Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Red Bean and Bacon Soup

Waiting for his oysters

Saturday started out rather bumpy.  Our best laid morning plans quickly went down the drain and instead were replaced by a trip to the minor med for my husband, who thought (and was correct) that he had a pretty nasty sinus infection.  I, of course, stayed home with little A.  Who knows what he would have caught in that waiting room?  Dysentery, probably.

But the meal we had on Saturday night made up for the rocky morning.  While my husband braved the minor med I putzed around in the kitchen, drank coffee, played with the baby (did I mention I love the mornings with him?  It's when he's in the best mood) and prepared the marinade for Chicken Satay.  I know, another Mark Bittman recipe...but I couldn't help it.  I had the other half of the chicken thighs in the freezer and Bittman's recipes are so foolproof that I couldn't turn it down.  And remember my last post when I said we were in a rut?  Well, I had a request for the same cabbage and carrot salad and the same glazed carrots to be served with the Satay.  So, maybe we're sliding into another rut again. 

Sunday morning called for buttermilk waffles and bacon since my husband was feeling so much better.  After we were finished (isn't is always after?), we rationalized this fatty, fatty meal by deciding to do next what we had originally planned to do on Saturday - go take a long walk down by the river.  With the baby.  And two dogs.  After that exertion (my goodness, the effort to pack up two dogs and a baby...exhausting), we decided to treat ourselves again to some oysters, beer, and fried okra at Flying Fish.  The baby enjoyed his oysters (kidding!).

And then I topped off my day by making this red beans and bacon soup.  I left out the tomatoes, celery, and Sherry and stuck to the 1-1/2 cups of carrots.  I also skipped cooking the bacon beforehand and just threw the bacon pieces in with the broth so it could cook along with the beans.  So I basically didn't follow the recipe at all, but the result was a nice, smoky, meaty bean stew.  Exactly what I wanted to have for my lunches this week since it is so cold today.  And for a second there I was going to type something about how healthy this was (in order to counteract the fried goodness and beer a few hours prior), but who am I trying to kid?  There was a lot of bacon.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chicken Kebabs with Orange-Ginger Carrots and Carrot-Cabbage Salad

Mommy is a food nerd!

We had a bag of carrots and half a head of Napa cabbage rolling around in our vegetable bin this weekend and I was dead set on using them up for dinner.  I hate wasting food, even when it's something cheap like carrots and cabbage.  So I flipped through my favorite cookbook and miraculously not only found recipes that would use up those lingering vegetables, but the recipes actually worked together to create a cohesive meal.  Wha?

You see, usually I have no problem finding good recipes, but when it comes to putting a few together to make a meal that makes sense, well, I struggle.  This is because my idea of a great main dish (and the majority of my bookmarked recipes) is usually something vegetable-centered (a quiche! pasta! samosas!), while my husband usually requests meat.  So meat it is, if the weather is nice enough for grilling.  From there, my creativity seems to disappear.  Ok, for a side...how about potatoes?  And a side Caesar salad?  Gah, how boring

But THIS meal... this was so refreshing, so different from our usual dinner formula.  The chicken thighs came together so easily (even though they were a bit tricky to skewer), and the carrots were great with the ginger and orange juice.  I'm still sort of giddy about how well this meal came together and that I was able to use up the stuff in our fridge (and even more excited that I brought the leftovers for lunch today).  Does that make me a nerd?  Probably.  

Bittman doesn't have the salad recipe posted, so here is my loose recipe below:

Carrot and Cabbage salad

- (2) carrots, grated
- one head Napa cabbage, shredded
- (3) scallions, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- soy sauce (I used about 1-1/2 or 2 tsp)
- lime juice (to taste, I used about 1 tbsp)
- 1/4 cup of peanut or other oil

Mix the vegetables together in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Mix the soy sauce, lime juice, and oil together in small bowl and right before serving, drizzle it over the vegetables.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cooking with Baby

I'm back!  Confession: I always do my blog posts from my work computer (on my lunch break!  I swear!) so that is why there have been no updates...because I've been home with the bay-bee!  That's right, I had the little guy...6 lb, 3 oz on Nov 5th at 11:38 am.  I thought about typing out my birth story here but then thought better of it.  If anyone is still reading this blog, it's probably for the occasional link to a new recipe, not to read a birth story (right?). 

I will at least say this: the first two weeks were awful.  I spent the entire pregnancy reading up on pregnancy - this was dumb.  If you're pregnant and reading this - stop googling every pregnancy symptom and instead read up on breastfeeding and post partum blues/depression.  At least this is what my future self would have told my pregnant self about four months ago.  Ok, I'm done with the baby/pregnancy talk.  If you have questions, email me!  Because obviously I'm an expert, since I'm the mother of an eight-week old baby.  Ahem.  And honestly, this sounds so cliche, but it's true - I cannot imagine loving something more than I love this little boy.  After we made it through the first two weeks together, it only got better and better and before I knew it, I was truly enjoying it and felt like I knew what I was doing.  It also helps that he is extremely easy-going and really only fusses if he's hungry.  

In food-related news, it didn't take me long to get back into the kitchen.  Oh sure, we had our fair share of takeout and crappy food at the very beginning (because I was exhausted), but as time went on I was able to set up baby in his little bouncy seat in the kitchen and get right back to it.  Here is what I managed to make during my break. 
  • Chess pie, for Thanksgiving - the recipe came out of one of those church cookbooks that my mom gave to me.  I expected it to be like a version of chess squares (which I had never heard of before moving to the South), but I was wrong - it was more like a very sweet, dense and moist custard with a slightly crispy top layer.  I'd make this again.  Here are some similar recipes.
  • Buttermilk pie, for a Saturday night dinner.  Also from a church cookbook (ah, I love those), but here is a similar recipe, and here is another one.  This was a loftier, more egg-y custard of a pie than the chess pie.  I think I'd make this again but I'd like to play with the recipe a bit.
  • Moroccan chicken pot pie.  I double this recipe so I could get two pies out of one effort, and we gave one pie to our neighbor.  I've made this countless times and it's just so good.  Bookmark this one.
  • Chocolate Carmel Tart, from the Chocolate and Zucchini cookbook.  We took this up to St. Louis for Christmas and it was a hit.  Although we had so much dessert (cookies, more cookies, this tart, and a yule log cake), we barely made a dent in it.  Side note: if you don't have this cookbook, you really should go buy it.  It's got some really nice, quality recipes in it that I've got bookmarked. 
  • Rosemary Roasted Cashews, and Feta Salsa, also for Christmas (I think I linked to both of these a few Christmases ago, but oh well.  Both recipes are SO good, it's worth repeating them).
  • Pot stickers.  Wow, just wow.  I wanted to get out of my comfort zone a bit and try some new recipes from different cuisines, so I made this last Saturday night.  I'd suggest doubling or even tripling the recipe, and then freezing half for another time.  It's a bit time consuming filling all of those wrappers, but yikes this was so good.  We served them with hot mustard and chili dipping sauce. 
  • Baked Shrimp Scampi, for our quiet New Year's Eve.  I've also made this numerous times and it never disappoints.  Warning: it's quite rich.  We had lots of leftovers, so  last night I tossed it with some elbow macaroni and I have to say that I think I prefer it with the pasta.  It helps to cut the richness of it.  Either way, it's a perfect recipe.
Having said all of that, now that it's the New Year I'd love some ideas on what else to dive into.  I loved making those pot stickers, so I'm looking for more ideas on what else to try.  Do you have any favorite recipes of different cuisines that you could recommend?