Sunday, June 26, 2022

Joey's Applesauce Baked Beans


 I was recently gifted several pounds of dry beans. Now, if you've read my blog in the past, you know I love a good batch of baked beans, so I figured I'd take all of these beans, soak them overnight, then put up pints of pork and beans using my pressure canner. Perfect! They'll be a welcome addition to my "wall of jars", which proudly displays all of my canning and preserving endeavors.
  My goal was to come up with 20 pints of beans because that's how many jars I can fit in my pressure canner. Great. I soaked them, boiled them, made a fabulous sauce, got all of my canning supplies ready, and then filled up all the jars. They turned out perfectly!!! The only problem was, after I filled my 20 jars, I still had an entire bowl of beans leftover. Well? I guess I'm coming up with another recipe for scratch made baked beans!!
 Usually, when I make my famous baked beans, I just use canned baked beans and then zhuzh them up with bacon and onions and other flavorings. But this time, since I already had the beans all soaked and boiled and ready, I figured why not try something different?
  Then I remembered a BBQ sauce recipe that uses applesauce and molasses as a base, in addition to some of the more usual baked beans ingredients. I thought "how can this not be good?" So I went with it. 
It turned out SO good, I think this is now my go-to recipe when it comes to baked beans from scratch!!
 It's sweet, it's savory, it's tangy, it's rich, it's deep, it's complex, and it all works perfectly well together!!! Btw, the applesauce really does come through and it gives it a light fresh flavor. It was exactly what I wanted!
 So, if you have the time to do your baked beans from scratch, give this recipe a try. I promise you'll love it!!! You're guests will too! Just be careful... if you bring it to a friend's BBQ event, they might ask you to bring it every year!!
1 pound dried navy beans
8 ounces thick cut bacon , diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup plain applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs prepared mustard
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a large pot, cover your beans with cold water. Soak the beans over night, up to 24 hours. Drain.
Cover with fresh water and boil for 30 minutes or until beans are tender but not mushy.
Meanwhile, in a large pan, saute the bacon and onions. Drain excess bacon fat, if needed.
Add remaining sauce ingredients. Stir well. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings, if needed. 
Add drained beans. Gently toss to coat beans in sauce. Do this in a large mixing bowl if you need to.
Place all in a large casserole dish or cast iron pan. Top with more bacon, if desired.
Bake uncovered at 350ºF for 45 minutes.

If you prefer a different kind of bean, go for it! Pinto beans, Great Northern beans, any kind will work. Just know that different beans absorb differently. Some beans are VERY thirsty and will drink up everything from your soaking liquid to your boiling liquid to your final sauce. Be sure your beans are good and saucey when you put them into the oven to bake. No one likes dry baked beans!
Btw, when I  made the sauce, I didn't really measure anything. The amounts are really just a guess, all added to taste. If you'd like it sweeter, add more brown sugar. If you'd like it to be a little more tangy, add more cider vinegar. If it's too sweet, add a little more Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. Adjust it to how YOU like it!
And one last tip... If you're cooking for a BBQ, you can make them in advance, and then just reheat them for your event. A good way to do this is in your slow cooker. Another big tip is to make enough sauce to reserve a little extra on the side, just in case the beans get too dry.. you can add a little more sauce and they'll be perfect!

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Fresh Cod with Tomatoes and Thyme

   Now that the weather is warmer, I tend to crave lighter fresher meals. You know, maybe something with fresh herbs (that I now having growing in pots on my patio) or maybe seafood or fresh produce. So I decided to do some browsing, and I found this recipe on a site called BBC Good Food. It looked so light and easy, I thought "ok, this one looks like it has potential", so I went with it. 
Well, lemme just tell you.. as my Dad used to say "Holy jump up and sit back down!" This is absolutely one of the most delicious recipes I've made in quite a long time. I loved it so much that the day after I made it, I went back to the store to buy more fish so I could make it again. I'm not even kidding when I tell you I couldn't stop eating it. And it was right then and there that I decided to feature this recipe in my menu for my next dinner party. 
 Not only is it absolutely delish, but it's also a snap to throw together. It's literally the perfect summer meal because it's ready in less than 30 minutes, and you don't even need to turn on the oven. Side note, I think this might also be the perfect meal to make for someone who's a little unsure when it comes to eating a fillet of fish. Buy it fresh the day you'll be serving it, and there's nothing "fishy" about it!
  And if you think buying fresh fish fillets is too expensive, just remember it's still cheaper than ordering a large pizza! I really REALLY hope you'll give this one a try!!!
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
15oz can crushed tomatoes
1 heaped tbs brown sugar
A few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped
1 tbs soy sauce
4 cod fillets, or another white flaky fish, such as pollock
Heat oil in a large frying pan, add onion, then saute for 5-8 mins until lightly browned. Stir in tomatoes, brown sugar,  soy sauce, and the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer.  Simmer for 5 mins, then nestle the cod fillets down into the sauce. Cover and gently cook for 8-10 mins until the cod flakes easily. Serve with baked or steamed potatoes, or your favorite rice.
Ok, full disclosure, I've made this recipe easily a half dozen times, and I never ever measure anything. I'm sure the amounts are close, but seriously, they're just guidelines. I just add a splash of this and a big pinch of that. It always works. Also, I never bother to strip the leaves from the sprigs of thyme. I just throw the entire sprigs in. And then when it's done, I just take them out. Simple!
And speaking of adding a splash, before you add the fillets into the sauce, add a splash of white wine to the sauce and give it a good stir. It's FABULOUS. Just a few glugs is all you need. I like to add a few glugs of wine when I cook rice too. It just elevates the flavor! Of course, it's not needed, but I love it. 
I keep saying I'm gonna try this recipe with chicken, but it never seems to happen. One of these days! 
Btw, I did make it for my next dinner party, and there's was literally nothing left! Swoosh! Gone. I guess everyone liked it!!

Monday, May 2, 2022

Joey's Chicken and Greens Casserole

So, here's a question for you:
Are you a "little bit of this, little bit of that," sort of "throw it together" kind of cook?
Or are you a "never make anything without a trusted recipe" kind of cook?
For me, I guess it depends on what I'm making! If I'm baking, yes, definitely follow the recipe.
But usually I'm a "just throw it together" kind of a cook. That's how my Mom always cooked, so I guess I get it from her. In the case of this recipe, it was definitely a throw together dinner, born out of everything I had set aside in the fridge, thinking "I'll use that for something later."
  For Easter, I had made a few quiches, and I had a few different kinds of cheese leftover. So I thought, well, I can always do something with that later.
 I was recently planning to pressure can some collard greens, but I wasn't sure how many jars I'd have. After I finished all of my canning, I had a few handfuls of blanched greens leftover. No problem. I can always do something with them later.
 I even had some cut up boneless chicken in the fridge on stand by, just because I like to have a full canner whenever I pressure can. Who knew the greens would go so far?? So I didn't need to add any jars of chicken to the canner. But that's fine. I'm sure I can do something with it later. 
 Do you see where I'm going with this? That's literally how it all fell together. So I dredged the chicken in flour, sauteed it in a pan with some onions and the collards, added a sauce and poured it over rice. Perfect easy weeknight dinner! It'll feed a crowd too. 
 So, the next time you're not sure what to make for dinner? Open up that fridge and look at what you have. I'll just bet you already have the makings of a great dinner!

3-4 cups cooked rice
4-5 bonless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
Flour for dredging
1 bunch of collard greens, rinsed well, cut into ribbons, and blanched for a few minutes
1 onion, diced
2 (10oz) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 soup can of milk
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Heat oven to 350ºF.
In a large casserole dish, spread the cooked rice in an even layer across the bottom.
Toss all the chicken pieces in a little bit of flour until coated, then saute them in a large skillet with a little bit of oil. Just lightly brown the outside, but don't cook the chicken all the way through. Remove chicken pieces and place them over the rice. In the same pan, add the chopped greens with the diced onions, adding a little more oil if needed. Be careful, the green will splatter a little. Saute until the onions are soft. Scatter the onions and greens over the chicken. Whisk together the soup and the milk. Pour over the chicken and greens. Top with each kind of cheese. Bake for about 35 minutes.

Remember, I used literally whatever I had in my fridge, so use this recipe as a guide to springboard into any direction you like, based on whatever you have on hand.
Don't like chicken? Use diced ham. Or turkey. Or pork sausage.
Don't like collards? Use spinach. Or Kale. Or any other veggie you want. 
Don't like cream of mushroom soup? Use any cream soup you like. Or make your own white sauce. 
Don't like Cheddar or Mozzarella? Use Swiss. Or any good melting cheese. 
Don't like rice? Pour the the whole thing over noodles! Or even better, mashed potatoes. 
Want it to be saucier? or cheesier? or meatier? add more of whatever you like!

Monday, April 11, 2022

What the Fig Ham and Cheese Pinwheels

 Here's an easy little 'picky uppy" finger food that you should add to your repertoire. It's an easy do-ahead for a party, and they're always a big hit!
 It's just my own little variation of a Pillsbury recipe. I added a little fig jam to balance with the salty ham, and the result was magic! I made them for Carly and Christopher's housewarming party and everyone loved them! They would also be perfect for a Brunch, or even just a quiet movie night.
You really can't go wrong with Pillsbury, can you?? Give 'em a try!
1 can crescent rolls or full crescent dough sheets 
4 thin slices Swiss cheese or American cheese
4 slices deli sliced ham
2-3 tbs fig jam
Heat oven to 375°F. 
Spray large cookie sheet with cooking spray, or line with cooking parchment paper. Unroll dough sheet onto large cutting board; press into 12x8-inch rectangle. If using crescent rolls, unroll and press into 12x8-inch rectangle, pressing seams together. Using an offset spatula, spread with a VERY thin layer of fig jam over the dough, leaving 1/2-inch border on each of the short ends. Top the jam with cheese and ham slices. Starting on short edge of rectangle, roll up tightly and pinch seam together. With serrated knife, cut into 8 slices, about 1 inch wide. Arrange on cookie sheet. Bake 17 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Be sure to choose a salty deli ham. If you use a honey ham or something on the sweeter side, it might wind up being too sweet with the jam. 
Don't like figs? Use a different kind of jam, or just omit it! The original Pillsbury recipe said to drizzle the baked pinwheels with honey, but the jam was what I had on hand! Not a fan of salty and sweet? Go completely savory! Try some sliced roast beef and pepper jack cheese. Or maybe ham, cheddar, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes! You do you!
The parchment paper is key! Don't forget it! Otherwise, your pinwheels will stick from all the jammy goodness.  
This only makes 8 pinwheels. Baking for a crowd? Do several batches!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Impossible Coconut Pie

Have you ever heard of an "impossible" pie? This was something that became popular in the mid 1970s and it still remains one of my all time favorite recipes. So, why is it called an Impossible Pie? Well, it makes it's own crust! What?? But that's impossible!! Nope, not at all. You just throw everything into a blender, pour it into an empty pie plate and bake!! Fun, right??! It's the baking mix in the recipe that sinks down to the bottom while it bakes, and that's what forms its own base. How cool is that??
 Over the years, there have been many variations of Impossible pies, even savory versions, but coconut was the original, so I'll stick with it. It really is just as easy as it sounds, and it comes together in no time at all. So, if you're looking for a quick and easy custard pie, give this one a try! And be sure to let me know if you find any other "impossible" recipes!! I'd love to try 'em!
2 cups milk
1/2 cup baking mix such as Bisquick*
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract (optional)
2 cups flaked coconut
Heat oven to 350ºF.
Set aside 1 1/2 cups coconut.
Place all remaining ingredients in a blender. Blend on high for 3 minutes,
Pour into an empty pie plate. Top with reserved coconut. Bake for 30-40 minute or until set. 
Serve with sweetened whipped cream, if desired. 
 *You can make your own baking mix by combining 1 cup of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1 tbs of oil or melted butter.
-Be sure to use a BLENDER for this, and not a food processor or mixer. You really want everything to be completely pureed together to make one smooth batter. And be sure to blend it for the full 3 minutes!
-Whenever I make a coconut something, I like a LOT of coconut flavor, so I always add just a little coconut extract. It wasn't part of the original recipe, just my own addition, but it really goes a long way!

Monday, March 7, 2022

Sausage, Potato, and Cabbage Casserole

  Every year around St Patrick's Day, I like to find something different, instead of the standard corned beef or ham and cabbage with potatoes. So, this year, I decided to throw together a casserole using sausage instead of ham or corned beef. 
 I started with the potatoes (because how can you have an Irish inspired casserole without potatoes?) and then figured I'd just layer them with the cooked sausage and chopped cabbage. And then, sort of in an "au gratin" kind of move, I poured cream over the whole thing and baked it. 
 Well..... Let me just tell you... OMG it was amazing!!!! The cream and the extra liquid from the cabbage soaked right into the potatoes, cooking them perfectly, and the sausage seasoned the entire thing. And then the little tang of the Swiss cheese rounded the entire bite. I'm not even kidding when I tell you that I couldn't stop eating it. Btw.. I must say.. very often, when I make a giant casserole, I usually give half of it away, since there's only one of me. But in this case, I kept the entire thing for myself and then just sliced a big square of it for every meal. Talk about stretching a buck... I seriously have to do the math the see how many meals I got from just one casserole. This will definitely feed a crowd! So if you're feeling something hearty and St Patrick's Day -sh, try this one.  It's just the thing for a crisp March night and it will definitely hit the spot. Enjoy!

2 lbs bulk sausage
5 or 6 large Yukon gold potatoes (more or less)
1 small head cabbage (or half of a large one)
1 medium onion
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper
16 oz shredded Swiss cheese
2 cups heavy cream
1-2 cups Panko bread crumbs

Heat oven to 400ºF.
In a large skillet, brown the sausage, breaking it into small pieces. While it's cooking, roughly chop the onions and cabbage.
When sausage is cooked, remove from pan to a bowl, set aside. In the same pan, add onions and cabbage along with fennel seed, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Add a little butter or oil if needed to get things going. Saute until they begin to soften. While it's cooking, peel and slice the potatoes into thin slices.
In a large casserole dish, layer half of the potato slices, then add half of the sausage, then half of the cabbage. Top with half of the shredded cheese. Repeat all layers. Pour cream over all.
Cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour.
Remove cover, top with bread crumbs. Place back in oven for about 15 minutes or until golden.
Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cut into squares and serve. Would be great witha lovely light salad.
Use any kind of sausage you like. Don't like Swiss cheese? Use Mozzarella or a sharp Cheddar.
To save a little time, you can use already cooked potatoes when assembling your casserole, but the raw potatoes are meant to absorb all the extra liquid from the cabbage and also the cream. That's also one of the reasons for letting it sit for 15 minutes out of the oven.
 Hmm... now I'm thinking I'll go back and make it again...  with ham or corned beef ... or bacon!.... and BOTH mozzarella cheese and cheddar. Yum.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Chocolate Cobbler

 Are you a chocolate lover?? And do you like ooey gooey decadence? Well, if you are, and you do,  then I think I've found the perfect dessert for you! I think this dessert is possibly the ooiest and gooiest thing I've ever tasted. Not even kidding! Pretend chocolate pudding and a brownie had a baby. THAT's how fudge-tastic this is. SO GOOD!
 Now, I must confess that as much as I love chocolate, sometimes the chocolate dessert isn't always my first choice. Most times I would choose the hot apple pie with caramel....or the carrot cake with cream cheese icing... or the strawberry cheesecake. But sometimes.. well.. what can I say...sometimes, you know you just have to have something chocolate. I'm pretty sure that THIS is the dessert that will hit that spot. The recipe is from Southern Living, and it's absolutely delicious. Simple too!!
 So the next time you're feeling like you need a little rich chewy ooey gooey chocolateness in your life, give this recipe a try. BOOM.

Preheat oven to 350°F. 
Place butter in an 11- x 7-inch (2 qt) baking dish. Place dish in oven (the oven does not need to be fully preheated). Heat until butter melts, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven.