Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Creamy Chicken Meatball Soup

The news is out and this new endeavour has officially launched!

So, what exactly is this? What am I trying to do here? What's the point? And why keep This Dusty Kitchen separate from This Dusty House?

This is why:

Some days, some weeks, all I can think about is food. I love food. I love making food. I love photos of food and taking photos of food. I love eating it even more. I think about food a lot.

I also think about my house a lot. But my relationship with food and my relationship with my house are very different parts of my life. They are not fully separate and never should be. But a friend with whom I will chat incessantly about the concoctions coming out of my kitchen is not always the same friend with whom I will chat incessantly about paint colours and tile and reupholstering furniture.

(Of course, there are friends with whom I chat incessantly about anything and everything.)

So, in this new 'sub-domain' of my blog, you'll find all the things I'm finding delicious these days and maybe a few things I'm not finding delicious (don't worry, I'll warn you). You'll find the experiments and the tried and true. You'll find the victories and the flops. Here, I'll indulge the conversation I love to have about food, the conversation I've kept muted on This Dusty House for fear of taking over the other conversations.

You want food? You'll find food here. You want DIY and decorating? You'll find that over there. You want both? It's all This Dusty House.


Admittedly, for the first little while, you probably won't find much here that you won't be able to find on other food blogs. I'm unsure yet how I'll define myself in the already saturated library of blogs. I'm unsure how anyone defines themselves in this realm. And you know what? I'm ok with that. Even if what I have to say is the same as what everyone else has to say, at least I'll be saying it in my own way.

It's kind of like this soup. It's a basic soup, and as I was making it, I was looking for the extra little zing that would bring it over the top, out of the realm of chicken soup and into the realm of oh-my-goodness-I-can't-stop-eating-this. I didn't find it. But, as I cradled the warm bowl in my hands and ladled the creamy broth into my mouth, and broke apart the soft meatballs into more manageable pieces, I decide that it didn't matter. It was delicious. Perhaps not this-is-the-best-soup-I've-ever-had kind of delicious, but delicious none-the-less.

Creamy Chicken Meatball Soup

For the meatballs, adapted from The Joy of Cooking:

1 lb ground chicken
1 large egg
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp Montreal chicken spice

2 tbsp olive oil

Mix everything together.

Heat olive oil on a large skillet.

I had never made meatballs from chicken before and was surprised at how soft the mix was. I tried forming the balls with my hands as I would with ground beef, but the balls weren't holding their shape anyway, so I grabbed a couple spoons and scooped up the mix and dropped it onto the skillet as one would put drop cookies onto a baking sheet. Place the meatballs in a single layer on the skillet, with space around them.

Cook a few minutes until the bottom starts to brown, then flip. Once browned on all sides, remove the meatballs to a plate and set aside. Cook in batches if you have to.

For the soup:

Approx. 6 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
6 small potatoes, chopped
Meatballs, as above
1/2 cup all purpose flour
8 cups chicken broth (or 8 cups water and the required amount of chicken bouillon powder)
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp Montreal chicken spice
1 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 to 1 cup half and half, heavy cream, milk, etc.

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the olive oil to shimmering. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent.

Add the carrots, potatoes and meatballs and stir to coat in the oil.

Mix in the flour, cooking, stirring constantly for approximately 1-2 minutes. Not too long. You don't want it to burn.

Slowly add in your liquids, stirring constantly. If you add it to quickly, your flour will stick together and form lumps. Not pleasant!

Add the spices.

Bring the soup to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

Add the half and half, cream, milk, whichever you please and heat through.

Serve with your favourite bread product or skip the bread and devour.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Carrot Cupcakes

I have no idea what's in these. I know there's carrot and cream cheese, but that's as far as my knowledge goes.

We're a little spoiled in this house. Our 'downstairs friends' (ie, the young couple that rents our basement apartment from us) love to cook and bake and make delicious things to eat. And, occasionally, they have leftovers that happen to find their way upstairs. J's baked goods are always pretty and holy-crap delicious.

Sometimes, I take pictures of them before I consume them.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Why Salad Is Important

For dinner on Saturday, we had nothing but a huge salad.

Isn't that weird?

I know, I know. It's actually not that weird. In fact, eating nothing but salad for a meal is a responsible, healthy food choice. Problem? Ask anybody - Jeanette (that's me) doesn't like salad.

I never have.

  1. It's cold. Cold food is not a meal. Unless it's ice cream. In which case, it's totally acceptable. 
  2. Where is the crunch? Unless the salad is made up of romaine lettuce ribs or iceberg (which apparently has no nutritional value what-so-ever and is, - ask anyone - essentially like eating white bread in the lettuce world) it seems more limp than anything else. 
  3. Bitter! Those funky leaves that aren't romaine or iceberg or spinach - do you know which ones I'm talking about? - are bitter! Who want to eat bitter leaves?
  4. The salad dressing always, without fail, drops to the bottom of the bowl and either doesn't coat the leaves enough or coats them a little too much. Fail.
  5. Did I mention the cold part?
Unfortunately, I know how good for you salad is. I know how it can make you feel awesome, even if all you've done is sat on the couch and read blogs all day. So, on Saturday, partially because I wanted to feel great and partially because we'd just done groceries that morning and finally had a fridge stocked with fresh goodies, I pulled out some veggies and whipped this up:

Fifteen minutes later, as I stared at my empty bowl, I couldn't believe the words that passed through my lips.

"That was delicious."

And then I had seconds.

What was the secret?

Apples. Eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers. And, a mix of apricot, olive oil, rice vinegar, and mustard to tie it all together.

This is how you do it:

Apple and Egg Salad with Apricot Mustard Dressing

For the salad:

Chop 1 apple, 1 tomato, 1 pepper, a handful of mushrooms, and as many handfuls of lettuce as you would like.

Hard boil, and peel 4 eggs and cut them into eighths or your desired size.

Toss everything together in a large bowl.

For the dressing:

Into a jar with a good, tightly sealing lid, put

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp mustard
2 tbsp apricot jam

Put the lid on the jar, seal tightly and give the mix a good shake. Taste it and add more of any of the flavours you think is lacking.

I always serve salad dressing on the side. The Husband is fond of his ranch. I prefer a more adventurous flavour. However, you can toss the dressing into the salad before serving if you like.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Soup: French Onion Soup

I am the granddaughter of Dutch immigrants to Canada. Without fail, my grandmother serves soup and buns for Sunday dinner, a tradition that has held strong in the Dutch Canadian community for 50-100 years. Sunday is a day for soup.

In many ways, I love the tradition. I love soup. I could, do, even, eat soup once or twice a week. Comforting, filling, hot, a meal in one dish. Sundays, especially, are a good day for soup. As I step through the door after church, the whole afternoon stretches before me to chop, boil, simmer, stir. On Sunday, my relationship to food, to life, to home, to everything around me is relaxed, content, happy.

It only makes sense that I begin this blog on a Sunday afternoon with soup.

French Onion Soup
(adapted from No Recipes)

5 medium yellow onions
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 cups beef broth (or 4 cups water and 4 heaping tsp of beef bouillon)
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf

1 bagette
1/2 cup old cheddar cheese
1/2 cup swiss cheese

With a nice sharp knife, slice your onions as thinly as you can.

In a large dutch oven, melt down the butter and add the sliced onions, stirring to coat. Add the sugar. Cook on medium - high heat, stirring often, until the onions have just started to caramelize and brown. Turn the heat down a bit and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for approximately 20 minutes to half an hour.

When the onions have beautifully caramelized (they'll be a nice medium brown in colour), add the white wine and the beef broth, the oregano, and the bay leaf. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

While your broth is simmering, cut your baguette into 1 inch slices. Shred your cheese and mix the two cheeses together. Ladle the broth into oven-safe soup bowls. Place one or two baguette slices on top (depending on how large the baguette slices are) and sprinkle a nice handful of mixed cheese on top.

Adjust your oven rack to the highest possible level. Place your soup bowls on a cookie sheet beneath the broiler and turn it up to high. Watch carefully though! You want the cheese to melt but not burn. When nice and melty, remove the soup from the oven, allow to cool some, and serve that cheesy goodness!