Monday, May 29, 2023

Joey's Slow Cooker Cowboy Franks and Beans

  I was recently in one of those moods where I just wanted to throw a bunch of things together and see where it lands. Since I've been on a slow cooker kick lately, I figured I'd stick with it. Then I just started throwing things in. This is basically how it went:
 I knew I wanted to do an embellished hot dogs and beans dish, and I remembered seeing one on The Spruce Eats blog... so I kind of had that in mind as a flight heading.....  I cut up a package of hot dogs and threw in some home canned pork and beans. What else... oh! smoked sausage would be perfect... and maybe I'll add some red beans.. great... Needs some aromatics... ok... chopped onions and peppers.. garlic? sure, why not. hmm... what else... something to make it saucy.... BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard, molasses, maple syrup... just a little of each...moving right along... now, what about spices... chili powder? yes, but not too much... cumin for a little Cowboy flare..... salt and pepper..  do I want any more heat? hmm... maybe not this time... OK, now give it a taste... good, but not sweet enough... oh! brown sugar! duh, can't have baked beans without brown sugar.... another taste... just a little more salt...MUCH better. Now I'll just let it cook all afternoon while I'm at work, and when I get home I'll whip up a corn bread. 
 That's literally the flight of ideas leading up to this dish. It turned out SO GOOD! I had thought about pouring it over mashed potatoes, but this time I'll just serve it with some corn bread. 
 Could I have added bacon? Yup. How about some heat like a minced jalapeno or serrano pepper.. or just plain crushed red pepper flakes...absolutely... could I have made it more substantial by adding potatoes? or even some browned ground beef? Definitely.  The point is I was cooking flavors that I like in a way that sounded good to me. So, for the people who say they don't know how to cook... take it from me... it can be as easy as throwing a bunch of things into a  slow cooker and seeing where it lands!!

1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg (8) beef hot dogs, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb smoked pork sausage, cut into coins
1 28oz can pork and beans
1 15oz can red beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbs mustard
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbs chili powder
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for about 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.
That's literally all there is to it. 


If you'd like, you can brown the meat in a saute pan before adding to the slow cooker, but I didn't. Full disclosure, I just didn't feel like washing another pan. I bet it would add a nice depth of flavor, tho. maybe next time.
Try any beans you like. Black beans, white beans, pinto beans...any will work!
Instead of the slow cooker... 
you can also just simmer in a heavy cast iron Dutch oven pot on the stove over low heat for about an hour.Just give it a stir e ery so often to make sure it's not burnt on the bottom.
You could also do a Shepherd's Pie sort of vibe.  Place the meat and bean mixture in a casserole dish. Spread some mashed potatoes over the top and then cover with shredded Cheddar cheese. Bake another 15-20 minutes until it's heated through and the cheese is melted.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Blueberry Cream Cheese Bars


  Whenever my family has an occasion to celebrate, my first question is always "what can I bring?" What can I say..... that's just how I was raised. My Dad used to always say "when you go to a party, you ring the doorbell with your elbow." (meaning your hands are full, carrying whatever you brought to the party). Most times it'll be an easy dessert, or something "picky uppy", which is a highly official term we use to describe party finger food. Sweet or savory, it's always the perfect thing for a party. So when my nephew Gregger and his newly intended, Britny, announced their forthcoming nuptials, I immediately started looking for a picky uppy something to bring to their engagement party. 
  Sometimes, I'll have something specific in mind, which often requires a trip to the store, but in this case, I eyed the fresh blueberries that I already had in my fridge, and that's the direction I went. A few more ingredients from my well stocked pantry, a google search, and this is where I landed. 
 It's my own adaptation of a recipe I found on a blog called Dance Around the Kitchen. Simple. Easy. And best of all, I already had all the ingredients. Perfect!
 So lets talk about the recipe for a minute. I've seen this method before. You make one recipe for the crust, then use half of it for the bottom layer, add a middle filling layer, and then use the rest of the crust crumbled over the top. Great. But here's the thing... it always seems to me that there isn't enough crust dough to go around. I like to make a solid bottom crust, and enough crumble to almost cover the top. So my adaptation was just to bump up the amounts a little to make more crumble crust/topping. I suppose I should have done some math to increase the proportions equally, but I didn't. I just sort of added more to each measure. I guess it's very forgiving because it turned out perfectly. And it had the perfect amount of crust!
   So, congratulations, Gregger and Britny! I'm so thrilled for both of you! And I'm glad the blueberry bars were a hit at your engagement party!
 And the next time you need to "ring the doorbell with your elbow', try this recipe. 
You'll love 'em!

1 cup butter softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour
2 cups quick oats (uncooked)
8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (or raspberries)
Sprinkle of cinnamon, optional

Preheat oven to 350ºF
Prepare a 9x13 pan by lining with parchment paper or coating with cooking spray.
 In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Stir in the baking soda, salt, flour, and oatmeal until combined. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for 13 minutes.
While the bottom layer is baking, make the filling.
Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and stir until smooth. Slowly add the sweetened condensed milk with a whisk to make sure it's mixed well. Then add the vanilla and egg yolk. 
Once the bottom layer is done baking, (no need to cool), pour the cream cheese mixture over it and carefully spread it out. Add the berries on top of the cream cheese layer. Sprinkle the remaining oatmeal crumble on top and press it down lightly. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon, if desired. 
Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. 
Let cool completely, then chill for at least an hour before cutting; store in the refrigerator.

When stirring the cream cheese, be sure to get all the lumps out before adding the condensed milk. It'll be harder to get the lumps out if you add them all at once! Don't ask me how I know...
If you're not a fan of blueberries, try something else! Cherries would be great. Pineapple would be amazing. Diced strawberries would be awesome. Or combine whichever fruits you like. Diced peaches and raspberries would be fabulous. You do you!
Btw, I added cinnamon, but you don't have to. It just seemed to me that the crumble is very similar to an oatmeal cookie, so why not? Turned out to be a good decision!

Monday, April 24, 2023

Fiesta Chicken Casserole


  As I was mindlessly scrolling through tiktok videos, I happened upon a version of this recipe. Besides looking easy and delicious, I quickly realized that many of the ingredients happened to be on my wall of home canned items, so I knew this would be a good one to try. I must admit, I didn't exactly stick to the recipe from the video, though. I just suited it to what I had on hand. 
 For instance, it called for uncooked minute rice, but I used up some leftover takeout rice instead. It called for rotel tomatoes, but I used sliced stewed tomatoes. It called for chili seasoning blend, so I used cumin, chili powder, and paprika. Then I added some scallions for a little color and I also used two kinds of cheese instead of one, because why not? 
 So. as you can see, it's BASICALLY the same, but not exactly. But here's the thing... no matter how you make it, it still comes out tasting amazing! That's the beauty of a casserole. And since it only took literally 10 minutes to assemble, I think I'm gonna keep this in mind whenever I need to throw together a quick dinner. Having a Cinco de mayo party? This would be perfect! 
 I've listed it below as I did it, but you should make it the way YOU like it! Serve it up with some sour cream and a few tortilla chips. I promise you and your guests will love it!

2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
2 chopped scallions
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked rice
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup milk
splash of Worcester sauce
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese 
Fresh chives, optional

Mix all ingredients except mozzarella cheese, then place in a large casserole dish.  
Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350º for about a half hour or until bubbly. Garnish with a few chopped chives, if desired.

Feel free to add some heat: Minced jalapeno or serrano peppers would be great. Or a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce. Or even just a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes. 
For some additional color and flavor, toss in some finely diced red, orange, green, and/or yellow bell peppers. 
And for a little bit of freshness, top with a little chopped fresh cilantro or parsley.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Easy Sauteed Cabbage and Sausage

 I was recently looking for something different to do with some leftover cabbage. I had bought a large head to be used in a green goddess salad, but then quickly realized how much yield you get from just one head of cabbage. Did you ever chop an entire head of cabbage??? It makes a TON! So I began to think of all of my favorite things to do with cabbage.. roasting it with bacon.... boiling it it ham... making cole slaw and topping a fabulous corned beef sandwich. But then, as I was going through the fridge, I remembered I had some leftover smoked sausage.... YES! THIS would be the easy simple fabulous meal I could make and use up some leftovers at the same time. Perfect! Just a simple saute, nothing complicated, super flavorful, and all done in one dish. I have to say... you often hear that "simple is best", and in this case, it's absolutely true. I found this recipe on a blog called Barefeet in the Kitchen, and it couldn't be simpler. 
 This is the perfect quick dinner for a weeknight, just as it is, or you could embellish it and make it a big Sunday Dinner. Serve it with your favorite potatoes and some crusty bread with butter. You'll have a winner! 
Now... lets see what other leftovers I can repurpose...
    1 lb kielbasa smoked sausage
    1 1/2 tbs olive oil, divided
    1 medium onion, chopped
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 small head cabbage, cored and chopped
    3/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
    1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    1 tsp red wine vinegar
     Halve the kielbasa lengthwise and then slice it into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat a large deep skillet or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add 1/2 tablespoon oil and the kielbasa. Toss to coat and then cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the kielbasa to a plate.
    Return the pan to the stove and reduce the heat to medium low. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened. Add the garlic, cabbage, salt, and pepper. Toss well to combine. Cover and cook, stirring every 4-5 minutes until the cabbage is wilted, about 12 minutes.
    Stir in the vinegar and return the kielbasa to the pot. Stir and cover for about 3 more minutes, until the cabbage is tender and the kielbasa is hot. Taste and add salt, if needed. Enjoy!
  The cabbage usually brings a lot of moisture to the pan, but if your final dish seems a little bit dry, feel free to add a splash or two of chicken broth, or even just water.  
 Not a fan of kielbasa? Use any favorite sausage! The flavors will be slightly different, but it will all work!
  I enjoyed mine over some mashed potatoes, but feel free to choose any other kind of potato... Baked, fried, gratin, anything you like! I also love doing potato bundles... just slice a potato, but keep the slices together, add a few slices of onion and a pat of butter along with salt and pepper. Then wrap the whole thing in some heavy duty foil to make a sealed packet. Bake in a hot 400º oven or on the grill until potatoes are done, about 45 minutes.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Joey's Slow Cooker Teriyaki Beef


    I was in the mood for a slow cooker kind of beef something. You know, like when you let it cook all day in the slow cooker until it just falls apart? Yes, that. But I wasn't feeling my usual go-to beef stew with potatoes and brown gravy vibe. So, I thought, why not do something fun and new? To be quite honest, my original thought was to do something with lots of toasted spices, sort of in an Indian inspired direction... with lots of onions, garlic, ginger, and garam masala. But then I took a quick inventory of my pantry ingredients and decided that a fabulous teriyaki might be the way to go. Ok then! We have our heading!
  Now, of course, it would be easy to just open up a bottle of purchased teriyaki sauce and call it a day, but I always have more fun making it home made, Don't you? I must admit that I only had a general idea of what goes in a good teriyaki sauce, but I figured , how hard can it be? I knew I wanted it to include pineapple juice and soy sauce, and I absolutely love the flavor of toasted sesame oil. I also figured it would probably have honey and brown sugar, but this was as far as I could go on my own. So I did what I always do! I started with those ingredients, googled a few recipes, took what I liked from each one, and made my own! I took one taste and YES! It turned out beautifully! Don't you just love when that happens? And it was super easy too. I just threw everything into the slow cooker, gave a stir, and let it cook all afternoon. You can't get much easier than that, right?  I thought of browning the beef before throwing it in, which would absolutely be fine, but I just wanted a quick set up an no extra dishes to worry about. THIS was it.
  Just set it up in the morning for an easy week night meal, or do like I did and make it for a fabulous Sunday supper. Pour it over some cooked white rice and you're good to go! Hope you'll give it t a try!

2 cups pineapple juice
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs rice vinegar
1 tbs toasted sesame oil
2 tbs Hoisin sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs fresh ginger, minced 
3 scallions, sliced
2-3 lbs beef chuck, cubed 
For thickening the sauce:
2 tbs corn starch
2 tbs cold water or pineapple juice 
More sliced scallions
sesame seeds

Add all of your sauce ingredients into the insert of your slow cooker. Give it a good whisk until it's all well combined. Now add the scallions and beef cubes. Give it another stir until the meat is well coated. Cook on low for about 8 hours, or on high for about 4 hours. 
 When the beef is tender, stir together the corn starch and water (or juice, if using). Add to the sauce, and stir. If your slow cooker is on low, turn it to high, and let it cook for about 15-20 more minutes, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened. This is the perfect time to make the rice, so that everything is done at the same time. To serve, pour your beef and sauce over a mound of rice, add veggies on the side, garnish with more sliced scallions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds, if desired.

 Be sure to adjust seasoning after it's cooked. Sometimes it needs more salt or soy sauce than you think it will!
  If you'd like to stretch the meal a little further, add some beautifully colorful steamed vegetables on the side. Some broccoli florets or sugar snap peas would be absolutely perfect. You can put them on for steaming around the same time as you cook the rice!
  You can use this same recipe for chicken as well. Just add your boneless chicken to the crock pot with your sauce, and cook it on low for about 6 hours. Then remove the chicken to thicken the sauce. While the sauce is thickening, you can shred the chicken and add it back to the slow cooker. Come to think of it, that would be FABULOUS in a lettuce wrap! Yum. 
  When you add the corn starch for thickening, be sure to stir it into COLD liquid (either the water or the juice) before adding it to a hot liquid. If you add it directly to the sauce, it will clump into little starchy blobs, and no one wants that!

Monday, January 2, 2023

Joey's Cheesy Corn and Sausage Dip


   This is one of those recipes I just threw together with what I had on hand, and I must say, I nailed on the very first go, thank you very much!
 My sister was having a casual hang at her house, and as usual, I offered to bring something. Very often, I'll volunteer as dessert tribute, but this time I opted to bring an appetizer. I figured I have plenty of things I can throw together for a warm baked dip, why not? I wasn't following any recipes, but just used a few tried and true ingredients and figured it would all come together. How hard can it be, right?
 At first, I had thought of doing it in the crock pot, but then realized the timing wouldn't have worked for me, so I just baked it in the oven. I was so pleased with how it turned out, I think I might need to make this again the next time my friends and I get together! And if you happen to have a favorite big sporting event coming up, yes you should DEFINITELY make this for your guests. I PROMISE it'll be a hit!

1 lb  bulk breakfast sausage (I used Jimmy Dean)
1 8oz bar cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 small (4oz) can diced green chilis
2 cups corn (any kind will work- fresh, frozen, or canned)
4 scallions, chopped
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350ºF.
Place bulk sausage in a skillet over medium heat. Break it up as it browns.
Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients and mix well. I just used my mixer with the paddle attachment. Add browned sausage to your cheese mixture, and stir well. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Keep in mind that the sausage will flavor the dip, so be careful not to add too much salt.
Pour mixture into a small casserole dish. Top with a little extra Mozzarella and/or Cheddar cheese. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with butter crackers or tortilla chips.

If you're using canned corn, be sure to drain it well before adding it to the mixture,
Not a fan of corn? Try adding some chopped broccoli instead. You could even do spinach, if you'd like. Just thaw frozen chopped spinach and squeeze it as dry as you can before adding it to the mixture.
For an extra added touch, top everything with some crumbled bacon after you bake it.
Feel free to turn up the heat, if you so dare. Add some sriracha, Tabasco, or use a spicy sausage. You could also add some minced jalapenos. 

Monday, December 5, 2022

Apple Pie Snickerdoodles

  I recently got together with my nephew, Tommy, for our yearly tradition of putting up his Christmas tree. It's something that we started many years ago when he asked for a little advice with his tree, and I was all to happy to help. This year, we were joined by my niece, Katie, and she brought a tin of FABULOUS Snickerdoodles. YUM! She told me how easy they are to make, and we discussed how much we liked the fact that the recipe uses butter instead of shortening as with other recipes. So she gave me the recipe. Thanx Katie Kate! It's called Grandma Ruth's Easy Snickerdoodle Cookies, and she got the recipe from Frankly, I have no idea who Grandma Ruth is, but she certainly has a fabulous cookie recipe!! And when I was invited to a friend's house for a little Christmas Hang, I immediately thought of these cookies, and figured they would be great for the party. But then I wondered what I could do to make them extra special. I remembered seeing a tiktok video where a guy used purchased sugar cookie dough in muffin tins, then added pie filling to the center and I thought YES, that's the answer! I just happened to have some apple pie filling and it seemed like all the planets aligned perfectly for this dessert to happen. 
 OMG... when I tell you that they are delicious, I mean they are DELICIOUS. The buttery cookie crust, the apples and the cinnamon.. it was like they were meant to be together!! Everyone at the party absolutely loved them, and I'm pretty sure the entire tray was gone by the end of the party. 
 Now, of course, if you want to just make them into regular Snickerdoodles, you certainly can, and I promise they'll make the perfect addition to your Christmas cookie tray. But if you happen to have a can of apple pie filling, I urge you to go the extra mile. You and your guests will be glad that you did! Promise!

1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup softened butter
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

2 tbs sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
Purchased or homemade apple pie filling
 Heat oven to 400ºF.
 Beat 1 1/2 cups white sugar, butter, and eggs together in a bowl using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl; stir into creamed butter mixture until dough holds together. 
Form dough into 2-tablespoon-size balls and roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place dough balls in greased muffin tins. 
Bake for 6 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF. 
Using the bottom of a shot glass (or other similarly sized item), press a well into the center of each cookie. The dough will still be raw in the center, but the well will keep its shape. Fill each well with a tsp of canned apple pie filling. Place the muffin tins back into the oven for another 5 minutes, or until the cookie dough is set. Remove from oven and let them cool completely before removing them from the tins. You can put the tins in the fridge to speed this process. Use a fork or the pointy end of a knife to help you pop them out of the tin. 

To make the regular Snickerdoodles:

After you mix the filling as directed above, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease, form dough into 2-teaspoon-size balls, and roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place dough balls, about 2 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake in the preheated 400º oven on the center rack for 7 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. 

You definitely want to cool them completely or chill them in the fridge because they'll be too soft when you take them out of the oven and you don't want them to break when you take them out of the muffin tins. 
When you open the can of pie filling, if the chunks of apple are quite large, just chop them up a bit so that the apple pieces will fit nicely into each cookie well. 
 I was originally going to drizzle a little glaze over them after cooling, but then decided that they're just perfect without any additional glaze. But if you'd like to guild the lily, just add a few splashes of water or apple juice to some icing sugar until it's the right drizzling consistency, then pour a little over the top of each Snickerdoodle. You could also do a drizzle of caramel sauce, but I think I prefer to let the cinnamon and apples be the stars of the show. 

Original cook's notes:
When removing cookies from the oven, they make look doughy still. By allowing them to continue to cook on the cookie sheet out of the oven prevents hard cookies. For storing cookies, place cooled cookies in a plastic container or plastic bag with a piece or two of bread to keep cookies soft.