Teresa Hatchell 2005

Sunday before last, after church, we had a birthday party for one of my cousin's grandchildren – a most amazing little girl who has Charge Syndrome. Despite our Evvy's dismal prognosis by specialists, our sweet girl – who celebrated turning 9 on August 7, is amazingly filled with love for every single person who opens up their arms to her. 

We gathered to celebrate Evvy's ninth birthday recently. She and her twin cousins Levi and River, and her cousin Kizer had such fun. They all ate two helpings of the sugar peas I brought. I had made a huge batch, so I sent the leftovers home with them.

Because Evvy is so amazing, she was coaxed by all of us to play her one-fingered, but perfect rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." I was so glad I gave her a keyboard for her birthday two years ago. For her birthday this year, I found one of those piano pads you lay on the floor and play songs by stepping from key to key. All of the children loved that … it was an easy toy to share! 

Thinking over those wonderful experiences, I settled down to write my column and my thoughts kept drifting back to the small children's love of peas. For this occasion, I steamed tiny peas with a tiny bit of white, granulated sugar, and a sprinkling of salt (no pepper because it is easier for people to add when the food is on their plate). Now, the pea recipes below require a bit more effort, but please read them and consider trying them.

If I don't have fresh, small peas, I buy the most preferred brand of canned sweet peas … Le Sueur pea. I'm no company spokesman, but everyone I know agrees that this brand has the best flavor, hands down. That said; let me again encourage you to try one or more of the following recipes as part of your family and/or friends celebrations for months and years to come.

Chicken Ro-Tel with peas 'n cheese

1 small onion

1 pound Velveeta cheese (diced)

1 small bell pepper

1 jar mushrooms (drained)

1 stick margarine

1 can LeSueur peas (drained)

4 cups leftover chicken cut into small pieces

2 cans Ro-Tel tomatoes (with juice)

8 ounces vermicelli

2 cans Swanson chicken broth

Chop the onions and bell pepper and sauté them in margarine. Cook the vermicelli in chicken broth. Drain well. In a large, buttered casserole dish, mix the onions, pepper, chicken pieces, vermicelli, cheese, peas, mushrooms and tomatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Cheesy sweet pea, cucumber salad

3 large cucumbers

2 cans Le Sueur peas, drained well

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup green pepper, finely chopped

1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped

8 ounces grated Cheddar cheese (or crumbled Feta)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Peel the cucumbers and slice them in quarters lengthwise. Use a sharp knife to cut the thin strip of seeds (lengthwise) from each quarter. Discard the seeds. Then dice the cucumbers into a large salad bowl. Add both cans of drained peas, sugar, green pepper, onion, cheese, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and toss gently until all of the ingredients are well combined. Cover and chill this salad. This recipe makes eight nutritious servings.

 

10-ounces frozen peas and carrots

6 medium to large ears of corn (or large package of frozen corn)

5 tablespoons margarine

1/4 cup chopped celery (optional)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups milk

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1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3 cups chopped cooked chicken

Cook the mixed vegetables according to package directions. Drain well and set aside.

With a sharp knife, cut the edges from the ears of corn, and then scrape the remaining corn from the ears. Melt the margarine in a large skillet and pour the corn, celery and onion into the pan and sauté for about five minutes, tossing occasionally. Add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook one minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk and cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick and bubbly. Add 1/2 cup cheese, salt, black and red pepper and sugar. Stir until cheese melts. Stir in chicken and cooked vegetables. Cook until thoroughly heated to allow flavors to meld. Serve over cornbread, rice, or mashed potatoes. Garnish with shredded Cheddar cheese and/or paprika, if desired. This recipe yields six servings.

Asparagus-pea casserole

1/2 stick of margarine (or butter)

1 can of cream of chicken, cream of mushroom or cream of onion soup

1/2 cup milk

2 cups Ritz cracker crumbs

1 can Le Sueur peas, drained well

1 can asparagus (broken pieces)

2 hard boiled eggs, sliced

8 ounces grated Cheddar cheese, mild or sharp

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. "Butter" a casserole dish so that the ingredients won't stick to the bottom and sides. Then make a layer each of thin butter pats, peas, asparagus, eggs, and cheese. In a spouted mixing bowl, combine the soup and milk. Pour this mixture over the layered ingredients in the casserole dish. Cover the ingredients with cracker crumbs and the rest of the butter. Bake this casserole at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

Contact the writer at tgmhatchell@yahoo.com.

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