Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kitchen Harmony

A challenge for me in the kitchen is keeping my four and two year old girls occupied while I cook. I enjoy cooking with them, but sometimes that isn't what they want to do, and I become distracted trying to entertain or play referee. Countless times I've burned something, forgotten how many cups I've already added, skipped a crucial step, or even abandoned the recipe altogether.

Today, I came up with a simple solution. I gave each girl a large cookie sheet, a bowl of pinto beans, along with several cups and utensils. They were little chemists -- measuring, sifting, & pouring. They enjoyed this more than I can express. Even better, there was no cost involved, and the clean-up was minimal. We were all in the kitchen together doing what we enjoyed, it was beautiful. I can't believe I didn't think of this idea before!

I've been itching to try the 'Seitan O' Greatness' after seeing it on all your blogs. I didn't have Worcestershire sauce, so I subbed Kitchen Bouquet and was pleased with that. I also pictured my little jar of organic tomato paste, because it's so handy to just take out a tablespoon, cap it, and store in the fridge. No longer will I buy it in cans. I took Crystal's tip and made four little logs instead, and liked how that worked out, but only cook for 60 minutes if you go this route. I wasn't pleased with the spice combo, but think baking seitan is the way to go.

This is better than Andersen's split pea soup, which is a quick stand-by meal for the girls.

Vicki's Split Pea Soup
2 cups split peas
10 cups boiling water
2 cups baby carrots, cut in circles
1 tsp. sea salt
1 clove elephant garlic, crushed & finely chopped
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1.5 Tbsp. tamari

Here's How:

Boil the split peas with salt for about 30 minutes, until they are soft and begin to break down.

While the split peas boil, sautee the onion & garlic in the vegetable oil until translucent.

Add the onion, garlic, carrots, & tamari to the soft split peas and cook until the soup is creamy.

Soup needs bread. So I whipped up some '
Easy French Bread' from La Dolce Vegan! I've made this before, but wanted to try individual rolls. Here it is divided among muffin tins just before popping in the oven with black sesame seeds on top.

Can you smell these? They were superb warm with Earth Balance. This is the only recipe you need for dinner rolls.

With the girls still sifting the pinto beans, I even had time to make dessert! This is a new cookbook for me. I've seen
Emmy blog about it, and at Food Fight they say it's the best vegan cookbook of all time.

I made 'Oatmeal Cookies' following the recipe exactly, only I cut it in half because 5 dozen cookies seems a bit excessive! lol! Half-ing the recipe yielded 15 cookies for me. These are the kind that you need to use your hands to form and squish them down, because they don't flatten themselves. They are simple, timeless, and delicious!


springsandwells said...

The pinto beans is a GREAT idea. I wonder if that would work for my 6 year old nephew. We hang out together a lot, and he loves to be with me in the kitchen, but also gets bored.

The little rolls look a-m-a-z-i-n-g! MMMM.

That seitan is so high on my list, I can't wait to try it.

AND! Yes! I am coming to Boise in July. I think their wedding is on Sunday the 15th (or is it the 16th)? Anyway, we'll be there that weekend - Sat,Sun,Mon. Monday might be a chance for us to get together - even if it's just for a quick snack or whatever. How fun to meet a fellow blogger!!

Here's my email address:

:D Amey

julie hasson said...

Great post! You've inspired me to make a pot of split pea soup (and homemade bread) tomorrow. This is a great way to figure out what to make for dinner.

How cute your girls are playing with their beans. I remember how much my kids used to like playing with dried beans and rice. I used to keep a plastic tub filled for them in the kitchen, kind of like a kitchen sand box. I think I borrowed the idea from their preschool.

KleoPatra said...

What a great idea with the beans and cookie sheet, Vicki! Liv and Abi, who want to be with Mommy in the kitchen (which in itself is sweet!) are obviously very into their activity there. Wonderful!! How fun for them...

I've never used Kitchen Bouquet, but i've seen it in the store. i must be out of it because what i HAVEN'T seen in a store is organic tomato paste in a JAR. Wow, i totally gotta check into that. Love the idea of making four seitan o'greatness rolls, too. More manageable?

My mom makes amazing split pea soup, and has for years, but this - your homemade soup - looks soooooooo good, especially with those cute seedy rolls. (and i mean seedy in the nicest way possible...)

Hadn't heard of that cookbook but if Food Fight sez it's the best, and Emmy thinks it rocks, and you got it, i'm won over. The cookies are cute! FIVE DOZEN! Woah, nice that you halved the recipe... then again, you could always mail some of the extras :o) Hee hee.

I remember baking peanut butter cookies and criss crossing them to flatten 'em... i guess you wouldn't do that with the oatmealies here... did you just smoosh them with your hands then? Everytime i smoosh cookies with my hand it seems i end up making them look un-round or get some on my hands and then i have to keep rinsing 'em off... Oh, the problems! :o)

chase said...

And also it looks like you girls are really having fun in the kitchen!

chase said...

weird my first comment didnt show up.

Anyway it was...

I have a friend from Canada who makes this gorgeous split pea soup as well.

I think I should try baking these easy french bread since they do look gorgeous here

Anonymous said...

thank you...
what a great tip about the beans i will try it with Ana for sure.

what a great idea of using 'Easy French Bread' in individual rolls. very cool.

thanks so much for this post i love it!

Emmy said...

What a cute pic of the girls playing with the pinto beans (what a neat, thrifty idea too). The split pea soup looks yummy. I won't eat things made with fresh peas but I like things made with dried split peas. Go figure. Will have to try this recipe :)

The rolls looks delish. I haven't tried the Easy French Bread recipe before. Now I'm putting it on the list.

Yay! You got the New Farm cookbook :) I love that book. I see you've already had your first success from it with those tasty oatmeal cookies. Make sure to try the cornbread recipe too.

bazu said...

You know, I'm not exactly a young'un any more, but I can totally imagine having fun measuring and pouring pinto beans. When I was a kid, I loved sifting and pouring things-over and over and over again.
Welcome to the world of seitan o'greatness. I love it!
And your previous post about the Natural Cafe had me drooling. Everything on this blog is so summery and inviting!

Jackie said...

What a great idea for the rolls, I must try it.

Your daughters really look involved in their pinto bean project :)

aTxVegn said...

I love that Easy French Bread and making them into rolls is a super idea and perfect with your soup! I have the New Farm cookbook too - I will definitely try those cookies. Yay, you made the seitan! I totally agree that baking is THE way to go.

Your girls seem to enjoy playing with beans, but it brought back bad memories for me. When I was little and would visit my grandmother, who hated messes and had NO toys, all she had for me to do was stir some beans in a pot!

madness rivera said...

YUM. The soup and the rolls look amazing.

Melissa West said...

What a lot of cooking Vicki! It all looks fantastic. I have never seen that cook book before. I will have to check it out. I love how you got your girls occupied in the kitchen. Seems to me I would do well to set up a similar activity for my daughter while I cook too!

Jody from VegChic said...

That is great idea with the kids. They love checking out what the adults are working on.

Last week when I was fixing a client's computer, her little boy had to sit on my lap. If they took him out of the room, a temper tantrum ensued. He just wanted to play on the computer with the big kids though!

Everything looks really good. I'm super impressed with the homemade french bread. I may try that this weekend.

I am the cookie monster. Yum, yum, I wish those oatmeal cookies were here.

Michelle said...

that is a great idea to keep the girls occupied! i totally get that.. sometimes it's just much easier to cook by yourself (i'm not allowed to toast pinenuts when the kids are around anymore.. they get burnt everytime!!!).

KleoPatra said...

*HUGS* Thanks for the kind words about Kung Food. At least i can keep in my heart the last time i got to go there... you, Art, Mattie and me! GOOD TIMES!!

laura jesser said...

I can see how pinto beans would make for hours of entertainment! :) Great solution!

Next time I make the seitan I will probably make the smaller logs like you and Crystal did.

I love those rolls... so cute. Oh yes, and I loooove split pea soup, though I haven't made it in such a long time.

Carrie™ said...

I love pea soup. It's so filling and delicious! I'm also one of those people who needs a bread of some sort with my soup. Crackers will do, but rolls are even better. I haven't tried this recipe yet, but with such rave reviews, I guess I will. I have the Farm Cookbook and again, have never made the oatmeal cookies. Another must try.
As usual, the girls are precious.

Liliy said...

The soup looks yummy! I thought I was the only one who lost track of how many cups of flour they had measured:)

Liliy said...

I forgot to ask, have you been nominated for the food blog awards?

Tanya Kristine said...

oh Vickie...those look lovely! (the buns i mean)

the cookies do too.

i've made seitan many times but i'm not fond o fit. i'm going to check out taht link and see if it's any better than what i've tried...and if it is, i will thank you now!

scottishvegan said...

Your girls look adorable playing with their beans :) I love your little seitan logs…very cute! And those rolls look great…I wish I could really smell them!

Urban Vegan said...

That first photo of your girls is precious. I love their looks of intense concentration.

And all that yumminess is making me hungry. (And I just ate!)

Catherine said...

Vicki, all your food looks great! I'm thinking back to my preschool teaching days when I see your girls measuring and pouring those beans . . . thinking about what else we put in the sensory table in the classroom . . . water was always a HUGE success. Kids liked using manual hand mixers to whip bubbles in the water table, float boats, blow bubbles with drinking straws . . . we couldn't use food in most preschools, but we often used sand, dirt, shaving cream, "clean mud" (shaved Ivory soap and ripped-up toilet paper, that you then dampen,) packing peanuts, snow (seasonally, of course,) and other cool stuff. The biggest sensory table hit, however, was hot, soapy water, scrub brushes, and all the dirty snack dishes! The kids loved loading up the dish trays and helping walk them into the kitchen, then a teacher would slide them in the big sanitizer -- the big reward was pushing the "go" button! Kids are awesome.

Veg-a-Nut said...

Tomato paste in a jar, what a great idea. I have never seen it in any of my stores. I will have to do some internet searching.

Great idea with the seitan. I made one large log and then had to freeze it in small batches. I agree with you that baking seitan is the way to go.

Cookies! How can you go wrong. These look wonderful.

It is good to see your little ones having fun in the kitchen. I will have to remember this when my grandbabies come along.