Monday, November 26, 2012

Sausage, White Bean, and Spinach Soup

This was really good.  We had it for dinner last night, I had it for lunch today, and I'm actually kind of looking forward to having it for lunch again tomorrow.  And I don't normally care for leftovers or soup.  

Sausage, White Bean, and Spinach Soup
12 oz andouille sausage or chorizo (I used chicken andouille sausage), diced
1 small onion, very fine dice
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
14 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 small can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp corn starch dissolved in about 2 tbsp water (optional)
6 oz bag baby spinach
grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

In a large pot, saute the onions over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until they are beginning to soften.  Then add the diced sausage, up the heat to medium-high and cook for about 5-10 more minutes.  (You want the onion to be really soft and translucent, not browned.  If it's starting to brown, lower the heat).

Add the tomato paste to the sausage and onion mix, and stir to coat.  Then add the stock, diced tomatoes and beans.  If you like your soup with a slightly thicker base, add the cornstarch.  If you don't mind thinner soup, omit it.  Simmer, uncovered, for about ten minutes.

Add the spinach a few handfuls at a time, stirring until it's wilted.  Serve topped with Parmesan, if desired.  (We had grilled Iberico cheese sandwiches alongside.  So good!)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thankful: the Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

I haven't been blogging because I've been a little sick of cooking.  And I've been knitting like a crazy person.  But that's a post for another day.  

We have been eating.  There's been

Goat Cheese and Pesto Quiche*

and tonight we had really good  
Sausage and White Bean Soup
(I'll post the recipe for this one tomorrow)

*want the recipe?  Let me know and I'll post it.

I also "discovered" Nobscot's Cafe, which on Monday has $3.99 burger night, with any burger and fries for that price.  If you're in the area, worth a trip.

I made up for the lack of meaningful cooking with Thanksgiving.  I love Thanksgiving - lots of eating and no religious obligations.  And I like the cooking part of it too.  In fact, this year I made everything.  We had all kinds of good stuff.

 She was dressed up as a pilgrim.  That would be a paper towel bonnet on her head.

Frosting the gingerbread cupcakes.

 He took off his pilgrim outfit.

 The "before" turkey picture (roasted with rosemary butter).

The "after" picture.

 Stuffing, roasted beets, parsnips and carrots, and creamed spinach with blue cheese topping*.

My plate.  Not the best picture.

Also served was mac n' cheese, roasted brussels sprouts and pearl onions in mustard glaze, boursin mashed potatoes, and biscuits*.  
Oh yeah, and there were people at the table too. 

Dessert featured the gingerbread cupcakes from above, a pumpkin pie that I forgot to take a picture of, and this raspberry trifle that Lea helped make.

And of course this Thanksgiving got me thinking about last Thanksgiving.  Last Thanksgiving my father couldn't come to dinner because he was in the hospital with MRSA, and he was really really sick.  Pete had chemo that Wednesday, so he wasn't feeling so hot (to say the least).  And the stress of it all was finally catching up to me and I developed a really fun case of paralytic illius and had a horrible stomachache and basically couldn't eat anything other than Lipton noodle soup and yogurt for the three weeks after Thanksgiving.  Last Thanksgiving kind of sucked, although I have to say we made the best we could of it.  

This Thanksgiving was so much better.  Everyone was here, everyone was healthy.  I know people say that you should be "thankful for your health," but that is a really hard thing to do.  How can you be thankful for something that just should be?  I am thankful that the people I love so much aren't feeling badly, and I am so grateful that they're still alive.  But I am also acutely aware that health is not something that you can take for granted.  It's here one moment and then it's gone.  And then, hopefully, it's back. 

I am a worrier, and when Pete was sick it was really hard not to get ahead of myself.  Lots of "what ifs" pile up when your husband has cancer.  Even though he was responding to treatment and the prognosis was (and is) good, there are so many ways that things can get derailed.  Finally I started saying to myself, "No one is going to die today."  And it made me able to focus on just that one day and be grateful for it.  A little morbid, perhaps, but it kept me from going insane.

This Thanksgiving I said it to myself again.  "No one is going to die today."  And I could be thankful for that.  Every day I can get up and say that with a reasonable degree of confidence is a good day.  So I guess that's how I'm thankful for health.  If someone's going to be here tomorrow, relatively comfortable and participating in life, that's a good day.  There's a lot about life that hasn't gone the way I thought it would, but I try to be thankful nonetheless.

I think that this was the really long winded, old person way of saying YOLO, but hopefully with a little more perspective and more impulse control than the average teenager. I mean, seriously?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Weather and Birthdays and Voting - Oh My!

First of all, FUCK YEAH, AMERICA!  Yesterday the country said, "I think actually we will have a little equality, thank you."  It's safe to be a vagina-having person again.  Racism died a little.  We move forward.  Halleje-frikkin-ulla!

All that said, it's safe to say I was panicking just a smidge when polls closed and no numbers were in.  My coping mechanism:

 Things went good quickly, though.  I didn't have to polish it off.

Other things have been good too.  We survived Sandy without too many problems.  Lost our power for a little over a day, need to replace part of the fence, and lost the apple tree from our backyard.  It could have been much worse.  
(It could have been this - our next-door neighbor's house)

But the kids still got to do Halloween, as power was back on in the neighborhood and Framingham didn't postpone.  

 yum.  Pumpkin guts.

I think that my carvings stayed very true to the artists' intentions.

Although we didn't eat this on Halloween, we totally should have, because the kids said it looked like a plate of bloody hair.  Okay, that doesn't make it sound so appetizing, but it was really, really good.  

It's epicurious's Farro Spaghetti, Beets and Brown Butter recipe, but with the following tweaks:
I used regular pasta.  I skipped the poppy seeds.  I served with the beet greens that were sauteed in butter.  If you're a beet fan, I highly recommend it.  (And it's fun to look at, to boot!)

So after Halloween was Jax's birthday party.  So much fun.  

We played "Pin the Nose on the Witch"

 Birthday boy goes first!

Some were more successful than others.

There was a remarkably durable pinata

 It was a costume party (he's not always dressed like batman)

Of course, when all the kids had had a turn, and there was still no candy, Uncle Fred had to step up.

 And still, no candy.  So Pete took one for the team.  
I swear that thing was made of specially reinforced cardboard.

And we had a fantastic balloon fight (boys v. girls)

The girls ended up winning, even though the boys got some extra help 

Of course, Pete had to jump in too

Then there was cake

 They weren't sideways when we ate them. 

 All in all, a remarkably successful party, if I do say so myself. 

So when you factor all that in, plus the insanity that is work, and the stupid <grumble grumble, grr> CFP, we've been doing a lot of easy dinners.  There's been good stuff though.  Like

Stuffed French Toast and Cooked Apples
(french toast)
1 loaf sliced cinnamon raisin bread
cream cheese
6 eggs
1.5 cups milk
butter (for cooking)

4 large apples
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp apple pie spice mix (or just cinnamon)

To make the french toast:
Spread a slice of bread with a generous layer of cream cheese, and top with another slice of bread to make a sandwich.  Repeat until you've used up the loaf of bread.  
Beat the eggs and milk together until uniform in color throughout.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the butter.
Dip the sandwiches in the egg mix and soak until the bread is saturated, but not falling apart.  
Cook each sandwich over medium heat for about 5 minutes per side, or until nicely browned and cooked through.  Keep warm in a 200 degree oven.

To make the apples:
Slice the apples in about 1/4 inch slices, leaving the skins on.  Heat the butter over medium heat, and then add the apples to the pan.  Add the sugar and spice and reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft, but not mushy (about 15 minutes).  

Finally, tonight we had

Stacked Enchiladas
16 corn tortillas
1/2 can refried beans
1 red pepper
1 medium red onion
2 cups cooked shredded chicken (leftover rotisserie?), tossed with about 1 tbsp taco seasoning
3 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, "mexican blend," whatever)
enchilada sauce or salsa

First, prep the pepper and onion: slice each into 1/4 inch thick slices, and saute over medium high heat until soft, about 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
Grease a large baking dish (4 tortillas should be able to lay flat across the bottom without overlapping - you might need two dishes).
Spread one tortilla with about 3 tbsp of refried beans.  Top with another corn tortilla.  Sprinkle a little bit of cheese, then place 1/4 of the pepper and onion mix.  Sprinkle a little more cheese, and top with another tortilla.  Place a little more cheese, top with 1/4 the chicken, and top with a little more cheese.  Place the last tortilla.  Repeat until you have 4 stacks.
Top each stack with a generous coating of enchilada sauce (or salsa) and top with a little more cheese.
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, serve hot.  

So there.  In the past two weeks, we've hosted parties, survived a hurricane, and made some really really good political choices.  

Oh, and I tried my hand at making bread.  Not bad, if I say so myself.

Tomorrow, more work, more food, no political ads, good politicians.  Should be alright.