Sunday, June 5, 2011

When Life Hands You Lemonade...Add Vodka.

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.

Bon appetit!


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.


  1. Funny. I was going to post a photo on Facebook and say "When life hands you lemons you gotta make a peach raspberry lemonade smoothie." (Which I did earlier this evening and it was quite tasty! ;)

    Visited my mom in Michigan last month and yeah, she can handle warm better than I can. (But she turned her AC on just for this wimpy, ol' Texan!) Best wishes in your new/old abode and I hope the adjustment period goes smoothly!

  2. @Jill. Thanks! Someone sent me a post and asked if we were upgrading or downsizing. These are two words I don't have in my vocabulary. Throughout our many moves it's always been 'rightsizing'. Yep. It's all been good. :-)

  3. glad you guys made the move safely... praying that all continues to smooth out as you settle in.

  4. Boy, I lose track of you for a few weeks and you pull a Beth and move! Guess I'll have to add you to my "West coast of FL friends" list now - and will miss seeing you in St Augie! But our paths will continue to cross - and I hope life on the west side of the state treats you well! Give my best to the Gulf....

  5. What an interesting post! Nice one :)

    Dropping by from Luxury Indulgence

  6. @Leslie. Thanks. We're almost there (although we will be back in St. Augie for a week). Looking forward to catching up with you and Dwight.

  7. @Beth. Who woulda thunk it, eh? I suspect you must've slipped something into my coffee the last time we visited in St. Augie. Hmmm, come to think of it, I do remember the coffee having a slightly off-taste. Wanderlust I believe it was. :-)

  8. @Blackswan. Thanks, Shirley! And hey, those delicious looking mussels on your latest blog post can be made in one pot, right? LOL.

  9. Hi Warren, Good read thanks, and love the chili!

  10. @Jenny. Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the post - and the chili! :-D

  11. Sounds delicious- that's how I cook- making something work out of what you have at the house!

    My husband studied Improv at Second City! :)

  12. Love this post - I am also having some lemonade moments. Adding vodka is such a great suggestion. Spiritually and literally. Happy Monday Warren!

  13. aw, good for you moving in with family! it must be kind of fun to be back in the house you grew up in...good luck with all the adjustments! :)

  14. I like your quote "if life serves you lemonade, you gotta add the vodka" :). That's the spirit ;)

  15. When I have lemonade, I'd rather add soju, :)

  16. Hello! I survived in France for a year with only 2 burners, no oven and no microwave. It was an interesting year - I ate out a lot. We only just got a kitchen in Labour of Love in France too, 4 years of holidaying with a microwave, fridge and George Foreman grill. Thank the lord for microwaveable rice ! :o)

    I hope you all settle back in Ok - including your mom, it's gotta be weird for her to have you back, but in a good way (she added quickly ;o)) All the best, KG.

  17. @Keelie. The hubs studied at Second City? Wow! You're the second follower whose spouse also studied there! What are the odds? :-)

  18. @Absurd Baker. And a Happy Monday to you as well! Glad I could help with the Lemonade and Vodka suggestion, but I tell you what, the strawberry recipes you've posted lately sound like they just might do the trick, too! :-)

  19. @a.maren. Thanks for the well wishes, Anna. It is a little weird coming back, but not too much so. We're often here for holidays and other visits. But still there's some adjusting to do. It's only been a week and everyone's still alive. That's a good sign. :-D

  20. @Mumsfilibaba. I wish I could take credit for the quote but I actually stole it from a sign my wife bought for our deck. :-) And of course my spirit would even be brighter if I was able to embark on sailboat picnic with chicken lollipops... Now *that* would raise anyone's spirit! LOL.

  21. @Tamar1973. Interesting you should say that. I had a colleague who spent nearly 20 years in Korea and he couldn't stop talking about it. Unfortunately he must've liked it so much he never had enough left over to offer me a sip! LOL

  22. @Kooky Girl. Wow. I have no right to complain. At least I can go out and buy new burners tomorrow! And yes, we're settling in pretty good so far. And as far as it being weird for my Mom, she was weird before we showed up, lol... Seriously, tho. I think she is enjoying the interaction and company.

  23. If you visit my husband and I, we promise to share the soju! :)

  24. The things ppl do for family and for love, right :)

  25. I never seem to tire of chili - particularly innovative ones. I like the inclusion of cumin and hot sauce in this one. It sounds great Warren, thanks.

  26. @Tamar1973. Thanks! I'll definitely take you up on that if I'm ever in the neighborhood!

  27. @Juanita. Ain't that the truth! Of course, this post is pretty tame. I've done some really odd and, at times, goofy things for love and family. But those will have to wait for another post. :-)

  28. @Kelly. I'm a big chili fan as well in all of its regional incarnations. This one actually came out pretty good - now I'm inspired to experiment some more. Perhaps a gazpacho-inspired concoction for the dog days of summer. We can call it Chilly Chili. :-)

  29. You had me at 'add vodka'. Too funny, warren, too funny.

  30. Not only do I love your recipe but your post is fantastic. I took care of my father while he was terminally ill for a year. Then we bought the family home. It's been an adventure and a rollercoaster ride for sure. So much work to do, so little time and money. We've almost done the whole main level over but the basement is practically original 1970's. We got rid of my dad's stove when we moved in. It was original to the house and when I cleaned out his paperwork I found the receipt. LOL! I hope your move works out well. I will stop by often to enjoy your tales.

  31. @Kim Bee. A rollercoaster I'm sure! Thanks for dropping in. Don't be a stranger!