Sunday, January 24, 2010


I've been blessed lately with some good friend-time. Since graduating college, moving cities, and getting married, I've not been as successful at cultivating and maintaining friendships as I would like. But last week, I went for a walk with a new friend Monday, then had coffee with another Tuesday, and have plans with week to have coffee and dinner with a few more. All really neat women. Also, at church, working with the Women's ministry has given me more opportunities to build relationships, and a lot of our Women's ministry is planning opportunities to do just that. So I'm thankful. This is something that I've definitely wanted for several years, prayed about, sobbed to Casey about....but now things are seeming to happen naturally. Yay.

Also this weekend, Casey and I cooked up a storm, preparing a week's worth a food before church this morning. Since we'd planned to go to the late service, it made sense. Yesterday, we went grocery shopping at three different grocery stores...odd, but for good reason. We went to the Asian market for fresh seafood and cheap produce, the Middle Eastern market to re-stock on olive oil and spices, and the regular supermarket for the rest. Casey and I like grocery shopping WAY more than regular shopping, and we almost always grocery shop together, sometimes touring Central Market too. It's fun to look at fancy or odd whole Halal goat and exotic flatbreads hot from the oven, or White Rabbit candy and Jack fruit essence (because the fruit itself is absolutely VILE. Why anyone would want to concentrate something that smells like rot is fascinating to long as the bottle stays closed.) Somehow clothes or shoes or home furnishings don't hold the same interest for either of us. Plus you can't eat shoes. :-)

Monday, January 4, 2010

16 Bean Ham Soup

Most of the Christmas presents I received were cooking tools. Doesn't my family know me well? Mom gave Casey and I a set of Emeril's cookware, my mother-in-law gave me a pressure cooker, my brothers and sisters in-law gave me spices and other kitchen tools. Excellent. I've used them all already. Casey especially liked the new spices in the Walnut Spiced Granola I made, based on this recipe, but with good cinnamon, cloves, allspice and vanilla added.

Of course, I had to re-organize the kitchen and triage to make room, and I made the happy discovery of a Cuisinart food processor with attachments. I think it came from Casey's grandmother, but we had been using an older one that Casey got from a garage sale. Anyway, using the slicing attachment is amazing. It make me feel like Ina on TV, and I made beautiful potato-chip thin potatoes and roasted them with olive oil and Nature's seasoning. We like crispy potatoes around here. But I made be inspired to do a gratin or pommes anna. Anyone want to come over for dinner?

In the meantime, I used my pressure cooker to whip up a flavorful soup recipe in 30 minutes. Cheap too, considering the main ingredient is a $2 bag of beans.

16 Bean Ham Soup1 pkg of dried 16 bean soup mix, with seasoning pkt
2 cans stewed tomatoes (or one large can)
1 smoked ham hock
1 small lean ham, diced
2 cans seasoned collard greens

Soak dried beans overnight. Drain, and put in pressure cooker. Cover with water with 1 inch or 2 over the beans. Add seasoning packet that came with the soup, stewed tomatoes with their juice, ham hock and diced ham. Mix and lock pressure cooker cover. Heat on high until the safety lock comes up, reduce to medium and cook for 25 minutes, adjusting heat down so that the release valve rocks gently. Afterward, cool pan to open safely, remove ham hock and mix in collard greens with their juice. Serves 6-8. Cornbread would be a great accompaniment.