Eat Something

{October 17, 2008}   Shortcut Chicken and Dumplings

Ok, so I like my chicken and dumplings with veggies in it… now usually this is just the typical broth making veggies… but on occasion I want this loaded with veggies, like this time, so that it is an all in one pot dinner that needs nothing on the side but a drink… but it’s abnormal, no one I know puts this many veggies in it at all, not my dad, not my friends, not restaurants, no one–but oh well I’m do what I feel like kind of girl so I guess I’ll scoff at convention… now truth be told chicken and dumplings to most of my southern friends usually means chicken, thick saucy broth and dumplings (like in the link below); and to the majority of my yankee friends, it’s a creamy chicken soup with huge biscuits floating on top (which can only cook from one side and even with flipping end up kinda chewy and strange in the center, god bless ’em)… 

well, I married just such a yankee so he’s got this contrary line of thinking… and I made him chicken and dumplings the way my daddy did as we grew up with a roll out biscuit dough dumplings that you cook submerged in the liquid… he thought it was great but said it just didn’t have the comfort food factor because the dumplings were different, almost like gnocchi… having never had gnocchi at the time–and thinking they seemed just like daddy’s dumplings to me–I tried really hard not to roll my eyes, even hearing my grandfather’s voice in my head saying “Don’t wall your eyes” but I clearly must not have been successful… as the Hubs followed up with “I mean that in a good way. I love gnocchi. And this isn’t so much the same as similar.” and I smiled at him but thought to myself it’d be a long time until I’d put so much work into dinner again…

but of course the irritation passed rather quickly, as is usual for me, so I made him one with spoonfuls of drop biscuits (some submerged for me and some floaters for him)… he found this mildly more familiar but complained it was still not the same… and yes it really was complaining and he even waxed nostalgic about the dumplings he grew up on… and at the time we were still so newly married and in that honeymoon phase that I didn’t/couldn’t just tell him “Duh! I’m not gonna make anything that’s the same because I think your way is nasty… But you’re welcome to get in the kitchen and make it the way your mama used to if you want it like that.” or something to that effect, as I probably would have had it happened later in the sequence when I was comfortable enough to be my snarky self… so instead I said, “Well this way was a bit of extra work, so if you don’t really like it I’ll just make it my regular way from now on…” To which he replies, “Ok honey, that’s fine. I like your cooking anyway. You can make whatever you want. Really.”

Well the catch is that one of his favorite foods (not his favorite favorite, but high ranking) is of course chicken and dumplings… and my way(s) were not satiating that favorite craving… So over the course of our marriage I’ve asked tons of people how they make theirs in the hopes of discovering a different dumpling method that might serve as a compromise for us… Generally, there was more variations to the soup base than there were to the dumplings… so I finally got the tip from someone that they used cut up canned biscuits… at the time, I didn’t think to ask more questions and figured that it was essentially a roll out dough cut smaller to minimize the nasty middles problem with floaters… but later came the second tipper to mention the same cut up canned biscuits, but she explained that she indeed cooked them submerged… I was excited by the ease of doing it this way but decided to hold of on it because it really would be the same thing the Hubby didn’t especially care for so no particular compromise… well, again I found the canned biscuit tip online, but this time I really liked the idea of trying it…

so yes, it’s true it’s no compromise and makes no head way to his side… but now that we’ve got 4 kids and crazy hectic evenings it sounded the perfect time for shortcuts… so I’m trying it and I even sold the Hubs on the idea that it was a compromise somehow when he mentioned they’d used canned biscuits… (but truth be told I’ve picked up another online tip for baking the “dumplings” resting on top of the soup in individual dishes… which may prove to be somewhat satisfying to the Hubs while not being undercooked for my tastes… so that’s in the works for the future, though I plan to test it with more of a beef stew base as I dread that it may turn out undumpling-ish from baking and don’t want to exacerbate things in this arena…) and just as one last word, this is nothow I normally make my chicken and dumplings base for those of you who know I use it for pot pie… but I don’t see why this couldn’t work (just cut the buttermilk to 1 c or so and add some corn starch to it, stirring it in after the meat and veg warm thru… bring to a boil to thicken to put under a crust instead of fussing with the dumplings… or cool it first if you wanted a double crust…) if that’s what you wanted to do…

girlies bowlful... that thing there on the spoon that'd be a dumpling... the shredded chicken made it hard to tell the difference by photo...

girlies bowlful... that thing there on the spoon that'd be a dumpling... the shredded chicken made it hard to tell the difference by photo...

Shortcut Chicken and Dumplings
1 roasted or rotisserie chicken
1 can layered biscuits
about 1/3-1/2 c ap flour **
1 qt chicken stock
2-3 c buttermilk
2 c ea: green beans and carrots
1 c ea: corn and green peas

I boiled the beans and carrots in the stock until I was done pulling meat from the chicken (I pulled the meat because I got lazy–I’d had an exceptionally bad day and it was going to be another scout night full of paper mache on the other side of things not rest, so I was a bum and I regretted it–but I’d recommend you cut it as the cubes I bothered to cut before I lost interest worked better IMO…) strained out the beans and carrots, added the dumplings in 3 batches each kept submerged under a third of the chicken, and a third of corn and peas, straining out and adding to the beans and carrots as I went…

after the last batch has been strained out, whisk in your buttermilk as needed to get the broth as you wish texturewise… (I apparently didn’t do a good enough job of shaking off excess flour from the dumplings as mine was as thick as paste and took more milk than I’d planned…) taste the broth and season as desired–I think I did more Mrs Dash grill seasoning – prob 2T, about 1T ea: s/p, g/o pwd… add back the reserved stuff and mix well…

** I seasoned mine with 1.5 T Mrs Dash chicken grilling seasoning and a little salt, because when I make my dumplings I put seasonings inside the biscuits and though this would help… it did so little I’d vote for not bothering… (and yeah mine’s Lily too, as ap pretty much always is in this house… but a hard white wheat would make no difference here, so if that’s not what you keep on hand as your staple you can use what you keep on hand for this… I mean you’re just dusting, it’s not like you’re actually making the biscuits…)


{October 11, 2008}   Crockpot Simmered Gumbo

So first thing first, this isn’t really a crockpot recipe in the since of dump it all in the crock in 5 mins or less on your way out the door… but rather a “I have time to cook the bits but I need to leave the house a few times while it is simmering so I’ll put it in the crockpot” kind of thing… so you do need to plan some time to deal with it either in the morning or the night before… and you could skimp on browning your meats and sauteing your veg if you’re not worried about the caramelization/flavor loss there… but you should really take your time with the roux and get it nice and dark over a slow heat as this will make a huge impact on flavor, and if you rush it you’re likely to either burn it or have uneven patches and starting over makes it take a lot more time than doing it slow and right in the first place… so at least plan time for the roux…

If you want to make the whole thing on the stove, just use a serving platter to pile the cooked meat and veg on as you go and while you make the roux, then whisk in all your liquid and bring to a boil… add back all your bits, cover, return to a boil and reduce to a simmer… then add the shrimp in the last five minutes or so from when you want to eat and simmer right in the gumbo (until they are pink and curled up tight like a clip on earring)…

with the shrimp and over rice...

with the shrimp and over rice...

Crockpot Simmered Gumbo
3/4-1 lb andouille sausage, sliced
1.5-2 lb cubed beef **
1.5-2 lb chicken breast tenders (mine were frozen), cut in spoon friendly chunks
2 qts chicken stock, separated (if you want to make this not in the crock you’ll probably want around 3 qts)
1/2 lb cajun style bacon ***
2 lg onions, diced
1 head garlic, minced
oregano, garlic/onion pwd, thyme, blk pep, bay leaves
1/2 head celery, diced (about 2-2.5 c)
7 carrots, diced (about 2-2.5 c)
about 1/2 c flour
1-2 bell peppers, diced
handful of okra pods (or say 7), finely sliced ****
1-1.5 T King Creole seasoning (courtesy of Joelen from the prize booty, but please adjust to your tastes)
2-3 lbs shrimp (most people will prefer these shelled, I’d suppose)

Preheat your crock on high, preheat your pan to med high or high… Brown up the sausage on both sides, add to the crock… brown up the beef on all sides (doesn’t have to cook thru just want a good sear with some nice browned bits), and add to the crock… then I added water to deglaze the pan and poached the chicken a bit to thaw it and make it easy to chop… chopped and added them to the crock… topped the meat in the crock with 1 qt of the stock… dumped the deglazed poaching liquid down the drain (as I didn’t need the extra liquid in the crock and knew the stock would be tastier)… reduce to medium, and set about crisping the bacon, drained off about 1/2 c of the bacon grease (most of it)and reserved… add the onions and garlic (more oil if particularly needed, I did not but depends on the leanness of your bacon and how crisp you cooked it, so you gauge that) along with the seasonings (which I actually remembered to measure but didn’t remember to write down) and cook until onions are becoming translucent… add celery and carrots (I add only half the celery to saute so there is a contrast of soft and crisp, but you can saute all or none as you wish…) and continue cooking until they caramelize a bit, then add to the crock… I reduce the heat to med-low (but you could probably get by on med if you are careful, attentive and a diligent stirrer) add the reserved bacon grease and the flour to the pan to make your roux, and darken to about a walnut color, stirring constantly… whisk in the other qt of stock and bring to a boil, boil 2-3 minutes to thicken and pour into the crock… add the peppers,okra, and cajun/creole seasoning and reduce the heat to Low and allow to simmer all day… when we were getting ready to eat, pulled out some of the gumbo broth into the pan to boil the shrimp and add back to the gumbo (I added them to the kids’ and the Hubster’s portions)…

give it a little stir... and now you are ready to simmer it, while you go about what you have to do...

give it a little stir... and now you are ready to simmer it, while you go about what you have to do...

this is about how dark you want it... trust me, it is worth it to go slow...

this is about how dark you want it... trust me, it is worth it to go slow...

Ive got carcasses, yes I do... but Im not making stock, how bout you?

Ive got carcasses, yes I do... but Im not making stock, how bout you?






             NB: technically, I took the roux a touch darker than the pic… but that was a good point to snag the pic and still get the broth in in time…

** If you want to use pork instead that is fine, but it’ll need to be cooked all the way thru first as it’s not gonna taste so good cooking from the simmer… hence beef is easier if you don’t have leftover pork roast or such on hand…

*** pretty much a hickory smoked one with a dry rub on it, so you can use regular and add more seasonings if you don’t have this… I just like that it’s smoked with the rub, need to get charlie’s to make it this way as their bacon would make a better base… [note to self: attempt to sweet talk the butcher into cajoling whoever smokes it]

**** but oddly this time it was truly a fluke as it was just a grab and bag… I only counted as I was chopping, but it brought a smile to my face… and I forgot to measure but I’m guessing this was in the neighborhood of 1 c… of course if you like okra feel free to use however much you want, personally I hate the stuff… but for me gumbo is not gumbo until it’s got that okra ooze in it (even if I do fish out the actual pieces)…

{October 11, 2008}   Tuna and White Bean Pasta Fagiole


we really liked the mini bowties... so cute... 🙂

Tuna and White Bean Pasta Fagiole
7 carrots, 7 stalks celery
1 lg onion
1/2 head garlic
13 oz can mushrooms, drained (drained weight)
2 cans tuna
3 c white beans
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1.5-2 c small pasta (we had no elbows)
1 qt water or broth
lemon juice, s/p, oregano, thyme, red pep flakes

Saute the diced/minced raw veg, add the remaining ingredients and simmer until pasta is cooked (under 10 mins).

NB: I’d like to add more lemon, some blk olives, and fresh parsley for starters… but this will be made again, and I will tinker…

{October 6, 2008}   Ravioli Soup

So Sunday after church, the Hubs hurt himself… he managed not to break his foot, but has a deep muscle sprain and is in a boot and a fair amt of pain… thereby making my restful weekend not so restful… so another slap-bash meal as I didn’t want to cook and the kids were upset about how daddy’s foot put a cramp in their plans and cried and carried on about every piddling thing imaginable… so I needed it to be simple but happily eaten, since at the time I had high hopes of getting them to bed early… HA!

a yummy soup when you are the only physically capable of fetching more for the entire family, not the best laid plan... plus your soup goes cold as you do so...

a yummy soup when you are the only physically capable of fetching more for the entire family, not the best laid plan... plus your soup goes cold as you do so...

Ravioli Soup
1 lb ground meat (again, I used veal because it was on sale cheaper than beef)
seasonings (salt/pepper, dried herbs–rosemary and other italian type seasonings, garlic pwd)
1 lb frozen green beans
1 lb can campbell’s tomato soup (slightly bigger than usual size)
2 (15 oz) cans diced italian style tomatoes
2-2.5 c frozen cheese ravioli
grated parm (opt)

Brown the meat with the seasonings and stir in the frozen beans… Add the tomato soup and 2 canfuls of water, and the tomatoes… bring up to a boil and taste for seasoning, and adjust… reduce the heat to med-med low, add the ravioli and simmer until they float… top with parm to serve…

[Quick Reminder: Make sure to scoop low to get meat as well as it sinks while the pasta and veg float…]

brown the meat and stir in the frozen beans...

brown the meat and add the frozen beans...

step two add everything and bring to a boil...

step two add everything and bring to a boil...

when the raviolis float to top it is done...

when the raviolis float to top it is done...

See making soup can be almost as easy as 1, 2, 3… and the slight guilt I felt making another slap dash so soon after the last, passed quickly as everyone started needing this and that and I realized I couldn’t sit down long enough to think let alone eat… and in the midst of all this flurry, I also forgot to start the washer so I had to stay up another hour after getting everyone to bed… : (

{October 1, 2008}   Spicy Chicken Tortelini Soup
This is super easy, and we have a few versions... you can make it in the crock instead of roasting veggies and just add the tortelini last minute as you prep for serving or whatever...

This is super easy, and we have a few versions... you can make it in the crock instead of roasting veggies and just add the tortellini last minute as you prep for serving or whatever...

always, with the how much seasonings... about this much...

always, with the how much seasonings... about this much...

Spicy Chicken Tortellini Soup
1 lb chicken tenders
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 c salsa (hot)
2-3 tsp ea: kosher salt and Mrs Dash Southwestern Chipotle
1-1.5 tsp dried cilantro
2 c water
3 diced red potatoes (1 c-ish)
pinch of sea salt
1 c frozen corn
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 c water (milk or cream would turn this to a chowder which I was going to do but decided against last second)
2 c cheese tortellini (1/2 lb-ish)

Poach chicken in liquid drained from canned tomatoes, salsa, seasonings and water… Meanwhile, roast @ 500: the potatoes toss with oil and pinch of salt and on a separate tray, the tomatoes, corn, peppers tossed with a bit of oil…

Pull out chicken and let cool enough to handle… Meanwhile, add the roasted veg to the pot and simmer… while simmering, separate the chicken into chunks and add back to the pot with the additional liquid and tort… simmer until tort float, about 5 more min-ish…

{September 29, 2008}   Quick Fish Chowder

Quick Fish Chowder
about 1/2 lb cod poached in half green apple juice, half water plus s/p, garlic/onion pwd, thyme…
when good and opaque break up into chunks and add 1 T butter, 1 c corn, 3 diced red potatoes, and cook until potatoes are tender… add 1/2-3/4 c frozen green peas and a splash or two of cream and adj seasonings if needed and continue over the heat until the peas are bright and dish up… (maybe 15 min including potato chopping…)

{August 29, 2008}   Cheesy Potato Broccoli Soup

Pretty straightforward, run-of-the-mill soup made to suit the 4yo’s craving… Simple basic scout night eating… served with grilled cheese and raw carrots, special requests really don’t get much easier than this…

Cheesy Potato Broccoli Soup
4 oz cheese, sliced/chunked or cubed
1/2 lb broc
1 lb potatoes
1/4 onion, halved
1.5 milk
3 c cold water (you could I suppose use broth here)
2 tsp: s/p, dry mustard
1 tsp: garlic/onion
2T: butter, flour

Cover segmented broccoli with 1.5c water, and microwave 3 min on HIGH. Put in the blender and puree… Melt flour and butter and seasonings together until well incorporated and pour in broccoli puree slowly while whisking out the flour lumps… Let that come up to boil while you add milk, cheese, onion to blended and blitz until relatively smooth… Pour cheese mixture into pot whisking into broccoli mixture… Add the remaining half of the water to the blender and blend to rinse/collect any remaining yummy bits and add to the pot as well. Promptly add the diced potatoes now as this is a good time since it is no longer hot… bring back to a boil and simmer about 20 or until potatoes are done.

Ok, so it’s not magic. It’s completely common place to plop leftovers in a stew… but an emailer has requested a leftover showcase. So while I use random leftovers all the time, when something is strategically made from leftovers I shall deem it such from now on… So dear e-friend hope this soothes your rerun fever… : )

I think this shows a little of everything...

I think this shows a little of everything...

Pork and Veggie Stew
leftover meat, peppers, onions, and rice from here **
leftover potatoes and pineapples from here
2 cans tomatoes
1/4 c white rum
1.5 c frozen lima beans
4-5 bay leaves
1 leftover bell pepper top
a dozen cloves (studded in pepper top)
1 T ea: allspice, ginger
1/2 head of garlic, roasted (leftover from the caribbean meal too really, in a preheated 400 oven the roasting took about as long as the limas)
juice of 3-4 limes (about 1/4 c juice)

Preheat the oven to 400. Chop the roast as you’d wish to spoon it and dump everything but the garlic and limes in the pot to boil with 1.5 qt water and a bit of salt (the limas need it). Drizzle the garlic w/olive oil (or whatever oil) and roast around 25-30 mins or until limas are tender. Remove the pepper/cloves and bay. Squeeze in garlic and lime juice (roll limes under your palm a bit and nuke for 30 sec to amplify the flow of juice) and serve.

** Now, technically I left the ginger slices in mostly because I forgot I packed them away, but I’d either chop them finer or fish them out.

Also, be careful how you stud the pepper piece as those piercing the flesh and no skin came out into the stew and you don’t want to hunt for tiny cloves amongst huge chunks. Alternatively, I suppose you could just cram them in some cheesecloth… Plus if you were less lazy you could zest the limes before juicing I’d recommend it as I think I’d be very good with that addition…

So while this is one of the easiest things to make (no need for a recipe just caramelize some onions, add some beef broth and top with french bread and swiss and heat until cheese melts), it has nevertheless been requested so here goes.

Oopsie... I forgot to take a pic before eating, but there is soup, bread, and cheese all still there so all is set, no?

Oopsie... I forgot to take a pic before eating, but there is soup, bread, and cheese all still there so all is set, no?

French Onion Soup
1.5 yellow onions, thinly sliced
olive oil
1 T butter
couple pinches of salt (go really easy on the salt–your gonna have a marked saltiness from reducing the liquids soon)
pinch of thyme
6 c beef broth/stock
3 T worsterchire sauce
lightly toasted slices of french bread (just toasted on the one side that is to lay in the soup is adequate really)
swiss cheese

And thank goodness for second helpings... please for give the untoasted bread, this is approximately the look Truth is I am not sure the pic helps much... or does it any favors...

And thank goodness for second helpings... please for give the untoasted bread, this is approximately the look. Truth is I am not sure the pic helps much... or does it any favors...

Caramelize the onions slowly over med-low heat with a little salt and thyme in a covered pot. When they look satiny and browned add the liquids and simmer until reduced by half. Put into ovensafe bowls and top with slices of french bread toast and slices of a swiss cheese and bake in a moderate oven until cheese is melted. (Alternately you can just make cheese toasts on a baking sheet and float them on your soup if you don’t have any oven safe bowls)

So the Hubs wanted lentil soup, when the cat got out of the bag the kids all groaned. And remarks like “Lentil soup is boring!” and “Maybe I should go to bed early.” started flying, LOL. So I try to sell them on this idea of a brand new lentil soup, an “Andy Warhol” Lentil Soup with lots of pretty colors–because they are on an Andy Warhol kick since their last art project with Ms Amy (and by last I mean the most recent, but also the final of the series which they are none too happy about) and trip to the museum. And while they did take the hook a bit and act interested at first, upon learning it was still essentially the same thing, they deemed it would still be too boring to eat. And in an Andy Warhol themed twist, I bumped up the 5 yo’s request for “Possibilities” (aka. Campbell’s) to fit in tonight since it’s quick and not much trouble to make it or the sandwiches…

“Andy Warhol” Chicken Lentil Soup
1.5 qts broth (made from the roasted chicken carcass)
about 2 c chicken meat (pulled from the boiled bones before contining the broth, mosly white meat–which contrasted well)
1.5 c yellow onion
1 c chopped carrots
3-4 cloves garlic (I actually had another huge clove like before in this head too)
3 purple potatoes (maybe 1 lb)
2 c lentils
1 can tomatoes
1 tsp ea: cumin, thyme, lemon zest
s/p, cayenne, lemon juice to taste

Round 1: I started the broth, pulled the meat from the bones and added the bones and skin back to the broth pot with the onion root. Chopped the bigger pieces of meat and put the bowl in the fridge (I’m obsessively worried about poisoning myself with poultry, but maybe you could leave it on the counter I just don’t want to chance it). Let the bones simmer until they broke down…

Round 2: Drained the bones from the stock and reserved it. Started sauteing the onions carrot and garlic in a little olive oil. As the onions began to wilt, added the cumin, thyme, lemon zest and continue cooking them until the spices were fragrant and the carrots beginning to soften a bit. Then added the meat and stir well to coat in some of the oil and spices. Meanwhile, back when starting the other veg, I boiled the purple potatoes in some water and a bit of salt. When they yield with a little oomph, so pre-fork tender, drain the potatoes and let cool enough to handle. Add the broth, lentils, tomato and s/p to taste to the veg saute and chicken and cook about 15 min. Peel the potatoes, if desired (very desired with mine as they were pretty rough before cooking which only became more noticable), and cut into spoon friendly chunks and add to the soup. Taste again for any seasoning adjustments and simmer another 10 min or so.

Now I reckon I should have gotten a pic, but I didn’t… but it is so colorful and somewhat bizzare to behold. And I probably should have garnished it with something green for more contrast…but I didn’t. Really we just ate it with bread and went back for extra portions (thank goodness the kids opted out so we could). The hubs would have desired some sausage but I’d had more chicken left on the bird than I’d expected so I decided not to bother (maybe next time I’d use a little bacon or sausage grease for the sauteing to help him not miss it as much because I really liked it without the sausage). But strange colors aside, it’s really just a lentil soup and you could sub red lentils and purple potatoes in any favorite lentil soup you’d like for similar effect…and maybe your lentil soup recipes aren’t “boring” either, LOL.

Please forgive the darkness (I'll try to toy with it more later), but here's the end result.

Please forgive the darkness (I'll try to toy with it more later), but here's the end result.

So Joelen has a cajun/creole challenge going on (due date is Saturday night I think) and I was figuring I should make something since I know how to make many a something or since “it’s in my blood” as my father would say (though I sometimes feel not a lot of that blood made it into me). But I hadn’t commited and didn’t really no what I would make, so I figured I’d put it off (I mean I did both the others on the fly, with like Friday’s notice or something) but then in a bid to get more entrants she tried to tempt and lure us by revealling the prize. And sure enough it worked on me… so I dunno if I’ll submit this or make something else later that I’ll submit but I figured I’d make something for me tonight (since the kids are taken care of anyway) that was both revuvinating–since I have the last remnants of a sour belly–and comforting. So I settled on a soup, because a) there’s not much that gets to the heart of creole food like soups and stews, and b) I have noticed many a person I know seems to have the impression that it’s all about using the trinity and making it spicy–but we eat all day long and there’s always of course dessert to consider so no that’s not in all cajun/creole food, and c) while people clamour about my soups and it is hands down the most requested thing people want me to make it’s probably the thing that’d most make my kinfolk draw in sharps breathes about because I don’t often make a soup properly. Now in general, I don’t feel much guilt about that dirty little secret, but I might feel a little bad about the “child, child, child” tisks that would ensue from a few if I were to commit some of those usual sins and still put the word creole at the top…plus I don’t want hate mail from strangers who might take offense, LOL.

The most striking thing to me about creole food in general is the method and approach to cooking… It is much less structured by strict recipes (and those recipes that do exist are mother recipes intended for flexibility and multiple uses, more a technique if you will) and much more about what types of things go together and what odds and ends are on hand and/or what’s easy to get access to. And it’s not hung on specialty ingredients but rather exceptionally about making do. It’s rather like that old story stone soup except you start with a bone and everything that goes in the pot is of your own finding…or like that old quilt your greatgrandmother made of everyone’s scraps and outgrown hand-me-downs of the youngest child; it’s taking what you’ve got, the fresh and the scraps, and making it beautiful. It doesn’t start with any grand or elaborate plan beyond just setting out to do it, and it isn’t really something you could specifically duplicate if you tried (it can come close enough for sentimental value, but it’ll always be a little different each time). Some things are slow foods, some things are faster and you don’t make slow food when you are in a hurry, but you also never really watch a timer any more than you’d measure every piddling thing…you just do it until it’s done. You do things by taste, smell, sight, and sound rather than cups and minutes. It’s fluid and resplendent and I can’t help but love it, it’s how you feel cooking was meant to be: unfettered and free to be precisely what you make it… Like when you first ride your bike without training wheels and realize it’s not just about the wheels, everything about it is different the way you hold your upper body, the way you shift your weight, even the way you pedal…but there’s a freedom and a you-ness to it, you will ultimately succeed or fail completely of your own doing and while that might be scary it is in the very same moment empowering…and you falter and try again you just do what ever it takes. It can be the same with food, good or bad, nothing is settled until it’s on the table…(just like mending that quilt or ripping out stiches and moving a square or two) you can tweak it as need be–you don’t have to know how beforehand you just try something, and eventually you’ll know how from experience–you can salvage nearly anything, and nothing is a failure until you stop.

I feel this is a lesson a lot of the people behind me starting this blog really need to hear and try to embrace: Have confidence in yourselves and just put food together and start doing it. you can make it work the point is just to make something to eat it doesn’t have to be any certain way. I’ve worked really hard to try to measure for those fearful of you who wanted measurements, but the truth is even with measuring it’s more about how I made that dish that day…the next time I make it I will probably not use those measurements of things at all. Develop processes, rather than recipes…and then just get in the kitchen and eat something. It’s not something to be afraid of…it’s just life, and every day that it’s there it will be different. You know what tastes good to you so take a bite, and if it’s not good yet make it good. It’s as simple as believing you can. [Of course those of you who know me and how I am about baking, may be laughing hysterically right about now. But that’s different that’s a chemistry-ish and mystical.] So on to the soup… LOL

At first, I thought about making a green gumbo because almost nothing is as rejuvinanting as greens IMO, but I don’t really have many on hand in the fridge or in the freezer. Then I decided to still make some thing meatless, since I have protein digestion issues and my tummy’s already a little off, so I figured I’d make something akin to a fasting or lenten soup/stew and some rice. Knowing I will ineveitably make something off what I can rummage up, and knowing I don’t have to appease the kids or the hubby with this dish, I’m just making something that feel up to eating and calling it a fasting soup (and I keep throwing lenten in there because while it’s not lent I don’t want people confusing this with those trendy diet fasts, this is not just liquid, I am not straining off the solids and sipping on the broth I’m just not using meat or meat bones, like for lenten fasting that’s it…it’s still food) by default of it’s nature. And yes, I considered throwing in some TVP and no I decided not to… and not because it’s not a particularly cajun thing to do, and not because my father would say “S*** child, soybeans? That’s what we feed the hogs. What were you thinking?” when he got back from Chicago and read it–although both those things are reasonably true–but because I think I just want something even gentler on my stomach…gentle and light and unfortunately not green gumbo (but that’s probably for the best as gumbo is just so obvious, it wouldn’t demonstrate much of my aforementioned point). I took out the scale and weighed stuff today because I know some of you really want measurements and I really am not feeling so hot and just don’t want to fuss with all that, and I threw in some red lentils because I told myself the transformative powers would pass on to me (as in they turn from reddish to yellow, I’ll morph for sick to well…yeah I know it doesn’t quite work that way but shhhh, I’m trying to use the power of persuation to will myself better) and some quinoa because I decided I didn’t want to make rice after all (oh yes, it’s entirely untraditional and not something you likely find in here, in fact the rice wouldn’t have been cooked in here if I’d made it–so I could have added as much or as little as I’d wanted, I was just lazy, but I didn’t feel good so whatever–but the truth is embracing what you have is the bigger point so yeah, I put quinoa in a peasant soup but oh well).

The 'clove' of garlic = about 3 or 4; and that's the broth before tomatoes you have to caramelize the onions and carrots and brown at least one side of the potatoes to get a dark rich color (the broth was significantly darker than this picture shows, but the image was too dark so I had to lighten it, which lost some of the color but I'll see if I can do better later)--a more yellowy broth is fine too, it'll just take on more tomato color...

The 'clove' of garlic = about 3 or 4; and that's the broth before tomatoes you have to caramelize the onions and carrots and brown at least one side of the potatoes to get a dark rich color (the broth was significantly darker than this picture shows, but the image was too dark so I had to lighten it, which lost some of the color but I'll see if I can do better later)--a more yellowy broth is fine too, it'll just take on more tomato color...

Potage Maigre (aka. Fasting/Lenten soup)
diced onion from a 4 oz wedge (so maybe 3 oz)
1/2 lb frozen leftover braised celery
1 big (6 oz) carrot (I’d love to throw some parsnip in too, but none here)
1/2 lb small potatoes, peeled and diced
1 HUGE garlic clove (ended up being maybe 1 T when chopped)
about 3/4 c red lentils
about 1/2 c quinoa (rice would help me feel better but I didn’t really feel like making it, too bad I didn’t have some in the fridge)
1 15oz can tomatoes
4 oz romaine heart (shh, I’m pretending it’s cabbage, but not throwing it in early like it really is)
the seasonings: a good bit of salt (maybe 1 T), a good bit of tarragon (about 1 T dried),  generous amount of blk pepper (would have like to used peppercorns, but couldn’t find them easily enough), a little cayenne (1/2 tsp or so), garlic and onion powder to taste (and I can’t remember if there was anything else, could have been I suppose but not necessarily)

I sauted over MED the onion, potatoes, and carrot in a combo of safflower oil (it was even a high MU one, for those ‘Flat Belly Dieters’) and butter (which is a necessary component of any feel good food, no?). Meanwhile, I soaked the frozen celery in a few cups of water to thaw it. Then when the potatoes had browned on one side I added the soaking liquid and a qt of water and the salt and tarragon and covered it. Chopped up the celery and added it, the quinoa, the lentils, and the tomatoes when the pot had begun a simmering boil, and recovered it. Later, I taste it and add the rest of the seasonings (then I set about to feeding the kids, maybe 30-45 min-ish). Later again, I taste it maybe/maybe not season it again I can’t be sure, and add the lettuce and turn it off recover with the lid (rearrange the dishwasher, so maybe 5 min-ish). And then I ate about half of it.

Someone was asking at a board I “occasionally frequent” what we like to get at Wild Oats/Whole Foods, and while I did come up with a few things, this recipe is a great example… It just so happens I got (at least) the sausages, the beans, the safflower oil, the onion, and tomatoes–which I guess means it’s so good for me I should have another bowl, right?

Crockpot Tequila Chicken Black Bean Chili
1.5 lbs Tequila Lime Chicken Sausages
1 lb dried black beans, soaked overnight (I soaked with leftover onion root and 4-5 split garlic cloves)
1/2 lg yellow onion, sliced/diced how you like it in chili
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, sliced/diced how you like it in chili
4-6 bay leaves
4 oz tequila (split)
1 qt hot tap water
1 T ancho chili powder (if you are using chili seasoning, that’s code for it’s got salt so add it later with the other stuff)
1 (4 oz) can of fire roasted green chilies
2 (15oz) cans tomatoes
1 tsp cayenne
1 T ea: Watkins Fire Pepper seasoning, smoked paprika, ground cumin
2 T Seasons in the Sun Red Pepper hot sauce (I guess you could use the yellow, but I really didn’t want mustard in here)
3-4 T lime juice and s/p to taste

Preheat the crockpot. Brown the sausages in a little oil/fat. Add sausages and any cooking grease to the bottom of the pan, and deglaze the pan with half the tequila. Cover the sausages with the drained beans** and top with the bay leaves and onions and garlic. Cover with water (about 1 qt–but should be an amount equal to 1/2-2/3 your volume of plumped beans, so long as they are covered–if need be add more to cover and take the extra out later before adding the rest of the ing) and deglazing tequila, lid it and leave on HIGH for 1-1.5hrs. When beans are soft, test one, pull out sausages and cut as you want them–I made spoon friendly slices–add them back with the remaining tequila and other ingredients and simmer on LOW until time to eat.

** soaking onion/garlic discarded, you can scrimp on this if you want to but I like to minimize the Hubs bean gas every way I can and they are one with the soaking juice now so a bye, bye they must go… it’s not wasteful if it is for the greater good! If you don’t have extra on hand you can either not add them to the soak, add extra bay leaves to help counter them, or just embrace that side effect I suppose.

{July 27, 2008}   Southwestern Corn Chowder

Southwestern Corn Chowder
2T bacon grease (or whatever oil)
1 lg yellow onion, diced
1/2 small head of garlic, minced
the corn broth, plus water needed to make 3 qts
7 pc leftover fried chicken (how does a big family have this much “leftover,” intentionally buying it in obscene quantity)
7 small potatoes, peeled and diced
2 (15oz) cans diced tomatoes**
1 (4oz) can green chilies**
3.5 c frozen corn (or the reserved corn cut of the 7 cobs from stock works too) ***

Saute the onions until translucent, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add stock and chicken and bring to a boil, reduce to med until it just begins to look opaque and thicken a bit. Remove chicken and cool just enough that you can handle it. Meanwhile, add the rest of the ingedients and bring back to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Remove skin (meaning the fatty piece the crunchy bits that remain should go back in the soup to thicken it) and bones from chicken and shred or rough chop it a bit to make more spoon friendly, and add the meat to the pot. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked thru. Top with tortilla chips and grated cheddar if you like…

** fire roasted, good but plain would be just fine
*** I didn’t, but it occured to me that sometime I might like doing part of this corn and part beans

{July 25, 2008}   Corn Broth/Stock

Corn Stock
7 cobs (corn no longer on)
3 qts of water

Boil… I mean, if you really want to (and/or haven’t used these cobs already to make creamed corn) you can also grate the cobs and add the resulting little corn grits and corn milk with the cobs and water and then boil, but it works well enough without it if you don’t. After it’s boiled for about 15-20 mins, cover and reduce to a simmer for maybe 1.5 hrs–or until it smells of corn throughout the house and the water is yellow. After it’s done and you’ve removed the cobs you can add s/p to taste.

et cetera