When I married my husband (almost 10 years ago), I married into a culture with some of the most amazing food I have ever tasted. One of my favorite shows – No Reservations – has featured Vietnamese food on more than three episodes. Anthony Bourdain has travelled all over the world and where does he want to live? Vietnam.
One of my favorite dishes we have learned to cook is Banh Xeo. It is a crepe that is flavored with coconut milk and turmeric. Add to it shrimp, pork belly (or bacon), onion, bean sprouts and mushrooms. It took us a while to perfect the recipe but here is one recipe to watch – Banh Xeo tutorial.
To thoroughly enjoy we wrapped part of the crepe in a baby mustard green leaf with fresh herbs (basil, mint and a spade-shaped leaf) and dipped in nuoc mum sauce (fish sauce mixed with water, sugar, lime juice, garlic and of course hot peppers).
So while this has absolutely nothing to do with hands I just could not resist sharing the feast we had last night. I love my husband for many reasons and yes – food is one of them.
The kids (ages 6 & 3) have not embraced banh xeo yet. They do however LOVE nuoc mum and the youngest has been known to through a mini tantrum if there is not enough on her rice. In fact she will not touch rice unless it has fish sauce on it. I’m ok with the fact that they eye the crispy crepes with suspicion. That just means more for us!
My family visited Bridgewater, VA this weekend and got to spend time with my sister’s in-laws. It was so refreshing to take some time off away from cell phones, computers, and cable TV. Their house sits on top of a hill looking out over farms and mountains. Our hosts had a few extra guests coming to dinner and a quick side dish of vegetables was put together. It was amazing and very easy to prepare. I started thinking, wouldn’t it be great to have on file a list of easy recipes that can be done last-minute and with limited or no use of one hand! So here is a rough idea of Margaret’s easy roasted veggies modified for one-handed prep.
- 1-2 packages of red potatoes (look for smaller sizes so you don’t have to cut them)
- Frozen pearl onions thawed*
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Seasoning of choice (rosemary, spice mixes, etc)
Pre-heat the oven to 450°. Open all bags with a good pair of kitchen shears and dump them into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and other spices/herbs. Spread out on a deep baking sheet and cook for 20-30min depending on the size of your potatoes.
*If you cannot use pearl onions then try green onions cut into 2″ lengths, be sure to include most of the white bulb. You may have to add these in towards the end of the baking time so they don’t get burned but green onions are much easier to chop with one hand than a standard onion.
Yum! I’m sure you could get very creative with this recipe and add all sorts of veggies. Just look for ones that need very little prep or can easily be prepared with one hand.
I have learned to love cooking over the years. My husband is much more picky than I am so he usually does the final stages of meal prep. That’s fine with me because I like the chopping, cutting and placing ingredients in all our little ramekins. For some reason those small bowls make me feel like I’m on my own cooking show.
While I usually prefer the old fashioned method of using a knife there are times when I pull out my trusty “hand chopper.” It is especially useful when I’m cutting up onions because it cuts down on a little of the crying. A food chopper is also great for when you need to do the job one-handed. A good food chopper will have a fairly wide base so it doesn’t tip over while in use. Onions or other firm veggies and fruit are placed on a cutting board and a portion of that is placed under the chopper. You press down on the top with pretty firm and fast pressure basically hitting or slapping it. the more you chop the smaller the pieces get.
A word of warning: choose carefully which part of your hand does the slapping or the pressing. Most people hit the top of the chopper with the palm of their hand. This can end up causing lots of pain if you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or arthritis in the thumb or wrist. My preferred method is to hold my hand in a fist and use the side of it (pinky side). There is just a lot more cushion there for me. The bottom line is to make sure that whatever you are doing is not causing pain.
There are all sorts of kitchen gadgets out there to make life more simple. I would love to hear comments from you on what has made cooking easier, especially if you are struggling with hand pain, a disability or recent surgery.