Fridge Finds: What's (Really) Cooking, Part 5

Blog Party Day!

Today we get to hear from Meredith at The White Pages - and, my friends, you are in for a treat.  She's honest!  She's for real!  She's thrifty!  She's fun!  And all of those things, coupled with her upbeat humor, make this blog post perhaps one of the most authentic ones of the blog party.  

So hop on over there and say hey, why don't ya?  

PS.  Three cheers for bean soup!  It's what's for dinner here tonight, too!

Sunny Day Project

Ideal spray painting weather: sunny and no wind.  I'm barely squeaking by with 51 degrees (ideal temperature to spray paint, according to the label, is 50-90 degrees), but that hasn't stopped me.  

Roadside finds rock!

(Pun unintended)


Fridge Finds: What's (Really) Cooking, Part 4

It's Tuesday!  Do you remember that Tuesday means that it's Blog Party day?  We get a good view of Elissa's fridge AND pantry at Winding Down with the Whiteds.  Hearing what a normal week's menu is for them makes me wish that we still just lived down the road from her!  (And apparently I'm missing the boat on tortellini soup.  That's a THING and I need to try it!)

She mentions a cookbook that was a collection of special recipes from a group of friends ... which makes me think about how lovely it is that food can bring people together in lots of different ways - sitting at a table together, sharing recipes across miles, or reminiscing about food with each other via technology. 

Read Elissa's post here; if you missed the first three installments of the Fridge Finds blog party, check out Rebecca's here, Rebekah's here, or mine here.  Happy Tuesday!


Cranberry-Apple Baked Oatmeal

Makes 1 9"x13" dish, serves 4-6

1 1/2 c. frozen whole cranberries
2 medium apples, peeled and cored
2 eggs
1 c. milk
3 c. uncooked rolled oats
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. melted butter
2 eggs
1 c. milk

Coarsely chop whole cranberries and peeled/cored apples (I did this in a food processor with 6-8 one-second pulses.  If you don't have a food processor, chopping or grating works fine).  Stir in eggs and milk; set wet ingredients aside.

In a large bowl, stir together oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Stir in melted butter.  Add the cranberry-apple mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.

Put into a lightly greased 9"x13" dish.  Bake at 325 for 30-45 minutes or until set.  To serve, heat additional milk and spoon over each serving.  (All the steps except baking can be done the night before for a make-ahead breakfast!  Just combine ingredients, put them in a dish, and cover them in the refrigerator overnight.)

Cranberry-Apple Baked Oatmeal
I am not going to wait until Thanksgiving to say it: I am extremely thankful.  I am so blessed, and have so many wonderful, beautiful people and things in my life.  That is all.


Spaghetti al Pomodoro (Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce)

from The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces by Diane Seed

1 lb. spaghetti
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 14-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes
1 sugar lump (1 teaspoon)
salt and black pepper
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil and gently fry the chopped onion and garlic until softened.  Cover the pan to prevent browning if necessary.  Add the tomatoes with their juice, sugar, salt and pepper to taste, and cook over high heat, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the sauce is reduced and thick, check the seasoning, then pass the sauce through the medium disc of a food mill (or use a blender or food processor as I did, though the cookbook author says that's "not authentic").
Cook the pasta, following the directions on the packet very carefully to avoid overcooking.  Drain the pasta and add half the freshly grated cheese, stirring thoroughly.  Then add the sauce.  Stir well, add the rest of the cheese, and serve.

If you've been reading this blog off and on since 2013 started, you may remember this "Year of Food" thing that's going on here.  A little refresher: last Christmas, my gift to the Mister was a year of cooking international cuisine in three-month chunks.  We ate a lot of Indian food from January to March, ate crepes and sprinkled herbes de Provence on everything from April to July for the French block, took August off (we were travelling, after all), and made a few beans-and-rice dishes in September and called it Ethiopian (that was a little bit of a failure.  I need to do more research next time).

Which brings us to October, where we are finishing the year with Italian food.

Already, I can tell I am really, really going to like this fourth quarter.

I did a little internet search for an Italian market near me, and I found this gem: D and D Market, in South Hartford.  I walked in, and immediately saw a giant display of tomatoes.  I'm naive, I know, but that started this place on the path of authenticity for me.

I rounded a corner of the market with my cart (and two kids) and I almost took out someone's dear old nona (who couldn't have weighed more than 85 pounds, and had a sweet kerchief).  Again, call me crazy, but this place was really feeling legit.

Two of the four walls were taken up by deli displays - one of cured meats and all kinds of cheeses with more "c"s and "i"s than I know what to do with, and the other with fresh sausages and meats.  Of course (because this has to be the case), one of the three butchers had a thick accent.

Also, there was a lot of frozen ravioli and tortellini.

And did you know that Romano cheese can come grated in three different ways?  Apparently it can.  That cheese alone took up a quarter of the dairy case.

I'm off to a roaring start thanks to these two cookbooks - Sicilian American Pasta by John Penza and Tony Corsi, and The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces by Diane Seed.  I figure that I need to work on my basics here (sauces and dishes using short lists of fresh ingredients) before going big.

Do you have any tips for me?  What cookbooks (websites/chefs) do you reference when making Italian food?

Buon appetito!


Fridge Finds: What's (Really) Cooking, Part 3

It's Tuesday, friends ... which means it's the Fridge Finds blog party day!  (Can't remember what that's about?  Check out the first week here, or last week's Fridge Finds post here)

Lucky for us, we get to hang out with Rebecca from Down the Rabbit Hole.  She's a modest friend, and quiet about her culinary prowess.  Don't be fooled when she talks about simple fare of eggs and kale: she is the kind of cook whose meals you remember.  I have eaten that exact dinner at her house - spontaneously, when our husbands had to work late, and we were both pregnant with our first.  I still specifically remember how I scraped the plate.  And her granola?  Stellar.

I met her, long ago - a mutual friend connected us because she and her husband were moving to our town.  We have a little bit of a culinary history together - this was an early meal that my mom and I delivered to her when she moved; we still laugh over this mishap together; this remains my favorite way to prepare sweet potatoes; a recent favorite soup recipe is from her kitchen.

So, don't wait another minute.  Check out what is going on in Rebecca's kitchen with this week's Fridge Finds post!


Soup on the Lawn

Soup on the Lawn ingredients

White Chicken Chili (from Cook's Illustrated, Jan-Feb 2007)
Serves 6-8

Rhymeswithsmile note: this soup is a little labor intensive, but extremely tasty.  Like, you could win soup contests with this gem.  Don't be alarmed at the peppers - the soup is not spicy unless you add the jalapeno seeds at the end.  

2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves or thighs, trimmed of excess fat and skin
table salt and ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 medium jalapeno chiles
4 medium poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
4 medium anaheim chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces (substitute additional poblanos and jalapenos if anaheim chiles are unavailable)
2 medium onions, cut into large pieces (2 cups)
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
3 Tbsp. juice from 2 to 3 limes
1/4 c. minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced thin

Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes.  Transfer chicken to a plate; remove and discard skin.

While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 of the jalapenos; mince flesh.  In a food processor, process half of poblano chiles, anaheim chiles, and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, ten to twelve 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through.  Transfer mixture to medium bowl.  Repeat with remaining poblano chiles, anaheim chiles, and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash food processor blade or workbowl).

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium.  Add minced jalapenos, chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.  Remove pot from heat.

Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor workbowl.  Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 3 cups broth, and chicken breasts to dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees (175 degrees if using thighs), 15-20 minutes (40 minutes if using thighs).

Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate.  Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Mince remaining jalapeno, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds (if desired), and set aside.  When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones.  Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and remaining minced jalapeno (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer.  Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

We had this hair-brained idea not too long ago that we would make five gallons of soup, invite our neighbors over, and eat soup together on our front lawn.  It was a crazy move.  We'd met one family across the street, and the folks on either side of us, but that was about it ... so the other 37 invitations we distributed were to strangers.  Why not?  I mean, really.  There was nothing to lose.  If it was a flop, all the excess soup would carry us into the new year.  If it was successful, then maybe we'd have some new friends to sled with this winter.

Did my precious husband want to make something easy, like tomato-basil soup?  Or chicken noodle?  No.  He remembered this soup that we had had with our landlady when we first got married, and promised that he would do the cooking if I could prep the ingredients.  So, our crazy Soup on the Lawn adventure was escalated by a rather detailed, intense recipe that called for (in my opinion) excessive amounts of chile peppers of three varieties.

But ... it was SO. WORTH. IT!  The soup, though delicious, wasn't even the best part.  We had about 40 people show up (including kids) - a neighbor up the street contributed a crock-pot of chowder to the party (she wheeled it over in her kids' wagon), the family across the street brought glow-stick bracelets for all the kids, and our next-door friends pulled their picnic table out front for additional seating.  Other neighbors filtered in, some shyly, some boldly ... but they came!  They CAME!

There were really neighborly conversations going on, about speed bumps and charter schools and area bagel places.  There was a fire in the fire pit, parents losing track of their kids, and more desserts than any one neighborhood could possibly have eaten.  It felt so good.

One of the best things about this neighborhood potluck was that if we needed something - additional chairs, say, or another ladle - all we had to do was ask someone to run home and grab it.  


And now, a note about cooking in quantity ... 

We multiplied the original recipe by 7, figuring that one batch would make about two and a half or three quarts of soup.  Five gallons = twenty quarts, so that's why we multiplied by 7 instead of a more normal number.

If you had looked in my fridge late last week, you would've seen 23 pounds of chicken, three giant bags of peppers, enough onions to make you weep for days, and cilantro out the wazoo (good thing it wasn't my Fridge Finds Blog Party day!).  

I did as much of the prep work as I could the night before - quartering onions, cutting peppers, smashing garlic cloves, and measuring spices.  My goal was to make the actual cooking process go as smoothly as possible, without being hung up by "oh, I forgot to chop this ingredient".  It was intense.  I cried (15 medium onions will do that to you).

While I am not usually a stick-exactly-to-the-recipe kind of gal, I did really try to stay as mainstream as I could with this recipe.  I knew that the original quantites produced a delicious soup, and I wanted to keep it as experiment-free and last-minute-freak-out as possible.  So, I followed the actual recipe.


Fridge Finds: What's (Really) Cooking, Part 2

It's the Fridge Finds blog party day!  If you're missed last week's post about this curious blog party, catch yourself up by checking out my post from last week.

I hope you're as pumped as I am to get a peek into another REAL family's REAL fridge! I'm really excited to have Rebekah - aka, the Homemade Engineer - as the featured blogger this week!  I met Rebekah when she and her husband moved to Smalltown, Southwest Virginia for grad school (why else would anyone move there?), and got to know her through church, potlucks, and shared craftiness (though, I confess she's much better at sewing things exactly than I am.  Must be that engineer in her.)

She has some great food plans for the week.  And, as someone who's always looking for a new way to cook up beans, I'm pumped that she's sharing a lentil recipe ... because, really, one can never know too many ways to serve beans.

So without further ado, check out her post here, and let her know what you're excited to see in her fridge!


Quilting Progress

I am so proud of this quilting group!  Look how far they've gotten!  
(There are three more quilts that I didn't get pictures of last night, so I will highlight those soon!)


Fridge Finds: What's (Really) Cooking, Part 1

Do you ever wonder what other people actually have in their fridge?  Or what they are really planning on cooking up on a day-to-day basis?

I do.  I'll just call myself curious instead of nosy ... but I really do wonder about these things.  I think about food all day long - at breakfast I think about lunch, at lunch I dream about dinner, and in all those in between times I think about what someone else must be eating, or could be eating, or might be eating.  I know.  It's weird.  There, I said it.

I've been thinking about this so much (I'm not obsessed, really I'm not) that I'm joining up with a few friends with homemaker(ish) blogs for a BLOG PARTY!  Each week from now through early November, a different blogger is going to take a - for real - picture of the food in her refrigerator.  Then she's agreed to share a few menu ideas or recipe links, based on what's in there.

It's my turn first, so here you go.  Here is a picture of my refrigerator, fo'realzies.

Food to notice:

Top shelf: bacon
Middle shelf: loaf of bread, waaaaay too many eggs
Middle shelf drawer: 3 blocks of cheese, pepperoni
Bottom shelf: yogurt, flat of chicken thighs, tortillas
Bottom left drawer: celery, carrots, peppers, tomatoes (Don't know if you can see those)
Bottom right drawer: lettuce, limes

And here, my friends, is a short list of what's really cooking here at the Rhymeswithsmile household this week ... (it's way less glamorous than you might hope)

BLTs (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato) sandwiches - using bread, lettuce, tomato, and crispy bacon, with a possible addition of a fried egg (for me), sweet peppers (for Big Sister), and cheese (for the Mister).

Chicken Curry (with chicken, celery, and yogurt from the fridge, adding in chopped sweet pepper - other ingredients are in the cupboards)

Chicken Enchiladas with Mexican Rice and Cilantro Dressing (unfortunately, I forgot to pick up cilantro on my recent grocery run.  So I'll swing by the store next time I'm out ...)

Homemade pepperoni pizza using this dough in the bread machine.

Keep checking in on Tuesdays for the coming weeks, so that you can see what these foodie friends are really cooking up!

Rebecca at Down the Rabbit Hole
Rebekah at Homemade Engineer
Elissa at Winding Down With the Whiteds
Meredith at The White Pages
Andrea at The Strategic Homemaker