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Split Pea Soup and Irish Soda Bread

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So, in light of yesterday’s tell-all post, I woke up in a great mood. That is not to say we had a great day; first thing, I see blood on the floor, and I know it’s from the big girl, Lucy (one of the “Two Dogs”). This, of course, freaks me out, because for the past few days, her legs have been going out. I inspect her, and find that it’s a coming from a small sore, so nothing life threatening, but heartbreaking nonetheless. Then I try to get her back legs under her, since she is struggling to stand, and failing miserably.

This does not go as planned.

I put my hands under her hips and lift. I get her legs underneath her temporarily, but pushing on her abdomen before she has had a chance to do her business outside… and a log escapes. She is immediately panicked, because she knows she is not supposed to go in the house, and I have to reassure her that she is, in fact a good girl. I have her lay back down, and wonder what the hell to do next.

First, I call my walking buddy, who I know is on her way to my house. I ask if she’ll help me carry Lu outside once she gets here, and she automatically agrees. I get off the phone with her, and call Mr. Going-To-Ride-the-Height-of-Mt.-Everest. Lu was his dog before she was ours, so I make sure to keep him extra updated on her. I tell him what is going on, and he says, “Can you drag her out on her dog bed?”

Uh, dur. I should have thought of that. But it’s a brilliant idea, and I decide to go for it.

After a few very worried looks from both Lu and Cooper, who is prancing around us like, “Hey, what’s going on? Why are you doing that? Is this play? I am very skeptical of this whole affair”, we finally get Lucy outside.

So far, Lucy has been okay. Just okay, but hanging in there. She’s moving without assistance now that I gave her Tramadol and Glucosamine, but it’s slow, and frankly, I’m not rushing her. She’s almost 14, which is old for a lab, and unfortunately, this is a chronic condition that we have been to the vet for already. There is no cure, except to make her comfortable, and hope she bounces back. She did the last time, so we’ll see.

With all that being said, I am still in a really good mood. I think, in part, because my focus on eating has been twofold today: getting in the right amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals rather than looking at calories, and getting enough water. Seriously, look up how much water you should be drinking, I think you’ll be surprised.

Now, onto the recipe.

Like I just said, I have been focusing today on my nutritional intake rather than my caloric intake. I had already been planning on making Split Pea Soup, as I am trying out recipes for when Baking Baby gets here. I looked at vegetarian recipes, and found a few that looked promising, but I was after something simple and healthy. I prepped all the ingredients last night, popped them in the fridge, and dumped them into my slow cooker this morning. It really doesn’t get a lot easier than that. This soup is high in dietary fiber (about 19 grams), protein (again, about 19 grams), vitamin A, and Iron. As for the Irish Soda Bread, it seemed a sin to NOT serve this soup with a nice, crusty loaf of bread, and I wasn’t about to go to the store for a loaf, when I know just how dead easy it is to make this bread. Even the bread is high in protein (10 grams), and it is whole wheat.  One serving of both the bread (which is about a quarter of a loaf) and the soup (which serves 6) adds up to about 500 calories total, so you can feel good about having something that is filling and wholesome.

 

Split Pea Soup with Irish Soda Bread

For the Soup:

1 lb (aka 16 oz.) of dried split peas

6 cups water or vegetable broth (or be bad like me and use chicken broth)

Half a large yellow onion, chopped

3 large carrots, chopped

3 ribs celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp Herbes de Provence

1 tbsp sea salt

1 ½ tsp. ground pepper

1 ½ tsp. chili powder or flakes

 

For The Bread:

4 ½ cups whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1 ¾ cups buttermilk (or just under that plus 1 tbsp vinegar, allowed to curdle for 10 minutes)

1 egg

 

Method:

1. In a large crock pot or slow cooker over low heat, add in all the soup ingredients. Cover, and let cook for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve. No, you’re not missing any steps, it really is that easy. You don’t even have to stir it if you don’t want to.

2. About an hour before the soup is done, preheat your over to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a fork, cut in the butter, pressing it into the flour until it resembles a coarse crumb. In a separate bowl, add together the buttermilk and the egg, whisking to combine.

3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir until it forms a sticky dough. Dust with a handful of flour, and knead until it forms a soft, smooth dough, dusting with additional flour only if necessary.

4. Form the dough into two equal balls, and place both on a baking tray. Press an “X” into the top of each. This is not just for looks, trust me. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, and the loaf sounds hollow if you “knock” on the bottom. Let cool slightly, and serve alongside the soup.

Ravioli and Kale in Chive Garlic Sauce

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Today has had its ups and downs. A great way to start your morning is not getting on the scale, nevertheless, it’s a ritual now. I figure it keeps things consistent, at least, to have one set time to check these things. Mr. Brings-Me-Jamba-Juice-Because-He-Knows-I’m-Having-A-Bad-Day frequently tells me that you have to look at weekly trends rather than daily fluctuations. Nope, still doesn’t help.

Needless to say, I was not where I wanted to be. I’m trying to gain that perfect amount of weight, but my pregnancy with Monkeybear proved how seemingly impossible that is. The only reason I gained just 35 pounds was because I got the stomach flu at 34 weeks, which is obviously not the right way to go about things. Things like that can induce pre-term labor, which I am decidedly not interested in.

It’s hard to break the cycle of obsession with regards to weight gain or loss. On one hand, you count every single calorie you consume, down to the last single pistachio, because 5 calories makes all the difference (not really). At the same time though, this vicious cycle does by no means bring about happiness. True, you may be at the weight you want to be at the next day, but that doesn’t mean you get to stop. Oh no. That is just confirmation that you need to keep doing what you’re doing, because it is giving you the results you want. And if it isn’t, then it’s your fault, because you were not strict enough with yourself.

As for me, I have not just my life at play, but another’s as well. So every day, I get more panicked as the scale creeps up, though I know logically that it is not only healthy, but normal to gain weight during pregnancy. My mother-in-law has told me about her pregnancy with her oldest, the entirety of which was in Germany. The German doctor told her that she was only allowed to gain 17 pounds total, if I am recalling this all correctly. This was, of course, the 1970s, so things have changed. There are new standards, and more research has been done. I do not want this pregnancy to be like that. Or like it has been, for that matter. Obsessing about how many calories I am consuming, or burning off, just so that I hit that perfect 25 pounds. The agonizing about, “Well, If I eat this now, it means I can only have celery and raisins for dinner” (an exaggeration, but you get the point).

While thinking about tonight’s dinner, I knew I only had about 400 calories to play around with, considering that I took a nap instead of doing my hour and a half yoga routine I usually do while the Little Sir takes his nap. I started with the worrying about which ravioli I should choose; one sounded better, but the other one was lower calorie overall. And then it hit me.

It isn’t about the calories, really. It’s about eating healthy; making sure that the baby currently baking and I are getting vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats we need. While being pregnant does not get me a free pass to eat for two, it does put the responsibility on me to make sure that I am giving both of us the right fuel.

I ended up choosing the lower calorie of the two ravioli’s I purchased, not because it was lower calorie, but because it was higher in protein, lower in saturated fat, and had more vitamins than the other type. I bought the packages of the premade fresh raviolis, but if you have a recipe for homemade, absolutely use it. If you have a brand or flavor you like, use it. A serving of this, as I made it, has about 400 calories, which is great. But don’t stress about it; that is my lesson for the day. If you worry constantly about small things, it makes it harder to recognize the small, everyday miracles. Like sending your son’s kisses to his daddy through the phone.

Ravioli and Kale in Chive Garlic Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

16 oz. ravioli

½ c starchy cooking water, reserved

2 c. kale, ribs removed

2 tbsp unsalted butter

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chives, minced

Splash of white wine

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Cook your ravioli according to package or individual recipe instructions. Drain, reserving ½ c of the cooking water for the sauce.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add in the garlic and chives, and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the kale, and stir to coat. Cover the pan and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the kale is fully wilted down.

3. Add a splash of white wine and a splash of the starchy cooking water and cook until it thickens slightly. You may not use all the cooking water you reserved. Stir in the ravioli and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Caramelized Mushy Peas

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I understand that the name itself isn’t all that appetizing. Caramelized sounds good, but mushy? Mushy peas? But hear me out on this. Trust me. I gave you zucchini brownies. Have I lead you astray yet?

In the days before Monkeybear and Baby-to-be, Mr. Two-Ironmans-in-a-year-is-a-GREAT-idea and I went to the British Isles for our honeymoon. We’d already been to England once when I was still in high school, but this was to be a three week getaway, and our first as a married couple.

I sincerely disliked fish at the time. Now that is not the case, but at the time, I really didn’t care for it. But I decided one evening, before seeing Spamalot (which was a riot), that I would try traditional Fish and Chips.

The fish was decent. I didn’t have any trouble eating it. The chips, which to us are really steak fries, I enjoyed. On the side of the plate, however, was this green almost-mashed potatoesque lump of…what was it? Oh. “Mushy peas.” Already out of my comfort zone, I took a bite.

I love peas, but I was in heaven after that. Words cannot describe how marvelous these were.

A few years later, watching a YouTube video on how to make fish and chips, (which in and of itself was interesting. The recipe called for pureed bell pepper instead of egg) I saw them again: the mushy peas. I was instantly reminded of my experience with the real thing in England, and had to make them again.

Now, this is a recipe that has been conglomerated from a few different ones, and I in no way, shape, or form claim that these are anywhere near traditional. But these are one of the few things I have been able to eat during my first trimester, and I have never had my mushy peas turn out anything less than brilliant.

I dare you to try these. Once you see the ingredients list and method, I think you won’t be nearly as turned off by it. I hope.

 

Caramelized Mushy Peas

 

3 cups peas (either fresh if you can get them, or thawed from frozen if not), patted dry with paper towel

1 tbsp butter

1-2 tbsp milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

1. In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter until it is just turning light brown. Add the peas, and stir to coat the peas in the butter. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Some of the peas should be caramelized by the end. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

2. Add in one tablespoon of the milk, and mash using a stick/immersion blender. Some peas should be left intact, but not many. Add more milk if necessary; it should be about the consistency of mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Whole Wheat Gnocchi

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So, as a result of being pregnant, I find myself not wanting to eat… well, a whole lot of anything really. The other night, Mr. This is NOT a Parade and I were watching Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and Jabba’s Palace made my stomach turn.

I have watched countless drunk people vomit all sorts of fantastic colors. You’d think I’d be able to at least LOOK at Jabba. Nope. Not even for a little bit.

This was something I think I could eat any time. Gnocchi is a potato pasta-like dumpling, so its main purpose is to be awesome in some form of sauce. I chose an Alla Vodka sauce (that wasn’t very good, to be honest, but that’s what I get for buying it in a jar) and some peas, but the gnocchi really did end up being the star of the meal.

The first time I made gnocchi was an absolute disaster. I boiled and steamed the potatoes as instructed, and ended up having to add a ton of flour and at least 3 eggs to get it to turn out. I have, however, figured out the secret to non-soggy gnocchi dough: baking the potatoes. Or, you can use my cheat, which will make some of you cringe, but I have no shame in it whatsoever. I microwave my potatoes. The average potato will be perfectly cooked in the microwave by popping one in there for five minutes on each side, so ten minutes total. If you do two, increase the time per side to 7.5 minutes. And make sure you prick them all over with a fork, you don’t want them exploding. Microwaving the potatoes gets them done faster than my oven can (which oftentimes picks and chooses what it will or will not bake, and it will NOT bake potatoes even under threat of death), and they turn out perfectly fluffy and cooked on the inside.

I very much multi-tasked during this recipe. Once I had the potatoes cooked, I set my water boiling, and then made the dough. Once I had the dough made, I made the gnocchi, and put them into the water as they were ready, while continuing to roll out more of the awesome potato dumplings. The way I did it was much quicker than the traditional method of baking the potatoes, making the dough, making the gnocchi, boiling the water,  cooking the gnocchi in batches, then eating. Nope. Not going to happen.

I will say this: this recipe from start to finish took me about 2.5 hours. So this is not a quick weeknight meal. If you do it right, it can still be a weeknight meal, but don’t expect to put it on the table in 30 minutes.

 

Whole Wheat Gnocchi

2 lbs potatoes (choose a Russet or a Yukon; stay away from the waxy potatoes)

1 c. Whole Wheat flour

¼ tsp. salt

1 egg

 

Method:

1. Bake the potatoes; either on a baking sheet in the oven for 50 minutes or on a plate in the microwave for 10 minutes, five on each side. Once cooled, peel the skin off the potatoes, discarding the skins and placing the innards into a bowl. Using a potato ricer, process the potatoes in small amounts until all of them are “riced”.

2. Set a large pot filled with salted water on high heat. Bring to a boil while you do step 3.

3. Add the flour, salt, and egg to the bowl, and knead with clean hands until it forms a dough. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces.

4. Taking one of the eight portions of dough, roll it out on a clean surface until it forms a rope about ¾ of an inch in diameter. Cut the rope into segments approximately 1 inch in length. Roll each individual segment into a ball. Taking a fork, roll each segment along the back of the fork, so that there are ridges from the fork on one side of the dumpling, and an indentation from your thumb on the other. Place the dumplings into the boiling water as you make them. Continue this process on the remaining 7 portions of dough until they are all done.

5. Take the gnocchi out of the boiling water using a slotted spoon or spider once they pop up to the surface, about 2-3 mintues. Shake off any excess water, and reserve until needed.

Fresh Cherry Pistachio Oatmeal

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This weekend was a hectic one; Friday, I packed Monkeybear, my mother, and myself into my rig, and drove 5 hours up to Ashland, OR. My mom and I have been going since 2004 (and what a fun first year that was. First time I ever saw streakers). I think that now with Monkeybear and Baby-to-be, this was probably my last year, which is sad, because I love Ashland.

I used this year as an opportunity to get in one last round of culinary exploration. Saturday morning, Monkeybear and I headed down a hill that would make Baxter Grade look like a speed bump (Baxter is a 6.8% pitch, and the hill I navigated was 15.3% pitch), and went to The Breadboard restaurant. I have never heard someone say they’d like to “lay their face” in a cinnamon roll, nor do I believe I will hear that again. The Oatmeal Pecan Muffin was out of this and any other world, though, so the climb back UP that God-forsaken hill was worth it. Pushing Monkeybear. Pregnant. Yes, that muffin was worth it.

On Sunday, we went to the Dragonfly Restaurant and Gardens, a favorite of mine. I usually get the Grilled Ahi Platter, but this time, I opted for the Double Happiness Lettuce Wraps. The food was awesome. But I have seriously had five year olds at stuffed animal tea parties who were more attentive hosts than the wait staff. And most five year olds have the attention span of a goldfish. Nevertheless, I have never been disappointed by the food.

I will, most likely, be making all of those things at some point in the future. What I am making today, though, was not something I ate. Rather, it was inspired by a flavor combination.

Sunday night, after our lackluster time at the Dragonfly, my mom, her friend “H”, and I made our way upstairs to where H’s husband “M” works building sets for the Oregon Cabaret Theater. Their newest production was Nunsensations, and I have to say, as a Catholic, it was pretty hilarious. Before the show, servers come around to ask for dessert and drink orders (It is actually a dinner theater, but you have the option to just come for the show and dessert), and while my mom and H got lemon blueberry cheesecake, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and order the panna cotta. I have never had panna cotta before, but all I knew was that it involved heavy cream and gelatin.

I damn near licked the plate clean.

I really liked the panna cotta itself, but I think my real love of the dessert came not from the cream, but the fact that it was a pistachio panna cotta with a cherry compote on top. I was so good I wanted to order another. I could pass it off as eating for two. I think people would buy that.

While I don’t have the time or energy to make panna cotta, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my sister-in-law C, who said that for breakfast, she has been having these pre-made pistachio-cherry oatmeal cups that Quaker© makes. So, I sat down to research. There are tons of reviews on the product, and lots of links to where you can purchase them online, which didn’t help me in the least.

I found one link to an oatmeal recipe that called for dried cherries and pistachios, but I have a bag of fresh cherries in the fridge, and a ton of frozen ones in the freezer, which means that this girl is NOT going to the grocery store for the second time today just to get one more cherry product.

Making this took almost no time at all, and was a hit. I really liked it with agave nectar, though you could certainly use honey, sugar (plain or brown), or Mr. This is not a Parade’s suggestion of maple syrup. He said the maple syrup was good, but I personally wouldn’t go for it. And I’m supposed to be the pregnant one.

This recipe is completely my own, no links from other sites to check out. If you have them, try this with dried cherries, and let me know how it tastes.

 

Pistachio Cherry Oatmeal

½ c. shelled pistachios, chopped

½ c. fresh cherries, pitted and chopped, or frozen cherries, thawed and chopped

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Pinch of allspice

Salt to taste

2 servings Old-fashioned oatmeal

Agave nectar or honey

 

Method:

1. Cook oatmeal per package instructions. Mine called for approximately 3 ½ c water for 2 c. oatmeal, but your brand may be different, so check that first.

2. Add the pistachios, cherries, nutmeg, and allspice, and stir. Season with salt to taste, drizzle with whichever sweetener you choose, and serve.

Shrimp and Edamame Salad

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At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start a food blog.

I am, by no means, able to compare to the likes of The Pioneer Woman, or Smitten Kitchen, or my favorite, Sophistimom. I will attempt, of course, but mine will not be nearly as fancy. If I do upload a picture (which I can’t guarantee I will; I know my abilities, and I can say that most times I’ll be far too lazy to do anything so ambitious), it’ll be from my little Canon camera, or, quite possibly, from my phone. But this is not what this blog will be about.

I am notoriously horrible at communicating. Keeping in touch is not one of my strong suits, and it’s always something I’ve wanted to improve. So, in my own way, this blog will accomplish that; keeping in touch via food.

In the end, though, what convinced me to start a food blog were two things. The first, anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve had stories I’ve played around with over the years, but the thought of writing a book is just too daunting, especially now that I have the Monkeybear to consider. The second, is that being a stay at home wife and mom has opened me up to the world of cooking, and enjoying healthy, (and hopefully) tasty food. That, to me, is something worth sharing. Food that satisfies your stomach as well as your ego.

Tell me you haven’t been secretly proud of yourself for ordering salad at a restaurant, when you really wanted that burger. I dare you.

Having said that, I would be remiss if my first recipe didn’t involve salad.

I will preface this recipe by saying the following; I’m not really a salad person. If you see me eating a salad, it is for one or more of the following reasons:

1. I’m feeling fat, and I’m punishing myself by eating a salad.

2. I’m a poser, and what other people think of me is important. Being the wife of an Ironman triathlete and an ultra-runner has a certain image associated with it that I’d like to maintain.

3. I’m at a restaurant, and I don’t trust the establishment enough to order anything else. If you can manage to screw up a salad, you have bigger issues, my friend.

4. I’m in an odd mood, and actually want a salad. Absurd, but it does happen.

Most salads, to me, are boring. I’m not the biggest fan of lettuce to begin with, so already I’m destined for failure. Most salads are just a hodgepodge of toppings heaped on the lettuce to disguise the fact that there’s lettuce in there. There’s either no theme to the salad, no flavor, or too much of everything, and you’ve lost the point of trying to eat healthy.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful salads out there. Cobb, Asian-inspired, I could go on. But most just have something… missing.

I am pleased to report that this wonderful little salad has no lettuce. Or it can, if you wish.

I was inspired to make this salad by another blog; it was a lima bead, tuna, and avocado salad. I automatically wanted to try something similar, but as I have no lima beans in the house, and I can’t stand canned tuna, I knew I’d have to improvise, and I’m so glad I did.

This recipe has Asian flair, awesome flavor, and is full of Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as monounsaturated fats and protein. It’s also dead simple to make, and quick for those days when you want to eat healthy, but don’t have the time to do anything extravagant.

 

This recipe is also Monkeybear tested-and-approved, so there’s that, too.

 

Shrimp and Edamame Salad

8 oz. frozen cooked salad shrimp, thawed

1 ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, and cubed

8 oz. frozen shelled edamame, thawed

Chopped cilantro to taste

Dressing:

¼ c. Low-sodium Soy Sauce

1 tbsp miso

1/2 inch ginger, peeled and grated

1/2 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a bowl, whisk together soy sauce and miso until the mixture is smooth and there are no lumps. Add in ginger and garlic, and then taste for seasoning. *Miso is intrinsically salty, so do not, DO NOT season this before you taste it, or it could potentially turn out too salty*

2. In a separate bowl, add in shrimp, edamame, avocado, and cilantro. Pour over dressing, and gently stir.

Plate up, and enjoy!