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!