In My Kitchen – February 2015

How many of you remember that little jingle from elementary school that helped you  remember how many days in each month?

“30 days hath September, April, June and November,
All the rest have 31,
Except January and February in New England which have 61″

Ok, I’ve changed it up a little to reflect winter in New England and it may have something to do with the 2 feet of snow from last week’s blizzard and the 1 extra foot of snow predicted for tomorrow.  Unless you are an avid skier or snow mobile enthusiast, a lot of us do spend more time in the kitchen in the winter cooking warming, comfort food – like soups and stews.  That’s my plan except for one thing –

HELP – I don’t know beans about beans, so would all you bean friends tell me what I’m supposed to do.  I’ve got this really pretty bag of beans with a stew recipe which my daughter gave me for Christmas.
IMG_1722I think they’re pretty enough to just put in a dish for decorations but I really have plans to make the stew.  There’s a wonderful farmhouse stew recipe on the attached card but I’m stumped at Step 1 which says:  Rinse, drain, and pick over beans.

Help me out here bean gurus, what am I supposed to be looking for as I “pick over” these beans?  Is it like mussels where I’m supposed to discard the dead ones?  How do I know a dead bean by looking at it?  I’ve opened the bags and none appear to be jumping around or breathing so they all look pretty dead to me.  Maybe it’s a matter of taking out any that float belly up.  Any suggestions regarding bean ‘picking over’ are greatly appreciated.

Once I get the beans figured out and the farmhouse stew going, I plan to make these biscuits – another thoughtful gift from Niki (isn’t she great to try to streamline my cooking time?IMG_1723

I also have this adorable mini whisk from Tim, Niki’s fiancé.  I’ve put it beside my regular size whisk so you can get an idea of the size.  I’m not sure if I want to gunk it up with anything or make a cute decoration for next year’s Christmas tree.  Some of my favorite ornaments are related to my hobbies and I think this could be very cute with a bow.
IMG_1724Finally, finally, I’ve waited out my husband and after a year, got the counter chairs that I’ve been hoping for from Restoration Hardware.  I found these last year when they were on sale but my husband was against buying them without giving them an are test.  There aren’t any Restoration Hardware stores nearby where he could test drive them so I decided to wait him out.  It worked, I let him go looking all last year for counter chairs and he couldn’t come up with anything even close to the quality and sale price on these.  As soon as I saw the sale come up, I gave him one last chance and he caved in…and they’re very comfortable.
IMG_1725

Now I’ve mentioned our latest blizzard in Massachusetts.  I don’t think it was as bad as some (since we didn’t lose power & that’s the true test of a storm around here).  Although we’ve now got a generator in case of power failure, you can’t run the entire house on it and have to select the most important things to keep running – like HEAT, water,  and the refrigerator.  So if power goes out during one of these storms, my stove moves outdoors to this:

IMG_1702You just have to brush the snow off after you shovel a path … yes, that’s the grill under there.

What’s happening in your kitchen this month?  As always, thanks to Celia at Fig Jam and cordials  for hosting the IMK posts.  Swing by to say hi and check out other kitchens around the world.  In the meantime, make sure to smile and enjoy whatever life drops on you….

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49 thoughts on “In My Kitchen – February 2015

  1. Hi there… love that last shot of the pup in the snow… wow, it’s that deep!? Must be chilly indeed. I think with the beans (from memory, my mother used to cook with beans often), you pick out any that could be stones or others that have really shrivelled up. PS, your kitchen looks gorgeous. Thank you for the peek!

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    • Thanks you Lizzie. My mother never made beans other than B&M in a can so I have no idea what to do with real beans…stones & shriveled up – excellent & I’m on it.
      Wait until you see another foot of snow on top of that and you’ll have a true picture of January & February in these parts. My pup is a Bernese Mountain dog & this is her kind of weather. During these storms it’s usually not unbearably cold but when the storm blows out we get below zero F cold. Even with that I had to drag Lola inside.

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  2. Hi Diane, those beans look stunning. I think you need to rinse them, let them soak 8-12 hours or overnight, drain and discard any that are really wrinkled and shrivelled up. You then cook them according to the instructions or the recipe. Hope this helps. Btw, that last photo makes me miss Polish winter loads!

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    • Hi Ania – thank you for the tip on the beans – it seems like shrivelled beans are what I should be looking for. It does say to soak them so that definitely agrees with the recipe they gave me for the stew.
      You miss Polish winters? Oh my! From what my Polish friends have said, they’re worse than what we have here. I wouldn’t mind so much if they only lasted one, maybe 2 months but after that I feel like I’m ready to crawl out of my skin since I’m not a cold weather person.

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    • Doesn’t that biscuit mix sounds different? I’m thinking about it now – warm biscuits with a nice slab of melting butter on top.
      Isn’t Lola a riot? My husband used the snowblower to make long paths for her to run in & the tunnels were over her head but she just went crazy racing around.

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  3. I use dried beans all the time and have never come across any that need to be picked! Should you find a stone or a shriveled bean pick it out. Glad to hear you survived the first blizzard of the year. Here in South Carolina we didn’t get the snow, thanks goodness. The city shuts down with the threat of snow.

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    • Well at least I now know what to keep an eye out for. Hopefully Stonewall Kitchen is reliable enough that I can trust their products. As you can imagine, it takes quite a bit to close us down here in New England but last Monday & Tuesday and again today most businesses except for essential workers were closed. My sister lives in S. Carolina now although she grew up here in Mass. & I don’t think she could handle living back up here again.

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    • Thanks Jennifer. It’s funny because it seems that people either use beans a lot or not at all and I think much of it has to do with whatever our mothers cooked. In my case, we would have franks and beans a lot of times Saturday night but the beans were a can of B&M. So I’ve never really learned what to do with beans although I’m learning through other people’s blogs. I just made my first chili dish a month ago & thought it can out great but I used the canned beans so didn’t have to worry about picking them over.

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  4. Dried beans can be daunting if you haven’t cooked with them before. The picking over usually refers to checking for miscellaneous stones or odd bits that made it into the package. Soak them overnight and as Ania says in her comment, you can then discard any that are really wrinkled looking and haven’t swelled up like the others. Good luck! Love the picture of your dog in the snow. She looks so happy!

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    • You’re not kidding about the beans being daunting. I have never done anything with dried beans that need soaking so I’d no clue what to look for. It looks like there’s a combination of all kinds of beans in the bag (they really do look decorative) so it’s not as though I could just look up a particular bean by name & find out what to do with it. I like the soaking overnight too because then I can get that going & just add the stew ingredients in the morning. Thank you for your advice – much appreciated.
      Oh, that Lola was having a blast out there. My husband made a bunch of tunnels for her to race around in & she was flying. Then she decided to just jump in the middle of it and make her own paths. I shiver just thinking about getting snow on my face never mind sticking my head right in a snow banking.

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    • Glenda – I just saw your IMK post after putting this one up so I was cracking up looking at all your beans, thinking “Glenda – she’s the bean guru”. You and Maus just buy the tickets and get over here if you’d like the snow experience. Ours will be around for quite a while I think. I’m not sure what time this latest storm started but there was about 6 inches out there when I woke up and it’s been coming down like crazy all day. My guess will be another foot added to what we have which means time to start worrying about raking some off the roof.
      Is Lola crazy or what?

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  5. You don’t have to worry about checking beans any more, unless you’re buyin them from a third-world country. In the old days, there would be stones, rocks, and grit amongst the beans, which had to be removed before the soaking step. Soaking can take place overnight, or in just a few hours if you use hot water. It hydrates them so that cooking time isn’t very long, but it’s also supposed to de-gas the beans. Who knows?!!

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    • Stonewall Kitchen’s probably pretty reliable and I like the idea of soaking overnight. I don’t know why but for some reason I hate putting a recipe together that requires doing something and coming back to it hours later so overnight soaking it shall be. Now that’s an interesting tidbit about the soaking de-gassing the beans. Wonder if I should have the neighbors over and do a test – maybe send them home with some kind of evaluation or log book.

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  6. Apart from all the suggestions above regarding beans, I pick out any that float to the surface as well. All that snow! I hope you don’t have to dig your way out to the outdoor oven too many times. Keep warm x

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    • Ah ha! Floaters – sort of like the dead pet goldfish. We’ve had heavy, steady snow all day but so far the power is staying on today. This storm seems to be dropping snow that’s a bit heavier & wetter so I’m hoping the power lines don’t come down.

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  7. Beans, Beans, they’re good for your heart….so pick through them, ditch the ones that are rocks, and soak, baby, soak…I’ve got a guide to beans on what to soak overnight, vs. what needs less time soaking….will look through my piles of “stuff” in the recipe stack, and find it for you. The only item I’ve really learned is from those Italian friends of ours, who will tell you to not salt the beans until well after the beans have soaked, cooked, and are almost ready…you get to decide what “almost ready” means. Some people like the beans a little more al dente than others..some like them smushy, so you decide.

    Now, it’s all about Lola – was she body surfing? Or simply “walking” in the snow? Lordy, I hope there was not someone under that drift that you sent her out to rescue! LOL!

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    • Oh, oh this bag looks like it has just about every bean invented (were beans invented?) so I’m guessing some will be over soaked and other al dente. Okay on the no salt until almost done. I’ll take any advice since I’ve got zero bean experience.
      No bodies under the snow that we know of although we’ve gotten another foot on top of that and it’s still coming down. John made all kinds of paths for Lola with the snowblower which were way over her head and she was flying through them (this is Lola weather!). But I was standing in one of the paths taking pictures and she was in a parallel path, couldn’t stand it so she just tried surfing her way across to where I was. It was over her head and I got a shot as she came popping up but she LOVED it.

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    • Mandy – you’re back! Missed you. I wish you could come park in my kitchen and have some coffee & a chat. We’ve got plenty more snow (got another foot yesterday) for you to come play in…Want to do a house swap?

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  8. We had snow today! 1cm which is less than 1/2 an inch. It caused mild chaos. I also have a new whisk, however it didn’t do the job on my bearnaise sauce. Which was a disaster. And I really want one of those little ones. And I want some measuring spoons. And did I mention the KitchenAid? I did? Well why isn’t anyone listening???

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    • Pfft… 1cm? We don’t even blink at that. We got another foot dumped on us yesterday and the banking beside our porch is over 5 feet high now. Big trouble though if you ruined the Bernaise sauce. That’s just not right – why if you had the proper tools just imagine what you could do. Kitchenaid, Kitchenaid….somebody was mentioning needing a Kitchenaid but I’m trying to recall who that was. Wait, was that you? You know Valentine’s day is just around the corner and what says love like a Kitchenaid? What’s your wife’s email. I’ll have a chat with her.

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      • Be sure to tell your wife about how my Uncle Carl used to be such a happy guy, cooking away in the kitchen, preparing all kinds of wonderful meals…and then he realized that he’d hit a wall with the equipment he had. It was so sad, he became despondent, starting drinking heavily, lost his job, starting living on the streets. You get the picture…they finally had to institutionalize him and he started drooling and babbling all day watching The Price is Right and the Shopping Network. Then he took a wrong turn and ended up in the kitchen of the institution where he watched them prepping food with a KITCHENAID, yes, a KITCHENAID!!! He was memorized then asked if he could help make the meals for the inmates. Well Uncle Charlie, um…Uncle Carl was a changed man and all because of a KITCHENAID!!!!

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  9. Fantastic idea on waiting out your husband. We are getting a renovation this year and I have started a similar plan re: terracing of backyard. Have been planting the idea, pointing out gardens, reminding him that we will already have the digger there etc… time will tell. Picking the beans over is as you say, just getting rid of any that look a bit strange (non conformists). Sometimes there are bits of grit or small stones so it’s just about giving them a rinse and picking out anything that looks odd. Any amount of soaking helps with bean cooking time. Don’t add salt until the end as salt hardens the casing of the bean. cheers Fiona xx

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    • After almost 40 years, I’ve found the waiting game to be very effective with my husband. It’s worked with furniture, paint colors, really just about everything but it does take patience. When we renovated our kitchen I found an even better one – “Mary (our kitchen designer) suggests/recommends/prefers ….”. Since Mary was very attractive and a truly nice person as well as being an expert, I found that anything Mary suggested was a done deal (even if Mary didn’t really say whatever I was suggesting).
      That’s interesting about the salt hardening the bean casing. I made the stew which was very good & noticed some particles in with the beans – picked those right outta there. The only thing I found with this bean mix was that they had such a variety of beans & sizes that some of the tiny beans were overcooked. It didn’t matter though because those just sort of thickened the broth.

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  10. So. Much. Snow. I can’t even contemplating having such deep snow, it might be enough to keep me inside for the rest of the year! I use a small plate whisk to stir up my sourdough starter when I feed it, but your baby whisk looks small even for that! And I’m glad you got your chairs.. 🙂

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    • Celia, this is what we get when we start thinking that we might have an easy winter. Nothing but bare ground all the way past Christmas & into January. Then hit hard. And just when we get plowed and think we’re good for a while, we get hit again. Woke up to another 6″ this morning but the BIG storm is coming in this afternoon, lasting until Tuesday and expected to drop another 1 1/2 feet on us. I have no idea where we’re going to put it. I know in Boston, some of my daughter’s friends don’t have off street parking & after the last storm, their cars got buried. Then after the plows came by & really banked the snow up around their cars, it froze & the cars are sitting in block of ice. They’ll probably be able to get to them around May…maybe June.
      I’m glad I finally got my chairs too – the waiting game usually works.

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    • I was around during the blizzard of 1978 and that was a bad one and shut down Boston for almost a week. But it is the relentlessness of these past storms that are really getting everyone down. There is really & truly no place to throw the snow any more. We just got another foot – plus dumped on us last night & my husband’s snowblower is just getting the snow over the piles. What I’m really not looking forward to though is the bitter winds blowing through. I went out to take pictures & had to run back in because my eyes were tearing up so much that I couldn’t see.

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  11. I really enjoyed this post! I keep meaning to do an “In My Kitchen” – I’ll have to ‘get on that’. Loved the photos of both the new stools AND the photo of your dog, literally up to his/her neck in snow!! Happy New Year, just in case I hadn’t wished you that already!!

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    • Thanks Cecile. I’m just so happy that Restoration still had the stools that I’d been coveting all year (and that they went on sale again too!). Lola is a huge dog but the snow is over her head now. My husband’s made a bunch of paths for her to run around the yard in & she loves blasting through the tunnels.
      Happy New Year to you too!

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  12. Diane, you always make me laugh and even if I was in arctic temperatures with my eye lids frozen shut you would always bring a smile to my face. I just adore your new chairs. Wow that looks like the perfect place to plop your portable computer and a hot cuppa and catch up on blogging… oh yeah and that whole cooking thing too. Your poor little puppy, now that is quite an accomplishment to go do your business when the snow is higher than your head… I always used to plow a snow path out to the grill, I thought that was completely normal, right? We used to have a hot tub on our deck when we lived in Michigan and let me tell you you have never seen me move so fast to and from the hot tub in the arctic temperatures in flip flops with the snow piled high. It was majestic with the cool breezes and submerged in the heat. Sending warm thoughts your way!!!! Take Care, BAM

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    • You know I think the other day my eye lids did freeze shut. My husband spent a lot of time after each storm (and believe it or not we got another foot dumped on us this past weekend), snowplowing paths for Lola. She LOVED it – gave her a place to take care of things but also I think she thought she was part of the bobsled team. Course you have to shovel out the grill – we had barbecued steaks the other night. The trick is getting it inside fast while it’s still warm. But I think I’d pass on the hot tub thank you very much!
      You guessed it – my spot is the last seat down toward the stove & it’s perfect for pretending to be busy.

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  13. Diane, I loved your ‘revised’ version of the old grade school poem! (Thought about adding Minnesota to your list of “61” lol — which is why we moved to Oklahoma! — although we have an unseasonable snow accumulation on the ground here yet… but not as deep as yours!)

    As for what to do with beans, it sounds like everybody has you covered advice-wise — YES to sorting them for grit, rocks, and debris (I shake ’em around in a large colander under running water and “select” the fit ones as I add them by the handful to the stockpot/soaking water — time-consuming, yes, but you’d be surprised by what you find! — simply skim the odd ducks off the top after they’ve soaked.) Don’t add salt until the final seasoning (it toughens the beans — and generally I simmer them with a ham hock and/or bacon, which are already salty.) I’ve read pro’s & con’s on the quick (hot water and/or boiling water soak) vs. overnight soak — the “old” overnight way yields tender, creamy beans every time. (Everybody’s in such a hurry!) One last tip… after you’ve soaked and rinsed the beans, cook them in stock (veggie or chicken) or half-water, half-stock for more flavorful beans. You will soon be a master at “New England Baked Beans!” (You can also cook them on the grill if need be — just make sure you use a cast iron pot and set them off to the side.) Happy Bean Making and Eating!

    P.S. Your pooch is ADORABLE!!!

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    • Wow, Kim you are the bean expert! I did do the overnight soak & it was interesting to see what floated up to the top. I really like the idea of using stock for cooking the beans – it sounds like you’d get much more flavor. Since my mother never really cooked with beans I guess I just never gave them a thought until I saw all these blogs using beans. But then one time I went to the store to buy “beans”…have you ever just gone to buy “beans”? I had no idea what to buy because there’s so many damn beans out there!
      I’ve only visited Minnesota briefly but everything I’ve read about it, it sounds like a wonderful place to live … and then you read what people say about Minnesota winters. gees, I thought New England got cold.

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      • Diane, one of my all-time favorite meals is beans & rice. I could live on ’em! (And often do, lol!) Much of my bean wisdom was derived from “tried & true” bean cookers after I moved to Oklahoma… it’s practically an art. Happy to share what I’ve learned so far! xo

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      • Funny you should mention living on beans & rice. After I got my first apartment and realized that there were costs associated with living on my own – like buying food, I did pretty much live on B&M Boston Baked beans (yes in a can) with hot dogs added. Strangely enough I still like them although you’d think I’d have had my fill for a lifetime.
        It does sound like you’ve accumulated a lot of bean wisdom & I appreciate you sharing it. Sometimes recipes just aren’t the same as first hand knowledge from someone who’s already done it a million times.

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  14. Pingback: Baby, It’s Cold Outside….Not Just A Line From A Song….. | Our Kitchen Inventions

    • I think I’m becoming a bean fan. For all of my initial confusion, making meals with beans can cover up a lot of mistakes. I mean, it’s not exactly like adding a teeny bit of an exotic spice & having a meal turn bad over a little error.

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      • Once you get the hang of it, and find the time to relax and enjoy the process, it is quite fulfilling. Plus, the leftover “juice” from the beans is delish in future dishes / soups / etc. AND you can control the sodium levels and the cost of a bag o’beans is so inexpensive!

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