Beans Beans the Magical Fruit

I wish I had a dollar for every time I sang this as a kid. Oh, who am I kidding? I still sing this as an adult!!

I was introduced to bean burritos when I was 7 and we moved to California to live with my Grandparents. You see, back in the late 70’s early 80’s in Minnesota there wasn’t a lot of diversity in terms of food at least not in my house. It was mainly hot dishes, stuffed peppers and meatloaf in our house. When I ate my first bean burrito I was in LOVE!

Growing up I always chose Old El Paso from a can. I loved the taste of it and it was so easy to just open a can (of whoop ass) heat and plop it on a tortilla shell with your choice of fixings. However….

Lately I’ve been on a real food kick. Now I know that some people take the real food thing to the Nth degree but when I say real food I really mean less processed food. I got tired of reading the labels and being astonished at the levels of fat, sugar, salt, carbs, etc. I’ve been making more food from scratch which has been great because I feel better and I know I can control the sodium levels which is good for my husbands high blood pressure.

I decided I wanted to make my own refried beans for once. I mean, how hard could it be? Right? So I found this recipe online and decided to give it a go. The first thing that attracted me was that I could make this in my crock pot. Winner winner refried bean dinner! I kept meaning to make this recipe for a whole week but kept forgetting because of the whole “Soak your beans overnight” thing. I mean listen, I make dinner, clean up and do the dishes and that is usually where my dinner duties end. Last night I had enough clarity of mind (MIRACLE!!!) to remember.

This recipe is so So SO easy!! I mean really!! It’s as easy as that set it and forget it thing you see late at night on cable TV. The thing I like best about this recipe, aside from how easy it is, is that you can control how soupy or dry the beans are and there is no salt except to taste. I forgot to add the garlic when I turned on the crock pot so I just added some garlic salt when it was time to mash the beans. They were amazingly creamy and flavorful!!

Now apparently you need a hand masher for mashing the beans. I don’t own one so I improvised with my hand mixer on low and that worked just fine. One of the other down sides of this recipe is that it calls for cheddar cheese and sour cream and I was really trying to go for not processed but at least it was minimally processed and contained less preservatives.

I didn’t get to take a picture because, well, it’s been one of those days. The baby fell on his head twice today and I lost my Target card. The baby has reached his terrible two’s so he is constantly getting into stuff, climbing and fall off of everything. I can’t tell you how many times the husband told me how much he loved them.

My advice is make these. You will love them. If you have a lot left over freeze them for up to three months. I am going to make a 7 layer taco dip for our BBQ on saturday with my left overs.

I give this recipe 5 wooden spoons for the ease at which this can be made.


Souper Tasty!!

A couple of weeks ago my sister in law came out to visit from L.A. to see the cutest baby in the whole of the universe (Ok I may be a bit biased…but seriously…have you seen him?). While she was here we were trying to figure out where to eat. I had wanted to go to a steak restaurant because the week before I got completely robbed of a juicy steak. Here is the story:

My friend Amber had her son two weeks before I had mine. So we were invited to her sons birthday party the same day that the husband and I had planned a double date. Luckily she planned it for noon and our date wasn’t until 4 so we were in the clear but we got there and the pizza she was going to order hadn’t been ordered yet. It was probably about 1:30 before we ate and she was super sweet and ordered me a gluten free pizza. So naturally I felt like I should eat as much of it as I could and on top of that it was the Baked Potato Pizza from Pizza Luce which is delish!! So on top of eating a poop ton of pizza it was basically all carbs and just sat in my stomach like a solid brick.

For our double date we were supposed to go to Outback steak house and then go see the Body Worlds exhibit at the Science Museum. I had really been looking forward to a nice juicy steak all week long and was so perturbed at myself that I was so full that I basically just sat at the steak house pouting like a giant 4 year old. I was so full of carby pizza that I literally didn’t need to eat dinner that night. When I went to bed about midnight I was still full.

Ok so fast forward to my sister in laws visit. I still wanted steak in the worst way but it sounded like they wanted sushi or Asian food which makes sense since they are both Asian. I was not in the mood for Asian so we all settled for Thai which I like a whole lot and it was a happy medium. We went to a restaurant called Pad Thai which my husband and I have been to a couple of times and liked a whole lot.

I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to trying new food and since I think she’s actually been to Thailand I let her make recommendations for dinner (especially since she was paying). She recommended a soup called Ghang Kha which is a chicken coconut soup. I was a bit skeptical but boy when I tasted it….WOOOO!!! It was so good and I knew I had to make it.

Last night I was shopping online for wine and wondered about the name of the wine I ordered. I did some investigating and I went to the site for Pad Thai to see if they showed what the brand was. No luck. BUT! While I was on the site I looked up the name of the soup and planned to make it tonight since we both liked it a whole bunch.

Now when I went to look up the recipe online I could not find it but the recipe for Tom Kha Gai kept coming up. So I looked at the recipe and low and behold that was the same soup. I’m not sure if the name Ghang Kha is specific to that restaurant, the region where the owners are from or what but it’s the same soup.

Souper tasty!!!

Souper tasty!!!

This soup utilizes the juice of lime, leaves of keffir lime, lemon grass and ginger to create this wonderfully rich broth that is so fabulous. It’s just the right balance of salty and zesty tanginess that makes this dish so delightful. The mushrooms add an earthy undertone  and the coconut milk adds a silky sweetness that compliments the full bodied flavor as it dances across your tongue.

The hardest part about making this soup is the same gripe I have about cooking all Asian food. The chopping. I learned a long time ago after making what I called “White Girl Mistakes” that you need to do ALL the chopping BEFORE you cook anything. The steps for Asian food go so fast that if you have to stop to chop something the dish doesn’t turn out the same.

I took complete advantage of this and had my husband chop the lemon grass and score the lime leaves while I cut up the chicken, mushrooms and ginger. Sometimes I forget how much fun it is to have him in the kitchen with me. We always have a good times and laugh a lot when we cook together. We need more of that.

After you get everything chopped it’s all downhill from there.

Son number one was a bit skeptical about this soup as it was something he hadn’t tried before but he loved it. Even son number two loved it and ate quite a bit of it. This dish definitely made it into our rotation.

RatingI give this dish four wooden spoons mostly because I am not a fan of all the chopping but the flavor and the smiles were all worth it!!

Grilled Flank Steak with Ginger marinade? Yes please!!

Sometimes I like to watch cooking shows. A lot of times I feel like they are over my head but sometimes I find shows that I really feel a connection with.

Ask Aida on the cooking channel is just such a show. She features easy to cook meals that pretty much anyone can understand and cook.

So a couple months back I was watching her show and she featured a recipe for grilled flank steak. You can find the recipe HERE. Now, I’ve never had flank steak and had no idea what a flank steak even was. You might remember flank steak from  your favorite fajita recipe. That’s right! It’s the same cut of meat. Now that I’ve cooked with flank steak I am most definitely going to go looking for a fajita (pronounced fa*G*ta in my house for fun) recipe because well, the husband like fajitas so why not!? A full man is a happy man especially on good food! Besides, flank steak is pretty cheap. We picked ours up at Costco for about $10 and the nice part was it was already trimmed of extra fat and sinew (what on earth is sinew??)


Mmm…looks mighty tasty…

The hardest part of this recipe was cutting up the ginger. I had no idea that ginger was hairy on the inside. Did you?? Well, you learn something new every day. The recipe says to cut the ginger thinly so I decided to try to be clever and use a vegetable peeler but as soon as I got to the middle that plan fell apart. Even using a knife I had a hard time cutting it. Perhaps I need a new set of knives? *hint hint Santa baby* I’m also not a big fan of peeling garlic either. You smash it to help peel it but then your fingers get all sticky…and blah. That just bites. One other thing I had an issue with was that I forgot to add the lime juice right away. I added it when I took it out to let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. My husband said he didn’t think it made much of a difference. We’ll see though because I am TOTALLY going to make this again.

The only thing I changed in this recipe was that I added Garlic Chili Paste. I put in a 1/2 teaspoon and it added a really nice zing. Now, for those of you who don’t like spicy foods (and you can put me in that camp too) it isn’t going to make you not eat it. It just adds a nice zing…that’s it. Not really any heat. One of the other nice things about this recipe is that there are people who like juicy red meat and others that like their meat well done. Well, this dish accommodates everyone. Those who like the well done bits eat the ends and those who like the juicy red bits eat the middle. Holy buckets! Everyone is happy!

The meat was so soft and flavorful!! I served it over rice and the husband went wild over this. Definitely adding this to our rotation. I give this recipe 5 wooden spoons for its ease of prep, short cooking time and mega flavor!


Tuna Noodle Casserole

It is now November in the great land of 10,000 lakes. November brings with it brisk winds dropping temps and shorter days. I love this time of year as it encourages cuddling cooking and baking which are three of my most favoritist things on earth (aside from my husband and children). It’s also a really good time of the year in this region for the making of what are called casseroles (also known as hot dishes) which people from other parts of the world or country don’t understand. They are hard to explain but honestly they are some of my favorite meals.

Tuna noodle in particular!

I love tuna! No. Really!! I looooove tuna!

I will and have been known to eat it directly out of the can. I have fond memories of Tuna going back as far as I can remember. My Dad used to make Tuna with miracle whip and we’d sit and watch football while plopping that mix on saltines (Occasionally he’d splurge and we’d eat pickled herring on those saltines but that’s another post for another day!). One of my favorite memories of my Dad.

My Dad also makes THE best Tuna Noodle Casserole this side of the hemisphere! NO lie! When I was pregnant with son #2 I emailed my dad to ask for his recipe because I was craving it and none of the ones I found online seemed right. The email I got back made me laugh. It was one giant paragraph describing the ingredients the process and what NOT to do. At the end he stated “You best print this out because it took me about 20 minutes to type this shit up!” That’s my Dad for you! I decided I should probably write this down somewhere in case that print out of my dads email gets lost. I also thought about the fact that someday my Dad won’t be here and reading that last line will make me laugh and cry at the same time!

The recipe includes green olives which I don’t normally eat because of the Green Olive incident of 1981. I ate too many when I was 6 and spent an entire night vomiting green olives BUT including them in this recipe gives it a very unique flavor that I adore!! The husband was skeptical as well but after one bite he was sold.

So here is the recipe:

2 Cans of Cream of Chicken Soup

2 Cans Tuna (he recommends Solid White Albacore in water)

1 Can of milk or Chicken broth or a mix of the 2 (use one of the soup cans for this measurement)

8 oz of cheese (my Dad recommends cheddar or Velveeta or a combo of the two)

1/2 cup of chopped green olives with pimentos

1/2 cup of frozen veggies (he recommends peas to offset the color of the pimentos…hey presentation is everything! Right!?)

4 cups of egg noodles (macaroni will work if that’s all you have)


Heat oven to 350º.

While boiling the noodles combine all other ingredients in a saucepan and heat. DO NOT HARD BOIL. This will cause the milk to curdle and break the sauce which makes it grainy. Once the noodles are done drain and pour in a casserole or a 13×9 baking dish. Pour contents from saucepan onto noodles and stir.

If you want a topping crunch up a cup of cornflakes with 2 tbsp of butter. If you don’t have that or bread crumbs you can crush up some potato chips. I myself, self use the cheddar and sour cream potato chips. I think it adds to the flavor.

Bake for 30 minutes. Everything is already cooked so you are really just looking for it be get all bubbly.

This is really just a very versatile recipe in which you can add or subtract to your hearts content. I like it just this way but you could add chopped eggplant and use some Parmesan, for example, for a new twist on this classic dish. It really is the ultimate in comfort food.

I would have included a picture of this tastetastic dish however once it was pulled out of the oven it didn’t even have a chance to cool down before it was gone! It’s just that good!

Caramel Apple Bacon Cupcakes

It’s been a really long time since I blogged. A few things have changed.

I went back to work for a while.

Son #1 graduated High School.

We bought a house.

I left my job permanently.

We moved.

Whew! It’s been a busy few months! Now I’m focusing on unpacking, homework and of course domesticated bliss!!

A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for Caramel Apple Cupcakes on the Facebook. I said something to the effect of “It doesn’t get much better than this!” but my bacon obsessed friend ,who I lovingly refer to as Smelly, stated that bacon would make it better. Our friend Soury kind of in a round about way challenged me to make these cupcakes with bacon. I took that challenge but of course it had to wait until I moved and got unpacked. So….now that I am 84.6% unpacked, at least enough to bake, I decided now was the time.

Holy Smokes Folks!!! These are tasty!!

Ya know how you have those EUREKA!! moments? I had one of those. I love those!

The one question I had was “How do I incorporate the bacon so that it doesn’t over power the rest of the flavors?” Good question right?! Soury made sea salt bacon caramels and they were really salty. I mean REALLY salty!! I was afraid that if I put the bacon on all you would be able to taste would be salty bacon. So I thought on it.

And thought on it.

And thought on it.

Then one day while I was just about to fall asleep it came to me. Candied Bacon!!! Bingo Bango Bongo!! So I looked up the recipe and it made total sense. If you bake the bacon with brown sugar and cinnamon it cuts the salt taste considerably so that it blends in to whatever you are trying to incorporate it into.

I found the recipe for candied bacon here. A word to the wise. I bought thick cut bacon because that’s normally what I purchase for things like breakfast. However, I think using regular bacon would be best for this purpose. The thick cut just didn’t crisp up like I wanted it to. So when I make this again I will be using regular cut.

I found the Caramel Apple Cupcake recipe here. This recipe is easy! SO easy!!! The hardest part of making was the prep for the apple. I hate cutting and chopping with the passion of a thousand fiery suns and that is why I was ever so glad that my friend Smelly did that part. She loves chopping and peeling. The other hard part is the waiting until they are baked so we could eat them. Of course I modified this recipe so instead of pecans, which would have been just as tasty, I used the bacon.

OMGosh!! Make these! Eat these! You are welcome!!

I give this recipe 5 out of 5 spoons. It’s so easy and fun to make and people loved them! I think I’ll have one for lunch. It’s a meal…right??!!

Time with Family

This Memorial day weekend the husband, son #2 and I, along with our ever faithful companion the dog drove out to the small town where a bunch of my family lives in South Dakota.

My cousin who lives in Texas was there along with one of her sisters who lives in the Cities (but we never get to see). Every time we are out there it’s always fun because so many people are there and we usually end up having some sort of potluck. It seems like it’s all about the food out there. I love country cooking and especially country baking!

My Uncle put his mind on making pulled pork sandwiches that were AMAZEBALLS! My Gramma made her second to none potato salad and two pies, rhubarb and cranberry apple . She also baked homemade buns for the pulled pork sandwiches.  My Mom made her tuna noodle salad and rhubarb crisp.

I made bacon wrapped smokies (You will remember my love of bacon from my previous post) and I made cheesecake stuffed strawberries. I found the recipe for that amazingness here. I had never heard of such a thing but am now left wondering why the heck I hadn’t thought about that before. I love strawberry cheesecake but it must have been an evil genius that said “Hey! Why not put the cheesecake INSIDE the strawberry?!?”

I say evil because I can seriously see myself sitting down and eating a whole mess of these. I am, however, choosing to think of them as good for me. Strawberries count towards my fruit and veg intake and cream cheese is dairy so I get calcium. Those two things combined can’t be all that bad for you.


Photo taken from Homestead Survivals blog

Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner!

Everyone LOVED these little beauties!

The recipe is SO amazingly easy that even the most challenged of cooks/bakers can pull this one off.

I doubled the recipes as my family is quite large and had a LOT of cream cheese left over in the bag. I was ok with this. I squirted some in my husbands mouth, in my mouth and then I told my mom to open her mouth. At first she didn’t want to (sometimes I think she forgets how to have fun) but I kept pestering her until she did. After that she had a big ole smile on her face. See…sometimes having fun is…well, FUN!

I think the next time I make this I will use two pounds strawberries and not double the cream cheese. That seems like it’s the right ratio.

I give this recipe 5 out off 5 wooden spoons!

Undone. The Banana Bread Song.

Sometimes I stumble upon recipes on the webbernet and think “Ooooh! That looks yummy! Must make!”  I book mark it and well, frankly I get distracted and forget about it. This recipe for Reese’s Peanut Butter Bread was SO not the case. This recipe was bookmarked and then haunted me for days until I HAD to make it. This recipe called to every ounce of my being.

When I saw the pictures on her site I couldn’t believe my eyes. I actually had to rub them to make sure I was really seeing what I thought I was seeing.

Did she really put a whole bag of miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups in peanut butter banana bread? Yep! Yes she did!

I made this recipe


So here is the thing. The first time I made this recipe the dough was really dense. Like so dense that after it was baked you had to drink milk with it or it would get caught in your throat and then you’d do that gag thing.  Oh boy, that’s attractive!

Additionally, the bottom of my bread burned so that when I turned the pan over to get it out the top half came out but the bottom stayed in the pan! DOH!!!

Here is where I went wrong! Two things:

When I buy a bunch of bananas and they aren’t all eaten they start to go bad. I throw them in the freezer fully intending to make banana bread out of them. However, when I thaw them out to make the banana bread I think they lose some of their uh, how do I say this, volume? So the recipe says to use 3 very ripe bananas. I used three thawed bananas and I am guessing I should have used 4 or maybe 5. I think that attributed to the density issue.

As for the bread burning issue. Well there is a little disclaimer on the bottom of the recipe that says she uses a stone loaf pan and that calls for a temp of 350. I baked mine at 350 in a glass loaf pan and well, I think that’s where I went wrong. I think I should have baked it at 325.

Now, the second time I made this bread (last night) there wasn’t a density issue. I used three large very ripe not previously frozen bananas and the batter was WAY more loose than before. I was excited thinking this recipe might actually turn out this time!

HA! Just kidding.

I decided to bake it at 325 to keep it from burning. I also set the timer at 45 minutes instead of 60 (Knee jerk reaction to it burning last time) because my oven (which is the original oven that came with this house in the 1950’s) runs hot.

So I hear the timer go off

I take the bread out

I take a toothpick and stick it in

it comes out and it’s clean (Or so I thought)

I take the bread out and set it on the cooling rack to cool

I walk away

I was so excited. It was perfectly browned on top and looked good

Ten minutes later I went in to take it out of the pan and the center had fallen in.

This is how Shelly’s bread turned out. Why oh why can’t mine!?



I just can’t win with this bread. Apparently if the middle is still very doughy the toothpick trick doesn’t work the best. Who knew??

I tried to put the bread back in the oven for 15 more minutes but that didn’t even help. After I cut it I realized the middle was still really undone. My thought was “Crap! Now what do I do??”

Well, I cut a slice this morning and threw it in the microwave for a minute (literally 60 seconds) and it baked it the rest of the way.

So the verdict is. I will make this recipe again and I will continue to do so until I have it mastered. Even tho it burned the first time and was undone last night it still tastes AMAZING! I love this recipe and so does son #1 and the husband.

I give this recipe 3 out 5 wooden spoons based sheerly on my trials and tribulations. If I can figure out how to get this bread to turn out the way it should I will change my rating.