Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

I could eat these several times a week!

 I love beans.  I like them well-seasoned and:

  • plain
  • with french bread
  • with tortillas
  • with rice
  • with a “Rustic Italian Loaf”  (is there a “Sophisticated” or “Metropolitan” Italian Loaf out there?)
  • with cheeses, chutneys, salsas, sour cream, plain Greek-style yogurt, chow-chow, chopped jalapeno, chopped onion, crumbled bacon…
  • with cornbread
  • in soup

Beans are good!  If you like them too, try A Simple Pot of Beans to get started.  From there you can dress them up to your liking, make chili, vegetarian tacos and taco salad, soup, refried beans, or as the starting point for this easy, delicious soup.

Creamy Bean and Vegetable Soup

  • 1 Recipe A Simple Pot of Beans
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream (optional; adds a little bit of richness and makes it extra-delicious, but you can leave it out for a vegan and/or lactose-free option)


Prepare A Simple Pot of Beans, retaining the cooked carrots and garlic at the end of the cooking time.

Place enough cooked beans and broth in a blender to equal 2 cups.  Add the carrots, garlic and cream.  (If not using cream, add about a half-cup more of cooking liquid.)  Puree the mixture, adding broth as necessary to achieve a smooth texture.  Return puree to the pot of beans and heat mixture on low until heated through, careful not to boil.

Garnish with slight swirls of cream and chopped green onion.

Happy cooking,


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NOTE:  When I originally posted this recipe, the soaking and cooking information was specific to the beans I used in the pictured soup.  This was a mistake. Dried beans may vary in the time they require for both soaking and cooking.  Packaged dried beans usually include these specific directions, but if not, or if you purchase beans in bulk, please consult this excellent site to determine the best soaking and cooking times for your beans.  I am deeply sorry if your Simple Pot of Beans was ruined due to my inadequate directions. ~K  

Once I described to my friend a favorite meal of my Mom’s pinto beans.  She laughed and called me a country-girl!  It was the first time I realized that not everyone thinks that a simple meal of deliciously seasoned beans is near perfection.   If you do, however, you might appreciate this recipe.  It’s simple, inexpensive and the results are delicious and versatile.  

A Simple Pot of Beans  

  • 1 lb dried beans (white, pinto, black, etc.)
  • 3 stalks of celery; if possible, include the leaves
  • 3 large carrots, quartered
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 good-sized cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-4 cups of  low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt, to taste
  • Optional toppings:  sour cream, plain yogurt (I love Fage Greek-style, 2%), shredded cheese, salsas, chutneys, chopped onions, crumbled bacon…


Thoroughly rinse beans, checking for bits of dirt, or even small pebbles.  Place beans in a large soup pot or dutch oven and cover with cold water.  Leave the beans to soak overnight.  In the morning, drain the beans and rinse once again.   

Place beans back into pot and cover with water up to one inch past the top of the beans.  Add the remaining ingredients through the bay leaf.  Add two cups of stock if additional flavor is desired (recommended, but not necessary).   

Bring beans to a low boil, then cover, with the lid slightly tilted, and reduce heat to medium low so that beans remain at a simmer.  Add additional stock or water as necessary to keep beans covered by about an inch of water.   

I try to fish out all of the peppercorns as well, but I usually miss a few. The cooking time is long enough to elminate their biting heat, but I'm always concerned that someone will catch a fiery one!

For the exact cooking time, check the package of beans, or consult this site which lists soaking and cooking times for all varieties of dried beans  

Remove garlic, vegetables and bay leaf from pot.  The carrots and garlic can be retained and pureed with some of the beans for this soup.  If needed, season with salt to taste.    

Add as many toppings as you like or eat them unadorned.  I strongly suggest a side of your favorite bread for a simple, delicious, hearty meal!  

NOTE:  These beans keep quite well in refrigerator and freezer.  I like to store some away to use with Taco Salad and Chili at another time.  

Happy Eating!  


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There’s a serious problem in our society, a matter of neglect and misuse that no one is talking about.  There are no celebrity campaigns or colored bracelets.  Mainstream media won’t touch this story! 

But I’m bringing it out in the open right now. 

It’s about recipes and the horrifying number of people who refuse to use them.  All across our country people are sitting down to food that is anything from merely palatable to downright repulsive simply because someone felt a little creative and decided to “wing it” in the kitchen!  Meanwhile, a cookbook leans forlornly on a dusty shelf, its pages still as crisp and clean as when it was printed.

I’ll have more– much more–to say about this urgent issue in a  later post, but in the meantime, rescue a recipe and give it a try! 


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I finally did it. 

For these, Shakespeare would have composed a sonnet. I'd give it a shot, but I'm too busy running off the two pans I consumed last week.

I first discovered the recipe several months ago on The Pioneer Woman’s site.  They looked incredible,  but seven pans of yeasty, cinnamon-sugary rolls dripping with maple, coffeee-laced frosting seemed a bit dangerous. 

Knowing my proclivity for all things sugar, cinnamon and coffee-flavored, I knew I could not make those rolls unless I was prepared to give away at least six pans.  That would leave one pan for my household:  half for my family and the other half for me! 

So, with my magnanimous plan in place, I got to work and produced my first ever cinnamon rolls.  Just as I feared, they were so delicious I had to wrench the pans from my own fingers in order to give them away.  In fact, only four pans made it out of my kitchen. Sweet, buttery, light rolls, a  simple cinnamon-sugar filling and a subtly flavored frosting that took the rolls from tasty to addictive.   (Seriously, I might need a 12-step program to deal with that frosting.)  And, just as I had hoped,  they were easy!  If you can pour, scoop, stir and play with play dough, you can make these cinnamon rolls.  

Though I fell in love with the frosting--worthy of its own sonnet, I thought this amount of frosting was just right; a generous drizzle rather than a drowning.

Please don’t be intimidated by the yeast.   Do you sometimes break out into a sweat just reading a recipe that calls for yeast?  The instructions often demand a precise temperature for the liquid. Do you fear nothing in your kitchen will ever go right again if you hit the wrong temp and kill your yeast?  The Pioneer Woman makes it simple:  the liquid needs to be lukewarm or warm, “not hot.”  Easy. No sweat!  The rest is all mixing, waiting, rolling and sprinkling.  

Now, based on what I gleaned from reading through many of the comments on The Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll post, I guessed that the rolls would be a little two sweet for me. So I made the following adjustments: decreased the sugar in the actual rolls to 3/4 cup; reduced the sugar in the filling by 1/2; used only half of the frosting recipe to top the rolls. 

The result?  They were still a little two sweet for me.  Next time I make them I will try to further reduce the sugar as well as increase the cinnamon in the filling and the coffee in the icing. 

For the recipe and detailed illustrations of each step, visit here.  If you like cinnamon rolls, give it a shot.  The fragrance that will grace your home while these rolls bake is not to be missed! 


PS:  Not to beat a dead horse, but that frosting is too yummy to be limited to just topping cinnamon rolls. I can vouch that it’s a tasty dip for:  strawberries, bananas, apples, animal crackers, graham crackers,  and pretzels.

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This week I tried recipes from a few of my go-to girls.  If you’re in a meal-planning rut, or simply need to avoid doing something tedious but infinitely more important, the following reviews might be just what you need!

  • Cranberry Applesauce, by Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes:  I don’t know what was better, the fragrance of cranberriesthis sauce as it cooked or the sweet, slightly tart taste of the final product.  Oh, it was delicious!  Three more points in its favor: it was quick, easy, and the kids loved it.  From start to finish it took about thirty minutes, twenty of which were hands-off cooking time.  I served it warm with a pork roast, accompanied by mashed potatoes, Caesar salad and these rolls…
  • Buttered Rosemary Rolls, by Ree Drummond at The Pioneer Woman:    I bought a 12-inch, pre-seasoned cast iron skillet just to make this recipe and it was worth every penny. The melted butter slid down between the rolls to the bottom of the pan where it worked with the hot skillet to give an almost crispy texture to the bottom of the rolls.  I used the frozen Rodes rolls that Ree recommends  and a coarse-grained sea salt that can be found in any grocery store.  I can still taste that first salty, buttery bite.  Bread, butter, rosemary and sea salt.  Is there anything left to say?
  • Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas by Lisa at Homesick Texan:   I’ve been eager to make this recipe for

    Photo courtesy of Homesick Texan

    several weeks. When our family dined at a “Mexican Food Restaurant” near our new home the other night, I knew it was time to make these enchiladas. What a hit!  The filling is pretty basic, so it’s all about the sauce.  The texture was pleasantly creamy and neither too thick nor too thin.  But best of all was the perfectly balanced flavors.   The combination of freshly roasted tomatillos (you can also used canned), hint of cumin, and fresh cilantro lifted it far above the pale, over-salted sauces too often found on a Tex-Mex plate.

How much did we love these dishes?  Well, they’ve all earned a place in the family cookbook.  And that’s as good as it gets around here!

Happy eating!


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Finally, I’ve reduced the stack  on my nightstand! This was a light read, easy to pick up and put down as time and responsibilities demanded.  


I have a thing for leeks. I hope they're actually mentioned in this post somewhere...

Julia Child’s memoir of her time in France is that of a love affair with a country and its rich culinary tradition. 

For this reader, the details of classic French cookery are frankly, sometimes nauseating.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a friend to butter, cream, fat, and all those awful things that taste so delicious.  But I enjoy fresh or lightly cooked vegetables and food that hasn’t been overly fussed about.  Consider this passage, a brief description of her three-day’s labor to create a “mammoth galantine de volaille“:

First you make a superb bouillon–from veal leg, feet, and bones–for poaching.  Then you debone a nice plump four-pound chicken, and marinate the meat with finely ground pork and veal stripe in Cognac and truffles.  Then you re-form the chicken, stuffing it with a nice row of truffles wrapped in farce and a fresh strip of pork fat, which you hope ends up in the center.  You tie up this bundle and poach it in the declicious bouillon.  Once it is cooked, you let it cool and then decorate it–I used green swirls of blanched leeks, red dots of pimiento, brown-black accents of sliced truffle, and yellow splashes of butter.  The whole was then covered with beautiful clarified-bouillon jelly.

Whew!  Call me pedestrian, but after reading that, all I want it is a fresh plate of greens with a bit of nice oil and vinegar and a tall glass of cool water. 

The charm of Child’s memoir is not the food, it’s her  enthusiasm for her work.  She pursues her beloved with relentless energy and curiosity.  When evaluating the recipes that would eventually form part of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she writes that

Working on soups, for instance, I made a soup a day chez Child. On the day for soupes aux choux, I consulted Simca’s recipe as well as the established recipes of Montagne, Larousse, Ali-Bab, and Curnonsky.  I read through them all, then made the soup three different ways…my guinea pig, Paul, complimented the three soupes aux choux, but I wasn’t satisfied.

She is a perpetual student, a scientist, an evangelist, and at the end of her story she has converted her home country to the joy of cooking in the tradition of her beloved France.

Happy reading and happy eating,


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Chili Weather

 Chili PowderAs soon as there’s a discernible chill in the air, I hoist my crockpot onto the kitchen counter and dump in a few ingredients for one of our family favorites, a hearty meat-and-bean chili.  There are a lot of reasons to love this recipe, not the least of which is that it reminds us of the lovely couple, Tony and Marie, who first shared it with us. 

But, since you don’t know Tony and Marie, you might be more intrigued by these facts:  it’s tasty, easy and economical.  And that’s a culinary trinity that’s certain to get me into the kitchen! 

Please, give it a try and let me know what you think.


Crockpot Chili

This makes a large batch.  With two adults and three young children, we always have enough left over for at least one more meal.  So I usually make this once a month and freeze half of it to enj0y a couple of weeks later.   One of my favorite uses for the leftovers is Taco Salad.  Delicious!

1.5 lbs lean ground beef or turkey

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

3  (15.5 oz.) cans beans, drained (I use all black beans, but you can use a different type or three different kinds altogether — it’s your chili!)

1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 (4.5 oz) can chopped green chiles (such as Ortega)

2 Tbs. cumin (ta-da! the star ingredient, here!)

1 tsp. chili powder (or more, to taste)

Garnishes and sides:  shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, pico de gallo, saltine crackers, sweet yellow cornbread, Fritos, Tortilla chips, warm corn or flour tortillas

Put it Together:  Brown the meat in a large skillet over medium heat.  After the meat starts to brown, add in the chopped onion.  Dump the meat and onion mixture and the remaining ingredients into the crockpot and cook 6-8 hours on low heat.  If you want this to be ready a little faster, cook the meat all the way through before adding it to the crockpot, then heat all ingredients together for 3-4 hours on high.




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Chocolate BarsDid you see that movie several years ago with  Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and a whole lot of luscious-looking chocolate?  Chances are that if you went into the theatre with an indifferent attitude towards chocolate, at the end of the movie you went straight to concessions and bought one of everything that had chocolate as an ingredient.  (I’ve never been indifferent to chocolate, so I was able to wait until I reached the privacy of my home!)

One of my all-time favorite treats is hot chocolate.  I adored it as a child when my Dad mixed it up on cold mornings and now I fix it for my kids (and myself) on cold mornings, afternoons and evenings. 

This is our recipe.  I know you’ll like it. 



Hot Chocolate

For each cup of chocolate:

2 heaping tsp. of sugar

1 heaping tsp. of powdered, unsweetened chocolate

a teeny-tiny pinch of salt

1 c. of milk

a drop of vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients. Then add the milk, a little at a time, stirring until you have achieved a smooth  mixture.  Stir in the rest of the milk, place the saucepan over medium heat and, stirring constantly, heat the mixture until thoroughly hot.

Make it even better:  Oh, the possibilities! I like to make it light on the sugar, with a tad more chocolate and then swirl in some heavy cream after I ladle it into each cup.  The kids like to have a candy-cane swizzle stick to stir around and spice up their drink.  Adults like to spice their drink with something a little more grown-up.  Then there are the traditional toppings:  marshmallows, marshmallow cream, whipped cream, a dash of cinnamon…

If you have a suggestion to make a good thing even better, or you have a beloved hot chocolate recipe of your own, please share!

Happy sipping,


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CookbooksJust give me a good cookbook.

I like food.  I like thinking about food. I like to think about what I have eaten, what I am planning to eat, what I would like to eat and even what other people are eating.

Ah, let’s hear it for sensory memory.  Recalling a favorite ingredient or succulent dish is not a cold mental exercise.  It evokes the memory of fragrance, texture and taste.  Even better: memories that marry good food and important relationships.

The best book on my kitchen shelf captures this combination between its checkered cover.  Beverages like the simple Hot Chocolate that my children beg for as soon as the outside temperature dips below 90.  Dinner favorites, like the homemade pizza crust upon which countless Family Pizza Nights have been built. 

I began this  collection when my husband and I were dating.  It was nearing Christmas.  I was a poor college student and  wanted to give him a unique  gift that cost approximately nothing.  We occasionally enjoyed home-cooked meals together in his apartment so I decided to record the recipes for some of our favorites and  include a brief note about something memorable associated with each dish. 

One of the first entries was for the Chicken Provencal that my not-yet-husband made for me one night.  I took a study break so that we could enjoy dinner together and I could watch one of his favorite movies for the first time.  The romantic memory associated with this lovely dish?

“…We watched Spartacus while we ate.  I won’t soon forget biting into a moist, tender piece of Chicken Provencal while Laurence Olivier’s character speared the Ethiopian.”

 Yummy!  We have yet to have that dish again.  But it was a fun night and the memory is captured forever.  (Which is more than I can say about one child’s first birthday party.) And if we  ever go twenty-four months without watching Spartacus, I might try making Chicken Provencal myself.

There’s no  snobbery in this cookbook, by the way.  Among the homemade goodies are recipes for favorite treats, like a store-bought fried pie:


1 all-night convenient store


About 12:00 a.m., when you’re in the middle of an all-night study session, sneak down to the aforementioned store and buy a couple of fried pies.  Optional garnish:  one quart of chocolate milk.


Please, don’t worry.  I have no plans to turn this into a recipe blog.

Whether it’s homemade chocolate mousse served in delicate dessert cups with orange-scented whipping cream, or a roll of refrigerated cookie dough and a couple of spoons, this cookbook is all about the foods we love and the unique (or mundane) occasions and private jokes that make the memory of eating them special.

Eat joyfully!

(And please tell me what you’re having so that I can savor it too.)


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Do My Knives Miss Me?

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There’s a downside to having all of your meals prepared for you while you lounge in bed. Well, there is if you enjoy cooking.  I have a friend who once described meal planning and preparation as “a necessary chore, like scrubbing toilets.”  Hideous analogy, I know.  I actually lost my appetite for five  seconds.  Then I ate a slice (or two) of homemade bread with butter and felt much better.

But, since my doctor has ordered me off  my feet, the closest I’ve come to cooking  is stirring raisins into my oatmeal each morning. And I miss every part of it. 

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I miss shopping with my kids.  They scamper around the produce section, tearing off plastic baggies and foraging through the bins to fill our basket with fresh grapes, apples, citrus fruits, salad greens, tomatoes, carrots, all the different  varieties of mushrooms, potatoes, onions, and squash.  I handle raw meats, seafood and poultry.  They clamor for their favorites at the bulk bin section, we load up the reusable shopping bags (if I remembered to bring them) and we head home to stock the refrigerator, pantry and fruit bowl.

At home there’s a lull as  recipe collections, cookbooks and recipe blogs are perused.  It’s relaxing, an excuse to sit down and prop up my feet.  It’s inspiring, a chance to put a new twist on an old favorite or try something new.  

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 Hmmm…curried carrot soup, that sounds risky.  Oh, look, it calls for butter and cream, it must be delicious.  What if I added lightly sauteed leeks for a little flavor boost?  Wait, since when does curry need a flavor boost?

As much as I enjoy this process, with three kids at home, it doesn’t last long.  So the decision is made for dinner that evening, a rough meal plan is sketched out for the next four to seven days and I move on, until the late afternoon hour and impending hunger draw me back to my kitchen.

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It is heaven for the senses.  A gentle clatter of pans, the smooth, creamy surface of  peeled garlic;  carrots, robustly orange, wait by the cutting board for swift, heavy knife strokes to dissemble them for the soup pot.  Butter and oil warm together, sizzle, then settle when thin loops of fresh leeks are added.

Gradually, over the next half hour, our home is transformed by the fragrant chemistry that is dinner cooking.

It is nice to have a break, but I am looking forward to the day I can go back to the routine, to what I expect.

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