My wife and I just moved across the state. Which we refer to as 'our last move'. Not to be confused with our previous 'last move' a couple of years ago that took us to within a block of the beach.
We opted to do this because of work. Not that I can write books any better on the west coast of Florida as opposed to the east coast. Heck, I can mangle the English language just as well on either coast, thank you very much.
No. This had more to do with the fact that I was doing most of my in-state cooking demonstrations on the west coast.
There are a gazillion more empty nesters and young married couples in the Tampa Bay area alone (not even counting Sarasota, Venice or Naples) compared to Northeast Florida. Heck, I was already making the trek across the state 3 or 4 times a month as it was. By moving to this side I'm saving a butt load on travel and hotel expenses. Plus, I don't have to crawl through that 8-lane Orlando parking lot the locals euphemistically refer to as I-4 on a regular basis. (One time in the not-too-distant past, I left St. Augustine when my wife was pregnant with our sixth, and by time we arrived in Tampa we had already celebrated the kid's first birthday.)
So, yeah, the move was work related.
But also family related. My mom is 80-somethin'-somethin' and as every good Irishman knows, you gotta look after family.
Since there was no way in heck that mom would move into the little beach house with us, we loaded up a big old truck and crawled across the state, putting most of our stuff in storage before moving back into the huge 4 bedroom house I'd spent most of my high school years in. Lot's of memories here. And lots of work that needs to be done. Remember, my mom is 80-something and extremely self-reliant. So there's lots of work she had planned on getting around to but just hasn't yet. Like re-grouting the bathroom or hauling my younger brother's Mustang exhaust system up to the attic until he comes to fetch it. So I've got my hands full house-wise.
But moving in with family can be an adjustment.
Here's just a few:
The stove only has one working burner. It seems odd that someone like me who writes cookbooks for a living would abide by a stove with only one burner for even a day, let alone four, but trust me, this week there was a lot more to do. Like unpack. So I've had to be creative. For the last four or five days I've made some great one-pot meals. (I've listed one such dish below.) Oh, and did I mention that my pots were still packed as were all of my spices and such? Told you I had to get creative.
The microwave is useless. No, it's not broken. In fact, it looks new. It's just too small and wholly inefficient. How inefficient? We put a bag of Orville Redenbacher popcorn in as we were settling down to watch a civil war documentary on cable. The popcorn didn't finish popping until the Lee surrendered at Appomattox. I replaced it with mine. (Unlike my pots and pans, my microwave was fairly accessible.)
The air conditioning is off. Oh, it works all right. In fact it was just replaced. But mom likes it warm. How warm? Heck, the popcorn popped faster leaving it out on the counter than it did in her tiny microwave. At first my wife and I thought about going "au naturel". I suppose that might've been pretty cool in our 20's. But after 50? I think not. Solution? I closed all the vents in mom's part of the house and ripped out the vents in ours. Problem solved. And no one has to go naked.
But it's not all bad. There's an ultra-cool downtown area (in fact, dozens of great downtown areas within a short drive), the gulf beaches are spectacular, as are the sunset celebrations at the pier, the bike trails are closer, the stores are hipper, and the vodka is cheaper.
After all, if life serves you lemonade, you gotta add the vodka.
Especially if it's family.
Second City White Bean Chili
I call this Second City Chili not because it was created in Chicago, but because this is the essence of culinary improv (see my blog post here). I found a few cans of this and that in the pantry, some chicken breasts in the freezer and some assorted spices in the cupboard. This was the result. I'm not sure if I remembered all the ingredients so it probably won't make it into a future edition of Table for Two, but it just may inspire you to pull off a little improv yourself. Who knows? You may find yourself in a kitchen with only one working burner too, one day. Enjoy!
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder (or more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups chicken broth
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 7-ounce can diced green chiles
1 16-ounce can creamed corn (it's what was there)
1 pound diced, cooked chicken meat
2 15-ounce cans northern beans
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Hot pepper sauce to taste
Grated sharp cheddar cheese to garnish
1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add oregano, cumin and chili powder and sauté 3 additional minutes.
2. Stir in broth, tomatoes and chilies. Bring to a boil, lower heat, then simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Add corn, chicken and beans and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.