More leftovers

November 30, 2008

When I was in grad school, my friend Dayna introduced me to white chili. Before she shared this wisdom with me, I believed that all chili was based on the recipe I had used for years: ground turkey or Morningstar veggie crumbles, 2 cans of red kidney beans, 1 can of tomato sauce, 2 cups of water, and a big dash of chili powder. She opened my eyes to a whole new world of chili. And I’m sure Matt’s grateful that she did, because I think he was getting tired of eating my “traditional” chili all winter long.

Since we literally have pounds and pounds of turkey breast from our big T-Day meal, I adapted Dayna’s excellent chili recipe and came up with this:

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Another easy one:

  1. Heat a diced onion, some minced garlic, and a green pepper in a little olive oil over medium. We also have some celery and carrots on their way out, so Matt had the good idea to toss those in as well. He’s smart.
  2. After five or so minutes, add 4 cups of broth and 1 cup of water (you can use less than this, just eyeball it. We needed a lot to handle all of those veggies). Then, add diced turkey/chicken/neither if you’re a vegetarian, about 1/2 cup of corn, and a can of white beans (drained and rinsed). If you’re going meatless, I’d add another can of beans.
  3. Add cumin to taste. I literally dump it in.
  4. Stir, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover for 30-40 minutes.
  5. Live on it for days and days.

The only good thing that I can identify about this whole mouse situation is that our kitchen is probably the cleanest it has ever been, even before we moved in. We’re also being incredibly vigilant about washing dishes immediately and putting them away. I have more prep space than I’ve had in months.

Can you see how I am working on a positive outlook?

I’m not sure if you know this, but tomorrow is December 1. I know, I was surprised, too. It’s been a little disorienting spending 99% of the last four days in our apartment. But December 1 means three and a half weeks until vacation! I’m sure my family is getting all jazzed for my visit as I type this.

Okay, time to celebrate the end of November with – you guessed it – pie.

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Thanksgiving soup

November 29, 2008

The best part about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. Wait, the best part is the pie. The second best part is the leftovers.

Since we managed to keep it fairly light on T-Day, we have a ton of food left. I’ve got plans for several different leftover experiments in the next few days, but yesterday was gray and gross and all I wanted was soup. So we threw together a minestrone and managed to use up some leftovers while we were at it.

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It was really easy. Here’s the recipe:

  1. Heat a small diced onion and two peeled, chopped carrots in some olive oil over medium heat. I used a big soup pot and that was a good call because the volume ended up getting a little out of hand.
  2. After 5 minutes or so, add whatever other veggies you feel like including. We used: 5 chopped celery stalks, leftover green beans, a small chopped zucchini, a can of white beans, drained and rinsed. Since we had this as a main course, the beans were pretty much a requirement.
  3. Heat everything through for about 2-3 minutes. Add a can of diced tomatoes with their juices (or fresh, but we didn’t have that on hand), 5 cups of broth/water (or a combo), and some salt and pepper. We didn’t add anything else for flavor, because the green beans were sauteed with thyme.
  4. Bring it all to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Cook for about 30 minutes, until all veggies are soft.
  5. Add maybe 1/3 of a cup of some kind of small pasta. We used ancini de pepe, which takes 4-6 minutes to cook and is very cute. You could also use orzo, broken pieces of spaghetti, whatever. Bring the heat back up when you add your pasta, and then cook for the amount of time recommended on the pasta package.
  6. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parm.
  7. Get out a really gigantic glass container for your insane leftovers.

It was really good. I just had more for lunch. But now we have leftovers leftovers. I don’t think it’s supposed to work that way. But hey, it’s cold and rainy and there’s a chance of snow, so we might be living on minestrone all weekend.

Now I’m going to take one for the team and eat more pie. Next time I need to plan better so that I can give some away. Especially now that I know it’s not embarrassing.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2008

We haven’t prepared a meal at home in almost a week, so a huge undertaking like Thanksgiving dinner was fraught with tension. I actually got started cooking about four hours later than planned due to a bout of crippling mouse-related anxiety on my part that ended with Matt disinfecting our counters for the tenth time. I am thankful for Matt.

So, after all of that, we ended up eating Thanksgiving “lunch” at 4:45, making it more of a linner. But it was really good, so I think it was worth the wait. I was going to take a picture of our lovely Thanksgiving table, but, sadly, we don’t have room for a table under normal circumstances, and in all of the frantic sanitizing, I forgot to go to the storage unit to get it for today. So what I’ll do is share pictures of the different things on my Thanksgiving plate. Which I ate on a tray. Which is almost a table.

Sorry there’s no “all together now” picture, but the ones I tried to take looked bad, so I stuck with sharing each component. So you’re seeing (in no particular order) green beans, which I sauteed with some olive oil and thyme; good organic stuffing from a bag, selected and prepared by Matt; a variation on Heidi Swanson’s kale and olive oil mashed potatoes (I couldn’t get any kale so I subbed in spinach); and a slice of really simple roasted turkey breast, and pie. Oh, and Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without beer. We’ve been going to this liquor store that lets you make your own six pack, so we’ve been sampling the seasonals. This was a particularly good one. I think I’ll be enjoying a pumpkin one later, with my pumpkin pie:

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My first homemade pie, I’m pretty sure. I used a version of this recipe, which was modified from a recipe I found in my favorite cooking mag, Clean Eating. It looked a little thin at first, so I was nervous, but it seems to have set up nicely. I’ll let you know.

So there you have it: my very first attempt at preparing Thanksgiving. I had every intention of buying a cake or cupcakes (baby steps with the baking – I’ll bake a cake next time) to celebrate something else today, but things got in the way, so I’ll let the pie also serve as my celebratory dessert for that. After consulting my mom a few weeks ago, I confirmed that today, November 27, 2008, marks ten years since I was diagnosed with RA. My tenth arthritiversary, if you will. Having it fall on Thanksgiving has made me think a lot about having a chronic illness, and how, even as frustrating as it is, I can still be thankful that I have been able to manage it relatively well for the past few years. And if I could go back and talk to my tired, pain-ridden, sad, and overwhelmed 15-year old self in 1998, I would tell her to never give up; that it would be okay, and even better than okay. And knowing how far I’ve come since then is definitely something to be thankful for.

Other things to be thankful for? There are more than I can list, but here are a few: my awesome, amazing, and inexplicably understanding husband, who barely blinks when I ask him to bleach the kitchen again to kill mouse germs that probably don’t even exist; my family, old and new, for whom I am especially thankful now that I am so far away; my friends, all of them, everywhere; the fact that there are a handful of people who actually read this blog; going home in a month to see my family; college basketball; really good books; all five seasons of The Wire; the first three Die Hard movies, which I’ll watch this weekend to make me feel all Christmasy; seasonal beer; fair trade coffee; living somewhere with lots of local produce;
and the new mittens I got yesterday.

So now, I’m off to be thankful. And eat pie.

Edited to add!

The pie was awesome. That lemon peel really gives it something. The best part is the ginger snap crust – thanks to Matt for pounding a bag of ginger snaps with a hammer to make it all possible. I know what I’m having for breakfast.


Here’s the deal.

November 24, 2008

Okay, so. I had every intention of making some lovely minestrone tonight and sharing my Italian soup exploits with you, but the deal is that we may or may not have house guests. And I’m not trying to gross you out here, but by house guests, I mean rodents. We found one in an unfortunate situation on Saturday and my anxiety has been intensifying since then, so I’m afraid to cook until I feel sure that everything is safe. So we’ve got a disinfected kitchen, food in thick plastic or glass, and peppermint oil-soaked cotton balls everywhere (apparently peppermint is too intense for mice; and, as a bonus, our apartment smells minty fresh). I did a really poor job of organizing our food into the plastic containers, and it now takes me an hour to prepare my breakfast.

You haven’t missed anything. I still have a sore throat so it’s been dinner out every night just to eat soup. Maybe I’ll muster up my courage and cook tomorrow.

But, I’ll say this: I’m not letting a mouse ruin my Thanksgiving. I’ve got a pie to make.


Friday!

November 21, 2008

I’m so happy that it’s Friday night. I mean, I always am, but this week has been so wacky that Friday seems even more exciting than usual. I still seem to be having some kind of sickness, but I went to the doctor for a totally unrelated reason today and she assured me that I still had life left to live. Which is good because, obviously, I have my readership to think about.

After the doctor, I went to the gym for some kickboxing, my first class in months. It was pretty good, although this teacher has a bad habit of screaming things into the microphone that are supposed to be encouraging, but really aren’t. “You like these jumping jacks, don’t you? We can do jumping jacks all day!!!!!!!” No, actually, I don’t. And I can’t.

Afterwards, I felt like I should eat soup, because my throat hurts and it was also fairly cold today. But, I’d already made a deal with myself that I could make pizza if I made it through my doctor’s appointment and still went to kickboxing. I may have to make this a new Friday thing, so that I can better resist the urge to go out to eat at the end of every workweek.

Anyway, I used some whole wheat crusts from Whole Foods to make two pizzas. One was tomato sauce, chicken-apple sausage, green pepper, mushrooms, spinach, and mozzarella. The other was olive oil, green pepper, mushrooms, spinach, mozzarella, and goat cheese. Both were pretty good, although the crust was pretty weak. I like the ones we tried from People’s much better.

Pizza Pizza

Pizza Pizza

Last night, I had a play to see with my class (second to last event of the semester!), so I made a really quick stir-fry for dinner. Just broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and chickpeas, with some garlic and a few slugs of soy sauce and rice vinegar. I served it over quick-cooking barley, since I had no time for rice.

Vegetable Barley Blast

Vegetable Barley Blast

I really need to stop taking pictures while standing in the living room. It doesn’t do much for my food styling. It also really distorts things. I

Anyway, I let the chickpeas sit in the pan for a little while, and they got all crispy and delicious. Mmm. Chickpeas. I kept picking those out of the remaining mix until I had to leave.

Okay, basketball’s on! Have a happy weekend.


Soup time

November 18, 2008

I’ve got some kind of sickness of an unidentifiable nature, and it’s been really dragging me down for the past two days. I worked from home for part of the day yesterday to keep my germs sequestered, but today I mostly had muscle aches and some wheezing, so I made it in to work and powered through most of my day. Because I am a trooper, people.

We had corn chowder last night, because it sounded like the best option when my throat was still hurting. I used my own recipe, although clearly no one reads these things because I didn’t get any comments when I made it the first time about how I forgot to mention one important ingredient in my corn chowder: corn. So go ahead and mentally add that to the recipe somewhere. It really doesn’t matter where. Near the beginning would be my recommendation.

Tonight was a perfect chili night, as it was fairly cold today and I am still sort of sickly. I have Arielle to thank for tonight’s dinner, because I never would have thought of adding refried beans to chili but I was intrigued by her recipe and had to try it. I may never go back.

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I know that it kind of looks like every other bean-based soup/chili I’ve ever made, but it was so much better. Don’t let all the cheese fool you.

I made chili like I usually do, but added refried beans. Here’s the deal:

  1. Saute a diced green pepper and a small diced white onion in a little olive oil over medium with 2 cloves of garlic (minced) for about 5 minutes
  2. Add about 1 cup of your favorite broth, cook for about 3 minutes
  3. Add two cans of whatever kind of beans you want, but when I do a red chili like this, I usually use firmer beans like kidney and black beans, which I used tonight
  4. Add two cans of no-salt added diced tomatoes and stir
  5. Add a can of refried beans and stir slowly until it’s smooth
  6. Add a bunch of cumin and chili powder to taste
  7. Add more broth if desired
  8. Simmer for about 15 minutes

This makes a ton of chili, which is good, because we need a quick dinner to reheat before the basketball game tomorrow night.

Obviously I had some cheese on mine. Ellie Krieger is always saying that, when it comes to cheese, a little goes a long way. I always say that, when it comes to cheese, a lot also goes a long way. We also had rolls, the only ones Matt could find in the bakery section without HFCS.

Okay, Carolina is about to be playing basketball on my television, so I need to go. I leave you with the encouraging messages that greeted me when I got back from the 5k (click for more awesome detail):

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I did it!

November 16, 2008

No food to be seen from our trip, although we did eat at Wa and Lidia’s and Whole Foods over the course of the weekend. Wa was good, as always, and I had tempura udon and an unagi eel roll. Then I exploded. At Lidia’s, I had the pasta tasting prix fixe meal, which included a salad, limitless supplies of three pastas of the day, and a dessert. I didn’t even make it through a full plate of pasta, for which Matt made fun of me mercilessly. The waitress assured me that only high school boys ever get a second plate. Anyway, I had plenty of pasta, so I really carbed up for my 5k.

This morning, I ran my first 5k and I’m so proud of myself. I took walk breaks, and the course was pretty hilly, but I still finished under my goal time of 35 minutes. I know that’s not actually very fast, but it is for me! I’m still waiting for my results to be posted, so I can see what my actual time is.

Matt did an excellent job of documenting the whole process. Here I am excited to register:

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Here’s an action shot of me yelling “take this jacket!” as I approached the finish line. I did a really bad job of layering. It was really cold and windy when I got started but it took about .07 seconds for me to start burning up. Next time I’ll know.

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See, there are people behind me!

After the race, there was free food like Smoothie King samples and fruit. And doughnuts. And brownies. I skipped the sweet stuff, as I wasn’t really in the mood to pound a brownie at 9:40am and with a body heat of 800 degrees. The smoothie samples were good, though. We ate at Whole Foods for lunch, and it was pretty great because I haven’t had the Whole Foods salad bar in years. You can say all you want about Whole Foods being corporate and weird for an organic grocery store (they are), but their salad bars are awesome. And they taste even better when the closest one is two hours away from your home. And, they have tempeh! Also, they had Z-Bars in blueberry AND apple cinnamon. It was like Christmas. I bought so many bars.

We came home to supportive messages left for me about the 5k. I would have taken a picture, but there’s no light in the hallway. Thanks, anonymous message leavers!

Okay, I think I’ll stop refreshing the empty race results page and go to sleep.