Ten Recipes So Easy That You Could Make Them with One Hand Tied Behind Your Back

The sun is finally out, spring is in the air, and here in Richmond, most of us are enjoying the opportunity to be outside before the thermostat goes from reading “warm” to “do-we-live-in-a-brick-oven?” We’re spending more time out reading on the patio, meeting friends for happy hour, or squeezing in a trail run or bike ride after work and before dinner. We’re not spending much time in the kitchen preparing meals. Sound familiar? If so, you may be looking for some quick and easy recipes this spring.

Ever since I flew off a bike five months ago and fractured both hands, I have had limited or no use of my left hand, which had the more severe injury. After my first surgery, I had no use of either arm for several weeks, so cooking meals, no matter how quick or easy, was out of the question. After some rehabilitation, I was able to use both hands but my left wrist fatigued easily so I had to keep things simple in the kitchen. I also had to stop writing outside of my day job because typing all day at work was all I could handle. That is why things have been pretty quiet around here lately.

Three weeks ago, I had my second surgery and a second medical leave, which left me with some time for reflection. I decided that I wanted to start writing and cooking sooner this time. I committed to the struggle, knowing that a lot of utensils would be dropped and a lot of joints would get swollen in the process. In the kitchen, I focused on dishes I could make with one hand. I still had a lot of help from my husband Kyle, but I was surprised to find how much I could do myself one handed.

Of course these recipes go even quicker with both hands, but if you’re in a cast like I was, you can pull them off pretty easily with just one. If you are fortunate enough to have the use of both hands, but you’re just in a rush and want something quick and easy, you’ll love these recipes too!

Tips for One Handed Cooking

  1. Get an electric can opener, or a friend who will open several cans at once and dump contents into easy-open reusable containers for you to pull from the refrigerator throughout the week.
  2. Buy pre-chopped vegetables. These are a lifesaver.
  3. Choose meals with few ingredients and uncomplicated preparations so that you will not have to juggle too much at once.
  4. Cook in large batches so that you can have leftovers for other meals and save yourself cooking time.
  5. Replace your salt and pepper mills with plain old pre-ground sea salt and black pepper.
  6. On the stovetop, use heavy bottomed pans that will stay in place while you stir, without someone holding on to the handles.
  7. Be patient! Focus on what you CAN do and don’t dwell on what you CANNOT do (I’m still working on that one myself.)

Easy Recipe Roundup

Eating Bird Food Green Elvis Smoothie – smoothies are a great way to boost nutrition in a quick and easy way

onehand smoothie

 

Lazy Egg and Cheese Sandwich from Smitten Kitchen via A Cup of Jo. Confession: I have had so many egg sandwiches in the last few months. Try adding some Everything Bagel Sprinkles.

Vegology Arugula Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Feta – substitute whole grape tomatoes if you can’t/won’t slice the Roma tomatoes

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NoBull Veggie Burgers – or substitute patty of your choice, serve on store-bought buns with baby carrots and hummus, or baked-from-frozen sweet potato or zucchini fries

Vegology Vegetarian Gumbo with Brown Rice – all ingredients can be purchased pre-chopped, frozen, or canned

Real Simple Stuffed Poblano Peppers – instead of stuffing, I chopped the roasted poblanos in a food processor and added them to the rice mixture

onehand peppers

AllRecipes.com Unsloppy Joes – all ingredients can be purchased pre-chopped, frozen, or canned

Budget Bytes Quick Fix Salad Bar Pizza – the salad bar is definitely your friend for finding pre-chopped ingredients. Substitute a store-bought pizza crust for tortilla if you want a thicker, breadier crust.

Sweets too! Baked doughnuts are a really easy dessert and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could make these with just one hand.

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Joy the Baker’s Double Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Vegology Supercharged Coffee Doughnuts

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Thank you to those readers who have patiently forgiven my three month hibernation and are still around for this revival of Vegology! I am thrilled to have found a way to keep writing and I am excited to rejoin the amazing blogging community after some time off. I hope you are excited too!

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Do your goal setting skills need a tune up?

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It’s a new year, and with new beginnings come resolutions and goals. The local gyms are packed with ambitious resolution-makers, home organization paraphernalia is on sale at Target, savings accounts start to grow again, and the grocery store is sold out of all my favorite health food. I think rebooting at the beginning of the year is a very positive thing, and I always take this time to set some goals for myself for the coming year.

However, we all know that resolutions and goals usually fade after a month or two. This is evident when I no longer have to wait in line for a cardio machine at the gym, or have to visit three grocery stores in order to find fresh kale. I don’t always follow through with my resolutions either, but I have learned a few things about setting and meeting goals, which I think may be helpful knowledge for you, especially at the beginning of a new year.

I recently learned a lot about goals while recovering from my bike accident last October. Almost immediately after being discharged from the hospital, I wanted to know when I could do my favorite things again. I actually tried to convince Kyle that I may be up for a hike later that week. Yes, both my arms were in casts, I likely had a few broken ribs, I was on a hefty dose of painkillers, and I had two surgeries on the horizon. When it all sunk in, I realized that I would not be able to live an active lifestyle that week, or for the next several weeks, until I had met some recovery goals.

I have always been a very goal-oriented and determined person, so I visualized the things I wanted to be able to do after recovering from my injuries, and I focused on those things to get me through the first few weeks. Cooking a meal unassisted was at the top of that list. I couldn’t even hold a fork for the first few days, and my family had to take turns making my food, feeding me, and doing self-care tasks like brushing my teeth. Because I am a very independent person, this was pretty tough for me to handle. I was pretty helpless, and a home cooked meal felt very far away.

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I started physical therapy one week after my surgeries, and the therapist asked me what hobbies, aside from daily activities and work, I wanted to be able to do after recovery. Yoga and riding a bicycle were right below cooking on that list. The slightest touch to my wrist sent pain shooting up and down my arm, but I wanted to be able to hold a downward dog when this was all over.

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For a week or two, these goals gave me hope and inspired me to work hard on the simple therapy homework I was given. Then these ambitious goals made me frustrated. I spent a lot of time thinking about how long it would take for me to achieve them, and it made my situation feel hopeless. When I expressed this to one of my good friends, she told me that I should simply make smaller goals for progress, instead of getting hung up on the big goals that were so far away.

This immediately made a lot of sense to me. After all, I didn’t run a half marathon earlier that year by setting out to run 13.1 miles in the first week. For three weeks, the longest distance I ever ran was 3 or 4 miles. I knew I would get to 13.1 eventually, but I set a goal for each run in my training plan and I focused only on that accomplishment for the day.

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For me, the first few mini-goals were things that most people with two functioning arms would take for granted. Brush my own teeth. Take a shower without help. Pick up a cup of coffee and drink it. I dropped the toothbrush, spilled the coffee, and took a 90 minute shower the first time I met each of these goals, but I achieved them nonetheless, and celebrating my progress made me feel that I was one step closer to that downward facing dog.

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Six weeks after the accident, I was cleared for limited cardio, and only on the stationary bike. My doctor was worried I might fall doing anything else, including using the treadmill. It was a big moment when I jumped back in the saddle and started to pedal, and an even bigger one when I successfully completed 30 minutes on the bike. I re-entered society soon after, showing up to classes at Boho Cycle Studio here in Richmond and feeling inspired by the tough workouts and energetic, hyper-motivational instructors.

Another mini-goal was being able to chop vegetables, and although I did not have full range of motion or much strength at all yet, I chopped a head of cauliflower in week 7. You can see in the picture below that the form is horrible, as I couldn’t fully grip things yet, but being able to finally contribute to dinner preparation again meant a lot to me. In the same week, I was cleared to drive a little too, which gave me a great sense of independence and a boost to my self-esteem.

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I had an ambitious goal in mind around mid-November, and that was to help prepare some of Christmas dinner. I ended up helping out a lot in the kitchen on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I had not completely achieved my goal of cooking on my own yet, but this felt like a big step in the right direction.

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And now I am thrilled to announce that after nine weeks since my surgery, I have finally prepared a dinner by myself, start to finish, with no assistance from my husband or anyone else. This weekend, I made a Mediterranean-inspired spinach and artichoke pasta dish and it was really good! Simple, but good! Progress!

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Goals are achieved one day at a time. When you have really big goals and dreams, it is good to keep them in mind for motivation, but sometimes it can get overwhelming and frustrating to think about the long road ahead. If you struggle with this like I do, you should set smaller milestones for yourself, and celebrate progress along the way.

If your goal is to lose weight this year, make a promise to yourself that today you will spend 30 minutes at the gym, or today you will pack a healthy lunch for work tomorrow. After a week of good days, reward yourself with a fresh juice and celebrate your progress. If you are setting out to be more organized, don’t bury yourself under a pile of home organization systems and tackle the whole house at once. Instead, set a goal for today to organize just the bills, or just the kitchen utensil drawer, or to pick up and put away twenty things before you go to bed.

With a long-term plan in place, and a series of small goals accomplished day by day, you will eventually reach your big goals at the end of the road, and be much happier and motivated along the way. Good luck, and happy 2014!

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Spinach & Artichoke Pesto Pasta

4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. fresh or dried pasta (I used Bombolini pasta shells)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 14 oz. can of quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto (my favorite recipe here)
  • 1/4 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • 2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Preparation:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  3. Add garlic to pan and saute 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add artichoke hearts and olives to pan. Saute for 3 minutes or until warm.
  5. Add tomato, spinach, and pesto to pan and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. If spinach and tomato are dry, add a half cup of water to pan.
  6. Add cooked pasta to the pan and season with lemon pepper, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until warmed.
  7. Top with a drizzle of olive oil if needed and serve with crumbled feta on top.

So Rad

I know, it’s probably weird. I had never bought radishes before. Is that weird? Do you buy radishes on the regular? I had never cooked with them before, until I recently picked some up at the farmers’ market. They are so adorable and healthy but I never think to incorporate them into my meal plans. Luckily. I had saved this one recipe that called for radishes for about 18 months. The magazine clipping was neatly tucked into my recipe binder and calling out to me for over a year. Consequently my desire to make Cuban black beans and rice was the impetus for my first radish purchase.

Radishes are members of the cruciferous vegetable family, along with broccoli, cabbage, kale and turnips. They are thought to have originated in China and were then brought to the Greek and Roman empires, where they were admired and used often. They were introduced to North America in the early to mid 1600’s. Today there are several different varieties, with the red or scarlet globe variety the most popular one in the United States.

Radishes are high in vitamin C and glucosinolates, which are compounds that act in the body to fight off carcinogens before they do damage to our cells. They are also a good source of potassium and water. Radishes aid in digestion because they are full of water and are considered an indigestible carbohydrate. They are popular among dieters because they give you the feeling of being full with a relatively low calorie content. Personally I just think they are crunchy and delicious. I wasn’t really a big fan before bringing them into my own kitchen, but now I am a believer.

I followed the recipe from Real Simple magazine for Cuban Black Beans and Rice almost exactly and this dish turned out to be quick, easy and very tasty. The only changes I made were substituting brown rice for white rice and adding a good amount of hot sauce (I blame Kyle for that habit).

I used the leftover radish pieces in a salad the next day and I tried slices in my veggie wrap later that week. I would like to try slices of fresh radish in a hot panini next time. And believe me – there will be a next time.

What ingredient have you been meaning to try? I challenge you to bring a new item that you have never bought before into your kitchen this week. Let me know how it goes!

Escarole

To celebrate my POM Wonderful dinner party, I am serving up a week’s worth of pomegranate recipes starting Monday, November 15th. Before I get POM’ed out, I want to share a first-time recipe from earlier this month.

I picked up this escarole at the SOTJ Market a couple weeks ago. I had seen something on TV about escarole as a traditional Sicilian dish, so when I saw the bright green leaves at the Victory Farms stall, I had to try it for myself. When Kyle and I were lured in (again!) by the Bombolini Pasta stall, I started thinking about serving the escarole alongside a pasta dish or incorporated into a one-pot pasta meal. However, inspiration struck when I least expected it: a weeknight on which I had planned a very involved dinner and I had not planned to work two hours late.

When I burst through the door of my apartment just after 7:00 and kicked my peep-toe heels under the coffee table, I knew that a cooking marathon was not about to happen. I HATE it when this happens because we usually end up ordering greasy subs packed with sautéed vegetables, delicious oily dressing, and melted mozzarella from the Italian place around the corner, or picking up white paper takeout containers stuffed with vegetable fried rice or mock beef and broccoli, dripping with spicy brown sauce. And while the local takeout options are delicious, I always feel like I have failed to put a nutritious meal on the table. I also wonder if the thick slices of sautéed zucchini or the chunky broccoli florets dripping in oil even count as a vegetable serving once you factor in all the fat and sodium they are swimming in. 😦

With limited time and a random assortment of ingredients, I made it my mission to make this night different than the others. On this night, we got plenty of greens. We enjoyed the last of the season’s local heirloom tomatoes. We got the satisfaction of a home-cooked meal with almost the convenience of takeout pizza. I present to you…

Pesto Pizza with Escarole and Heirloom Tomatoes

Because this was just thrown together, the measurements are not exact. Here is a rough outline of the process; you may adjust it to your tastes.

Start with a bunch of fresh escarole. This stuff can get pretty gritty, so make sure you wash it thoroughly by submerging the leaves in a bowl of cold water and shaking the leaves to get the grit out. Remove them from the water and rinse under the tap. Pat dry or use a salad spinner (I need one of those!) to remove excess water. Do a rough chop on the escarole before cooking.

I have found that this process can be made a lot easier by using a cutting board with a built-in colander. See the colander in the corner of the photo?

Next I started a pot of boiling water on the stove. I added a pinch of coarse salt and then threw in the chopped escarole when the water reached a rolling boil. After 8-10 minutes, I poured the escarole and water over a colander and squeezed the water out with a spoon.

Because the escarole was still really watery and that would make for a soggy pizza, I squeezed it between some paper towels, like you would do with frozen chopped spinach.

To make the pizza, start with your favorite pizza dough recipe. I use the Martha White Pizza Crust Mix packets from the grocery store that are just add water and olive oil. They are fool proof which is great because I have a fear of yeast that I haven’t quite conquered yet.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees while you assemble your toppings. Top the pizza with fresh pesto. You can use the store-bought stuff, but the homemade pesto I made this summer is absolutely divine and freezes well for use year-round. I have included a link to the recipe at the end of this post.

On top of the pesto, add mozzarella cheese, escarole, sliced heirloom tomatoes, and the Italian seasoning of your choice. Mine was oregano, basil, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper. Finish with freshly grated parmesan cheese. I used aged parmesan and it was excellent.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Buon appetito!

Homemade Pesto

I use the recipe posted here on Savory Sweet Life. This summer, I made a huge batch and then dropped portions of 2 tablespoons each on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Then I froze it overnight and rolled up the wax paper with the pesto blobs and sealed it in a plastic freezer bag. Every time I want “fresh” pesto, I pop a blob or two off of the wax paper. It is so much better than any store-bought pesto I have ever tried!

Now I am off to package pomegranate arils for freezing and portion some out for my coworkers. I’ll start rolling out the POM party recipes tomorrow, so if you ever find yourself in the situation that I was in (proud owner of 36 pomegranates), you’ll know what to do!