Mom’s Trifecta

Three of yesterday’s food adventures reminded me so much of my mom, I felt compelled to call her and tell her about the little hat trick that she unknowingly scored.  The food was not elaborate or fancy but for me, a simple nudge of childhood memories.  I believe the memories associated with food, home, and comfort are one of the greatest things that a mother can give to her children.  Surprisingly, the two main stars of the day were celery and raisins.

The first order of the morning was getting the split pea soup into the crock pot for dinner.  This involved putting dry peas in with some water, salt, pepper and finely chopping carrots and celery.  There is something very therapeutic about chopping vegetables.  Easy, simple, pea soup goodness.  Just like mom used to make.  I actually believe you either love pea soup or hate it.  I was fortunate enough to receive my mom’s genes for the affinity to pea soup.  She was also blessed with them by her mother.  If you don’t share the love, I do understand.  The texture.  The color.  Either one could possibly put your stomach into a tail spin, if you don’t have the pea soup gene.

After playing outside, we enjoyed a snack of Ants on a Log.  What’s that you say?  Ants?  On a Log?

My mom used to make these for a snack when I was little.  Celery.  Peanut Butter.  Raisins.  The celery acts as a log, the peanut butter is there because hello?  Celery and Peanut Butter.  They are somehow joined in matrimony.  While not as holy as Peanut Butter and Jelly, I believe the crunch and the cream is meant to be.  In reality, the ‘ants’ simply need something to stick to!  I am not even normally that big of a fan of the ol’ PB.  My husband however holds a completely different affection for the butter of peanuts.  He puts it in his oatmeal.  He puts it on his pancakes.  Don’t even get me started on how much he loves it with chocolate.  I would have to admit that the chocolate and peanut butter marriage ranks considerably above celery but in the land of healthy, I think celery would knock out chocolate.  Did you know it takes more calories to actually chew celery than it’s worth?  (Who am I kidding?  I.  Love.  Chocolate.  Sometimes more than my own children.  Well, that’s not really true.  But I do count it as a fifth food group.  If there ever truly was a war between celery and chocolate, my bets are on the dark brown cacao derivative.)

For the sake of the Ants on a Log, celery was our traditional log.  The raisins were served on the side for my kiddos because I wasn’t sure how those little wrinkly ‘ants’ were going to go down with the celery.  But when they saw me doing it, they had to try it too!  The raisins give the snack a bit of sweet goodness.  Successful Ants on a Log passed down from one generation to the next.  *wipes brow*

We also used to have Ants on a Toilet.  Half an apple served as the toilet, in place of the aforementioned ‘log’.  (I apologize for all of the potty related innuendos.)  I also recall that these two silly snacks served as the basis for the junior high speech I gave where we were required to do a demonstration.  What I most remember is the girl who shaved her legs for her speech.  I’m guessing the guys did too.  At least if my kids ever need to do a demonstration, we already have some ideas in our back pocket.

As the Ants on a Log were consumed by the little ones, I mixed up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies.  The food connections progressed so naturally from one to another.  The celery in the soup caused the peanut butter to be unleashed.  I had the cookies on the docket for about a week so I had the raisins in the pantry.  It was truly a very blessed kitchen trifecta.  All thanks to mom.  Thank you Mom!

The skies happened to be overcast and rainy.  This causes the conditions in my oven to be favorable in producing at least one baked item.  Oatmeal raisin cookies are my mom’s favorite and (most days) mine too.  I simply use the recipe located on the underside of the Quaker Oatmeal container lid.  I also use butter flavor Crisco.  Be sure to add the 2 Tbsp of water if using Crisco.  If you forget, your cookies will not love you, nor you your cookies.  This is a tip from my sister who makes the most amazing chocolate chip cookies.  One of her secrets to success is the Crisco.  Thank you dear sister!  Here are the cookies.  Mmmmmm….

The soup, while pea in flavor and pea in color, is not exactly what I consider photogenic.  However, I felt the need to photograph it just the same.  The greenish guise belies its delicious flavor.

Here is the recipe I used for the split pea soup.  I didn’t have ham or feel like going to the store with my two little ones in tow so I opted not to add any meat this time.  Usually, I throw a ham hock in and it gives the soup a really nice flavor.

Split Pea Soup

  • 1 package split peas (do not soak)
  • 2 cups ham chopped fine (optional)
  • 2 cups celery, chopped fine
  • 2 cups carrots, chopped fine
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 teaspoons of salt (I used kosher)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of pepper

Put all ingredients into crock pot.  Cook on low for 7-9 hours.

Here’s to moms everywhere!  Keep doing what you do best.  Cook.  Bake.  Love.

Italian Club Sandwiches

When I was on maternity leave with Easton, I fell in love with the Food Network and all things culinary.  What is a nursing mother to do with a babe stuck to her breast?  Yes, that’s right.  Soak in the kitchen magic that others create and hope that one day you may be able to bake and frost a cupcake like Martha Stewart or to use EVOO willy nilly like Rachael Ray.  Other favorite ladies were Giada De Laurentiis and Paula Deen.

My sweet friend Carissa (who also happens to be married to my cousin Joel) was the gracious hostess of a baby shower that was held after I had Easton.  She served the most amazing little Italian Club Sandwiches, created by none other than my newfound friend Giada De Laurentiis.  They have since become a staple in my arsenal of recipes.  Thank you Carissa and Giada.  I love you.

These flavorful sandwiches are wonderful for parties because you can make them ahead of time.  We have served at baptisms, birthday parties, baby and bridal showers.  I have also made them countless times on a Sunday evening so that we could have them in our lunch during the week.

Look at this beautiful focaccia…

The focaccia works really well because it provides excellent flavor and texture.  I have substituted ciabatta bread for the focaccia bread.  The single little ciabatta rolls are excellent and you can find them in multi-grain for a healthy bonus.  I slice them in half and toast on the griddle just like I do with the focaccia.  Another tweak I have made is to omit the egg crepe.  Just because.  Because sometimes I’m lazy and don’t feel like making crepes.  Because I am a mom to two little ones and time doesn’t always permit.  I’m about easy, simple and quick.  You could even buy the pre-cooked bacon to make things really easy.  I prefer to use turkey bacon because I like to make healthy adjustments whenever I can.  If you choose not to use the crepes, you cut down the ingredient list to five.  Five is do-able.  Five is perfect.  Five is ‘Yes, please!  I like that!’.

For me, the star of the sandwich is the pesto in all its basil and nutty garlic glory.  We have also used sun-dried tomato spread in place of the pesto.  This sandwich provides a basis for endless possibilities that you can adjust to your preference. Hello pesto!  I’ve missed you.

Here is the official Mini Italian Club Sandwiches Recipe and  Printable Version

They taste great with some kettle chips and a pickle.  Mmm-hmmm…Fancy.  Impressive.  Delicious.

If the time is right, you could add a beer to the mix while you sit out on your deck and enjoy the weather.

Easy to follow.  Make the sandwich.  Share the sandwich with loved ones.  Add beer.  Eat the sandwich.