introducing.... One Hand Recipes!!

To get us started.... (drum roll please)

When I was pregnant with our now 21-month old daughter, I was a staunch vegetarian and had been for 20 years. Not a vegan, but a vegetarian nonetheless. I even sought out prenatal vitamins that were gelatin free... which is harder to do than it may sound. Halfway through my pregnancy, I found myself sitting at work and instead of thinking about the document I was writing, I discovered my mind was in a very different place. It was telling me that I wanted chicken.

“But I don't know what chicken tastes like," I told myself.
Myself responded, "It doesn't matter. You want it."
"You sure?"
"Yup. Chicken."
"Huh. Chicken."

I wrestled with the decision for a few weeks and consulted with my OB about it. She informed me that my body was telling me it needed more protein. I further wrestled and then bit the bullet.... actually, bit the slow cooker turkey breast that I'd made for dinner for my husband and our co-workers who were visiting from Mexico City. (Turkey is not a common food down there. Bet you didn't know that!) Dang -that stuff was good!! I was hooked. It was flavorful and juicy. It made my taste buds ecstatic. I still felt guilty, but that wasn't going to hold me back!
Pregnant women aren't supposed to eat deli meats because of potential bacterial ickies that can do bad things. (I'm not a medical professional. My sister, the nurse, could give a much more scientific explanation, but that would require me to call her at work and that could be considered rude and self centered. Not qualities I want to encourage.) Instead of making sandwiches out of deli meat, I cooked a turkey breast each week and we munched on it until the next time I pulled out our slow cooker. The following recipe got me through my pregnancy and became a life saver when I got diagnosed with gestational diabetes and was basically taken off of carbs. (That would have been UGLY had I remained a vegetarian!)

This recipe is ideal for working parents. Plop the turkey in the slow cooker before you leave in the morning and when you return that evening, your house will smell divine and dinner will be waiting for you.

1 frozen turkey breast (about 6 pounds) - thawed and washed
1 stick butter - melted
Poultry seasoning

Put the turkey breast in the slow cooker. Pour the melted butter over the turkey. Generously sprinkle with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Cover. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

If you want to make gravy, mix 2T cold water and 2T cornstarch in a small bowl. Mix until all of the lumps are gone. Transfer the turkey juices (leaving as much of the fat behind as possible) to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk the cornstarch mixture into the boiling turkey juices. Turn heat to medium low and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens. Enjoy!!