Easy Cowboy Beans

I was grilling up some St. Louis style ribs and needed a side dish. I first considered baked beans but no joy in my pantry. I then thought of another style of beans I could make instead – Cowboy Beans.

I didn’t have any dried pinto beans in the house, so I modified my recipe for Frijoles Charros (AKA Cowboy Beans) to use what I had in the pantry – canned pinto beans and tomatoes, dried herbs and some leftover ham. This is a terrific change to the usual baked beans – a little spicy with the onion, tomato and ham giving the broth depth. They go really well with ribs or carne asada.

Easy Cowboy Beans

2 slices of ham, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder, depending on preferred heat level
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (don’t throw out the can)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, fry up the ham. Once cooked, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the saucepan and sauté the onions for 5 to 10 minutes or until softened and golden. Stir in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant about 3 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and cook until they start to break down, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle on the seasonings and stir until combined and fragrant. Add in the beans and fill the bean can with water and stir that in, too.

Transfer to an oven safe casserole. Cook uncovered in a 350 degree F oven for an hour or until some of the liquid has been absorbed. I like mine to be a bit soupy but, if you want less liquid, stir and cook 15 minutes more.

Taste for seasonings and serve.

I take any leftovers and put them in the blender to make a bean puree that I then use as a replacement for refried beans with quesadillas or fajitas (or sometimes just eat with tortillas or chips as a dip).

Yummy!

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Stovetop Mac and Cheese

I spent the afternoon at the Fairgrounds Race Course New Orleans, where my quasi cousin, Nancy, had a horse racing. Here is a picture of He’s Dann Good (number 6) going full out but too far back to be in the money.

Unfortunately, none of my horses won, placed or showed. As it was a bit windy, I went home needing to warm up with some comfort food. For me, that means lots of melty cheese. I made a stovetop version of mac & cheese that is very creamy and delicious.

I recommend going to the deli section of your grocery store to get a block of white American cheese. It gives the perfect texture to the dish. For the rest of the cheese, I went with Gouda to bring it up to a pound of cheese but cheddar is equally delicious.

For me, this is a main course that serves three to four. If you’re using this as a side dish, you can serve at least six.

Stovetop Mac & Cheese

2 large eggs
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1/2 lb elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
10 ounce block American cheese, grated
6 ounces Gouda or sharp cheddar, grated

Whisk together in a small bowl the eggs, 1 cup milk, hot sauce, salt, black pepper and mustard mix. Set side.

In a large pot, place 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add in the elbow macaroni and a generous pinch of salt and cook until tender but still firm, about 9 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.

Toss the butter in the pot with the macaroni and melt over low heat. By the handfuls, add 3/4’s of the cheese and stir until melted, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining milk and cheese and cook, stirring constantly for 5 to 10 minutes. Mac and Cheese should be smooth and creamy.

Serve immediately.

Reheat over the gentle heat of a double boiler.

Satsuma Brined and Grilled Lemon Sage Chicken

I have a serious amount of satsuma juice from my Dad’s tree, so I used a quart of it for a brine for the thighs from a 10lb bag of leg quarters. Of course, you can easily substitute orange juice or, if doing pork, switch to apple juice if you aren’t lucky enough to have satsuma juice at the ready.

The satsuma adds a brightness to the brine without adding too much acid plus the lemon goes really well with sage and chicken.

Satsuma Brined and Grilled Chicken

Brine:
1 quart water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 quart satsuma or orange juice
1 quart ice

Lemon Sage Wet Rub:

2 lemons, 1 of them zested
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Bring the water, salt, brown sugar and peppercorns to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat. Add in the satsuma (or orange) juice and ice cubes. Stir to melt the ice. Once the brine has cooled, add the meat and refrigerate. Brine for 12-24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the brine the morning before grilling and rinse it off. Place it uncovered in the fridge to dry the skin out a little.

About an hour before prepping the grill, pull out the chicken and let it sit on the counter. Set up the grill for indirect cooking with coals on two sides and some hickory chunks soaking.

To prepare the wet rub – combine the lemon zest and garlic cloves on a cutting board. Mince them together. Add the salt and chopped sage leaves and use the side of the knife to work the herbs into the garlic to make a paste. Place the paste in a bowl with the juice from one of the lemons and the pepper and olive oil. Whisk to combine. Rub over the chicken thighs.

Once the coals are ready, place the thighs skin side down on the center of the grate. After 10 minutes, flip them over and place thin slices from the remaining lemon on top. Continue to cook for 45 minutes to an hour or until done. Chicken thighs are at a safe temperature when they reach 165 degrees F. Because of the brining, you can let them go all the way to 170 degrees F without drying them out.

For serving, squeeze the lemon slice over the thigh for a bright hit of lemon.

 

Satsuma Tequila Sunrise (or Sailor Sunrise)

Leonard on Big Bang Theory said about the Tequila Sunrise, “This drink is a wonderful example of how liquids with different specific gravities interact in a cylindrical container!” Science aside, it is quite tasty, too.

While home for Thanksgiving, I was able to pick a lot of satsumas off my Dad’s tree – there is a five gallon bucket on the floor beside him that is also full of fruit.

We decided to use some of the juice for cocktails. Of course, if you drink a lot of these, you won’t be seeing the sunrise but, who needs to get up early when you spent the evening with a glass this pretty!

Tall glass is the tequila version while short glass is the rum version

A regular Tequila Sunrise is made with tequila, naturally, or you can substitute rum for a Sailor’s Sunrise. We found the best results using regular rum, not spiced.

Sunrise Cocktails

2 ounces tequila or rum
4 ounces satsuma juice (or orange juice)
1/2 ounce grenadine syrup

In a tall glass pour in the tequila or rum. Pour in the juice. Over the back of a spoon, pour in the grenadine. Do not stir.

Putting All Your Eggs In One Steamer Basket

I’m always looking at other ways to get perfect soft boiled eggs. After trying this method, I can attest that the eggs were easier to peel and I didn’t lose any from cracks. Plus their interiors were exactly as I wanted, whether hard or soft boiled.

The only difference is cook time. Just cook the eggs for longer in the steam and you’ll have perfect hard boiled, easily peeled eggs and pretty yellows. Cook for less and you’ll have soft but solid whites and runny yolks.

Steamer Basket Eggs

Place 1 inch of water in a pot. Place in your steamer basket or insert, put on the lid and bring the water to a boil. Using tongs put the number of eggs you want into the basket and put the lid back on. Cook as follows:

Soft boiled – 6 1/2 minutes for runny yolks but fully cooked whites

Hard boiled – 12 minutes for perfectly done and creamy yolks.

Cool eggs under running water. Peel gently, if soft boiled as the eggs will still be soft.

Turkey Tetrazzini

I had turkey left over from the grilling so I made up a recipe of Turkey Tetrazzini. This was always the way we used up leftover turkey after Thanksgiving.

I was raised on a version that starts with Cream of Mushroom soup but I think the sauce on this one is a pretty good updating of it. Of course, I was also raised on peas being in it but I figured since Charlotte was bringing kale and Nancy brought a salad, those that wanted veggies were covered.

This recipe makes a 9×13 casserole or 10 large ramekins (that you can then freeze what you’re not eating for later meals).

 

Turkey Tetrazzini

1 pound short pasta, such as rotini or gemelli
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
2 cups chicken or turkey stock
2-3 cups leftover turkey, shredded
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
salt and pepper

Topping:

1 cup regular bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter your baking dish or spray with vegetable oil. The full recipe uses a 9×13 pan but you can make a smaller amount and freeze the rest.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water until it has softened a bit but is still not quite cooked all the way through. (The pasta will absorb the liquid from the sauce as it finishes cooking in the oven.) Drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt two tablespoons of the butter and sauté the sliced mushrooms. Once they have released their liquid and most of it has evaporated (about 10 minutes), remove from pan and set aside.

Add the remaining butter to the skillet and melt it over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Whisk constantly until the flour has cooked but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add the milk slowly, whisking to avoid creating any lumps. When it comes to a simmer, add the chicken stock, cayenne and nutmeg and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the sage and season with some salt and pepper. Fold in the mushrooms, turkey and pasta, making sure it is all well coated with the sauce. Pour into the prepared pan.

To make the topping, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan and moisten with the melted butter. Spread topping evenly over the tetrazzini, put the pan into the oven, and cook until the top is golden brown and the mixture is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

To cook from frozen, place the ramekins in the oven while it is preheating to 350 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes or until it is bubbling.

Grilled Shrimp on Mashed Sweet Potatoes

It was a bit cold last night, so rethought going outdoors to cook dinner. Instead, I cooked the shrimp on the grill pan on the stove top. The timing is the same.

I used my go to cheat – a bottle of Cajun Power Garlic Sauce on the shrimp. This isn’t a hot sauce but so well seasoned that it goes well with chicken, pork, seafood and even vegetables.

It was good to have friends over to enjoy the meal. Jess, Julie and Nancy helped warm up the house with laughter and good conversation. And, thanks again to Kenny for leaving the gallon jug of margarita’s – they were a hit!

Grilled Shrimp

1.5 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup Cajun Power Garlic Sauce

If using wood skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling.

In a bowl, mix the shrimp with the Cajun Power Garlic Sauce. Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill, up to 2 hours.

Skewer shrimp and place on a medium hot grill or a preheated grill pan. Grill about 3 minutes per side or until they are opaque throughout.

I placed the shrimp on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes – quite a tasty accompaniment and a switch from the pasta I would have usually served with them.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

2 lb. sweet potatoes (roasted and peeled), warm
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch salt

Roast sweet potatoes in a 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes or until done. Scoop out interiors and place in a bowl.

Mash together sweet potatoes, butter, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Taste and add more brown sugar, cinnamon or salt, if needed. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Place warm sweet potato mixture on plates. Arrange shrimp on top.