Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Channelling my Inner Gourmet

Tuesday nights my brother-in-law (BIL) and his girlfriend come for dinner. This week has been a little cooler than last, so I chose to test out a recipe for Tuscan Bean Stew with Sausage as posted by Kim, from Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet. Like me, she has kids. And chaos. I have chaos too, but nothing like I had today.

It started at the grocery store, when I went to pick up the sausage and a few other things for dinners this week. It was uneventful until I had the (not-so) bright idea to skip the long lineups and try the self-serve checkout at the grocery store.

Definition of a self-serve checkout: A machine that allows the customer to scan the items themselves, pack their own bags, pay and go. You have to type in the codes for the produce (thankfully you can look them up) and there are slots for packing three bags at once. Every time you scan an item, you have to put it IMMEDIATELY into a bag, otherwise everything stops until the sensors pick up the change of weight. It works well if you use the plastic bags they provide and even better if your items are all a consistent size and shape. I had neither of these things. I had my own bags and everything from carrots and celery to baby jars as well as a large conglomeration of Made-in-China sandbox toys awkwardly bundled together in netting (Admittedly, I probably could have left those out).

Because my grocery bags did not fit well on the sensor platform, I had to repeatedly shove the same item in over and over to ensure the system could verify that each item WAS being put in the bag. What should have taken 15 minutes took much longer.

About three quarters of the way through, the Boo got impatient and tried to climb out of the cart. I know this because the kind clerk who monitored the self serve stations pointed out how he had turned himself around to be precariously balanced in the seat. I had to pick him up and hold him as I shoved the last few items in my bags, pay and get out. Lesson learned: sometimes self-serve is not the best option.

At 5:20 pm I started getting dinner ready for 6pm. Both the Boo and the Bean are at home now. The Boo is finally napping (because they never nap when you need them too) in the too-big-to-fit-inside stroller. The Bean wants to further develop his road hockey skills. I know I'll never get dinner prepped and ready without a little bit of help, so I cajole a friend of mine into staying outside a few extra minutes until my husband gets home from work.

I retreated to the kitchen to chop, fry and stew as fast as I could. Fortunately, it's an easy to prepare dish!

For the most part, I followed YM's recipe to a T, even going so far as to use beef broth and omitting the tomatoes (but not the cabbage). I used Eden's Organic Cannellini beans, but that was it for organic ingredients. I couldn't find Savoy cabbage, so I used a cabbage I found at the grocery store. Unlike YM, I don't have homemade beef broth lying around in the freezer, so I had to settle for broth made from two all-vegetable, Beef style, McCormick Bouillon cubes. (Confused? So was my husband. See below.)

This is the cabbage. Anyone have a name for me?

There was so much broth I wondered how the addition of cabbage would fit into the pot at the designated time, but I stuck it in the oven anyway.

6 pm: BIL and his girlfriend arrive. They've brought bread: Sprouted Grain. Noise levels go up as they only can when a favorite uncle comes to visit. The stew has been in the oven for 20 minutes - only 10 to go. I run out of the house to Fedex a package to Fedex my employer needed in their hands by 5 pm the next day (Why you ask, did I leave it to the last minute? Because they did. More details to follow in future posts.). I leave instructions with my husband to take the stew out when the buzzer goes.

This is Sprouted Grain Bread. What were you thinking it would look like?

6:45 pm: I am back at the house. The Boo has been fed, but everyone else waited for me. We sit down to dinner. And then it goes from chaos to comedy.

6:46 pm: Wine is poured. The bread is plated and on the table. Someone comments that it smells really good when all of a sudden, the scent of spilled red wine overpowers everything. BIL's GF looks sheepishly at us as BIL laughs and explains that she did the same thing last night. A split second later, even as we are mopping up the first glass of wine, she inadvertently knocks over BIL's glass on to an antique chair. We remove all other glasses of wine from her vicinity, and then proceed to tease her about her new habit.

Finally, we all take a few bites of dinner. Here's a selection of first impressions:

"Smells good."
"I like the creamy texture of the beans. They melt in your mouth."

And the Bean's contribution, verbatim:
"Boys who eat dinner get dessert." (This was after he added a pat of herb butter to his stew bowl. The brainwashing really works, by the way)

My husband, trying for a bit more erudition, came up with this one:

"I really like the separation of flavours between the vegetables, the beans and the beef broth. It's a nice beefy taste."
Me in response: "It's a vegetable-based beef broth."
Husband: "Yeah, the vegetables too."
Me: "No, I mean that the broth may taste like beef except there is no meat in it."
Husband: "Is that so vegetarians can eat it?"
Me: "I guess."
Husband: "Well, this would be a great vegetarian meal then. Except for the sausages."

Maybe you had to be there to see the humour in this one, I don't know. I think my husband was on to something about the distinct separation of flavours -- is this what gourmet is?

But the stew WAS good, although next time I would definitely want to try the golden-brown, garlic-rubbed, thickly-sliced country bread. And I'll try not to channel the chaos. ;-)


The Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet said...

You are so funny. Your house sounds like my house! Sounds like you had a pretty great dinner party.

And yes, self-serve is a bitch.

I'll throw you on the blogroll when I get a chance to make some changes (I've been meaning to for ages.)Looking forward to reading more!


Pamela said...

Cute blog! The cabbage is napa:
In Chinese-cooking it's very common to see in winter soups and stir-fries. You should definitely try the savoy - it's a cabbage that's something else. Kale is also nice in a bean soup.

xo Pam