A pinch of this, a dash of whatever

So for those of you who don’t follow the Mommy Blogosphere (yes, it’s a thing) one common type of post is a recipe post, wherein the blogger posts details of a delicious recipe she’s recently whipped up, complete with stunning photography and detailed instructions on how you, too, can be a domestic goddess. (See: The Pioneer Woman, i heart nap time, Casey Leigh.)

In the spirit of expanding my own blog, I decided to jump on the bandwagon. Having promised dinner to a friend who recently gave birth to twins, I figured why not document my endeavor and share it with my loyal following?

Oh wait I forgot. I can’t cook.

No, it’s not so much that I can’t cook. I know how to follow a recipe. I have certain tried and true dishes that always come out fine. It’s more that, time after time, I let myself take certain liberties when cooking, and nothing ever seems to go quite the way I planned it. I leave things out if I don’t like them, make substitutions for things I can’t find or realize I ran out of, get distracted by something like a kid or a…book…and let things burn, don’t read through the recipe before starting…you know, stuff that could happen to anyone. Here, I’ll show you what I mean.

For this particular culinary adventure, I needed a recipe that would be healthy, easy to make, appeal to a wide audience, and travel and reheat well. I pulled out my recipe binder and settled on one of the first ones I flipped to – a recipe for sausage and black bean soup torn from the March 2012 issue of Fitness Magazine. I’d made it several times before and Eric and I both enjoyed it. I figured I might as well double the recipe so we could have it for dinner as well. I checked my pantry, jotted down a few ingredients I needed, and headed to Target with both girls in tow. Here’s the recipe, as written:

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          Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 3 ounce link precooked spicy chicken sausage, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • Salt
    Directions
    1.
    Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sausage in a single layer; cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
    2.
    Add onion and bell pepper to pan; saute until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and oregano; saute 1 minute more. Stir in beans, broth and chipotle; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 5 minutes.
    3.
    Meanwhile, combine sour cream, lime zest, 1 teaspoon lime juice and honey in a small bowl.
    4.
    Transfer 1 1/2 cups soup to a blender and puree. Stir puree back into soup; add sausage. Stir in remaining lime juice and season with salt to taste. Serve and top with lime sour cream.

Around 4:30 I decided it was time to get started and assembled my ingredients. Here’s a helpful picture of them all artfully laid out for your viewing pleasure:

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Right off the bat, I omitted the red pepper because I don’t care for it – I’ve done that before and knew it would be fine. For sausage, I used what I had in the freezer, which happened to be Johnsonville Chicken Sausage with Cheese and Chipotle Pepper, and which I’d actually remembered to defrost. I had also defrosted my chipotles in adobo. (Canned chipotle in adobo is usually in the Hispanic/Mexican section of the grocery store but they don’t all carry it, so when I find it I buy a few cans. Since recipes usually only call for one or two, when I open a can I freeze the rest individually in baby food jars.) I didn’t have as much garlic as I thought I did, but it was just about sufficient. Also I used two onions even though I only photographed one. Sorry.

At this point, I also realized that I either didn’t have, or couldn’t find, any cumin. I figured I’d just omit that too. It’s a very forgiving recipe.

So. Time to prep things. First, chop the sausage. Have you always wondered what Johnsonville Chicken Sausage with Cheese and Chipotle Pepper looks like chopped? Today is your lucky day!

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Next, the onions. I’m too lazy to sit there and dice two giant onions, so I popped them in the food processor.

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Not diced, exactly, but good enough.

Beans, rinsed and ready to go:

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Wow, those are some nice looking beans.

(This is right about when Eric started asking me why I was photographing our dinner. I’m not going to tell you his reaction when I told him I was posting about cooking.)

Time to get started.

I heated the oil, which I’m sure you’re having trouble visualizing, so here:

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Next, I browned the sausage. I’ll give you both during and after shots!

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I’m known as the Ansel Adams of food.

I sautéed the onion

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Not pictured: crying baby, hungry husband

and added the garlic. Let’s all stop to marvel at how I’m photographing and documenting my cooking and still haven’t burned anything!

I stirred in the beans, broth and chipotle and brought to a boil. Realized I forgot the oregano and added it.

While the soup simmered, I got started on the honey lime sour cream that accompanies it.

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I added the lime zest to the sour cream, then squeezed all the juice in and stirred it up. My citrus zester is one of my better kitchen purchases – I actually get a lot of use out of it, and it’s really easy to use. Oops, forgot the honey. Ok added that, stirred some more.

SInce the soup was done simmering, I checked the recipe again. Oh, right. I forgot this soup needs blending. OK this recipe was not quite as easy and straightforward as I remembered. I hauled out my blender, blended the required amount and stirred it back in.

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Vitamix – worth it. Go with a refurbished one to save a lot of money.

Ok time to add the remaining lime juice —

Wait what?

I reread the recipe.

Oh. I was only supposed to stir one teaspoon into the sour cream, not all four. Whoops.

Well, it will probably be fine. Except since I put it all in the sour cream, I don’t have any more for the soup. Oh well. When you stir the sour cream in it will blend all the flavors anyway. But I should probably warn my friend that the sour cream is extra lime-y. And as I’m typing this up I’m realizing I should actually have put in 8 teaspoons since I doubled the recipe.

The result? Just as delicious as ever, actually. Er…just super spicy. Really spicy. I warned Eric not to eat it, since he doesn’t like spicy. I think maybe more of the chipotle sauce went in than usual? I really don’t know. I loved it though. Ate it for dinner and several lunches. Not sure something super spicy is really what I want to bring someone though, since not everyone loves spice. Also she’s nursing. Good thing I have some turkey meat sauce already in the freezer. I’ll just bring her that and a box of pasta.

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(Also when I was cleaning up I found the extra lime I bought on the counter. I forgot I bought two. So I guess I could have added more to the soup. Or doubled the amount like I was supposed to. Whatever. Which, as you could probably guess, sums up my cooking philosophy in one word.)

If you want to actually do food-for-a-new-mom the right way, check out this great post of tips from Clarks Condensed, complete with recipes. Pay particular attention to #5 – don’t stay too long. New babies tend to sleep when people visit and you don’t want the parents cursing you out in their head because they could be sleeping too, if you weren’t there. Not that I ever did that.

4 Replies to “A pinch of this, a dash of whatever”

  1. Haha. I totally tried the recipe blogging. I really apprecipated your photography, here. And as to the quality… If you could eat it, it was a success, right?

    1. Thanks! Not sure, but it’s a good, simple recipe so I hope it at least helped them on a night that they didn’t feel like cooking.

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