Potions Class

A couple of weeks ago, I made some homemade personal care items. Jury’s still out on how well they work for me. The cleanser/lotion is wonderful as a lotion but might be a little too cold-creamy for me as a cleanser. I love how it smells, though. Actually, I love the smell of all of the stuff I made. The “Fennel Soother”…mmm… Even the “Out Damn Spot” acne treatment is smelly in a good way.

My Smooth-as-Velvet Vanilla Toner will be ready Saturday when its 2-week steep is up. I can’t wait!




I got all of the recipes from Organic Body Care Recipes by Stephanie Tourles. I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything else I want to make before the book is due back at the library (this week. I’d better hurry!).

Ask a Stupid Question…

We’ve been somewhat lax on pottying for my nearly two-year-old during the move, what with the 7 hours a day in the car and all, but now that we’re settled in at the hotel, I’m trying to get us back in the swing of things. Which means dropping everything when he says he has to pee.

Today at lunch, each time I put my son in his booster seat and he started eating, he’d get an alarmed look on his face and say, “Pee! Pee!” and sign potty.

I’d drop what I was doing (making tuna salad or slicing cucumber and red bell pepper or assembling nachos and quesadillas. I always resolve that I’m going to offer the children one lunch and they can choose to eat it or not; I’m not very good at keeping that resolution), get him down off the chair, and send him into the bathroom to use his little potty.

My tuna sandwiches on temperamental and expensive gluten-free bread were getting soggy and warm while I made food and food and food for the kids and sent the little guy to the potty every 2.5 minutes.

When he asked from his perch atop his booster seat to go potty for the third time, I asked, exasperated, “Am I ever going to get to eat my lunch?”

“No!” was his immediate and emphatic response.

I suppose that at least helps me adjust my expectations.

The Roots of Vegetable Optimism

This is about how many vegetables I'm supposed to eat each day. (Image via Wikipedia)

I’ve had enough with feeling down, and with feeling anxious, and with hormone fluctuations. So, I went to the acupuncturist today.

Right now, if my brother’s reading this, he’s rolling his eyes. Despite the fact that he’s never tried acupuncture, he’s pretty sure it’s a load of crap. My brother knows a load of crap when he sees one. (Yikes, did that sound mean?) OK, enough poking fun at my baby brother.

The bottom line is, my family practice doctor, nice as she is, doesn’t have any suggestions to offer me that I’ve not already tried, and the acupuncturist has helped before, so that’s where I went today.

He felt my pulses, looked at my tongue, asked me some questions, and declared that my adrenals were “fried” and that my liver was “hanging on by a thread.” I can only assume these are highly technical terms he learned in acupuncture school.

His recommendation for strengthening my liver: a diet that includes pretty much as many vegetables as I can possibly consume for two weeks, but no grains or sugar or alcohol or coffee. Luckily, I still get to eat eggs and fish because I’m nursing and need that extra protein (just between you and me, I might sneak in some brown rice every now and then, too).

When I first read the list of OK foods and the list of not-OK foods, I felt cautiously optimistic. I have a green smoothie every morning. I don’t eat dairy or gluten. I’m already at least three steps ahead of the average person on implementing this diet.

When I got home, the sitter was still with the kids, so I snuck upstairs with two cookbooks (Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair and I am Grateful, the Cafe Gratitude cookbook), my laptop, and a couple of sheets of paper. After forty-five minutes, I had a page and a half of lunches, dinners, and snacks that would be compliant with the diet. (Well, except for the three dates in the raw molé that goes with my stuffed avocados. I decided that was a tiny cheat and so didn’t count at all.)

After clearing my dinner ideas with my husband (I think it says something about the frequency of my harebrained dietary schemes that my husband endorsed this plan with a hearty, “I actually don’t think this is crazy.”), I got the grocery list, a bunch of cloth grocery bags, and my car keys, and headed out to the new Whole Foods. I filled my cart with greens and nuts and seeds, apples and squash and pears, parsley and sage and eggplant. I grabbed a few bags of frozen berries and a half-gallon of cow’s milk (for the rest of the family), tossed a couple of packages of raw flax crackers on top, and headed to the checkout. Surveying my purchases inching along on the conveyor belt, I felt incredibly optimistic.

“I can do this,” I thought. “This is going to be easy. This is going to rock. In a few days, I’ll be feeling awesome. AWESOME!”

This feeling lasted until I pulled the car into the garage, opened the car door, and swung my legs out of the car. The moment my feet touched the concrete, reality hit.

“Oh, shit,” I thought. “I’m going to be prepping veggies non-stop for the next two weeks. No! That’s not even true. I’ll be prepping veggies and soaking nuts and cooking beans and straining nut milk and not drinking coffee. My children will eat me alive!”

“But,” my optimistic side piped up, “you can drink all the herbal tea that you want! You can make up a big jug of it in the morning and just sip it all day!”

My freaking-out side wouldn’t even dignify that with a response.

But, here I am. I’ve got my cranberry/lemon/apple cider vinegar drink mixed and in the fridge. I’ve got the veggie drawers filled to overflowing and bags of nuts falling off of the counters. I’m doing this.

Starting tomorrow.

Cinnamon Rolls and Ugly Eggs: My Morning in Pictures

My husband took the kids to the playground and then out to lunch in advance of the snow storm this afternoon. I dedicated my alone time to preparing and eating food and getting dough on the camera.

First, I made Ugly Eggs. My preferred breakfast is one that I can make with whatever I happen to have in the house. Ugly Eggs fits this definition well because you can put pretty much anything in it. I’ve used peppers (both sweet and hot), mushrooms, asparagus, beans, potatoes, kielbasa, breakfast sausage, pepperoni, chopped turkey lunchmeat (not all at the same time).

If you, too, want to make Ugly Eggs, saute some veggies and meat together in a skillet. For this morning’s Ugly Eggs, I used 1/2 bell pepper, 1/2 small onion, and some chopped up leftover ham. While the veggies and meat are cooking, whisk up three eggs with some salt and pepper. When the stuff in the pan has begun to brown, pour in the eggs. Keep agitating with the spatula until they’re done to your liking (I like my eggs slightly browned, but I seem to be in the minority). Spoon into a bowl and eat with a fork (if you’re me) or a big spoon (if you’re my husband). If you’re neither me nor my husband, I suppose you can make up your own mind about what sort of utensil to use.

Some people put cheese on top. I do not.

Inspired by the decadence of my Ugly Eggs, I decided to make GF/CF cinnamon rolls. You can find the recipe I used here: Living Without – Cinnamon Rolls – Recipes Article. I didn’t have sweet rice flour so I used millet flour. I think next time I make these, I’ll try using the King Arthur multi-purpose GF flour. I ground my rice flour myself, but it wasn’t quite as fine as I would have liked. It didn’t stop me from devouring half of the cinnamon rolls within a couple of minutes of taking them out of the oven, though.

And now, the visual record of my food adventure this morning (as I try out the slideshow function on WordPress):

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Gluten-free, Dairy-free Popovers

Popovers, batch #4: Journey's end

The story of these popovers is the story of a journey.

It began with a trip to the store to buy gifts for a family in need. I went to one of those big combination discount store/grocery store places. I needed a glass container for the homemade sugar scrub I’d made the mom. Once I’d found that and looked at all of the other sale items in housewares, I headed back upstairs. On my way, there between the freezer cases was a display of deeply discounted items. Among them, King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour. The box was really banged up, but the bag inside was intact. The price was marked down from $6.99 to $3.49 and the ingredients didn’t include sorghum (which I strongly dislike), so I said, “Sweet!” and tossed it in the basket.

The next morning, I noticed that there was a recipe for gluten-free popovers on the back of the box. It looked very easy, so I whipped some up. They were delicious! And they looked like this:

Popovers, batch #1

How convenient that they had those little dents in them to hold jam or honey or whatever else (I considered putting turkey in them for lunch, but decided against it).

We liked them so much, we ate the whole batch, leaving none for my husband when he returned home from work that evening. So I made some more using the same recipe.

Popovers, batch #2

I was so thrilled with the popovers, I wanted to blog about them. I visited the King Arthur Flours website so I could link to the recipe. There I found a picture of a popover much different than the ones I had made. The ones on the website were puffy. Huh. I wonder why they didn’t puff when I made them? I posted a note to the website about it, commented about it on Facebook, then went searching online for more information about popovers.

With all of this research, I came to the conclusion that popovers are very temperamental creatures, and that I was trying to make them with three things working against me:

  1. Gluten-free: this messes up many an otherwise delectable baked good.
  2. Dairy-free: this usually is a non-issue for me, I just use rice milk and fake butter and all is well. But apparently popovers have strong opinions about cows.
  3. High altitude: this was the big kicker, I think. I’d forgotten that we’re between 4,500 and 5,000 feet in elevation at my house. It’s not always enough to make a big difference (rice takes longer to cook and my sister huffed and puffed a lot when she jogged when she visited us, but those are the biggest differences I’ve noticed). But from what I read in the New Mexico State University High Altitude Cooking Guide, altitudes as low as 3,500 feet could require recipe modification.

By this time, it was almost 11 at night, but I was a woman possessed. I decided to modify the popover recipe from the high altitude cooking guide to make it gluten-free and dairy-free and make one more batch before bed. The other change from the other two batches: I mixed the batter in the blender rather than with a whisk. They were puffier and cakier, but not popover-y.

Popovers, batch #3

The next day, I took a break from cooking popovers. I realized that I was acting a bit obsessive and I thought the least I could do was try to get a handle on myself by taking a break from actually cooking popovers. So, I ruminated and searched the internet and solicited suggestions and dreamed about baking popovers. Based on my research and my experiences with my prior three batches of popovers, I decided to use the King Arthur recipe as a guide and make four main modifications:

  1. less fat, a suggestion for high altitude baking
  2. higher initial oven temperature, also for high altitude baking
  3. preheating the muffin tin, something that was recommended on several popover recipes and that I later found was suggested in response to my query on the King Arthur site
  4. using light coconut milk, to try to approximate the properties of cow’s milk without the lactose and casein

This morning, I made up another batch.

Yes, dear reader, they puffed.

Puffy Popover. (Proud? Perhaps.)

Here is the resulting recipe, the culmination of much research and experimentation. Those of you at sea-level will likely be fine with the King Arthur recipe. Those of you who are at altitude but not GF/CF will probably be fine with the New Mexico State University recipe. But for those of you who are GF/CF and living above 4,500 feet, this could be your path to popover bliss. For those of you who don’t eat eggs, I’m sorry I can’t help you. My obsession carries me only so far.

Imperfect GF/CF High Altitude Popovers (inspired by the King Arthur Flours GF popover recipe)

makes 12


1 cup gluten-free flour blend (I used King Arthur multi-purpose flour blend)

1/4 t xanthan gum

1/2 t salt

1 1/4 c “light” coconut milk, at room temperature

4 eggs, at room temperature

2 T vegan margarine, melted and divided (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)

Preheat oven and muffin tin or popover pan to 450°F.

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Combine coconut milk, eggs, and 1 T melted butter substitute in the carafe of a blender and blend until combined. Add dry ingredients and blend until smooth.

Remove pan from oven and brush cups with the remaining 1 T melted margarine. If there’s any butter leftover, pour it into the rest of the batter and mix briefly until incorporated. Pour the batter into the greased cups, evenly distributing among all 12 of them (about 1/2 to 2/3 full).

Place in 450°F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F and cook an additional 25 minutes. Popovers are done when they are a tad browner than golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool just enough so you don’t burn yourself when you eat them. They have a nice hollow inside for all of the yummy stuff you might want to put in them.

My 5.5-year-old daughter likes them plain, my 16-month-old son (who can now say, “popover”) likes them with raspberry preserves, I like them with fake butter and real preserves. My husband hasn’t tried them yet, but I’m trying very hard to leave him a couple. Or maybe one. Half.

Nervous Energy: The Case for Peace

I’ve been all over the place lately. I’ve been almost frantic.

I went shopping a total of three times to purchase gifts for charitable organizations. I spent three hours last night frenetically picking up, putting away, and throwing away things from all over the house in preparation for the housecleaners today. Earlier this week, I baked three batches of popovers in one day trying to get the darned things to puff. I’ve been cooking full dinners with multiple side dishes. I’ve gone back to compulsively checking Facebook, e-mail, and blog stats (luckily I don’t have a smart phone or I’m sure I’d ignore my children even more than I already do). I’ve stopped journaling.

I have the feeling I’m trying to avoid something. I don’t know what it is, but I’m fairly certain I know how to get to it, if I choose to.

I need to sit still.

For a while, this frenzied activity leaves me feeling cleansed, like the feeling after a powerful thunderstorm. But it doesn’t last long, and I’m quickly thinking of other things to occupy my time and my mind.

I think about Tucker’s suggestion to postpone responsibility in favor of having fun. I still feel squirmy when I contemplate actually doing that, but I think that I could find some real value in the spirit of that suggestion, particularly if I translate it into, “postpone action in favor of stillness,” or even, “postpone activity in favor of awareness of beauty.” It removes the confusion and moral judgement I have around “fun.”

Now that I think about it, this really comes down to another issue of masculine energy of action and intellect vs feminine energy of reflection and emotion and connection.

Not that I’m avoiding all emotion and connection in the course of my frenetic activity. I mean, I’m carefully choosing and purchasing items for individuals in need, thinking about their situation and feeling empathy for them. But when I went to drop off the gifts at my friend’s house today, she and her husband made some comments about my generosity, and it really put into contrast how I actually felt while purchasing and wrapping the gifts. I didn’t really feel generous. I felt driven. I felt nervous. I was using this gift-giving to meet my own emotional needs in the moment.

Same with the popovers. My kids loved them regardless of how they turned out, and I was doing a very feminine, maternal thing by nurturing my family with food made by my own hands. But that wasn’t the reason I was cooking them, and it wasn’t what was motivating me at the time. I was motivated at the time by something of an obsession to get them to turn out the way the picture on the recipe website looked. All other considerations were secondary to my quest for the perfect popover.

I don’t think it’s necessary to stop making popovers or giving to charitable organizations. I think that, for me, I just need also to be aware of my purpose in doing so and reflect on the emotions behind these actions. I am generous, and I am nurturing, and I am maternal. I want to really feel these things and to be aware of them rather than letting them be subsumed by the more masculine focus on action.

While this isn’t directly focusing on fun, I think it’s necessary in order for me to experience fun. Or any not-strictly-intellectual sensation.

So, this is something to know about myself: I’m more comfortable in my mind than in my heart, and I will default to action and figuring things out intellectually in order to stay within my comfort zone.

I think about Maggie’s post about her ride home with the bar owner in Kigali. I really, really want this kind of connection. I know I don’t need to travel to Africa and drink Ugandan gin to connect with another person. But I do need to be still in my mind long enough to reflect and trust and feel. I need curiosity in addition to reasoning, logic, planning, and a large vocabulary. I need—not just want—to notice and internalize the beauty around me.

That, I think, will lead me to fun. And perhaps something bigger along the way.

Talkin’ Turkey (Soup with Brown Rice)

We spent Thanksgiving with some homeschooling friends this year. We had a lovely time, but not having a carcass to stew up left me with the sense that something was missing from the holiday. Luckily, turkey wings were on sale at Whole Foods last week. I bought six of them and stuck them in my freezer until the time was right to make soup.

The time happened to be right this morning.

What follows is an account of the tossed-together soup that I created, reported with as much accuracy as possible given that I took no notes during the process. I wonder sometimes if I should be more scientific about my recipe creation, keeping a lab notebook so there’s a chance that the results might be reproducible. Maybe some day. But not today.

Part 1: Turkey Stock

Makes 4 quarts.

Preparation time: about 3-4 hours (although it doesn’t have to be near that long. I left it simmering until after the baby’s nap, when I finally remembered it was simmering on the stove).


1-2 T canola oil

4 turkey wings (about 4 pounds)

2 large yellow onions (the ones we got from Costco), roughly chopped

~6 stalks of celery, roughly chopped

1 bulb garlic, pressed

~2/3 of a bunch of cilantro, rinsed and roughly chopped

1-2 T grated fresh ginger

Kosher salt

Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot you bought at Crate and Barrel with a gift card your husband’s aunt and uncle sent for Christmas about three years ago over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop in two frozen turkey wings. Brown on one side for a couple of minutes, then use tongs to turn them over to another side. Realize you probably should have thawed the turkey wings and put the remaining two turkey wings into the microwave to thaw while the first two are searing. When the second two turkey wings are thawed, wrestle the first two apart and push them to the sides of the pan, then add the thawed wings. Sear all wings on all sides.

Add all of the roughly-chopped vegetables and cook until the onions start to soften, stirring frequently. It will look kind of like this:

Seared turkey wings with chopped veggies underneath. Note the uneven searing. This may be important to the recipe.

Add five quarts of water and toss in some kosher salt. I really have no idea how much I put in.

It’ll look like this:

Stock before 3-4 hours of simmering.

Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to the lowest temp you can and still maintain a simmer. Go about your daily business, letting it simmer until you notice the yummy smell a few hours later and say, “Oh, wait! I’ve got turkey stock simmering!”

The stock is done with the meat falls off the bones when you go to use the tongs to put the turkey wings on a plate to cool. Pour the stock through a colander or mesh strainer into a large glass or metal container (something you won’t melt with hot stock). Let cool a bit, then either portion it into freezer-sized aliquots, or set aside for further soup prep. I ended up with roughly four quarts of stock. I’m guessing that the remaining quart is humidifying my home.

When the turkey wings are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, tear into bite-sized pieces and either refrigerate/freeze for later, or continue with soup prep.

Part 2: Soup


2 quarts turkey stock

Reserved turkey meat from four turkey wings (probably about 3-4 cups of bite-sized pieces)

1/2 large, yellow, Costco-sized onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped (I would have liked to use about twice this many, but it turns out there were only two in the fridge when I went to get them)

2 handfuls frozen peas

4 cloves garlic, pressed

2 stems of fresh rosemary cut off of the tree you have decorating your dining room table, rinsed and chopped

1 healthy dash each of dried thyme and oregano (probably ~2 teaspoons each)

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

2 handfuls brown rice

Saute the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery in a little olive oil over medium heat until onions are soft. Add everything else. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, maintaining a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 45-60 minutes or until rice is done. Then it will look something like this:

The finished turkey soup with rice.

Feed it to your family and refrigerate the rest for lunches the next few days.

Mung Bean Burgers with Kiwi Lime Salsa

We made these on our happy stay-at-home day yesterday for dinner. I was worried when I saw how wet the mixture was. Letting it sit in the fridge was a great way to stiffen it up a bit. Also, make sure the oil is nice and hot before you put these in the pan. That seems to help them keep their shape. My husband ate his on bread, I just ate mine with a fork. The kids at theirs with their fingers. The salsa is simple but excellent. The baby liked the salsa, my daughter wouldn’t even try it.

Gluten-Free Mung Bean Burgers with Kiwi Lime Salsa

Reprinted from Living Without Magazine, December/January 2011 issue. http://www.livingwithout.com

Makes 8 burgers


1 cup dried mung beans
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup mushrooms, diced
½ medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
¼–½ teaspoon cayenne
– Juice of ½ lemon
– Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
⅓ cup sunflower seeds, optional


3 kiwi, diced (I used 4)
1 jalapeño, diced and seeded (I used about 1/3 of a large pepper)
– Juice of 1 lime
⅓ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Soak mung beans for several hours. Bring beans to boil in 3 cups fresh water. Cover and simmer over low heat until beans soften, about 30 minutes.

2. Place beans in a food processor, along with oats, mushrooms, onion, garlic, cumin, cayenne, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process until smooth but still grainy. Mix in sunflower seeds and process until seeds are incorporated into the bean mixture. Form into equal-size patties. If the bean mixture is too moist to form into patties, place it in the refrigerator for about 1 hour to solidify a bit.

3. Heat oil in a skillet and cook burgers over medium-high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes per side. (I used coconut oil)

4. To make salsa, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve over mung bean burgers.

Stop me Before I Blanch Again

When I post to this blog, I usually do so with the faith that someone else out there is thinking/feeling/doing the same thing, or that at least you might find it amusing to read about what I’m thinking/feeling/doing even if (or especially if) it’s a little off the wall.

But I recognize that there is a line across which laughing along with me turns into shifting uncomfortably in your seat. The smile is still on your lips, but it’s tentative now. You’re not sure what it says about you that you’re laughing at me. You’re looking around for the exits.

I don’t know where that line is, but I’m still hearing folks saying “Right on,” “Word,” and the occasional, “Amen” in response to my posts, so I’m fairly certain I’ve not crossed it yet.

And yet there’s sometimes that question in my mind: Is this the post that’s going to meet with that uncomfortable shifting and polite smiling? Is this the post that someone in real life is going to mention to me and lead me to say, “Oh, my. I can’t believe I said that about myself”?

I don’t think this is that post.

This post is about Rachael Ray and how insidiously her influence has infiltrated my consciousness.

It starts at the gym. I spent 30 minutes running on the treadmill yesterday, which means that I spent 30 minutes watching Dr Oz even though Ira Glass was talking about the 2010 congressional elections on my headphones. Rachael Ray was a guest on this particular show. She was promoting her new book and giving little tips about how to stretch your food dollar. I got two main messages from her. The first was to buy a lot of something when it’s on sale, then blanch it, if necessary, and freeze it, thereby preserving that sale price. The second was to prepare all of the week’s meals on the weekend and essentially eat leftovers all week. These ideas rode the exercise-induced elevated adrenaline levels to my brain where they proceeded to produce new synaptic connections and thereby alter the way I think.

Today, I went grocery shopping.

I went online before making my list and found the current sales flyer, which I read carefully while the words “loss leaders” echoed through my head. After looking at the sales flyer, I wrote on my list things like navel oranges, turkey, and canola oil because they were on sale. When I arrived at the store, I discovered that the items in the flyer weren’t the only items on sale. I also purchased, among other things, two pomegranates, five yams, three bunches of broccoli, and a pound of tortellini in tomato pesto for the kids to eat for lunch.

When I arrived home, I warmed the tortellini and sat the kids down in front of it while I put away the groceries. I froze the turkey wings I bought in anticipation of turkey soup next week. I halved the beef roast and chopped half of it up for stew meat and left the other half for a mini pot roast and put both in labeled freezer bags. I sliced the sirloin steak for thai steak salad and put that in a freezer bag.

It was at about this time that I discovered that my son was chewing up the tortellini then spitting them out and sitting on them, so I took a break to clean that up. Then I cut up and blanched the three bunches of broccoli, and put them in three labeled freezer bags, too. It was as I was putting everything into the freezer that I remembered why it is I’ve never taken this course of action to save money on food before: we have a serious freezer-space deficiency.

I did manage to cram everything in there while saying a silent prayer of gratitude that the dairy-free ice cream bars weren’t on sale.


That ice maker isn't hooked up to the water supply. If I could figure out how to remove it to make space for more blanched veggies, I would.



I’ve been lobbying for a chest freezer for a while. My husband’s reasons for not getting one are decent: he doesn’t want to spend the money, he doesn’t want something else taking up space, he doesn’t want something else using up electricity. He read somewhere that a totally full freezer runs more efficiently than a partially full freezer, and that has become his mantra when I bring up the chest freezer idea. I’ve suggested that adequate airflow is also important for proper freezer function, but he is not swayed by this argument.

I’ve also argued that we could make our Costco membership go further if we had the freezer space to buy perishables in bulk, and that I wouldn’t need to buy expensive frozen berries over the winter if I had ample freezer space to freeze berries when they’re ripe at the farmers market. The berry argument gave him pause, but he remains resolute about his “no chest freezer” stance.

Maybe I should just buy one for him to put under the tree for me.

Split Pea Soup with Fresh Peas and Potatoes

(NaNoWriMo Day 26 Word Count: 48,072.)

We loved this soup. Well, the rest of the family liked it and ate it, but I loved it. I ate it for lunch for three days, and I was sad when it was gone. But then, I have a pretty emotional relationship with soup.

The way I made this, it was not vegetarian, but it can easily be made so by not adding the ham shank. But ham shank is really very yummy, so unless you’re really serious about your vegetarianism (or about keeping kosher or halal), I recommend the ham shank. Plus, it’s fun to say “ham shank.”


Split Pea Soup with Potatoes and Fresh Peas from Feeding the Whole Family; by Cynthia Lair

Reprinted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008) www.cookusinterruptus.com

Prep time: 50 minutes in pressure-cooker; 1 hour 45 minutes in soup pot (I made ours in a soup pot)

Makes 4 servings (but I doubled the recipe when I made it because we like leftovers)

1 cup green split peas

1 T butter or extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 to 2 t sea salt

1 rib celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 small red potatoes, cubed

1 t ground cumin

Freshly ground pepper

4 c water or vegetable stock (I used chicken broth)

1 large bay leaf

1 small ham bone (optional; I used a Niman Ranch ham shank. This was another reason I doubled the recipe…there was more meat on the ham shank than I would have expected from just a ham bone. Also, Niman Ranch is yummy but it’s spendy, so I wanted to stretch it a bit)

2 t apple cider vinegar (I used rice vinegar; it’s what I had on hand)

1/2 c fresh or frozen peas

1 T snipped fresh dill or 1 t dried (now that I think of it, I think I forgot this)

Soak split peas 4 to 6 hours in 4 cups of water. This will help digestibility, quicken cooking time, and improve the texture of the soup. Discard soaking water.

Heat butter in a pressure cooker or 4-quart pot. Add onion and salt and saute until onion begins to soften. Add celery, carrot, potatoes, cumin, and pepper to taste; saute 3 to 4 minutes more. Add split peas, water, and bay leaf. Add ham bone, if using, and vinegar.

If pressure-cooking: Bring up to pressure on high heat, then lower heat and cook 40 minutes.

If using a soup pot: Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 60 to 90 minutes.

Once split peas have softened and the soup has become creamy, remove the ham bone. Cut off any meat, discard skin and bone, dice meat into small pieces, and add to soup with peas and dill. Check seasonings; add more salt and pepper if needed (ours needed more salt). Continue cooking a few minutes more until peas are tender.