Saturday, June 28, 2014

Baked Beans with Maple & Bacon

(in full disclosure, these are the beans BEFORE cooking, 
as my family fell upon the food when ready without waiting for artsy photographic moments)
I went to Kansas City recently and ate a whole lot of BBQ.
The beans were unexpectedly delicious, and I guess I hadn't thought a lot about that part in advance. I like beans and all, just thought other side dishes might be better.
But, when I got home and decided to recreate a dinner at home, I needed to think about baked beans.
We saw this recipe of the Traeger Smoker website, we thought we'd give it a try.  
I changed it up a bit, because most of you don't have smokers to do this kind of thing with.  
Also, I did my beans in two portions, on the smoker, and in the oven, and truly, I didn't think it made a lot of difference to the end product.  My advice?  It might just be easier to do this in the oven, and make LOTS of room on the smoker for RIBS or something instead.

Serves 6-8

1 pound dried navy beans, rinsed and picked over
2 quarts water
1 large onion, diced
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces (1/2 pound) bacon, coarsely diced (i like the chunky "ends & pieces")
3/4 cup pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B
1/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup BBQ Sauce 
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp smoked paprika
1-1/2 teaspoons dried mustard (such as Colman’s)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Put the beans and water in a 2-1/2 quart Dutch oven or a large saucepan. Soak for 8 hours, or overnight.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bay leaf, garlic, and bacon and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the beans until tender, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the bay leaf. Stir in the maple syrup, ketchup, barbecue sauce, mustard, and salt and pepper. 

Return the beans to the Dutch oven, or transfer to a 2-1/2 quart bean pot.
Set oven to 300 degrees.
Cover the beans and bake for 5 to 6 hours, stirring occasionally or until very tender and flavorful, adding some of the reserved bean cooking liquid if the beans seem too dry. Uncover for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

What's been cooking on my blog...
One year ago?  Shrimp and Cream Cheese Omelette
Two years ago? Sweet Chili Sauce Salmon
Three years ago?  Lemon Lime Basil Shortbread Cookies

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Spicy Feta Dip

Found this recipe on a blog called HowSweetEats,  then I saw the recipe, I wasn't going to make it .
I mean... really? 
You want me to roast 3 jalapenos AND bake a bulb of garlic for an hour?

How much time do you think I have?

But, since it involves Feta, then I am SO in...  I changed a couple of things to make it faster and easier, plus, of course, I made mine a little spicier.  
Spread this stuff on pita, chips, burgers, mix into salads, on your finger. Just eat it.

Makes a little over 1 cup 

8 ounces
of feta cheese
3 whole jalapeno peppers
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bulb garlic
the juice of half a lemon (or even lime!)
the zest of half a lemon (or even lime!)
salt and pepper

Preheat the grill to HOT. 
Add about 8 garlic cloves to a small piece of foil and make a packet, adding a tiny bit of olive oil so it doesn't stick.  Add jalapenos and the garlic "foil envelope" to the grill and cook for about 20-25 minutes.  The garlic should be soft and squishable, and the jalapenos soft and starting to char. Remove both from grill and let cool. Once jalapenos are cooled, remove skins, cut in half and discard the seeds. Chop into small pieces. I use latex gloves to do this, but whatever you do, don’t touch your eyes! P.S. if the jalapeno skins don't come off, don't worry about it and add it to the dip.  No big deal.

In a large bowl, crumble the feta.

Add chopped jalapenos, the zest of half a lemon, and the juice of half a lemon )or lime works too. Squish the roasted garlic and mix directly into the feta. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil and mash with a fork. 

Taste the feta and season with salt and pepper. Serve with pita chips, warm pita or naan, or spread it on sandwiches. Store it in the fridge for up to one week – I find that I like it best at room temperature, so allow it to sit out for about 30 minutes before serving. 

I think this would be good with chopped dried tomatoes, or kalamata olives too. 

 What was on my blog...
One year ago?  Shrimp and Cream Cheese Omelette
Two years ago? Butternut Squash Waldorf Salad
Three years ago?  Breakfast Migas (scramble)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Elderflower Gin Fizz Martini

I haven't liked gin in a long time.
Well, about 33 years.
It's a long story.
I won't bore you.

This is the first gin drink I've had and enjoyed.  I think it must be the St Germain, elderflower liqueur that makes it so awesome. Something about the herbal flavor in the gin, partnering with the floral bouquet of St. Germain.

Serves 1

2 ounces Gin
1 ounce St. Germain
1 teaspoon superfine sugar, 
         or simple syrup
2-3 ounces of Club Soda

In an ice-filled shaker, add all ingredients except the soda. Shake for about 15 seconds.

Strain into an ice-filled highball glass and top with soda.

A garnish would have been nice, but I couldn't think of one.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Paradise Cocktail

This is a sort of "Pinterest" fail.
If you know what I mean

It's supposed to be layers of red, gold and topped with blue. Let me just say that is waaayyy harder than you think.

I even poured the blue curacao very slowly over the back of a spoon to keep it on the top without avail.

However, I will have you know that this is one tasty drink regardless of the pretty layers it's supposed to have.

Layered drink over ice
1/2 oz grenadine
2 oz light rum
2 oz malibu rum
3 oz pineapple juice
1 oz blue curacao

In the bottom of a tall glass add 1/2 oz (jigger) of grenadine, carefully fill with crushed ice to the top. 
In a cocktail shaker, mix the two rums and the pineapple juice, stir and pour over the grenadine ice slowly.  Top with Blue curacao.


Here's a photo of the ingredients.

Need some other tropical drink ideas?
Mai Tai's for a Crowd
Moscato Mojito
Ocean Mile
Pina Colada Martini
Pineapple Jalapeno Martini Margarita
POG Hulu Mama Martini

Friday, June 20, 2014

Kauai Local Food

I wasn't planning on blogging anything about a recent trip to Kauai.
It was just for rest and relaxation.
However, I keep thinking of some of the dishes we had and the experiences so I wanted to share a bit more about it.  Just in case you've got an upcoming trip.

First place, in Lihue, was Tip Top Cafe.  A real local place, we were some of the few tourists in this busy cafe.  Very no frills, a standard issue place with steotypical booths and no nonsense waitresses. Our friends had been before and swore by it, so off we went one morning.  Loco Moco is a Hawaiian favortie that can look a little disgusting to some of us.

Fried eggs topped with gravy.
Brown gravy. Kind of thick salty au jus, if you will.
Over rice, and a hamburger patty.
I wasn't convinced, until I had a bite of that big mess.
You'd think a couple of sliced green onions would improve the look of that dish, huh?

(In full disclosure, this Moco Loco photo was taken at Kountry Kitchen, not Tip Top Cafe)

 Well, I will try that at home when I make it.  Yes, I will try this at home. I will be sure to categorize it as "Ugly Food" on my blog, n'est-ce pas? 

Oh yes, yes please, keep that fork on autopilot, you simply cannot stop eating.
My friend and I share the loco moco and a macadamia pancake.
Seemed like the thing to do.

Tip Top's version has an option to have their famous fried rice instead of steamed rice on the Loco Moco, which we recommend.  However, their fried rice is SO good, and a tremendous bargain at $4.00 a plate, I may have to consider that next time I go back.

Our buddy had the oxtail soup with some clear noodles.. kind of a pho kind of dish, but served with chopped parsley and grated ginger.  Exceedingly delish.  I may have to think of that one too. Service was efficient and quick, everything we needed was on the waitresses cart that she wheeled around with her.  More napkins, chopsticks, extra plate, ice water, another glasses, carafe of coffee and condiments... right there, no waiting.  I liked it... not pretty, but no waiting was nice.

A couple of days later we were still dreaming of Loco Moco, so we Yelp'd breakfast places between Princeville, where we were staying, and Lihue (the airport).  It came up with Kountry Kafe.  Now normally, I avoid anything that substitute's "K" for a "C" in spelling.  Country with a "K" is not my style.  But we couldn't get past the great reviews and it was SO convienent on the main road back to Lihue.  We stopped, it was easy to spot the place as the people were spilling out onto the sidewalk waiting for a table. 

It looked kitschy inside, lots of rattans, bamboo wall coverings and rooster pictures.  The gals working were so nice and accommodating, and assured up the wait wouldn't be too long.  There were SO MANY choices on the menu it was a little hard to decide.  
I know... Loco Moco!

Hahaha, I really shouldn't have...
But their versions at Kountry Kafe included Kahlua Pig instead of a hamburger patty. 
Sold.  Yum.

Kahlua Pig is just a whole cooked pig in a underground BBQ pit that is frankly luscious with tender, flavorful, shredded bits of pork.  

We only ate half, but got "to go" boxes for the flight home. 
I know... that's goofy, but my hubby and I grinned to have our second half of this dish mid way across the Pacific Ocean when every one else was eating Alaska Airlines fruit & cheese platters, which are good, but not Loco Moco good!


Also, we did a fair amount of Mai Tai tasting while on Kauai.  
I mean, why not?  Everyone likes a tropical drink in paradise, right?
We also yelp'd that and found Tahiti Nui in Hanalei is considered the best on the island.  We all agreed it was wonderful... we all had two to make sure our research was thorough.  The place is rustic inside, and the service... well, a bit standoffish/hostile was the personality of the day for our bartender. Seems like a challenging way to make a living if you don't like tourists. I could rock being a bartender in Kauai, just saying.
If you like Mai Tai's, you should stop and have one.  The Descendents movie had a scene filmed here, which is kind of fun too. I did LOVE the bar pattern of orange Hawaiian print silk screened on the wood though...

Just across the street from the Tahiti Nui is a "mall" in Hanalei that includes a restaurant called "Hanalei Gourmet"  and a bunch of nice shops. A couple of days later, all relaxed and sandy from the beach, we popped in for a little lunch and of course, another Mai Tai or two.  The burgers were terrific, but we all loved the Mahi Mahi fish n' chips, best of all.  It's nice to travel with friends that share whatever is on their plate. 

Here's a couple of happy Mai Tai drinkers.
We are officially on day five of not wearing any makeup...
Now that is a sure sign of relaxation.


Here's some more recipes that might inspire a Hawaiian frame of mind at home:
Mai Tai's for a crowd
Maui Cookies 
Maui Tomato Ginger Soup- Mama's Fish House recipe
Kauai Pie
Kauai Banana Bread

Coming soon to my blog near you...
Loco Moco
Mango Bread
Mai Tai Deluxe (inspired from my taste tasting in Kauai)

Don't drink too many Mai Tai's or it might inspire you to do something crazy, like think the Princeville Fountain should be a photo opportunity.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Arizona Desert Botanical Gardens

The gardens were strangely empty.
Do you think the weather had something to do with it? 
It was over 100 degrees on the weekend we were in Scottsdale and decided the gardens would be fun to see, as we had three hours to kill before catching our flight.  Maybe 100 plus isn’t ideal desert botanical garden viewing, but then again, it is the desert, you know. 
You might as well really FEEL it.
And feel it we did. 

 (These are Chihuly glass installations made to look like desert plants)

When we arrived at the Desert Botanical Gardens, there was only one other couple entering right after us, and no one else in sight.  The woman in the other couple was loud and super excited to be the “only ones in the gardens” and said that she had never seen it like that. She went on and on about it. 
It was an awkward moment, like on an airplane, when the person sits next to you before the plane takes off and immediately starts chatting. 
Now I like chatting with the best of them, but I do like to know I have an exit strategy.  

Luckily, in the gardens there were miles of trails and “exit strategies”.  We didn’t see that couple again, and nicely enough, there were very few other people in the gardens that day.   
Did I mention how hot it was?   
Yeah, that just might have had something to do with it…

Recently, we were on Kauai, the garden isle, and were so enamored with all the foliage.  I didn’t expect to see even more beautiful flowers in Arizona, being the desert and all.  Here’s a couple of shots of the Arizona Botanical Gardens.  I would recommend you go there, but go in the Spring, or the Fall or the Winter, but maybe Summer time ain’t the time.  

 The flower below was my all-time favorite and I have no idea of what it is called.  Anybody?

We were so hot when we were ready to go, we stopped and decided to eat brunch at “Gertrudes” restaurant on the botanical grounds.  The food was delicious, but not necessarily cheap.  
Somehow, that's not important when you are super hot and sweaty and need a beer!


I had a burger with deviled egg aioli (yum!) and a side salad of greens, Italian kale, pickled peaches, watermelon radishes and peach vinaigrette.  I think I have some blogging/recreating to do when I get home.

 Tons of cool cacti in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors
 This photo doesn't do justice to the pinkness of the cactus
 Spooky snake cacti
 It almost had movement...

 Meyer lemons looking a lot like limes... but hey, I try not to argue at botanical gardens.

 Artichoke's gone to flower, and the ones below not quite there.

Hummingbird right in the center if you look very carefully (below).

A spooky looking tree from the parking lot.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pork With Cherry Sauce

I'm kind freaky for the Bonne Maman Cherry Preserves... I love the taste, and I won't lie, I love those jars with the gingham check top.  When I see this jam on sale, I usually buy a couple.  It's kind of silly for me to buy jam, as I usually have my pantry stuffed to the top with my homemade jams....

Sliced pork tenderloin is such an easy thing to buy and make quickly at home.  I like to pick one up and have it ready to go for a busy work week, so I'm always watching, and thinking up new ideas to use it.

Thanks to Martha for the inspiration for her recipe of Martha's Pork with Cherry Sauce.  Her recipe looked terrific but I didn't have frozen cherries in my freezer, so I had to improvise.

Serves 4

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch slices and each pounded 1/4 inch thick
Coarse salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large shallots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup), or use onions, as a substitute
1/4-1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup Cherry Jam
Optional, 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped

Place flour in a shallow dish. Season pork with salt and pepper on both sides, then coat lightly with flour, shaking off excess.  If you pork slices are a bit thick, go ahead and pound them a bit to make them thinner.  If you don't have a mallet, you could use a rolling pin, or even an empty bottle.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Working in batches, cook pork until browned and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent loosely with foil.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and shallots, and cook until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. on. Add 1/4 cup wine and broth and cook, stirring, until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add cherry jam and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Return pork to pan along with any accumulated juices and cook until sauce has thickened slightly, 2 minutes. Add more wine if the sauce gets too thick.  

Here's what's been happening on my blog around, or on, this date over the years...

One year ago: In n' Out Burger (travel)
Two years ago: Indian Spiced Salmon
Three years ago:  Tilapia Provencal

Serve over polenta, or just with a side salad and some fresh crusty bread.