Thursday, October 20, 2011

Homemade baked beans...the after photo

Last week I posted a baked beans recipe with a photo of it and the start of cooking. Here's the "after" photo. It thickened up nicely and was sweet and tangy, the way I like it. In fact, I liked it so much, I've made it twice since then. :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tacos and Burritos Grande, Lansing, IL

So, this morning I met my good friend, Michelle, for a long overdue lunch. We stopped in Tacos and Burritos Grande. There are two Lansing locations. We went to the one on Ridge Road, which has this charming vintage ad painted on the west wall.

Cool story behind it is that in doing remodeling before the restaurant opened, some walls were taken down and this beauty was found behind it on what was once the exterior wall of the building next door. Not quite sure when this beer ad was placed there. In doing a little research, I found that the company began in 1940, producing beer in Grand Rapids, Michigan before moving to Chicago in 1951.

I had a hard time deciding on what to get. On most of my visits there, I've ordered spinach quesadillas, which are awesome. This time I got a combo plate that included a steak taco, chicken enchilada, rice, beans and chips with guacamole. Everything was fantastic!

In addition to the beer ad on the brick wall, there's some beautiful artwork on the walls. Like this...

Here's a  look at the combo meals. See why I had such a hard time making a decision?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Foodie blogs provide inspiration

I've had so much fun diving into the world of food blogging. I've had a blog on motherhood for quite some time and have been a freelance writer for over a decade. It was this past spring, when my sister, Becky, had a cooking party at her house that I realized that the two of us are "foodies." We love to cook, to love to dine out, we love to try new recipes -- we basically love food. So, we started in with Chicago Foodie Sisters, posting as time permits and having been more active on Facebook than on the blog, but eventually we hope to make the blog posts more frequent.

I also have enjoyed following other foodie blogs. I didn't realize what huge food blogging network there was out there until another of our sisters, Pam, started "liking" lots of foodie pages on Facebook and urged us to do the same. I love logging on each day to find recipe ideas from others -- sometimes they're not far, sometimes they're across the country and other times they are on the other side of the world -- an indication of how far the "foodie" world stretches.  I continue to be inspired every day by the other "foodies" out there.

Bye, beans. See you in a few hours.

This morning I came across a recipe on my Facebook page for baked beans. It called for 3 cans of pork and bean, crispy bacon with drippings, brown mustard, ketchup and brown sugar.!/pages/Backwoods-Home-Cookin-and-BBQ-Southern-Recipes/231997390186554

So, I looked in the cabinet and had only one can of beans, so I had to reduce the measurements and I added a few other things that seems like they'd work well. Here's my modified recipe:

1 can pork and beans
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. brown mustard
1 tsp. ketchup
1/2 tsp. dried minced onions
1/2 tsp. steak sauce
1 tsp. honey
1 1/2 tsp. bacon bits
2 strips bacon on top (all I had was microwavable bacon, so I figured that would do.)

So, why'd I change it up? I don't know. Just because I like to experiment. I added the other stuff in small amounts -- perhaps enough to give a hint of that flavor, but not enough to ruin it if it doesn't work. Onions just seem to go well in baked beans, so I threw them in. The steak sauce was staring me in the face when I reached for the ketchup. Honey? I figured it would thicken the sauce a little and add a little sweetness to it? Bacon bits and bacon? Is it overkill? Bacon, like chocolate, is one of those things that just makes everything better. No such thing as too much bacon!

When I got it all in the crock pot, I looked back at the recipe and ooppps!! It wasn't a crock pot recipe. It was for the oven. Oh, well. No biggie. I'll put in on low for two or three hours and see what I have. :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Stuff those peppers!

I'd kind of given up on the garden. The tomatoes seemed to be done for the year and the sunflowers had drooped and been destroyed by the neighborhood squirrels. I'd forgotten we still had peppers on the plants until my husband reminded me this week. So, I used them for some stuffed peppers.

I learned to make these from my former co-worker, Jeanine DesJardins, who enlightened me to how easy they are to make. Her basic recipe called for 6 green peppers, cleaned and boiled. Then in a pan you brown a pound of ground beef and then drain and add about 3/4 of a jar of pasta sauce and about 2 cups of cooked rice. Stir and stuff the peppers and place them in a baking dish. Top with remaining pasta sauce and bake for about a half hour.

As I've made it over the year, I usually add some spices to the browning meat and sometimes dice up some green pepper and onion to add to the beef mixture. Sometimes I put some shredded cheese on top for the last five minutes of so of cooking just to melt it.

Jeanine always encouraged me to make a double batch of the meat mixture and make stuffed cabbage along with it. Then all you have to do is just boil a head of cabbage, remove the leaves, fill, roll, place in a casserole dish and top with a little extra sauce and bake for about 20 - 30 minutes.

This time, I found I could make the green peppers in an even easier way, eliminating the need to boil the peppers. I made the filling and placed it in raw peppers and then put it in the crock pot. I put a little sauce on the bottom to keep it from sticking. I put it on high for about 3 hours, then another hour or so on low. Perfect!!

Soups on!

One of my favorite things about fall is getting back in the kitchen. We get some brutally hot summer days in the Midwest, so a lot of the cooking in the summer months is done on the grill. It's always nice to be back in the kitchen after the school year starts and put a cake in the oven while the kids are at school or make some good comfort food, like roasts or stews. I also love to make soups and it's that time of year again.

Last winter I made a lot of varieties - vegetable, pasta fagioli, chicken rice, chicken noodle, chicken vegetable, beef vegetable, broccoli cheese, potato, tortilla, tomato florentine.

This past week I made two. First was a pot of chicken noodle soup.

And here's my recipe:

12 cups water, 11 chicken bouillon cubes. Boil. Add about a teaspoon of garlic salt, oregano, basil, minced onion and two or three boneless chicken breasts, continue to boil about 20 minutes. Add about 1 - 1 1/2 cups sliced baby carrots, 4 sliced celery stalks. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until veggies are tender. Remove chicken and dice or shred. Return to pot and return to a boil. Add thick noodles (I get an Amish variety) - about 6 - 8 ounces. Boil another 10 minutes or so...or according to directions on package.

Next I made some stuffed green pepper soup in the crock pot:

Here's the recipe:

2 small cans tomato sauce, then fill can 4 times with water and add. Two large cans diced tomatoes. About a teaspoon of garlic powder, seasoned salt, pepper, oregano, basil, Italian seasoning, minced onion, 3 bell peppers, diced. One pound browned ground beef. Set crock pot to high for about 5 hours. I had boil-in-bags of rice, so I threw one on the stove top and boiled it and added it at the end.

What's your favorite soup recipe?

Monday, October 3, 2011

A zucchini by any other name tastes just as good

Ok...had to share this. My kids make horrible faces at the mention of zucchini...or most green vegetables for matter. No way they would voluntarily eat it. So, I made zucchini bread last week. My 8-year-old shredded most of it for me, but I guess he didn't make the connection that it was going to be put into the bread batter. We baked four loaves. I renamed it "spice bread." They asked what kind of spices were in it and replied "cinnamon." It was totally true. I put 3 tablespoons in each of the two batches. They were satisfied with that answer. They tried it. And then they devoured it. All because of the name. Had I called it zucchini bread, they wouldn't have even tried it.

Taste of Home Cooking School coming to Horshoe Casino

This Thursday, foodies can get their fill of cooking tips and peruse kitchen gadgets of all kinds at the Taste of Home Cooking School, which will be held at The Venue at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. The event features culinary specialist Eric Villegas. See the link below for more information.

Tickets are still available.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cake time!

I have a son celebrating his 10th birthday next week. However, the weekends are pretty full, so we celebrated a little early. I usually have a family party at home for each kid as well as a party with friends at Chuck E. Cheese, McDonald's, Tyler's Tender or another kid-friendly venue. Carter chose to have his at the bowling alley, which worked out well. He bowls on a league on Saturday mornings, so we'd just hang out and have his party following his morning of league bowling. Since I have five sons, it can get expensive doing all this partying. So, for most of the kid parties, I bake a cake or cupcakes rather than purchasing one from a bakery. This week was really busy and I was tempted to stop by the supermarket and pick up a bakery cake, but talked myself out of it. And really, the kids seem to enjoy the home baked stuff over the store-bought.

So, Carter's cake was a devil's food chocolate one with chocolate frosting and then topped with chocolate sprinkles and crushed Oreo cookie crumb sprinkles. The kids devoured it and the bowling alley staff enjoyed it, too. The lone girl at the party, Brianna, helped me get the table set for cake and told me she remembered the cake I made for his 1st grade birthday party three years ago. I guess my cakes do sometimes leave an impression! :)

The small lettered candles burned quickly and by the time I got to lighting the last letter the first was dripping down onto the cake. So, we had to sing fast!