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!!