Sunday, October 26, 2014

Something From Nothing #29: Old Fashioned Bean Dip

When you take on a big move like the one we are in the middle of, you find out a lot about yourself and your family. So far I've discovered that we don't like to throw things away. "We" also like to buy lots of blog props, and someone has amassed a huge collection of Clinique's gift with purchase bags. Wonder who that could be?

Since I only have one more trash day before we leave, I am pitching and cleaning like a woman possessed. Come Sunday night the refrigerator and pantry will be empty and gleaming. A slow and painful death has been promised to anyone who should foul either one in the quest sustenance. I'm sorry, if you are hungry go eat your snacks in the car. By tomorrow the kitchen will be a food free zone. Until then I'm cooking everything I can put my hands on so we don't have to move it.

For lunch today we had the perfect Something From Nothing dish. Nothing fancy and simple to make, my old-fashioned bean dip is really nothing more than a can of beans pureed that you spice up however you wish. Roll some of this up in a warm tortilla or add chips and maybe just a little bit of cheese, and you have a great little football snack or a house mover's light lunch as I told my boys today.

So here you are, Something From Nothing #29 . . .  by the skin of my teeth.

Old Fashioned Bean Dip

Oh go ahead and add some bacon if you must. You know I love it, but this recipe really doesn't need it and it will be eaten by everyone. Vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike will all love it.

1 - 29 ounce can pinto beans, partially drained (removing about 1/4 - 1/3 of the liquid will give you a nice consistency)
3 tablespoons chipotle sauce or adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers (Tabasco sauce to taste can also be used)
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon mild chili powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.

Serve as is at room temperature or heat and garnish with cheese, cilantro, pico de gallo, green chiles or green onions.

Makes about 2 cups.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Moving Forward: Italian Wedding Soup

Everything is pretty much done around here with the exception of the physical move. We've been through the negotiations of price and just a very few inspection objections and now we wait for the all important verdict of the appraisal gods. Barring a last minute upset, we will be in a new (to us) house this time next month.

It has pretty much been smooth sailing with all the packing. We have just rented our second storage unit which tells my husband that I have amassed far too much stuff in my lifetime. Never mind that our garage contains more tools and gadgets than a job site on This Old House. We also have enough hiking and camping gear to outfit an army of sherpas on a their way up Everest, but it is my four crates of Halloween decorations that have put us over our lifetime limit of crap, or so it has been insinuated.

I actually kind of like this storage unit thing. Usually by now we are walking through a tunnel of boxes looking for the one that contains printer paper, the blender or the dog's brush. When you take your packed boxes directly to storage there isn't a prayer of finding anything so you just do without, and that builds character, or so I've told my son. He'll be a lot more appreciative of his favorite white T when he sees it again on the other side of this move.

Eating our way through the freezer is going relatively well too. We've had some strange combinations lately and no one has given me any attitude about it. I think they know that if they ever want to see said white t-shirt, or their precious, all important and totally necessary baseball card collection again, they need to retain their sense of humor and be nice to the cook.

So, the next protein that popped up in my freezer line up just so happened to be a 1 pound package of ground turkey. I'm not really big on turkey burgers, but I love me some turkey meatballs and when I make turkey meatballs, they always end up in Wedding Soup. Not only will this soup recipe help me to clear out the freezer, but it also gives me an opportunity to use up one of the eight, count 'em EIGHT, partial boxes of pasta in my pantry, and the scraps of veggies in the crisper in a most delicious way.

This might just be the last dish on our table that makes sense for awhile, because the pickins' are getting mighty slim. Looks like a whole lot of something from nothing will be going on around here soon. You know I'll keep you posted on what I come up with.

Italian Wedding Soup

This popular Italian-American soup is named so not because it is served at weddings, but because it is the perfect marriage of meat and vegetables, and I couldn't agree more. Usually I am a fan of cream or tomato based soups, but this brothy soup has me totally won over.

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 of a medium size yellow onion, grated or very finely chopped
1 slice of sandwich bread, grated into breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon cream (optional)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 - 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9" x 13" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl place ground turkey, onion, breadcrumbs, cream (if using), Parmesan, Italian seasoning, egg, salt and pepper. Mix until ingredients are just combined. Divide mixture into slightly heaping tablespoons. Roll each portion into a ball and place in baking dish, leaving as much room as possible between them.

Place baking dish into the preheated oven and bake uncovered for 30 minutes, turning them half way through. After baking time, remove from oven and set aside until ready to use.

Makes approximately 24 meatballs.

2 tablespoons light olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 bay leaf
1 cup Swiss chard, chopped
2/3 cup dried ditalini pasta

Pour oil into a large stockpot set over medium high heat. When oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion, celery and carrot. Stirring frequently, cook the vegetables for 2 - 3 minutes or until they start to sweat.

Add the chicken stock, fennel seed and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the cooked meatballs, Swiss chard and pasta. Replace cover and cook until pasta is al dente, approximately 12 minutes.

Serve piping hot with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese if desired.

Makes approximately 8 servings

Just a small footnote here: Even though I like my meatballs browned just a little, I also sometimes poach them in the soup liquid instead of baking them and they turn out just fine. If you'd like to try this, gently drop the uncooked meatballs into the stock at the same time you add the fennel seed and bay leaf. Gently simmer them for the remainder of the soup's cooking time and they will be cooked through and tender.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

On the Move: Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk

This is the first time I have had the time or inclination to write a blog post in over two weeks. This move has really taken its toll on my blogging time. The past 14 days have been totally devoted to maintaining an immaculate house, showing it to strangers and looking for a new place, much less cooking anything that has an aroma or setting up my camera to take photos of it.

I'm really not complaining at all. Downsizing is something I have wanted to do for a couple of years now. Where I once wanted a house big enough that we could all spread out, I now want cozy and compact . . . and two less toilets to clean.

The house we have settled on is in an older part of town and was built in 1962. It has had only one owner for all these years, and as my husband would say, it is built like a brick shithouse. I guess that is good because he smiles the smile of a lucky man when he says it.

It needs lots of cosmetic work, but that is exactly the kind of house we were looking for. Ever since we married we have dreamed of buying an old neglected house and turning it into something special and now is the time. I would like to apologize in advance if you're not interested in hearing about staining concrete and removing overgrown shrubbery because it is coming.

Before all that goes down, we have to say goodbye to the house we are living in now. It is new and bright and tight, and I know I am going to miss it. It is one lucky family who is going to get to move in here and I know it is going to be emotional when we turn the keys over to them. It is a happy house that we have filled with love and cherished memories and I wish the same for them. Now it is time for us to make memories in a new place.

For some reason when we put our house on the market two weeks ago I agreed to include my 2 year old refrigerator in the sale. Someone please kick me next time I agree to something like this. Not only does this mean I'm going to have to fit a new refrigerator into my renovation budget, but I also have to empty and clean the heck out of this one, so I am starting now.

To get going, I decided to finally thaw a chicken that has been hanging around in the freezer for a couple of months now. As it worked out, the same day I pulled it out of the freezer, Faith from The Kitchn happened to write a rave review about  Jamie Oliver's recipe for Chicken in Milk.  She said it was the best chicken she had ever eaten, so I shared it on my Facebook. Seeing this post, a couple of well trusted cooking friends said that while good, they had both had better. With these two conflicting reviews, I knew I had to try it for myself.

My own verdict surprised even me. Even though I totally trust my cooking friends, I so wanted to fall in love with Jamie's recipe. With Faith's recommendation, I felt sure that this was going to be my new go to recipe. Well, I have to give this one to my cooking friends. Although very good, I'm still in love with Roasted Chicken With Bacon and Forty Cloves of Garlic, but I invite you to make Jamie's tasty recipe and decide for yourself. With just a few easy ingredients, what the heck. You never know you might find yourself in camp Faith and fall in love with it.

Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk

1- 3 pound chicken
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
Olive oil
1/2 of a small cinnamon stick (mine was about as big around as a drinking straw)
1 handful of fresh sage (my sage died weeks ago, so I just used my whole dried leaves)
Zest of 2 lemons
10 garlic cloves
2 cups whole milk

For Jamie's method, please click through to his site here.

Since I wanted to give a fair review on this recipe I followed Jamie's recipe very closely with the exception of using my dried sage instead of fresh, and since it is me, I draped the top of my chicken in bacon. I also used Faith's recommendation of covering the chicken for half of the cooking time and leaving it uncovered for half.

While moist and tender and pleasant in flavor, the chicken wasn't as flavorful as I thought it would be. The curdled milk solids and aromatics do make a sauce of sorts, but not as vibrant and enjoyable as I had hoped . . .  even with my bacon on top.

My recommendations? Well far be it from me to try to improve on Jamie's recipe, but when he says to season your chicken, season it really, REALLY well inside and out. Next time I might even cut one of my zested lemons in half and stick it in the cavity. The milk curdles anyway so why not kick up the flavor with some more lemon. And while I'm at it, I loved draping it in bacon. Everything goes better with bacon in my opinion.

Brown seasoned chicken well on both sides.

Place browned chicken snugly in a baking dish that is big enough to accommodate all the ingredients. This is the point that I draped my chicken in a couple of pieces of thin sliced bacon.

Shhh, don't tell Jamie that I draped his chicken in bacon. I learned this trick from Delia Smith years ago and in my opinion it makes any chicken or turkey better.