TGIF – Black Bean Soup

Winter this year somehow got away from me. I hadn’t gotten around to making our wintertime favorites – such as soups – as much as I had wanted. Spring seemed to come early, with unseasonably warm days. The orchards all around us began to bloom. Early bloom in crop country is a bad thing. Bees aren’t out buzzing about, which means no pollination, which means no crops. We live in an agricultural area. There are a lot of orchards nearby, mainly producing nut crops. Lots of walnuts and almond trees all around us. Our house sits on what was once a large almond farm. What isn’t orchard land is cattle land – mostly dairy farms.

Early blooming can be extremely stressful for trees, especially if temperatures are mild one day then plunge the next – as is the case this year. When this happens, new growth is shocked by the sudden freeze and could be damaged.

Fruit and flower buds are especially vulnerable. If they’re hit by cold temperatures after flowering, they may not be able to bloom again later in the year because they’ve already exerted their energy. As I sit on my back patio with my hands wrapped around a warm cup of cocoa, I cannot help but worry about this year’s crop and the toll it will take on my neighbors whose livelihood depends upon Mother Nature behaving as she should.

At least I can take comfort in knowing I haven’t completely missed soup weather.

While I haven’t made this soup in a while, it’s one of our favorites.  I snagged it from one of those copy-cat sites. Gotta admit, it’s a darn good pot of soup. Kiddo and I like to garnish the soup with some chopped jalapeno for a little extra kick, but that’s purely a personal preference.

It’s a little messy to make – taking a pot, a blender and a crock pot, but there’s plenty of down time to clean up the kitchen. The soup is flavorful and filling. If you’ve got some left over; drain the liquid and smash the beans for some awesome black refried beans. These make a great filling for bean burritos. So it’s like getting two meals in one.

Hope you enjoy!

TGIF – Black Bean Soup
Ingredients – Soup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup diced white onion
3/4 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 (15 ounce) cans black beans
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped Jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke

Ingredients – Garnish
1 Cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 Cup chopped green onion
1/2 Cup sour cream

Chop onions, celery and carrots. Set aside. Mince garlic. Set aside. Dice bell pepper, set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium/low heat.

Add onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic to the oil and simmer slowly for 15 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Keep temperature low to prevent browning. If the garlic burns, it becomes bitter.

While the vegetables are simmering, pour the canned beans into a strainer and rinse them under cold water.

Measure 3 cups of the drained and strained beans into a food processor with 1 cup of chicken stock.

Puree on high-speed until smooth. (Make sure the lid is secure!!!)

When the vegetables are ready, pour in the pureed beans, the whole beans, the rest of the chicken stock, apple cider, spices and liquid smoke.

Bring mixture to a boil, then transfer to a crock pot and simmer on LOW for 2-3 hours.

Ladle soup into terrains, garnish with cheese, green onions and sour cream as desired.

This soup goes really well with warm corn bread. Perfect for a lazy evening’s supper.

Golden Malted Waffles from Scratch

What seems like a million years ago, way back in a prior life, Hubby, Kiddo and I were once globe-trotters. Road trips, air planes and hotel stays were part of the norm. One thing about life on the road, you get to eat lots of different things – especially breakfast. One of the more popular breakfast selections are those do-it-yourself waffles.

irondispensersmlstIf you have ever made a waffle at Days Inn, Best Western or a number of other such establishments that provide their overnight guests with do-it-yourself waffles, chances are it was a malted waffle batter. When we have stayed at these types of places, I immediately noticed the distinct malty-taste of their golden waffles  – which I love. Since Bisquick has been around since 1933, there was bound to be a mix out there somewhere that you simply add an egg, milk or water to the package and presto – you’ve got these strangely delicious malted waffles. As it turns out, most of these family friendly inns, including Mickey’s Breakfast at Walt Disney World, use Carbon’s Golden Malted Pancake and Waffle Flour, which has been around since 1937. (World Market carries this brand – along all sorts of goodies – truffle oils, avocado oil, special pans and spices from around the world. World Market is one of my favorite “go to” places when I’m looking for something in particular – like Jamaican Blue Coffee.) Having a mix on hand is great when you’re in a hurry or when you’re preparing a large brunch (when shortcuts are precious) or when don’t feel like whipping up Malted Waffles from scratch. But on those less than hectic mornings when cooking from scratch shouts “I Love You” to your family, this Malted Waffle Recipe will certainly do the trick.

Laguna CreekWild BlackberriesUp until recently, our cozy little home was an easy walk or bike ride from a beautiful creek. The valley that we once called home was a crisscross maze of rivers and streams. In late summer, we liked to serve our Golden Malted Waffles with wild blackberries that grew in abundance along the creeks and rivers nearby. It was a nice family outing to get up early, take a hike and pick berries. We always had to pick more than what we need for breakfast since half of the berries never make it home. I liked to mix the wild blackberries with fresh peaches picked from Dad’s orchard – so juicy and flavorful. If you have access to a non-commercial orchard, the fruits are so much better. For the most part, commercial orchards, organic or otherwise, grow fruits designed to be packaged and transported. These fruits do not bruise or damage easily – but it’s also a trade-off in flavor intensity, sweetness and juiciness. Hand-picked fruits from small farms is always better.

Golden Malted Waffles
1 ¾ cups flour (All-Purpose)
¾ Cup Malted Milk Powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
1 ¾ cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
3 tablespoons sugar

Old Time Waffle Maker

Whisk flour, malted-milk powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk egg yolk, buttermilk, oil and vanilla in a medium bowl. Whisk into dry ingredients until just moistened.

Beat egg whites in a clean bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until glossy but not dry. Whisk one-quarter of the beaten whites into the batter, then fold in remaining whites. Let batter rest 5-10 minutes while iron heats.

Lightly coat waffle iron with cooking spray. Spoon in batter and cook until waffle is crisp and golden. Repeat with remaining batter, lightly coating iron with cooking spray each time, if necessary. Dust waffles with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Fresh summer fruits are always a nice touch.

Fettuccine Carbonara – An American Interpretation

For those of you not familiar with Carbonara, this is a pasta dish that hails from Rome, Italy. It is traditionally made using eggs, Italian Cheeses (Romano or Parmesan or other fine Italian cheese) and Pancetta (Italian Bacon) that is tossed in a Spaghetti Pasta. The more modern renditions use Fettuccine, my preferred pasta. If you were to order this dish in Italy, cream and garlic would not be a part of the recipe, but outside Italy these ingredients have been incorporated to create a creamy, flavorful “sauce”. As a lover of all things containing creams and garlic, my Carbonara includes these non-traditional ingredients. Some people have even taken to adding peas or broccoli to their Carbonara. Personally, I don’t if for no other reason that I want to stay as close to the traditional dish of Rome while still satisfying my desire for cream and garlic. But hey, that’s just me.

Continue reading “Fettuccine Carbonara – An American Interpretation”

Country Corned Beef Hash and “Dirty” Fried Eggs

It’s another beautiful Sunday.  My guys have been busy trimming, pruning and generally cleaning up the yard.  We have both a large backyard and spacious side yard. The two are separated by a chain-link fence. Along the entire back fence are trees – all in need of a little TLC. One of those trees is an almond tree, planted back when all this land was part of an almond orchard. The side yard is just dirt with planter boxes. Come spring, the side yard will be transformed into our garden. Last year we had tomatoes. This year – who knows? A great deal will depend upon the return of the drought to our state and the cost of water.

Continue reading “Country Corned Beef Hash and “Dirty” Fried Eggs”

Teriyaki Meatballs – Crock Pot Style

One day a coworker came to me on a Tuesday and said “Rosie, we’re having a potluck on Thursday. Bring whatever you like.” Total panic. OMG – one day to plan a dish, one day to make the dish – what to do? What to bring?

Continue reading “Teriyaki Meatballs – Crock Pot Style”

African Craved Beef Stew with Fries and Crusty Bread

I wish I could remember just where it was that I first discovered this recipe.  I wanted to give credit where credit is due, but I couldn’t find the original site. Portuguesecooking.com has a very similar recipe, which was adapted from a recipe by Patrick Fish of South Africa.  My original source for the recipe also included stories about the origins of African Craved Beef Stew, and there were none on portuguesecooking.com.

Continue reading “African Craved Beef Stew with Fries and Crusty Bread”

Blueberry Pancakes from Scratch and Communing with Nature

For our family vacation a few years back, we decided to take a trip without a plan – with the exception of some train tickets and a place to stay the first night on the road (a Saturday – didn’t want to take any chances), nothing was carved in stone.

We took an old steam engine out into the “wilds” of Nevada. The highlight of our train ride was to see the untamed horses roaming the hillsides.

07-12-2015 Carson City to Virginia City Train Ride (4)

Returning to California once more, we headed north, up through the central part of the state, all the way to the Oregon state line. From there, we began heading west, toward the coast. Northern California has some of the most beautiful giant redwoods. The plan was to drive south, visit as many “forests” as possible while making a huge loop back home. Wherever the wind took us, whatever struck our fancy – that was the plan. We even managed to take in a jet boat ride up the Klamath River to view Eagles and other wildlife along the river. We had picnic lunches and simply enjoyed the views. No schedules, no plans, just the open road and all the time in the world to stop and smell the roses.

07-14-2015 Big Foot and Big Tree Country (36)

One morning we had breakfast in Garberville – near Avenue of the Giants. It was a lovely cafe with a very “French country” feel. And the blueberry pancakes were unbelievable. While Hubby and Kiddo took advantage of the warm maple syrup and sweet, creamery butter that accompanied the pancakes. I found them so delicious, I didn’t want to distract from the bursting blueberry flavor.

Upon returning from our trip, I began to crave those awesome pancakes. It wasn’t just that there were blueberries in the pancakes, the berries seemed to float at the top of the light little cakes. Then one night when sleep evaded me, I turned to the telly in search of something mindless to watch. Surfing the channels, I paused on a cooking show featuring Blueberry Flapjacks. What struck me most was that the blueberries weren’t folded into the batter but rather placed on top of the jacks as they cooked. Now mind you, I was channel surfing – I’m sure they gave a reason for this – but I missed it. One thing I did notice was that by putting the blueberries on top of the cakes as they cooked, one had better control over how much blueberry each cake received – and every cake was sure to have plenty of berries. And those berries seemed to float!

Since then, whenever we want a little something extra special on Sunday mornings, I’ll whip up some pancakes bursting with blueberry goodness.

Now you could use Bisquick (or your favorite mix) and skip the upper portion of this recipe. That’s entirely up to you.

Ingredients – Pancake Mix from Scratch
8 Cups Flour
1 1/4 Cups Nonfat Dry Milk Powder
1/4 Cup Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Salt
2 Cups Butter Flavored Crisco Shortening

Pancake Mix: Combine flour, milk, baking powder, and salt in a very large bowl. Cut in shortening until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Store in tightly closed covered container in a cool place. Makes about 10 cups. This will make 5 batches of pancakes.

Ingredients – Blueberry Pancakes
2 Cups Dry Bisquick Pancake Mix (above)
½ Cup Buttermilk
½ Cup Water
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice (optional)
2 Tablespoons Butter, melted (cool to touch)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and spun dry

Place Bisquick pancake mix into the bowl of a mixer. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, water and egg. Add to Bisquick mix. Add sugar and lemon juice. Mix just until blended. When pancake batter is complete, gently fold in melted butter.

Heat griddle to medium heat. Lightly butter griddle. When hot, ladle pancakes to desired size. Sprinkle each cake with blueberries, pressing in slightly. Cook until bubbles break and bottom is golden. Flip, press down gently (some of the berries will burst open) and continue to cook until golden. Transfer to serving platter. Serve with whipped butter and syrup.

blueberry-pancakes-1

Super Easy Refried Beans Two Ways

Sharing my recipe for Nacho Taco Boats yesterday got me to thinking about the perfect side for just about anything Mexican – Refried Beans!

Continue reading “Super Easy Refried Beans Two Ways”

Canned Green Beans made Better

Does anyone remember the Bruce Willis-Matthew Perry film from 2000 – The Whole Nine Yards? The exact line in the film escapes me now; but the jest of it was that Canadians put mayonnaise on their burgers. Bruce Willis was complaining that there should be a law against it. What does he know.

Continue reading “Canned Green Beans made Better”

Nacho Taco Boats aka Nacho Tacos

On the menu was an easy, south-of-the-border favorite in our house – Nacho Tacos. Just as the name implies, it’s a cross between a taco and nachos. Take your typical Nacho toppings, but instead of piling all the yummy ingredients over a big plate of tortilla chips, you stuff them inside a crunchy taco shell.

Continue reading “Nacho Taco Boats aka Nacho Tacos”

Baked Garlic Caramelized Brown Sugar Chicken

Lately we’ve been eating a lot of chicken – thanks to Costco and a big freezer in the garage. It’s getting to be time for another big run. With that in mind, I’ve been meander through my collection of recipes and set about the task of planning ahead. February’s meal planning is nearly complete! I cannot help but to chuckle – you know what they say “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. Oh but one can only hope . . .

This chicken is delicious! It’s sweet, with a subtle kiss of garlic. The meat is very moist and the pan drippings are so packed with flavor – wow is an understatement. It is unlike any chicken I have tasted before. Best of all, there is not a whole lot of prep work involved for a dish that is delightful.

Baked Garlic Caramelized Brown Sugar Chicken
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons brown sugar
3 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and lightly grease a casserole dish. Set aside until ready to use.

Cut chicken width-wise to create 4 smaller breasts.Season chicken with a little salt and pepper. Place chicken breasts in a prepared baking dish.

In small sauté pan, sauté garlic with the oil until tender and fragrant, no more that a minute.

Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar. Sprinkle brown sugar-garlic mixture over breasts. Press down to hold sugar in place.

Bake uncovered for 15-30 minutes, depending upon size of breast. After 15 minutes, keep a sharp eye on breasts to avoid burning or over-cooking. If necessary, cover with foil and reduce temperature to about 425 to degrees.

Breasts are done when internal temperature is 165 degrees, the juices run clear and the meat is moist and tender.

Imaginary World Travels

Today’s second post has no recipes. Yesterday marked a dark day in recent American History. It is considered to be one of the worst days of for civil liberties America has ever seen. On February 19, 1942 the President of the United States ordered the round-up and imprisonment of people in this country simply because they looked like our “enemy”. It was argued that this action was a “protective” measure – for them and for us.

Continue reading “Imaginary World Travels”

Slow Cooker Cubed Steak with Golden Mushroom Sauce

I have no idea why I have been excited to try this new recipe I picked up while visiting Joyously Domestic. The recipe was originally posted to her blog back in 2013; which shows you how behind I am at working my way through my vast collection of recipes. Once my collection reached over 4,000 recipes; I quit counting. (But not collecting). Anyhow; when it came time to sit down and put together the meal planner for the week, I came across this recipe and suddenly I was excited. It’s simply, cooks in a crock pot, and yet there was something magical about it. Maybe it’s the use of Golden Mushroom Soup. The very idea of cubed steak smothered in not one but two Campbell Mushrooms soups is so . . . dare I say it . . . retro.  And therein lay that magical comfort in a world that at times seems spinning out of control. An old friend was returning – Campbell soup – and the thought got my heart to pitter-patter.

Growing up, nearly everything we ate was truly from scratch or home-grown.  However; when I ventured out on my own for the first time, a great deal of what I cooked came from a recipe found on the side of a can of Campbell’s soup. Working nights, attending school during the day, with two small children in the house, I needed all the short-cuts I could find.  This recipe reminded me of my younger by-gone days, and that warmed this old heart.

This dish is definitely a throwback to comfort foods of the past. It is saucy, beefy and simple. Very reminiscent of Shepherd’s Pie when served over a bed of mashed potatoes. Yeah, Shepherd’s Pie up-side-down would best describe the taste and texture. My guys really enjoyed the flavors, and that’s always a plus in my book.

Slow Cooker Cubed Steak with Golden Mushroom Sauce
2 pounds (approx.) cubed steak
Kosher salt
Black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup flour
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can golden mushroom soup
1 Soup Can of Whole Milk
1/2 Soup Can of Beef Stock
4 oz button mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
4 Cups Hot Mashed Potatoes

Season both sides of each piece of meat with salt and pepper.  Pour the flour into a gallon-size plastic bag.  Season flour liberally with salt and pepper.  Seal and shake to incorporate.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet set to medium-high heat.  Lay bag containing seasoned flour flat on the counter, open end toward you. Working in batches (about half the steaks) place 1 cube steak at a time into the bag and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Place into skillet to brown. Repeat until skillet is full without being over-crowded (about 4 steaks). Brown for about 3 minutes, turn and brown other side for about 3 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add the other 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet.  Allow to melt, then repeat the browning process with the remaining steak.

Once all steaks are browned, return the now empty skillet to stove top and add in both cans of soup.  Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, then add in milk and beef stock.  Stir to incorporate and bring to a gentle simmer.  Be sure to scrape up any brown bits remaining in the bottom of the pan from browning steaks with your spoon.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the sliced mushrooms.

Lay half of the steak in the bottom of the slow cooker in a single layer. Pour about half of the soup mixture over the steak. Lay remaining steak over the top of the first layer and pour remaining mixture over them.

Cover and cook on low for 7 – 8 hours.  Serve over mashed potatoes.

One Skillet Pork Chops in Mushroom-Onion Gravy

Do you shop at one of those big box stores? Recently, Hubby and I made our monthly Costco run. Buying in bulk, when done right, saves money, and all you need to do is set aside a little time to break down the giant packages into more reasonable portions. Take those giant packages of pork chops for example. Forty thin-cut pork chops works out to fifty-cents per chop. For us, forty pork chops equates to the meat needed for six meals. These are easy to break down into smaller portions, and stored in the freezer. Buy a roast that can feed an army, cut it into smaller roasts, and you can easily transform one giant roast into three or four two-pound roasts. One package of stew meat becomes two stews, with plenty of left overs for lunches during the week. For our little family of three, breaking down those big box store containers into manageable servings works well while stretching our buying power.

This one-skillet supper is super easy to whip up, takes little time to cook and is perfect for a mid-week dinner. Don’t have thin-cut pork chops? That’s okay, just increase your simmering time to about 20 minutes, depending upon thickness.

One Skillet Pork Chops in Mushroom-Onion Gravy
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 pork chops, thin cut
8 oz crimini mushrooms – sliced
1/2 Onion, cut into thin slivers
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup beef stock
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly salt and pepper pork chops. Set aside.

Peel onion, cut in half and then slice half of the onion into long, thin slivers. Set aside.

Wash and remove stems from mushrooms. Slice mushrooms thin and set aside until ready to use. (This can be done earlier, held in bags until ready to cook).

Heat large skillet over medium high heat. Add one teaspoon of oil to hot skillet and give the pan a good swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.

Sear pork chops in hot oil for 2 minutes per side. (You may have to do this in two batches depending on the size of your skillet to avoid over crowding).

Remove chops from skillet, place on  a sheet of foil and seal to keep the chops warm.

Add remaining teaspoon of olive oil to same skillet, swirling to distribute. Add sliced mushrooms and onions to the pan. Sauté until lightly brown and the mushrooms have begun to release their juices, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle mushroom mixture with flour and cook, stirring constantly, for one or two minutes or until all flour has been absorbed.

Add both chicken and beef stock. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to gather all the brown bits. Reduce heat to medium-low and let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes. The gravy will begin to thicken.

Add the chops back into the pan (along with any drippings), spooning the gravy over the chops. Continue to simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes longer or until pork chops are heated through, allowing the gravy to reduce by half and thickened. If necessary, cover and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until pork chops are tender. Taste the gravy, add more salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer chops to a large rimmed serving platter or casserole dish. Pour all the gravy over chops and serve.

The gravy is delicious and can be served over mashed potatoes. The mushrooms and onion slivers add both texture and flavor to the pan gravy.

Awesome Half-Pound Burgers with James Rutter Hamburger Spread

When I whipped up these burgers for my Mini Burger Bites for a Super Bowl party a few years back, those little burgers received rave reviews from even the most critical burger eaters among us. So juicy and packed with flavor, Hubby suggested next time we grill up burgers, that we use the Bite Burger recipe to make “real” burgers. Why not? They are awesome no matter the size. In our house, these burgers have become a Daytona 500 tradition.

Continue reading “Awesome Half-Pound Burgers with James Rutter Hamburger Spread”

%d bloggers like this: