Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Anna Sultana’s Pasta Fagioli / A Christmas Bargain by Margaret Ullrich

December begins tomorrow.
The holiday season has begun, but it’s pretty much going to be same old, same old.
We’re in the fourth wave of Covid-19, the Delta variant is highly contagious, and the Omicron variant is just hitting North America.
You know the drill: get vaccinated, wear a mask, avoid crowds, practice social distancing, and wash your hands.
Stay safe and well.
We’re all in this together.

A bit of Covid-19 trivia…
When the World Health Organization began naming the variants, officials turned to the Greek alphabet to make it easier for the public to understand the evolution: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and so on.

The WHO said it had skipped to Omicron because Nu was too easily confused with ‘new’, and Xi is a common surname. The WHO wants to avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.
Now you know.

Sometimes comfort food can help get one through times like this.
A traditional Italian comfort food is pasta fagioli.

A few years ago I posted Carmela Soprano's Pasta Fagioli recipe.
Pasta Fagioli is not as famous as minestrone.
While similar, Pasta Fagioli is basically, as the name says, pasta and beans, while minestrone includes a variety of vegetables.
Pasta Fagioli is also thicker and more stew-like than minestrone is.
It’s a simple, cheap recipe that got many Italians through hard times.
Whether you’re Italian or not, it could get you through hard times, too.

When Ma lived in Malta her original recipe called for cannellini beans and ditalini pasta.
Cannellini  are small, delicately flavoured white beans, similar to great northern beans, navy beans or white kidney beans.
Ditalini means ‘little thimbles’ because the small pasta resembles the small sewing aids.
We lived in College Point, a German / Irish town.
Ma couldn’t find cannellini beans and ditalini pasta in the A & P.
But she did find white kidney beans and elbow macaroni, so she used them.
It was the 1950s and she didn’t want to cause any trouble.


If you have a bag of dried beans, the Carmela Soprano's Pasta Fagioli post also has instruction on how to prepare them. It will take a bit of time.

If you have pancetta or ham on hand you could substitute 2 slices of either, finely chopped, for the bacon.
If you're a vegetarian, you can leave the meat out.

Al dente means the pasta is tender yet still firm to the bite.

The soup can be frozen, either in a large batch or in portions, for up to 3 months.
Defrost the soup overnight in the fridge and use within 24 hours of defrosting.

                                                               Pasta Fagioli

Serves 8

4 slices bacon
2 Cups yellow onions

Finely dice
2 Cups carrots
1 Cup celery

Place in a Dutch oven
1/4 Cup olive oil
the chopped bacon
Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until the bacon is just crisp, about 5 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a bowl and set aside.

Place in the same dutch oven
the chopped yellow onions
Stirring frequently, cook over medium high heat, about 2 minutes.
the diced carrots and celery
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Cook, stirring frequently, over moderate heat, about 7 minutes.
1 to 3 Tablespoons garlic powder
Cook, stirring frequently, over medium high heat, 30 seconds.
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Over low heat, stirring occasionally, simmer about 5 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, drain and rinse
4 (15 oz.) cans white kidney beans
Mash about 1/2 cup of the beans well and stir them into the soup.

the remaining beans
8 Cups chicken stock
2 Cups water
Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
3 Cups elbow macaroni
the fried bacon
Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente, 8–10 minutes.

If the soup seems too thick, add hot water.
Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve in bowls.
Add a grating of Romano or Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
Some crusty bread and a salad would round out the meal nicely.


Back in November, 2002, I wrote an essay for the CKUW radio show ‘2000 & Counting' about getting Christmas gifts.  
It was a meant as a light piece, filled with hints.
Many of our listeners were seniors or college students, folks known for having to stretch their dollars.
Now, along with Covid-19 and its variants making us nervous about going to crowded places, we’re facing problems in the supply chain.
Christmas shopping never gets any easier.  Darn!!

Okay… listen up! There are four weeks left until Christmas. That means gifts. I know, I know, it's more blessed to give than to receive. But, unless you have ways of shopping that you'd like to keep secret, giving gifts means money.  

It's a little late to start a Christmas gift account at your bank and the utility companies really lose that Ho Ho Ho spirit if you try to skip paying their bills. 
If the charge cards are already maxed out - or you just want to keep your nearest and dearest on a cash and carry basis - gift getting is going to take a little effort.  

Desperate times call for desperate measures. As we're all stuck with holidays - oh, lucky us - I'll tell you some of my desperate measures.

Live off your hump. You know what I mean. Things like the 18 cans of tuna you have left from the time you bought 20 cans so you could get 50 bonus airmiles. Now's the time to crack those babies open. I know the family hates tuna. That's why there are 18 little cans of fishies swimming around your pantry.
Well, the family would hate a Giftless Christmas even more.
Think about it. Lousy dinners happen to everybody. But the family Grinch who comes up giftless at Christmas gets blabbed about throughout the neighbourhood and the generations.
You don't want to be remembered by your great-great-grandchildren as Granny Grinchie.

Try creative cooking. Pretend you're on the TV show Iron Chef. You've just been given a tube of ground beef, a bag of marshmallows, a jar of salsa, a bottle of raspberry vinegar, a carton of frozen spinach, a jar of maraschino cherries and a box of rice-a-roni. Think only a nut throws odd things together? How do you think raspberry vinegar was invented?
If the family gets snarky, tell them you found the recipe in a magazine. Drop names. Martha is always good, and if they can't appreciate all the effort you put into making dinner interesting… Well!
You know the speech.
Remember, guilt, when the other person has it, is a good thing.

Go ethnic. Granny's recipes don't have to be saved for Folklorama. God bless family. Go to an Italian restaurant and get a load of the prices they charge for a plate of Pasta Fagioli. That's two cheapies: noodles and beans! Grandma would die laughing if she saw those prices. Starch and beans got millions of people through tough times. Go thou and eat likewise.
Beans aren't good enough? Go past the recognizable cuts and shop the mystery meats. Put enough spices on them and the family won't know what hit them. I once made spaghetti and meatballs using animal organs only a mother could love. Guess what? Hubby had invited a friend. Well, the buddy was getting a free meal, so I followed the Cook’s Golden Rule: Don't apologize and don't explain.
The buddy said it was delicious, like the meatballs they serve at the Bay.
Hmmm… I notice the Bay is still in business. There's more than one way to skin a cat.   
Shop your house. No kidding. Grab a bag and stroll through your house. Look for things somebody foisted… uh… gave to you. Well, why should you be stuck with it until you're six feet under? Unless it was made by your preschooler - don't even think it, they DO remember - you're free to pass it on to someone else.
Just don't give it to the person who gave it to you.
Pack your own. Ever notice the little overpriced goodies the stores stuff into baskets and bowls? One current gift item is a box of pasta, a tin of sauce, some cheese and some wooden spoons nestled within a large bowl.
Are you too stupid to do the same thing? I didn’t think so. It's one way to get rid of some of those extra airmiles purchases. Let somebody else eat the tuna.

Still thinking about the folks in the flyers looking wildly happy over a toaster? 
Toss the flyers. Those models were paid big bucks. Stores want you to buy. A stress-free family holiday is not their goal. If they had their way you'd replace everything and pay 50% interest.
Remember how the best presents were things that showed that someone cared? Maybe somebody hunted down an out-of-print book by your favourite author. 
The gadgets that looked amazing seem strange on December 26.  

While you're shopping, get yourself some treats. 
I have a friend who picks up a bag of pfeffernusse cookies every year. When she feels like all she's doing is giving, giving, giving, she pops a pfeffernusse and gives herself an old time Christmas. It doesn't take much.     

God bless us, everyone.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Happy Twelfth Birthday to I’m Turning 60…!! by Margaret Ullrich

Happy 12th Birthday to I’m Turning 60… and to all of you, its readers!!
I want to thank each of you for visiting, whether it's been on a daily, weekly or occasional basis!
Also, a big Thank you! to those who've invited their friends to visit!

I especially want to thank everyone who has been kind enough to comment over the years.
I really appreciate it when you tell me that your family enjoyed a recipe, or that it brought back memories. I also like it when you ask if I have a recipe for a particular dish.

I’m Turning 60… continues to be more popular than its older ’sibling’ blog Winnipeg is Better Than Chocolate!
I’m Turning 60… - with 1,114 posts - has had over 1,095,000 visitors since July, 2010, when Blogger started keeping track of both blogs.
That's more visitors than its ‘elder sibling’ blog, Winnipeg is Better Than Chocolate, which has 2,803 posts, and has received almost 516,000 visitors.
That's less than half the number of posts with over twice as many visitors!

Okay… enough with the numbers.
Let’s get back to the recipes which deserve the credit for all these visits!
The weekly, as well as the monthly, top ten choices have frequent changes, especially during holiday seasons.
The current all-time top ten posts are pretty much the same as last year's favourites:
Carmela Soprano's Ricotta - Pineapple Pie (Cheesecake)
Anna Sultana's Imqarrun il-forn - Baked Macaroni, Maltese Style
Carmela Soprano's Ziti al Forno / Baked Ziti with Tiny Meatballs
Carmela Soprano's Anginetti / Italian Lemon Knot Cookies with Lemon Glaze
Anna Sultana's Ross il-Forn - Baked Rice, Maltese Style
Carmela Soprano's Penne alla Vodka / Penne in Cream Sauce
Carmela Soprano's Peppers and Eggs Sandwiches
Carmela Soprano’s Pizza Rustica recipe / Pizza Gaina /
                                        Italian Easter Pie with Ricotta and Meat
Carmela Soprano's Scungilli in Hot Tomato Sauce
Carmela Soprano's Braciole / Stuffed Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce

Please, if you haven’t already, do try a few of the recipes on these lists.
Anna Sultana's Imqarrun il-forn (Baked Macaroni, Maltese Style) has been viewed - and enjoyed - 21,878 times as of today.

There's a reason why it is a traditional Maltese favourite.

When the virus first came to Canada, I gathered recipes for two as well as recipes according to type of ingredients, and shared the posts on Facebook. Here they are:

Bread Recipes made with Yeast, Baking Soda, Baking Powder or Sourdough Starter

Anna Sultana's Roasted Cornish Game Hens
       / Chicken and Meat Recipes for 2 Links

Anna Sultana's Lemon Cranberry Muffins / Baking Powder Substitutes
       / Brunch, Dessert and Drink Recipes for 2

Anna Sultana's Pull-Apart Pizza
       / Cheese, Egg, Vegetable, Meatless and Fish Recipes for 2

Anna Sultana's Pork Chops in Lemon Caper Sauce / Wine Substitutes for Cooking
       / Links for Capers Recipes

Anna Sultana’s Milkless, Eggless, Butterless Cakes (Chocolate or Raisin)
       and Two-Egg Sponge Cake

Anna Sultana’s Coconut Cake, Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting, Boiled Frosting
       and Quick Fudge

Hope you find these grouped listings useful.

I'm always amazed at learning where you live.
I expected visitors from the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom since many Maltese immigrated to these countries, especially after World War II.
The other top countries are a pleasant surprise.

The top ten countries and their visitors are:   
United States………….. 557    K
Canada………….……….…. 95.7 K
Malta……………...…………  64.5 K
Australia………….……….… 62.3 K
United Kingdom…….….  38 K
Russia…………………….…. 33.5 K
Turkey……….…..…………. 29.4 K
Germany……….….……..  18.8 K
France………….….…….…. 18.2 K
Ukraine.…….…….….……. 11.9 K

During the years there have also been visitors from Italy, Finland, Poland, Spain,
the Netherlands, Macedonia, Mexico, Afghanistan, Thailand, Slovakia, Ireland,
Denmark, Bangladesh, Sweden, Israel, Moldova, Malaysia, Singapore, Kuwait,
Greece, Kenya, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Brazil, Bermuda, Namibia, Cyprus, India,
Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Norway, New Zealand, Madagascar, Armenia,
South Africa, Romania, Iceland, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Tanzania, Argentina,
United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Tunisia, Taiwan, Paraguay, Columbia, China, Jamaica,
Portugal, Bahamas, Kazakhstan, French Guiana, Côte d’Ivoire, Bangladesh, Egypt,
Kenya, Oman, Hungary, Belarus, Switzerland, Romania, Czechia, Lebanon, Austria,
Venezuela, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, U.S. Virgin Islands,
Gibraltar, Jersey, Nigeria, Serbia, Equador, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Albania
and Luxembourg.
It is a small world after all!!

I don't post regularly and I don’t put my blog posts’ links on Facebook.
Please become a subscriber to this blog, I’m Turning 60…
It’s easy and FREE - just click on the ‘FOLLOW’ link under the pictures of followers and post your email address.
Yes, you can follow I’m Turning 60… by email.
Free, easy, and, I promise, your address will never be shared with anyone.
You’ll get an email when there is a new post, so you'll never miss a post.

I do post a link on Twitter whenever there is a new post.
If you feel more comfortable using Twitter, just click on the Twitter link '@ImTurning60' and we’ll keep in touch that way.

I'd also like more comments. 
It's easy to do - just click on 'Comments' and write.
Tell me what you want to know about.
Would you like more holiday recipes, or more easy, cheap, quick meals or…?

Thanks again for visiting!
I hope you'll drop by again real soon.
Stay safe and well!