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.
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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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ZUPPA TOSCANA

Change of plans… I was going to try a steak with Port and dried cherries but then this happened:

and I decided that it was a soup kind of day.  I was inspired by a recipe on Pastaprincessandmore.wordpress.com to make Zuppa Toscana.  If you haven’t visited her site, then I highly recommend stopping by her blog.  If I knew where she lived I’d be stopping by for dinner because just the photographs of her food make me hungry (and more than a little embarrassed about my food presentation).  This soup is a nice thick winter soup and I baked a couple of loaves of French bread to go with it.

Zuppa Toscana with fresh French bread

ZUPPA TOSCANA

1 lb          Sweet Italian Sausage, remove casings
½ tsp       Red pepper flakes
½ lb         Bacon
1              White onion, large, chopped
3-4           Cloves garlic
½ Cup      White Wine
3 Cans     Chicken broth (14.5 oz)
4              Potatoes (medium size), thinly sliced
¾ Cup      Heavy cream
2 Cups     Kale, chopped using just leafy part

Using a dutch oven or deep, heavy skillet, cook Italian sausage with red pepper flakes over med-high heat until sausage is just cooked.  Remove to a small bowl.

In the same skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon to dice it and drain off all but a few tablespoons of bacon fat.  Sauté onions in bacon fat until translucent, then add garlic for a few minutes.  Add wine to deglaze the pan, scrapping up bacon bits.

Add diced bacon, sausage,  and chicken broth to skillet with onions & garlic. Bring to a boil.  Add potato slices until tender (about 15-20 minutes).  Reduce heat to medium, add cream and kale for about 5 minutes.