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updated: 7/20/2011 11:48 AM

Easy-peasy recipes that can be cooked in a snap

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  • Cooking peas can be a snap, and there are tons of recipes out there that incorporate the nutritious little orbs.

    Cooking peas can be a snap, and there are tons of recipes out there that incorporate the nutritious little orbs.


When President Obama spoke about lawmakers dealing with the painful debt crisis and said it's time to "pull off the Band-Aid" and "eat our peas" he found common ground with 5-year-olds and parents everywhere.

Peas are one of the most maligned vegetables out there, holding court with Brussels sprouts and beets. I know I hated peas as a kid. No amount of butter or French dressing could alter the mealy and mushy texture. Yet somehow I have raised two boys who like peas -- and that's saying a lot considering the shortlist of foods my 8-year-old eats. I've given them to Henry still frozen (pea ice cream, we used to call it) or soaked for just a few minutes in hot water (sometimes the drained pasta cooking water).

They're so small and cook so fast I see no reason to boil them or steam them in the microwave. I generally sprinkle them with a bit of sea salt and give 'em a drizzle of butter, but last week I starting wondering what else I could do with these nutritious little orbs. My search took me to, where I found a plethora of ideas. I could combine them with onions, bread crumbs and herbs for stuffed mushrooms or toss them with tuna, white beans and lemony dressing for a summer salad. I'd love to know your favorite way to prepare peas.

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North of the border: If your summer travels take you near Lac du Flambeau, you'll want to plan a dinner break at Eagle's Nest Restaurant at Lake of the Torches Resort Casino. "Top Chef" stars Harold Dieterle, Fabio Viviani and Richard Blais will take turns taking over the kitchen at the newly remodeled restaurant, preparing an eclectic range of lunch and dinner items and mingling with diners. Dieterle, a Long Island, N.Y. native and "Top Chef's" first winner, is the first guest chef on Thursday, Aug. 4. He's taking a break from Kin Shop, his West Village contemporary Thai eatery, to cook in the Northwoods.

On Aug. 18 it's Viviani's turn. The season 5 "fan favorite" returns to Lake of the Torches after dazzling audiences at two sold-out shows in 2009. Born and raised in Florence, Italy, Viviani owns Cafe Firenze Italian Restaurant and Martini Bar in Moorpark, Calif., and Firenze Osteria Italian Restaurant and Bar in Toluca Lake, Calif. The celebrity chef lineup concludes with a modernist spin on classic cuisine with "Top Chef All-Stars" winner Richard Blais on Aug. 25. The Eagle's Nest Restaurant is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and for dinner from 4 to 9 p.m. Reservations will not be available. Head to or call (800) 25-TORCH, ext. 6412 for details.

Cook of the Week Challenge update: A Solaire Infared Grill valued at $3,300 is just one of the prizes that will be awarded Nov. 2 at the Daily Herald's recipe competition for home cooks. A meet-and-greet with Cake Boss Buddy Valastro and four tickets to his Nov. 16 show at the Rosemont Theatre also are in the prize bin, but we're still cooking up more prize packages. To win a prize you have to enter, so here's the Cook of the Week Challenge lowdown. We're looking for 16 home cooks to develop recipes using "secret ingredients." Recipes will be judged by me and area chefs, and two cooks will be eliminated each week until we reach the final four. The finalists will compete in a live cook-off Nov. 2 at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield Schaumburg.

If you want a shot at the Cook of the Year title, head to to submit your information and an original recipe. The deadline is Aug. 3. If you have questions, email me at