Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chicken, Bean, Vegetable Soup And National Kidney Awareness Month

March is National Kidney Awareness Month.  So why did I tie this soup to National Kidney Awareness Month? Because I made it for my daughter the other day when she didn't feel well. Several hours after getting a fever, she was in excruciating pain with an earache and it wasn't long before we were driving her to urgent care. She has FSGS, a chronic severe kidney disease. Thankfully, she is in clinical remission (with medication). But whenever she gets this sick I worry about relapse.

Ear infections worry me the most because she was diagnosed with FSGS three years ago shortly after she had a horrible, resistant ear infection. Doctors don't know what causes FSGS and don't know if the ear infection had anything to do with it. When there isn't an underlying disease, they believe FSGS is auto-immune based. Naturally, when she was first diagnosed I was searching for answers. I remember thinking, maybe, that infection derailed her immune system.

It also happens to be World Kidney Day. So before I forget about this basic but healthy soup I made the other day, I thought I'd share it today. After all, her kidney disease is mostly the reason for starting my blog. It changed the way we think about food. Food was the only way I could help her other than making sure she took her medicine. We always ate well - I love to cook. But I admit we had some processed foods around. Now, we try darn hard to eat mostly organic fresh food every day. It isn't easy. The food I make doesn't always look fancy. But we are surely nourished.

To make this chicken soup, I broiled chicken thighs in the oven until done.  I broiled it because if I boiled it, the stock would have been fatty (needing refrigerating and skimming) and I wanted to serve the soup right away. Dark meat is good but it's supposedly more nutritious than white meat (plus it's what I had at the time).  I added water for moisture and seasoned the chicken with Mrs. Dash Onion & Herb seasoning.  I learned about Mrs. Dash seasonings when she was placed on a low-sodium diet three years ago.  I use it sometimes for quick flavor. Dried Italian seasoning or herbs de Provence would work well instead.

I cut the chicken into bite size pieces and shredded a little with a fork.

I added what I thought looked like a good amount of chicken to one quart of low-sodium chicken stock, with some frozen peas, frozen corn, and a can of drained no-salt cannellini beans, her favorite (things I usually keep for on hand).  Other vegetables would work, like: broccoli, cauliflower, chopped string beans or asparagus. I cooked the vegetables until just tender and while they still had their color.  I added about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon and, just before serving, some chopped fresh parsley.

I served the soup on a tray with fresh fruit and lots of love!

Here is a link I like to superfoods for healthy kidneys:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fannie Farmer's Boston Baked Beans And Golden Corn Bread

What rich dark sweetness! I was brought back in time by this turn-of-the-century recipe. The strong molasses flavor gave me a sense of its popularity as a sweetener back in the day.

You may know from an earlier blog post that I'm taking a food writing course.  I'm also learning a little about American food history. When my text book, American Food, mentioned Fannie Farmer's The Boston School of Cooking Cookbook, I got excited thinking I had one! I ran over to the fireplace in the kitchen. There it was on the mantle. A prop. A member of a vignette of vintage books. Holding the book, I realized I had been brushing dust off its cover for a few years oblivious to its historical role in New England cooking. When I opened it, I saw it was originally written in 1896 and this is the 1938 edition!  How fun, I thought, to now try a few recipes.

Since we just covered Yankee foods, and my first assignment was a memoir about foods growing up, I chose to make Fannie Farmer's Boston baked beans for my family. I'm not from Boston but I grew up not far away in Woonsocket and remember having Petites baked beans on Saturdays. I remember going to Petites with my dad. There were always long lines and the beans were ladled into stoneware crocks. We would return to Petites often with a cleaned crock, ready for more beans. 

Staying with the historical theme, I thought it would be nice to cook beans in a vintage crock I have but was unsure about its safety so I used a cast iron pot instead.  First, I had to soak navy pea beans overnight. 

In the morning, I boiled the soaked beans. The recipe says, 

". . . cook until skins will burst, - which is best determined by taking a few beans on the tip of a spoon and blowing on them, when skins will burst if sufficiently cooked." 

Okay, what does that mean? Will it take 15 minutes? 30 minutes? An hour? I looked it up on the internet where a recipe said cook for 1 to 2 hours. Still, not precise timing. After cooking for about 1 1/2 hours (oops, forgot to set the timer for 1 hour) I tried the technique Fannie suggests and the beans kept flying off the spoon when I blew on them, which made our mini French poodle, Sammy, very happy.  I was amused at first but gave up after a few tries.

Next I scalded the salt pork. Then I scraped. Again, not really being sure what this meant. Then I trimmed and added the salt pork to the beans.

 After 6 hours, the beans looked and smelled amazing!

I failed at making her Boston Baked Bread recipe but I had a backup. I whipped up her quick and easy corn bread recipe and baked it in these small cast iron pans. The corn bread tasted great, in a rustic old-fashioned sort of way, even though it was a little dry.

Boston Baked Beans
1 qt pea beans (navy pea beans)
3/4 lb fat salt pork
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp to 1 cup molasses, according to taste
1/2 tsp mustard, if desired
Boiling water

"Pick over beans, cover with cold water, and soak overnight.  Drain, cover with fresh water, heat slowly (keeping water below boiling point), and cook until skins will burst, - which is best determined by taking a few beans on the tip of a spoon and blowing on them, when skins will burst if sufficiently cooked.  Drain beans.  Scald pork and scrape, remove 1/4 inch slice, and put in bottom of bean pot.  Cut through rind of remaining pork every half-inch, making cuts 1 inch deep.  Put beans in pot and bury pork in beans, leaving rind exposed.  Mix salt, molasses, and sugar, add 1 cup boiling water and pour over beans; then add enough more boiling water to cover beans.  Cover bean pot and bake 6 to 8 hours in slow oven (250 degrees F), uncovering the last hour of cooking, that rind may become brown and crisp. Add water as needed.  If pork mixed with lean is preferred, use less salt."

Golden Corn Cake
3/4 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 egg, well beaten
2 tbsp shortening, melted (I used butter)

"Mix and sift dry ingredients; add milk, egg, and shortening; bake in shallow buttered pan 20 minutes in hot oven (425 degrees F).  For shortening, butter, chicken fat, or beef drippings may be used."

Ham Broth
I don't have a recipe but this is what I did.  I bought a small ham from Whole Foods.  I added about an inch of apple cider to the pan and covered with aluminum foil.  Cooked until heated through.  When done, I put the remaining apple cider in a small saute pan (a little more than a cup), added about 1/4 teaspoon molasses (not too much as it has a strong flavor), about 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, and reduced to about half.  I poured the broth over slices of served ham.

After all the effort, I was glad we all liked it! My favorite quote comes from my son. When he first tasted it he said, "What's it made with? Love? If it's made with love, love tastes weird." But, once he got used to the flavor he really liked the beans too.

New copies of Fannie Merritt Farmer's Boston School of Cooking Cookbook can be found here