Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thai Chicken Soup

Some people might ask, don't you ever get sick of soup? And I would No I don't. If I had to retire to an Island (a chilly Island...) and could only request two things to live on for the rest of my days, I would choose 1. Soup and 2. Chunky Peanut Butter Cookies. And this would be a really clever thing because there are so many kinds of soup.

In Thailand, where right now it is at least 85 degrees (as I watch snowflakes swirl out the window...) there is a dish called Kow Mun Gai. Translated directly, this means Rice with Chicken. But it is so much more. Someday I'll make it and post a recipe...but the moral of the story is, this delectable dish comes with a bowl of chicken soup-- flavored with cilantro and ginger and bits of carrot and Thai turnip. And it is delicious.

I tried a (failed) attempt at another Thai soup last week, and after looking into the pot at the curdled coconut milk (who knew?) I thought to myself...why didn't just make the chicken soup? So the next day, I did.

I made my version a bit more hearty, with chunky carrots and turnips, Thai radish, and a good amount of chicken. We also added a little bit of rice to our bowls to make it into more of a meal. We both loved it, and felt perfectly satisfied afterwards. Which, with my husband, is saying something...he can eat, and eat, and EAT.


1 onion
1/2 pimento pepper
2 carrots, peeled 
1 turnip, peeled 
1 dakai, peeled
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbs ginger, chopped
1 small bunch cilantro, tied
7 cups chicken broth
4 chicken drumsticks
2 tbs soy sauce
white pepper

Chop up the onion, garlic, and pepper. 
Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a pan (or wok if you really want to get authentic...) and toss it all in. Chop the ginger up (peal it first) and add that as well, with a few dashes of white pepper and 1 tbs soy sauce.
Chop up the root veggies and toss them in the crock pot (obviously). The Dakai looks like this (pictured below) and is sort of like a mix between a radish and a turnip. I found it in the produce section of Market Basket.
 I did a nice chunky cut on all the roots, so we'd have something to chew on...
Salt and pepper the chicken legs and nestle them down among the veggies. Give a good shake of white pepper over it all, and add the rest of the soy sauce. Tie up the cilantro bunch, and place it in there as well.

Then, pour in the chicken broth, put the cover on, and you're all set! I cooked mine on high for about 6 hours.

Before serving, remove the cilantro and the chicken. Throw the cilantro away, and shred up the legs so that there will be nice bits of meat in the soup, not four hard-to-eat-with-a-spoon legs. 

Like I said before, we ate ours served over about a 1/4 cup of jasmine rice. With a lime on the side. But I had it for lunch the following day without rice, and it was still filling. But the lime is key, since ginger, cilantro, and lime are three of the most iconic Thai flavors. 
Coming up next, I have a better-for-you creamy Parmesan pasta with sausage and broccoli. Enjoy a sunny Wednesday if you are not in New England. If you are, then I'm sorry, and I'm right there with you.

Here's to Summer. Just a casual five months away.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pasta de Italia

Here is the thing. I haven't updated in a really long time. Which isn't to say I haven't thought about updating. I just haven't done it. Also, I am removing all the side bar links because I haven't been keeping up with them. I have, of course, still been exercising. But I want to do that for me, and not for the online world. As for the book link and the outfit link-- I'm just too lazy to update it. I'll be honest. 

I hate grocery shopping. I hate it with an all abiding passion, sort of like I hate doing laundry. So when I do go grocery shopping, I get enough food to last a minimum of two weeks. We are on a strict food budget, and it is a little bit fun to stay within those bounds, but mostly I'll put off the inevitable for as long as possible. In fact, before I went shopping yesterday, it had been over three weeks since my last trip. That being said, I got real creative with meals for the past six days or so as we slowly used up everything we had left. This particular meal though is one that we continuously go back to whenever we are super low on food. And, it is a direct tie back to my days in Italy. It is amazingly easy, incredibly tasty, and takes precisely 6 ingredients. If you count crushed, dried red peppers as an ingredient, which I hardly do. 

   Once upon a time, I went to the small clifftop town of Orvieto to study for four months. Before it got very cold, it was very warm. And it was grape season. So one day, my young and excited self went grape picking with my young and excited classmates. We were probably very little use, but the Italians who owned the orchard were kind enough to let us inexpertly and clumsily pick grapes to our hearts content. Afterwards, our Italian teacher Allessandro whipped together what was quite literally the most delicious tomato sauce I had ever had in all my days. And, he did it all over a single flamed propane tank. After eating 27 plates of it, I asked him how he made it. He looked at me with confusion and said, "Tomato's and olive oil and garlic." "Yes" I said, "But what else?" He paused. "Salt?" And I sighed, because obviously he was lying to me and keeping the recipe a secret for himself.

There I am with my friends, singing for my supper.
Also, while perusing for the above photo I found this one of Baby Alice (my now enormous cat) and could anything be more adorable? No. I don't think so.

Anyway. When I came home to America I tried a million different (complicated) sauce recipes and never got close. Until one day, while babysitting, I tasted a noodle from the pot of tomato pasta for the kids. And there it was. It was The Sauce. I nearly fainted. And I asked for the recipe. And lo and behold....Allessandro told me the truth.

Easy. Delicious. Authentic. And SO CHEAP its silly. I call it Pasta de Italia (or maybe I should call it Pasta de Allessandro) but you can call it pasta with tomato sauce if you like.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1/2 box of ziti
1.5 tbs olive oil
1 large can of whole plum tomatoes (I think its 48 oz)
6 cloves garlic, smashed
3 pepperoncini's (these are a special dried whole pepper that the Wonderful Babysitting Mother Cook gave me but you could use 1/4 tsp of crushed dried red peppers)
A hearty palmful of salt (malto importante)

See? Six ingredients. 

First, put the pasta water on to boil, and salt it well. Then, heat the olive oil in a skillet. Smash the garlic, and add it to the hot oil along with the pepperoncini's. You can put them in whole, but I tend to crush them. This makes it almost too spicy for Nick, but perfect for me. 
(that garlic is smashed.)
While the garlic turns golden, puree the can of whole tomatoes a little in a food processor or blender. You want it to have a little chunk left to it.
Once the garlic is golden, pour the tomatoes into the pan. 

Next comes the salt. You need to not be shy about this part...Salt brings out the flavor of tomatoes, and its a key ingredient for the 'authentic' flavor.
Stir it up and simmer the sauce. Cook the ziti until it is just al dente, then pour it into the pan.
Stir it up, serve it up, and top it with some fresh Parmesan cheese.
Truly, this is so delicious. What could be easier? Maybe not even boxed mac and cheese...and it'll make you feel like you're picking grapes in the hot Italian sun at the foot of a cliff top fortress town in Umbria...

And maybe if you go to watch the Patriots lose horrifically right afterwards with your husband, it will soften the blow.

I have lots more recipes already made and pictured (on my camera) so I'll be back soon.

Happy Hump day to those of you who don't work on Saturdays! Hopefully the temperature will manage to reach above 13...this morning when it was a casual 9 degrees in Maine, I took Lupe on a run. I thought that every one of my extremities were going to fall off and I think I know now what frost bite feels like. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Red Beans and Rice Stew

This past weekend was so wonderful. Saturdays work day was fun and FLEW by. I got to go on a Mansion Run with a dear friend (which means we ran throw a neighborhood of mansions, not a mansion house). My car did exceptionally well on gas. And Nick and I were able to spend Saturday night and most of Sunday with my dads side of the family, celebrating third Christmas. I am incredibly lucky because all of my cousins (and their significant others) are in the realm of 'my age.' When I was a kid, I had two built in best friends-- two girl cousins who were almost exactly my age. I'm realizing now how lucky I many of the kids I know don't have any cousins, or have cousins that are way  younger or way older than them. Family get togethers were always a blast and they still are, though we've matured beyond playing Pocahontas in the backyard and decorating the tree fort. But we still have a great time together-- the whole group of us-- which this year was a total of twenty-three people. And that is a very lucky thing-- to actually like your own family.

The FUN of the past two days made today that much worse....I struggled with feelings of failure and hurt over a work situation. I left my phone at someone's house and had to drive WAY out of my path to get it...which made me late...which made me feel even more like a failure...which made me want to cry...again...And I had my hair colored back to its normal color (which I haven't seen in many a year) and its almost brown. This is heartbreaking. I've always been a blonde...and I had no idea my hair had gotten so dark. Though I had my suspicions, and now they're confirmed. I did have a fantastic work out at my new gym this morning though, and I had a wonderful meal of leftovers to come home to. All is well that ends well...

Which brings me to this last. My cousin-in-law this weekend said that her husband won't eat soup because its not filling enough, and doesn't feel like a meal. If you happen to have this problem in your house, then you have to try this stew. Its thick, filling, meaty, a little spicy, and super delicious. I adapted it from the fantastic recipe book my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas, and Nick and I were THRILLED with the results. I almost never have seconds, and with this dish, I couldn't help myself. It was a small second. But it counted.

I used another snobbish bean...The Burt Goodwin Bean, which is an heirloom variety that Nick grows at the farm. But you could just use Kidney beans. Although the flavor of this bean is milder, and I think, superior. But I may be biased. I also used a spicy Chorizo sausage. If you want soup with less of a kick, you could go with kielbasa. But maybe you'd regret it.

Ingredients (serves at least 6)
1 large white onion, chopped
7 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
21/2 cups Burt Beans or Kidney Beans (soaked or quick boiled)
1/2 pound chorizo sausage
1/2 cup jasmine rice
salt and pepper
1 tbs cider vinegar

Chop up the onions, garlic, and poblano pepper.
 Throw them all, with the olive oil, into a non stick pan.. Add some salt and pepper (per always) and the paprika, thyme, and chipotle seasoning.
 Combine it all, and cook until the vegetables are softened.

Slice up  the sausage into medium sized chunks...I tend to slice things small because I always use less meat than a recipe calls for, because you don't need that much meat.
Throw the vegetables, sausage, beans (which you will have either boiled for fifteen minutes or soaked overnight) broth, and water into the crock pot. Add some salt and pepper, and the tablespoon of vinegar. 

Cover it and cook it on high for 6 hours or so. A half hour before serving, add the rice and a little more salt and chipotle seasoning. Once the rice is tender, dish it up and sprinkle a little cheese on top.

Then, start eating and savoring the amazing flavors. Truly, this is one of my favorite dishes to date. Even the left overs are delicious.
And it'll pick you up after a Really Bad Day. That and a dark and stormy...both of which I just finished.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Italian White Bean Soup

Both Nick and I studied in Italy Back In The Day when we were young and excited. We didn't know each other then...and went one semester apart, but we both have a lot of the same memories. Specifically food memories-- what wouldn't I do for a piece of quattro formaggia pizza from my favorite little spot in Florence (who knows where it is...I forget and probably could never find it again...), or a bowl of cheesy risotto at the little cafe in Orvieto that we ate our daily meals at.
See? Young. And Excited.

The pizza of my dreams in the far right corner.

 That little cafe also served a killer white bean soup that Nick loved even before he became a bean King in Maine. And so, with the help of Baers Best Beans and my crock pot, I whipped up a pot of it the other night.
Chock filled with Otebo beans (a white, heirloom Japanese variety), carrots, onions, and garlic, it was a stick-to-your-ribs kind of dinner that flooded us with all kinds of Italy nostalgia. Its also a pretty easy soup ingredients wise, although I did cry buckets of tears while dicing the onions...


2 1/4 cups Otebo beans (you could also use cannelini) 
1 tsp olive oil
1.5 large white onions, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
3 oz proscuitto, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
2.5 cups bean broth
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp rosemary
salt and pepper
parmesan rind (optional)

Depending on the bean, either soak them over night, or boil them for about fifteen minutes. The thing I've learned about beans is that if they're fresh (like Nicks are) they boil up really quickly. You don't want the beans to be soft when you make the soup, just softened. So, again, with a store bought variety, soak them over night. With a fresh dried bean, boil for fifteen minutes.

Anyway. Chop up the onions, garlic, carrot, and prosciutto, and put them all in a frying pan with a little olive oil until everything is softened. Throw in some salt and pepper to bring out the flavors too.
Transfer all this into the crock pot, and add the beans. Reserve 2.5 cups of the bean liquid when you drain them, and add it to the soup, along with three cups of chicken broth. Throw in the parsley, rosemary, a good amount of pepper, and a bit more salt. Lastly, pop in the rind off of a block of Parmesan. It adds a nice little touch of creaminess. Cover it, and cook it on high for 5-6 hours. 

   So easy, and so tasty. Top it with a little bit of grated Parmesan, and enjoy the warm, filling bowl. 

In other news, one of my very dearest friends arranged a wonderful surprise birthday dinner for me last night. I arrived in Newburyport expecting to have a drink with her, and found four of my closest girlfriends  there as well. It was so wonderful to sit around the table at Agave, our favorite Mexican restaurant, drinking marguerita's, over indulging in the insanely tasty chips and salsa they make from scratch there, and telling stories. I am so lucky to have such dear friends. So lucky.

Have a great weekend. We are heading to my grandma's house after work tomorrow for third Christmas with all the aunts, uncles, and cousins. I hope there will be some snow left for sledding...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Happy Birthday, Happy New Year

My echoing silence has been due mostly to the fact that I was down with the flu for a week...I am still tired and a little less than 100%. It all started on New Years Eve with the aches and the chills as I got the farm house ready for our New Years Bash...and so just like that, it is 2013. And I'm 26. Both of those things happened. 
    Never has there been a year that I have looked back on with such a quiet sense of satisfaction and thanksgiving. Apart from the fact that I married my very handsome, very loving husband, it was a good year. Things fell into place in an admirable way. I moved. I expanded my work. I met new people and made new friends. And now that we are on the thresh hold of a new year, its hard to imagine being able to 'top' last year in any way. 

Usually I do make resolutions. And usually I stick to them pretty well, because I am a very stubborn person. But this year I couldn't think of any, which is, I suppose, a good thing. There is nothing that I want to achieve for the sake of achieving it. I just want to maintain, and enrich. 
   Almost every year I read Little Women. It is perhaps my favorite book in the world-- a book that feeds my heart and my soul. I read it for the first  time when I was probably nine, and have been in love with it since. This most recent time reading it, I was struck by how hard the girls tried to be 'good'. And it occurred to me that that isn't something we really try to do anymore...our lives are so centered around ourselves, and what is best for us. But I think that in forgetting that striving to a higher goal-- to conquer those parts of us that hurt others, or ourselves, to battle with our natural inclinations to be unkind or selfish-- we have lost and are losing something that is so important. We are losing our ability to improve...not in a physical sense, by losing those five pounds or getting the perfect haircut...but in an internal sense. We tend to settle for what we have, and forget about it, as opposed to trying to deepen our ability to love, to empathize, to help others. So I guess this year, that's what I want to try to any way I can. To better myself internally. To be kinder in my thoughts and my actions. To be more thoughtful in the way I approach life. To love more deeply...

Thankfully, I am married to a man that every day reminds me of how fortunate I am and makes me want to always work to deserve his love. And for that I am blessed.

Also, now I am officially closer to 30 than I am to 20. And that is tough.