Senate Bean Soup and Gam’s Navy Bean Soup

Senate Bean SoupCool Beans

Anyone who has known me for more than twenty min­utes knows that I am into cooking. Those brave souls who stick around longer, know that I really like cookbooks…I have a rather large col­lec­tion. There is some­thing about cook­books (and books in gen­eral) that make me happy. I love the look of them, and to thumb through them. I even use them to dec­o­rate my kitchen—there’s nothing cooler than a kitchen library corner!).

Over the years, friends and family have given me all sorts of cookbooks—from hot, trendy ones to the antiques they found in grandma’s attic. I espe­cially enjoy the older ones, because they give me a glimpse of life in a dif­ferent place and time.

My Father in Law gave me The Con­gres­sional Cook­book. It was orig­i­nally pub­lished in 1927, and belonged to his mother. The recipes are com­piled from mem­bers of The Con­gres­sional Club, who them­selves are com­prised of the wives and daugh­ters of the mem­bers of Con­gress and the Supreme Court. Basi­cally, it is a Con­gres­sional Junior League Cook­book. It is fan­tastic not only for the recipes, but for the social sug­ges­tions that go along with them. I may not ever have to worry about the proper seating arrange­ments for the Pres­i­dent and other heads of state but at least I will be prepared.

Included in the 800+ pages of The Con­gres­sional Cook­book is the recipe for Senate Bean Soup, which has been served every day in the Senate restau­rant since it was intro­duced in the early 1900s. It is, simple but very sat­is­fying, and one that my grand­mother used to make—though Gam tweaked it a bit.

It’s great to have in your freezer for chilly fall nights, or for a tasty lunch when the rain finally comes. (Cross your fin­gers!) This is a lazy Sunday type recipe so if you find your­self with a free after­noon, give this a try.

I have listed the Senate recipe below as well as my Grandmother’s version.

Senate Bean Soup
From The Con­gres­sional Cook­book
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Rizzo e Zucca (Rice and Butternut Squash)

Rice and Butternut SquashWinds of Change

It was windy this morning with a tiny hint of chill in the air. This got me excited—it felt like fall had actu­ally arrived (although warmer tem­per­a­tures will stick around for a while). Right about this time of year my cooking habits change. My grill is used less and less, and my giant Dutch ovens start to see the light of day, on the stove or the heat of the oven. It’s all about the braising and the slow cooking, now.

My cooking tech­nique is not the only thing that changes; my tastes change as well. I veer toward com­fort food and fall-​​off-​​the-​​bone meats with mashed pota­toes. Rice dishes become the norm. Apples, sage, sausage, and squash become my go to ingredients—as well as plenty of pork. And then, there is the Italian food…

Italian cui­sine is a no-​​brainer in my house because it is approved of by my entire family. The recipes I choose are usu­ally hearty, rel­a­tively simple, and def­i­nitely sat­is­fying. A slow-​​simmered Sunday gravy (a.k.a meaty tomato sauce) can be the per­fect end to a weekend of foot­ball and other sports. Throw in a nice bottle of wine and some fresh crusty bread, and I am a happy girl.

This week’s recipe is a typ­ical Italian fall dish: one you will see often grace my autumn table. It’s easy to make, and oh so sat­is­fying. Rizzo e Zucca comes from Lidia Bas­tianich cook­book titled, Lidia Cooks From The Heart of Italy. This is not your typ­ical Italian cook­book. The recipes are mostly from the lesser known areas of Italy, and are the food that would be eaten everyday, by locals.

Rizzo e Zucca (Rice and But­ternut Squash)
Adapted from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy by Lidia Bas­tianich Read more…

Baked Farro, Bacon and Butternut Squash

Baked Farro, Butternut-Squash and BaconCos­tume (Butter) Nut

Do you remember your Hal­loween cos­tumes from when you were a kid? I do. I remember being Raggedy Anne, and of course there was a mouse cos­tume in there some­where. One year I was a fla­menco dancer, and I went as Wilma Flint­stone another year. My favorite cos­tume of all time had to be Cleopatra—partly because the make-​​up was totally fun, but the real reason was the mondo-​​cool dress.

My mom had this super-​​groovy one shoulder gold lamé disco dress that was just awe­some. And because I was tall enough, I was able to wear it to be Queen of The Nile. Cos­tume aside, the Gold Lamé Dress will for­ever live in familial infamy. I don’t remember actu­ally seeing Mom wear it, but I have to assume she did at some point. It was just too fan­tastic to not wear it. Long live the 70s!

Why am I talking about Hal­loween cos­tumes midway through Sep­tember? Because it has been the topic of dis­cus­sion around the dinner table for the last week. The plan­ning has begun. For the boys the issue is do we care or not, and are we just too cool for Hal­loween? It’s Middle School. Gone are the Hal­loween parades, class par­ties and cos­tume con­tests. In their place, the real world, where they have tests and home­work assignments.

My daughter is in full plan­ning mode which, frankly, scares me. Here’s why. Last week I came home to find her locked in her room (a.k.a. The Lab) furi­ously working on some­thing with duct tape and scis­sors. Two hours later she emerges and pro­ceeds to tape (yes, tape) a card­board dragon cos­tume to our Bas­sett Hound, Rocket. While we all found it funny, except for Rocket, it is this type of impul­sive inge­nuity that can make finding a Hal­loween cos­tume for her dif­fi­cult. It also means that her choices can be, well, different.

I am all for being your own person and not fol­lowing the crowd. In fact I encourage all my kids to find their own beat. But someone please tell me why she thinks that being a squash for Hal­loween would be so totally awe­some!? And where I can find a But­ternut Squash cos­tume? ‘Cause I doubt I’ll find it at Target along­side all of the frozen options…

Having me make the cos­tume is not a pos­si­bility. She’s going to have to go a dif­ferent route, because this is the only but­ternut squash I will be making…

Baked Farro, Bacon and But­ternut Squash  Read more…

Baked Apple Dumplings

Fall Like Weather?
It’s about two min­utes past the start of Sep­tember, and in my mind, once Labor Day has come and gone, it’s Fall. That’s the kind of fly by the seat of my pants rebel that I am. Forget the thou­sands of years of sci­ence and astronomy. If the cal­endar says Sep­tember 9th then it must be time for long sleeve shirts, flannel sheets, apples and pumpkins…unless you live here on the face of the sun where it will reach 102 degrees today.

Per­haps the heat has fried my brain, but pumpkin spice lattes and turning the oven on for a little Fall baking sounds like a great idea. The thought of apples and caramel and pecans and pump­kins has me going a little nuts.

There are so many fall baking ideas right now in the mag­a­zines and online that I am having a hard time choosing which ones to make. It’s safe to say I will be get­ting to all of them eventually…

What I have been seeing a lot are apple dumplings. I am a sucker for any­thing that involves apples, pastry, butter, and cin­namon so these are a no-​​brainer. This recipe adapted from Cooks Country is the bomb!

Baked Apple Dumplings
Serves 8

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