Monday, August 16, 2021

Cowboy Beans



If you know me, you know that I LOVE baked beans. I love 'em in any kind of casserole, and yes, I happen to be famous for my own baked beans, thank you very much.
So, when I happened upon this recipe for Cowboy Beans, I knew I'd be making it sooner than later. It comes from one of my favorite Youtubers, Miss Lori, from Whippoorwill Holler.
Now, usually, I would google a million other recipes, just to compare ingredients and methods, but this one looked so good, I didn't even bother. (I even texted a couple of my nephews to say "how can this not be good?) The recipe below is almost exactly as dictated in her video, only I swapped red and green peppers for the yellow ones that Miss Lori used, and I guessed at the amount of BBQ sauce. Pretty much everything is to taste anyway, so if you like a lot of something, add a lot!
Thank you Miss Lori for another great recipe! I'm sure I'll be making this one again!



1 lb ground beef
1 (14oz) pkg smoked sausage
1/2 lb bacon
2 (28oz) cans baked beans
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 onion
1 cup BBQ sauce
Salt and pepper

In a large pan, brown your ground beef. Drain excess fat and place beef in a large mixing bowl. While the beef is browning, slice your smoked sausage and bacon strips into bite sized pieces. Place the bacon and sausage into the pan. Sauté until browned and slightly crispy.
While the bacon is cooking, dice your onion and peppers.
When the bacon and sausage are done, use a slotted spoon to place them in the bowl, but leave the fat in the pan.
Now add your vegetables to the pan and sauté until they begin to soften. While they're cooking, add your cans of baked beans, and your BBQ sauce to the bowl.
Add your vegetables to the bowl and give everything a good stir.
Add salt snd pepper to taste, and more BBQ sauce, if desired.
Pour into a big casserole dish, and bake uncovered for  about 45 minutes to an hour at 350.
Serve as a stand alone dish with some corn bread, or as a side dish with your favorite barbecue, some tater salad, and a mason jar of sweet tea.



Tips:
I love the idea of making this a stand alone dish, so I think next time I might just treat it like a bowl of chili and melt some Cheddar cheese over the top with a big dollop of sour cream. Doesn’t that sound awesome?
If you'd like to add some heat, add a diced jalapeño or some Tabasco sauce to taste. You do you!
 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Simple Summer Squash Starter

 

This is an easy side dish that is as simple as can be. If I’m being completely honest, I debated on whether or not to post it, because it’s not really a recipe, exactly. It’s just a few veggies sautéed together. Does that count as a recipe? I guess it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, I’ve made it several times over the last few weeks because it’s just so good, so I figured I’d share.
 So lets talk about it for a second. Want to?
It’s just any combination of sliced summer squash… Zucchini Yellow Crookneck, Pattypan, any kind you like… sauteed together with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and fresh basil. Thats it. No bells and whistles, just as simple as that. But here’s the thing.. You can either serve it as its own side dish, along with grilled chicken, or fish or any other main dish you like. Or else you can use it as a starter for other dishes. Toss it with any kind of pasta for a main dish. Add some sautéed diced chicken and a little heavy cream for a rich and creamy sauce. Toss it into any casseroles, soups or stews whenever your dish needs some fresh vegetables. The possibilities are endless!
Last week, I made a casserole that I’ve been calling the Kitchen Sink Casserole, because it had everything in it but the kitchen sink. I started with the summer squash, added cheese tortellini, then added shredded chicken, basil, oregano, parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese on top, and then baked it in a giant casserole dish. It was a HUGE hit and it fed a crowd. Doesn’t that sound amazing?? it’s also a great way to use up all that extra zucchini from your garden. So, I hope you’ll give this a try. I’m sure you can think of loads of other ideas! Enjoy!


vegetable oil
Zucchini or any other kind of summer squash, sliced or diced
Onions, diced
Tomatoes, either fresh or canned
Garlic, minced
Fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Use as much or as little of each item as you like.
Slice or dice all the veggies. Toss them into a big skillet or wok with a little oil. Toss them around the pan until they’re tender and cooked through. That’s all there is to it. Add fresh herbs, and season to taste.
Depending on the size of your skillet and how many veggies you have, you might want to sauté them separately or in batches, and then toss everything together after they’re cooked. That’s it!


Tips:
I like to use canned sliced stewed tomatoes. You could also use diced or whole canned tomatoes and then cut them up. I wouldn’t use puree or crushed, because I like the large pieces of tomato. If you’re using fresh, you can choose to peel them or not. Either way would be fine.
If your squash is not too large, you don’t have to peel it. The skins are very tender and add delicious color to your dish. If you let your garden squash grow quite large, then the peels became quite tough and much less palatable, so peeling them would definitely be a must.
You can make a big batch and then just store it in the fridge or freeze in ziploc freezer bags. I made a giant batch and then pressure canned it in jars (which is actually not recommended, but what can I say… I’m a rebel.) You do you!

Friday, July 2, 2021

Red, White, and Blueberry Cheese Icebox Cake

 


 Here’s another no-bake dessert that is perfect for your 4th of July celebration. It’s an ice box cake!! Have you ever had one? It’s actually nothing new, and not even really a cake. It’s just layers of sweet creamy deliciousness sandwiched between layers of graham crackers, (in this case with added strawberries and blueberries). And then as it chills, the graham crackers become soft and more like cake. So you can slice it into squares, and it sets up just like cake! Clever, huh?
 I recently made it for my niece, Terri, and her family, and it got RAVE reviews! It’s kind of one of those desserts where everyone goes back for just a little bit more. No judgement here! And it’s easy enough for the cooking novice to make. Perfect! If you’ve never tried one, you absolutely must!




8oz pkg cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups heavy cream

2 lbs strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
1 lb blueberries, washed and picked over of any stems
2 sleeves graham crackers


In a mixing bowl with a wire whisk attachment, starting on a low speed, whip together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract. Scrape the bowl and gradually add speed until the mixture is smooth. Turn mixer back to low speed. Add all of the cream. Slowly increase speed again all the way to high. Mix until the cream is thickened to a nice spreadable consistency.

In a glass 9x13 dish, spread a thin layer of the cream mixture across the bottom, just to give the crackers something to hold onto. Place a layer of graham crackers, breaking them as needed to fit. Do another thin layer of cream. Now do a layer of sliced strawberries, and another layer of cream.
Do the same thing again, only with blueberries this time. (crackers, cream, blueberries, cream.)
The last layer of cream should use up the remaining cream. Arrange strawberries and blueberries on top in any decorative pattern.
Cover with foil and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.


Tips:
When I say 2 sleeves of graham crackers, I just mean that usually they come 3 sleeves in a box, and I used 2 of them. Just use as many as you need to cover each layer.
Be sure to do this way in advance to give the graham crackers time to absorb the cream. That’s key to making it more like a cake texture!
 Also if you’d like to make this for July 4th, you could easily make a flag design on the top. Just put a square of blueberries in the upper left corner, and stripes of red strawberries with the white cream mixture showing between them.
Don’t like strawberries?  Use raspberries or cherries instead!
Not going for a patriotic theme? Use any kind of fruit you like! Blackberries, peaches, pineapple, any fruit will work!

 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

No Bake Banana Split Dessert

 



 I was looking for something that SCREAMED summer dessert. You know, something to bring to a BBQ, something that would feed a crowd, something that you know everyone would love.
 Then I remembered seeing something similar to this about a million years ago, and immediately knew that this was what I wanted.  “….now…if I could just remember who had that recipe… was it my sister in law Terri? hmm… I can’t remember.” Then I figured there MUST be one online somewhere, and of course there was. Actually, there are a million versions. I just picked this one (from Browneyed Baker) because it most closely resembled what I was picturing in my memory.
 It’s the perfect thing to bring to your 4th of July BBQ, or frankly any summer event. And it’s the perfect thing to make the day before. Have fun and customize it with your favorite banana split toppings! No matter how you do it, I’m sure it’ll be a hit! I mean, come on… who doesn’t love a banana split??

For the crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tbs sugar


For the filling:
12 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

8 oz Cool Whip


For the fruit and toppings:
3 to 4 bananas (sliced)

20 oz canned crushed pineapple, drained well

16 oz strawberries (hulled and sliced)

8 oz Cool Whip

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

Chocolate syrup

Maraschino cherries

Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish; set aside. 
In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter with a fork, stirring until all of the crumbs are evenly moistened. Dump the crumbs into the prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Refrigerate while you prepare the next layer.
 In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the Cool Whip until thoroughly combined. Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the graham cracker crust.
Arrange the banana slices in a single layer on top of the cream cheese filling, top with an even layer of the crushed pineapple, and then an even layer of the sliced strawberries.
 Cover with the Cool Whip, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts, then drizzle with chocolate syrup and top with maraschino cherries. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Leftovers can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.



Tips:
Instead of refrigerating my crust, I baked it at 350ºF for about 10 minutes. I know, I know, it’s supposed to be ‘no bake” right? Well, what can I say? I like a baked crust!
Also I used pineapple ice cream topping instead of crushed. A, because I had it on hand, B, because I worried that the juice from the crushed pineapple would make it too runny. Hindsight, I think I would have liked the crushed pineapple better. Turns out that the pineapple topping made everything VERY sweet, and I think the crushed pineapple would have tasted a little bit more fresh. So now we know! I’ll just be sure to really drain the pineapple very well!
Btw, I used WAY more bananas than the recipe says. I just sliced enough to make a solid layer!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Dip

 


 This recipe comes to us from one of my favorite youtube channels, Whippoorwill Holler. Miss Lori and Mr Brown recently posted a video of how to make this dip, and I immediately knew that this would fall into the category of “how can this not be good?”
 And I have to say the timing of their video couldn’t have been more perfect. A day or two before, I had cooked a dinner of Salisbury steaks for my niece Terri and her family, and I had LOTS of caramelized onions leftover. This would be the perfect way to use them up!
Then I was invited to my sister Cathy’s for a little outdoor hang. Now I had the perfect occasion to try it! Clearly, all the stars were lining up for me try this recipe! I even had all the other ingredients on hand. How perfect is that?
 And OMG is it good!!!!! It’s everything you want in an onion dip, only better. Keep this one in your arsenal of party foods. I guarantee you’ll come back to it again and again!
 

1 cup sour cream
3 oz. softened cream cheese
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
4 to 6 slices crispy bacon, chopped
1 pound sweet onions
Salt and pepper to taste


Place bacon in skillet over medium low heat. Slowly render the fat and cook bacon until it’s crisp. Remove from pan. Chop bacon to small bits. set aside.
Using the same pan, pour out all but about 2 tbs bacon fat. Add sliced onions. Sauce over medium heat until caramelized. This should take a good 20-30 minutes. Don’t rush!
While your onions are caramelizing, mix together the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Let the bacon and onions cool, then add them to the mixture. Adjust your seasonings. Chill until ready to serve with potato chips or Doritos.

Fun fact: You can make caramelized onions in your slow cooker! It’s true! Just throw a few pounds of sliced onions into your slow cooker, toss with a few tbs melted better, salt and pepper, turn it to high, and in about 5 hours, you’ll have caramelized onions! Just be sure to leave the lid slightly ajar so that the extra moisture can evaporate.

Tips:
This dip is the perfect example of how my Mom used to always say “if you like a lot, add a lot.” Do you like a lot of bacon? Do you like a lot of black pepper? Add as much as you like. I added extra bacon and a little extra splash of Worcestershire sauce. YUM.
Btw, full disclosure, since I had LOTS of caramelized onions, I basically doubled the whole thing, although my amounts may or may not have been exact. I just used what I happened to have on hand. Speaking of which, I used regular vinegar instead of white wine vinegar.
For a little extra oniony garnish, sprinkle with chopped chives or scallions for a pretty presentation.

 

 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Miss Dot's Pound Cake

 I was recently watching an episode of Home Town. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s an HGTV show where home renovations are done in a small town in Mississippi. So, in this one particular episode, they were talking about the house being renovated, and that it used to belong to someone that everyone in the neighborhood knew simply as Miss Dot. And Miss Dot was famous for baking pound cake and bringing it to any new neighbors who happened move into the neighborhood. Well, during part of the renovation, they discovered the famous pound cake recipe and they even contacted Miss Dot to see if she’d bake a cake with them to give to the new homeowner. Awesome. Love it.
  So, of course, you know I wanted to try the recipe. I know, I know, shocker. I googled and found the recipe that the show posted on IG. I already had all the ingredients, so I made it that very day. It was SO good! delicious and buttery, and so moist you don’t need any icing at all.
 OK, so, I’m so thrilled with it, that I decided to call my sister Jeanie to tell her about it. Coincidentally, she had just baked her favorite pound cake recipe a day or two before. I said, “omg great minds, right???” And when I asked her what recipe she used, she said it’s her favorite pound cake recipe, and that it’s from Southern Living. (You know where I”m going with this, right?”)
Yup, as we compared recipes, we discovered that Jeanie’s Southern Living recipe was exactly the same recipe as Miss Dot’s! I think it’s pretty funny that Jeanie and I both decided to make the same pound cake at the same time and received the recipe from two different sources. Seriously, great minds think alike!
 OK, so, can we talk about the actual cake for a minute???? OMG it’s SOOO good! Like, seriously, you don’t need any other recipe after this one. This is THE only pound cake recipe you’ll ever need from here on out. It’s just that good. And it couldn’t be easier. You just mix up the ingredients, (which you probably already have on hand) pour them into a pan, and bake. That’s it!
And if you don’t own a bundt pan, this cake is reason enough to buy one. I think I need to bake another one because the first one’s already gone!



(all ingredients at room temperature)
3 cups flour
3 cups sugar
3 sticks butter
8oz bar of cream cheese
6 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Beat all ingredients well.
Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan.
Place in a cold oven.
Bake at 300ºF for an hour and a half.



Tips:
The most important thing s to make sure you let everything sit out until room temperature. Otherwise everything just doesn’t mix as well.
Even though the recipe includes a 1/2 tsp salt, I used salted butter. Full disclosure, I use salted butter for everything. I just think it tastes better.
And my best tip for a moist cake… double the amount of vanilla extract, and don’t over bake. You want to take it out of the oven as soon as it tests done with an inserted tooth pick.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Peas and Pasta Salad

 

 I was recently making a giant VAT of BBQ sauce, you know, just to have on hand for all of my favorite summer BBQ dishes, and I was trying to think of side dishes to go with them. In my world, that usually means potato salad, cole slaw, or macaroni salad. MMM macaroni salad… now there’s something I haven’t had for a while… maybe lets try to find a new variation? Want to?
 So I did some searching, and here’s where I landed! It’s a Food Network recipe from Sunny Anderson, and I figured, why not?
 So.. here’s the thing.. full disclosure.. I made the recipe exactly as written.. and I already decided to change a few things. Usually I would save all the tips and variations for after the recipe, but I think this one needs to be said first.
 Well, first, as I was making it, even before tasting it, I wanted more color.. so I added some red bell pepper.. chopped down to a fine confetti. Looks great! OK now to taste it…
whoa… it’s very sweet. Like, VERY sweet. I mean, it does make sense, sweet side salads are a very Southern thing, so that tracks. But it was just a little too sweet for me. The Miracle Whip is very sweet, the peas are sweet, and she even adds sugar. Then I went and added the red bell pepper, which is also sweet.
 My brother Denny was here while I was making it, and we decided that the bacon, onion, and cheddar cheese go a long way to balancing that sweetness, as well as a good hit of salt and pepper.
 So there we have it! A new macaroni salad recipe to try! How sweet do YOU like it? Give it a try and let me know!



1 pound cavatappi pasta
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 (15-ounce) jar salad dressing (recommended: Miracle Whip)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
10 ounces frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled


Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as directed on box for al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and place the cooked pasta in a large bowl filled with ice water to stop the pasta from over cooking. Stir until the pasta is cool, then drain in a colander shaking to release as much water as possible.
To make the dressing: In a large bowl mix the red onion, salad dressing, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar. Taste and then season with a pinch of salt and grind or two of pepper. Add the pasta and completely coat with the dressing. Add in the peas, cheese, and bacon. Cook's Note: If making ahead, cover and refrigerate the salad until ready to serve, then add the bacon right before serving.



Tips:
As I said, it was just a little too sweet for me. I think I’d prefer to get the natural sweetness from the veggies, rather than adding sugar and Miracle Whip. So I would just use regular mayonnaise, (and by that I mean Hellman’s) and then just omit the sugar completely. Also, I liked it better after it had a chance to sit for a while, so, if you can make it a little ahead of time, do it!