It was a beautiful weekend in Des Moines. It was sunny and in the low 70s. Perfect for playing outside. We visited a park every day. This afternoon we went on a family bike ride to a park for a picnic and play time. Audrey was so excited she didn’t want to take off her helmet to eat. Elliot, meanwhile, refused to eat any food. He was not happy that we made him eat a few bites of chicken before he could run off to the playground.
Tonight, once the kids were tucked in, I got started on dinner for John and me – Pasta e Fagioli. I found the recipe in the latest issue of Cooks Country. Until I read the recipe the only think I knew about pasta fazool is that it was mentioned in the song That’s Amore. This soup is hearty and complex. John even liked it.
The soup is not pretty. I skipped the pancetta and chicken broth and used vegetable broth instead. I found that looking at knitting patterns while eating this soup was a perfect accompaniment. John preferred to pair the soup with buttered toast. To each their own.
I intended to have an ice cream sundae for dessert, as earlier in the day I made some of my Grandma Runchey’s hot fudge sauce. Sadly, I am too full from soup, so the ice cream will have to wait until tomorrow.
If you are craving a deep chocolate sauce on your ice cream I recommend this recipe. If you are looking for something chocolatey you can have a spoonful of when you have an intense craving for chocolate, I can also recommend this recipe. I use butter instead of oleo, because margarine isn’t my jam.
Well over 20 years ago my sister Mary-Claire gave me a cookbook with family recipes in it. She must have been in Jr. High at the time. I love that I get to see her writing when I make a recipe from the cookbook.
I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I hope your week is filled with delicious food and beautiful weather. Let’s make this week a good one.
Welcome to September. It doesn’t feel like fall yet, but after all of the running around we did this summer I’m ready to settle back into a routine. Being busy all summer and not wanting to cook in the heat has led to an unused kitchen and a vegetable deficient diet. I want to get back to cooking and eating healthy again. I’ve decided that September will be Souptember in our house. I’m committed to making soup at least once a week. I love soup. No one else in my family does. At the end of this month they will either be converted or I will have had soup for lunch every day. I’m OK with either outcome.
I made one of my favorite soups today: Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup. This spicy soup is filling and reheats well. It does not look pretty, but it tastes pretty great.
The recipe is from Rachel Ray’s Veggie Meals. It takes less than a half hour to put together, which means I can throw it together even when I’m in a time crunch.
Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup
1 T vegetable oil
1 T butter
1 chopped onion
1 can vegetable broth
1 can diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 can black beans
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 c heavy cream (I use half and half)
1 1/2 t curry powder
2 t ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
Melt butter into oil over medium heat. Sautee onion until soft. Add broth, black beans, tomatoes, and pumpkin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add cream and spices. Simmer 5 minutes, or until you can convince your kids to come to the table.
I hope you had a Souper Sunday.
Last weekend, over bland oatmeal at the hotel breakfast, Kathleen and I were waxing poetic about instant oatmeal packets. Sure, they are gluey and loaded with sugar, but in my memory they are amazing.
I wanted to make something that recreated that flavor, but with less sugar and more real food. So this morning I made easy peaches and cream oatmeal.
1 c water
1/2 c rolled oats
1/2 c frozen peach slices
1/4 t cinnamon
2 t brown sugar
1 T half and half or milk or milk substitute
Put water, oats, frozen peaches, and cinnamon in a pan and bring to a simmer. Once the peaches have softened a bit use kitchen shears to cut them into smaller pieces. I suppose you could take them out and do that with a knife, but I found it easier to cut them up in the pot as they simmered away. When the oatmeal is done (I think it is supposed to be 3 minutes, but I usually cook them until the eggs are done or the table is set and it turns out fine), stir in sugar and half and half.
These are as good as the oatmeal that I remember, and they contain a full serving of fruit. The sugar can be adjusted based on your mood or the sweetness of the fruit you are using. I like that I always have these ingredients on hand, so I can whip it up whenever the mood strikes. I’ll be making it again soon, as Audrey is suddenly a big fan of oatmeal.
Once a month we have my friend Tim over for dinner. Tim is really easy to cook for. He doesn’t cook, so everything I make impresses him. He is recently divorced and his wife didn’t cook either. I once made crock pot white chicken chili for him and he was impressed (the hardest thing about making that dish is chopping the onion). I love that the bar is low.
Today I decided to really wow him. I made Cook’s Illustrated’s version of Juicy Lucys. A juicy lucy is a cheeseburger with the cheese on the inside. You bite into the burger and cheese oozes out. It’s delicious. It’s also something so bad for us that I only make it once or twice a summer.
At 5 o’clock, as I was getting the kids their dinner I realized I had been so excited about the burgers I didn’t think about the sides. I had nothing planned. I was worried I was going to have to pull a vegetable out of the freezer and pretend it worked with burgers.
Amazingly, my refrigerator provided me with two sides! I had a salad in a bag forgotten in a drawer that somehow wasn’t spoiled (I buy a bagged salad almost every week, I also throw out a spoiled bagged salad almost every week. Will I ever learn?).
I decided to throw together some Baja bean and cilantro salad. I have been living off of this all summer. In a shocking turn of events I had cilantro in my produce drawer. I also had 1/4 of a red onion in my fridge, the perfect amount for the salad (also the first time I’ve ever used all of a leftover onion instead of throwing it away a week later).
This salad is easy to throw together, and a great side to bring to a pot luck. It couldn’t be easier to make:
1 can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 can red beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1/4 chopped red onion
2 T chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
1/4 c chopped cilantro
Mix that stuff all up. In a measuring cup mix together 1/3 c red wine vinegar and 3 T sugar. Pour it all over the salad. Put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to meld.
It is good for a week.
The sides were well received by Tim and John, but if I was really being honest I think they would have been fine with a big burger and a few glasses of wine.
Do you ever get so excited about a main dish you forget about the rest of the dinner?
Are you a baker? Have you noticed how expensive vanilla extract has gotten? The vanilla crop in Madagascar failed causing a shortage of vanilla beans. The price of vanilla is now ten times what it was a few years ago.
I recently ran out of vanilla and picked some up at my local spice shop. An ingredient that I never considered the cost of now makes me gasp. I used over half of this bottle in two batches of cookies this morning.
I am not going to switch to intimation vanilla extract. You can tell the difference in the final product. I was planning to buy the now $40 bottle of vanilla the next time I’m at Costco. It is a large bottle and should get me through a year of baking. I may still buy a bottle, but it is no longer immediately needed.
I remembered I had vanilla beans from Costco that I bought last fall. I also have vodka. Those two items are all you need to make your own vanilla extract.
It couldn’t be easier. Slice some vanilla beans open (I also cut them in half so they would fit in a jelly jar). Put the open beans in a jar.
Cover the beans with vodka.
Put a lid on the jar. Put it in your cupboard. Shake it a couple of times a day for two weeks. after that it should be ready to use. I’ll add vodka a few times, as there will be enough vanilla to infuse two or three times the amount of vodka in the jar.
After a few hours you can already see the change in the vodka.
Hopefully the vanilla crop recovers soon. Until then, I hope you find some forgotten vanilla beans in a drawer and vodka in your freezer and make some of your own extract.
I love to cook, but I hate turning on my oven in the summer. I find myself cooking in the crock pot because it doesn’t heat up the whole house. Last night I decided to try something new in the crock pot – eggs.
I browned half of a pound of breakfast sausage in a skillet and transferred it to my crockpot (which I sprayed with oil). I then used the same skillet, with a bit of vegetable oil (I wasn’t planning on needing that, but the sausage was very lean), to saute a green pepper, orange pepper, and half of a red onion.
Once that was soft I added it to the crock pot. I cracked a dozen eggs into a bowl and whisked them until they were mostly scrambled. I added salt, pepper, and a cup of shredded cheese. I then poured the eggs over the meat and vegetables and cooked it on low for about 2 hours. Once a knife stuck in the middle came out clean I cut it into 8 wedges and called it dinner.
We both like this, so I’ll be making it again. I will be making a few changes. I’ll probably use soy chorizo instead of breakfast sausage. I used pork sausage from our egg lady. She has great eggs, but her sausage is pretty bland. I will probably make this without cheese next time, as it isn’t needed. I think a pinch of good cheese on top would be better than supermarket cheddar mixed in.
One of my favorite things about eggs for dinner is the leftovers the next day. I had this for breakfast covered in siracha. The kids had it for breakfast and ate it once it was called eggy pie. I microwaved slices for a minute. They reheated well and didn’t seem to dry out.
What do you cook when you don’t want to turn the oven on?