waaayyy behind

Today we are in luck because it's another morning coming off painkillers from another visit to the oral surgeon.  So, all those recipes and photos accumulating on my desktop can start making their way on to my blog pages.  I've been out and about meeting lots of interesting people and usually tossing in that I write a food blog.  Well, sometimes I write a food blog and sometimes I just write in my head and post stickies on my mac and get way behind on my food blog.

It's still tailgate season.  We are firmly in fall cooking mode.    And almost everyone I know is the grown-up this year and is hosting Thanksgiving (a big shift that's been slowly occurring and at 47, I best embrace it).  Time to share some recipes.

Let's start today with a quick soup recipe I developed using Trader Joe's 17 Bean and Barley Soup Mix and Sara as my adviser and official taster.  She has become quite a reader of recipes and may just have the gift for just knowing a good recipe when she reads it.  It is a truly a gift.

my favorite picture from Tokyo, note Greg in the back with the old-school video camera
That of course will lead me to my "stream of consciousness" section for today.  Have I told you when I realized I had "the gift"?  We moved to Tokyo on a one-year assignment with TDK on Kelly's 4th birthday (1994).  Yes, we lived overseas in the days without e-mail, cell phones, the internet and Skype.  Imagine.  So when my girls were napping I would grab my cookbooks and just sit on the front step and read recipes over and over again.  I was so hungry for American food, I would devour the recipes and imagine their taste, texture and aroma.  It really wasn't as sad as it sounds.  I did put three meals a day on the little table in my tiny kitchen, but I only had a two-burner stove (like camping without the view) and a deluxe microwave that supposedly was also an oven that I could never figure out (significant written language barrier).  Almost forgot, I also had a rice cooker.  Loved that thing.  Thank God we hadn't been beaten to submission about not eating white food.  We would have starved without that lovely sticky white rice.  Besides, we walked or biked everywhere.  Oh, and we were just over 30 so who was worried about carbs (for the record, I'm still not worried).  We lived three subway lines and 45-minutes from the expatriate community and their imported groceries, so we ate a lot of rice, vegetables and fruit and a little chicken or beef.  Every day we went to one of five stops on the regular rotation to keep food in our little refrigerator.  Every week we went to the McDonald's on the ground floor of the Jusco department store for "cheeseburger sets" because that was pretty much the only meat Kelly would eat in Japan.  Sara turned two just after we moved and was still in toddler food mode.  There are lots of good stories from the Tokyo adventures.  But we'll wrap it up today by noting that this was really where my love of a good recipe and a bountiful meal had its genesis.

Back to the soup.  Consider it a good afternoon cooking project.   A super nutritious meal in a bowl.  Serve with crusty bread and a salad or just have a really nice big bowl of hot soup and maybe some apples or pears.

this is what you are looking for on the shelves at Trader Joe's
Kristin's 17 Bean and Barley Chicken Sausage Soup

one package Trader Joe's 17 Bean & Barley Soup Mix
6 C chicken broth (love the organic boxed broth at Costco or TJ's)
one 29-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (Muir Glen tomatoes are wonderful)
5 or 6 fresh chicken Italian sausages (Whole Foods) or turkey Italian sausages (sweet or hot, you choose)
one medium onion, diced
1 cup diced or sliced carrot
one or two zucchini, diced
one red or yellow pepper, diced
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 T apple cider vinegar
pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 bay leaves
Parmesan rind or grated Parmesan

Soak beans overnight as directed on the package OR do as I did, put them in your soup pot with triple their volume of cold water.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook uncovered over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Let sit to soften for one hour.

Drain the beans.  Rinse out and dry your soup pot.  Add 1-2 T of olive oil and cook the sausages either in bite-size pieces or squeeze the sausage from the casings and crumble the meat as you brown it.  Remove from the pot and drain on paper towels.  Wipe the pot clean-ish and add another 1-2 T of olive oil to saute the onions until translucent.  Add the peppers, zucchini and carrots and saute until soft (6-8 minutes).  Stir in the garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper and saute for another minute until fragrant (do not brown the garlic).  Add the chicken broth, tomatoes and beans and bring the pot to a boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer and add the bay leaves, pinch of cayenne and Parmesan rind (if you have it, buy the wedge from Costco and save the rinds for soup).  Simmer for at least an hour or until the beans are soft.  Before serving, add the splash of cider vinegar and taste for salt and pepper.  Remove the bay leaves and the Parmesan rind.  Serve with grated Parmesan if desired.  Serves 8.


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