Bacon and Brown Sugar Baked Beans

Bacon and Brown Sugar Baked Beans 1
Now that the weather is finally getting bearable, I have grilling and cookouts on my mind. Basically, my favorite part of summer. There’s nothing better than getting together with family and friends, throwing some burgers and corn on the grill and some cool refreshing salads. Well, baked beans make any barbeque better. These are our favorite recipe but I decided to change it up a bit and try something a little different recently.

Joel grew up on those baked beans so he was very leery of something new and I have to say he didn’t totally embrace them but I thought they were a nice change of pace. This recipe is definitely more on the smoky side of things versus the super sweet version we’re used to gobbling down. That is due to the fact that barbeque is used, in addition to other ingredients, to make the sauce. It adds some extra flavor and zing and it makes these beans customizable depending on your taste. If you’re a KC bbq fan like us, use your favorite sweet sauce (this is what we love) or if you like it spicy go that route. It’s all up to you and the sauce you choose really dictates the direction of these beans.
Bacon and Brown Sugar Baked Beans 2
I’m kind of cursing myself right now because the thing I’ve been craving the most since going vegetarian for Lent is a big, juice bacon cheeseburger. And now I can’t stop thinking about them. That would be so good right now with a side of these beans and some cucumber salad. How many more days until Easter? And is it appropriate to have a burger for breakfast that morning?

Bacon and Brown Sugar Baked Beans
recipe slightly adapted from The Recipe Girl

6 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
3/4 cup barbeque
1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like things)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
3 (15 ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon until slightly browned. Add the onion and cook until softened and bacon is crisp, another 4-5 minutes.

2. Place bacon and onions into crockpot. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Buttermilk and Feta Mashed Potatoes

Buttermilk and Feta Mashed Potatoes 3
So I’m pretty sure I have the weirdest kid in the world. He doesn’t like potatoes. POTATOES. Seriously, not mashed, baked fried…nothing. What kid, or person really, doesn’t like fries? It’s seriously concerning and makes me question whether he’s really mine. Because this lady never met a potato she didn’t like.

I usually make these potatoes with gorgonzola (ala How Sweet It Is) but we had some leftover feta from pizza night so I gave it a try. It was definitely a good decision. I loved the creamy, saltiness the that it brought to the potatoes.
Buttermilk and Feta Mashed Potatoes 2
We had these on Fat Tuesday with our ridiculous steaks but they would be equally delicious with chicken or pork. Or roasted veggies if your torturing yourself and not eating meat. I mean, if you’re a vegetarian.
Buttermilk and Feta Mashed Potatoes 1
Buttermilk and Feta Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and chunked
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup crumbled feta

1. Place potatoes in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes or until fork tender.

2. Drain the potatoes and put them back in the pan. Add butter and salt and mash potatoes. Slowly add in buttermilk as you mash, adding more or less depending on your preference. Stir in crumbled feta and leave on heat for a couple minutes to allow it to melt. Serve immediately.

 

Tomato Mascarpone Risotto

Tomato Mascarpone Risotto
Does anyone else feel super fancy when they eat risotto or is it just me? Have I watched too many episodes of Hell’s Kitchen? I think maybe the answer is yes.
Tomato Mascarpone Risotto
I’ve made classic risotto several times with good results but when I saw this recipe, I knew it would be special. And I was so right. It’s been over a week since I made it and I haven’t stopped dreaming about it. And you know how I said earlier that risotto = fancy in my book? Well, this recipe tastes like some spaghettios got all dressed up for prom. Yep, I loved them as a kid so this totally brought me back. But in a much more sophisticated manner. So so good.
Tomato Mascarpone Risotto
I also equate fancy with romantic so this would totally be a hit for Valentine’s day. Grill a steak or some chicken that has been marinated in balsamic vinaigrette and mix up a simple side salad for a perfectly delicious and romantic meal. Because I’ve never met a carb I didn’t like, I most definitely would be won over with this starchy goodness.

Tomato Mascarpone Risotto
recipe from The Recipe Girl Cookbook

3 cups chicken stock
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, combine broth and tomato sauce and heat over low heat until just warmed, 4 to 5 minutes.

2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Stir in the rice and cook until it’s glossy in appearance about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine, stir and let the liquid evaporate. Stir in the salt. Add the warmed tomato broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally. When the broth has just about been completely absorbed by the rice, add another 1/2 cup. Continue to cook and stir and add broth in 1/2 cup increments until all the broth has been absorbed and the risotto is tender but still firm to the bite, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the mascarpone, basil and pepper. Serve immediately.

Dominican Stewed Beans with Rice

Dominican Stewed Beans with Rice 3
This past summer we vacationed in the Dominican Republic and had a blast. The only thing I was disappointed with was the food. We stayed at a resort so it was nice that we didn’t have to figure out and agree on meals but we definitely didn’t get the authenticity that we usually seek out when traveling to new destinations. At the buffet one night they did have a Dominican night and the dish I enjoyed the most was the stewed beans over rice.
Dominican Stewed Beans with Rice 2
I knew when we got home I had to try and recreate it for one of our meatless Monday’s. Well, we went on vacation in July and I just now got around to it. I wish it wouldn’t have taken me so long! I love the simplicity of this dish in the fact that it uses ordinary, staple ingredients and they come together to make something that conjures up memories. Nice, warm, relaxing memories of the beach are so nice today when school has been canceled because of extreme temperatures. Seriously people, wind chills near -25 degrees. That’s not supposed to happen in Nebraska. Noah has told me it’s so cold we will need to drink hot chocolate at every meal. Smart man.
Dominican Stewed Beans with Rice 1
Anyway, back to the beans. This dish is great for those on a budget too since it doesn’t get much cheaper than rice and beans. Plus, it’s vegan. Need I say more?

Dominican Stewed Beans with Rice
recipe adapted from Latina.com

8 oz. red kidney beans
3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 sprigs cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 cups brown rice, well rinsed

1. Soak beans overnight in a container big enough to generously cover the beans. Drain the water and add the beans to a large stock pot. Cover with 5 cups of fresh cold water. Bring beans to a boil then reduce to medium, cover partially and cook for an hour stirring occasionally. Add a cup of water then cook for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make a sofrito: In a food processor or blender, combine garlic, cilantro, and onion and process to a coarse paste. In a small skillet, heat the vegetable oil then add the sofrito. Cook for 1 minute then add to the beans along with the tomato paste, salt, pepper and vinegar. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add in rice and cook for 10 minutes, stirring so that it doesn’t stick. Reduce temperature to low, add 1 cup of water, cover and cook for 55-65 minutes, or until rice is fully cooked. You may have to add more water throughout the cooking time (I ended up adding about another cup).

Butter Pecan Sweet Potatoes

Butter Pecan Sweet Potatoes 2
Need a quick, last minute sweet potato recipe for Thursday? Well, I have the perfect recipe for you. These are so unbelievably good and really easy too. It’s always nice to have something simple to throw together when you have a million other things going on.

Another added bonus, I always have all these ingredients on hand so they would be a great side dish on a busy weeknight too. Make them. Enjoy them.
Butter Pecan Sweet Potatoes 1
Butter Pecan Sweet Potatoes
recipe from Martha Stewart

8 medium sweet potatoes (5 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1/3 cup pecan pieces

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel sweet potatoes and slice  into 1/2-inch thick coins then cut each in half. Toss with olive oil and salt and lay in single layer on two baking sheets.

2. Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven then sprinkle each pan evenly with the butter, brown sugar and pecans. Return to the oven and bake for 8 minutes.

 

Broccoli Mashed Potatoes

Broccoli Mashed Potatoes
You know what’s weird? Having to tell your child that he’s eating mashed broccoli because if he knew there was potatoes involved he would have nothing to do with them. Yep, a four year old that doesn’t eat potatoes…not even fries. Sometimes I wonder if he’s really my child.
Broccoli Mashed Potatoes
These broccoli mashed potatoes are light yet flavorful. The sour cream adds a nice tang and the onions bring flavor to a dish that would otherwise be bland. I added a bit of parmesan to help sell these to the oldest member of the family, yes the almost 30 year old.
Broccoli Mashed Potatoes

I served these alongside some crispy baked pork chops (I’ll share that recipe later this week) for the perfect, healthy fall meal.

Broccoli Mashed Potatoes
recipe adapted from Everyday Light Meals

1 1/2 lbs. small red potatoes, skin on and cubed
2 1/2 cups fresh broccoli
1/2 onion, shredded
2 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat then cover and cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop broccoli florets and some stem into small pieces. After 10 minutes, add broccoli to potatoes and cook another 10 minutes.

2. In a saute pan, melt butter and cook onion until soft and slightly browned. Drain potatoes and broccoli then put back in the pan. Add onions, sour cream, parmesan, salt and pepper and mash together until smooth.

Thai Sweet Chili Broccoli

Easter with my loves
Did you all have a wonderful Easter? We spent the weekend with my parents enjoying the gorgeous weather, partaking in Easter egg hunts, church and a big dinner with some of our favorite people.
Excited about her basket

He was most excited about the $1 jump rope…figures.
A $1 jump rope? Yesss!

Me and my favorite boy.
Easter Egg Hunt with my boy

Sweet little chickie in her Easter basket.
Hannah in her basket.
Because Easter marks the end of Lent, that meant I got to feast on all kinds of naughty things that I haven’t had in months. Like peanut butter bars, cucumber dip, mac-n-cheese, corn casserole and a cherry coke or two. Needless to say, I felt very sick afterward.

During my 40 days of eating clean, I found that I had more energy and generally felt so much better. So, the plan going forward is to eat clean 5 days a week and the other two to still eat healthy but not so restrictive. Since starting a healthier lifestyle at the New Year, I’ve lost 30 pounds and would love to continue on that path.
Stir-Fried Broccoli
The only problem with healthy eating is that there aren’t a ton of vegetables that I love so the routine can get old kind of fast. I’m pretty sure I’ve professed before that broccoli is one of my favorite foods and I eat it several times a week. Joel doesn’t enjoy it as much as me so I have been on the hunt for different ways to prepare it rather than just serving it steamed as I usually do. When I came across this recipe at Mel’s Kitchen Café I knew it would be a hit with everyone.

Tender crisp, charred broccoli tossed in a slightly thickened sweet Thai chili sauce is the perfect side dish to grilled chicken and a bit of brown rice. You have to try this! It’s quickly become a staple in our dinner routine.

Thai Sweet Chili Broccoli
recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

1 Tbsp. olive oil
3-4 cups broccoli florets
2 cloves garlic, finely minced

For the sauce:
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
4 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos
1 Tbsp. Thai sweet chili sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. cornstarch

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the broccoli and cook until the broccoli starts to brown in spots and turns bright green, making sure to stir often (about 7-9 minutes). Meanwhile, stir together the sauce ingredients.

2. Add garlic to skillet and cook an additional minute. Pour in the sauce and cook an additional minute or two until it thickens and the broccoli is coated.