Southern Baked Beans

Southern Baked Beans

Growing up when we had a barbecue or cook out nine times out of ten baked beans would be present. I don’t know if that is just a Southern thing or what, but invariably there would be baked beans and potato salad. As I’ve gotten older my version of what baked beans should be has changed a bit, but sometimes it’s fun to take a trip down memory lane and make them like the beans of my childhood. I still like my version a bit better, but these beans are ridiculously easy to make and sometimes ridiculously easy is exactly what you need when you want something in a hurry.

Oh and on a side note I’m taking the weekend off so What’s For Dinner (after this afternoon’s addition) will be back on Monday! Have a great weekend everyone! :o)

What You’ll Need:
2 large cans of pork and beans
1 cup of a good, sweet barbecue sauce
1/4 cup of natural brown sugar
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of mustard
1 onion, chopped
Sea salt
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large baking dish mix together all ingredients until well incorporated. Bake for 1 hour.

As far as serving you can serve them right out of the oven, or you can chill them first and then serve them cold. They are good either way.

See…Ridiculously simple!

Notes: You can also add in a chopped bell pepper if you like.

Whole Wheat Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Whole Wheat Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Well today is the day…Alexis starts Kindergarten! It’s hard for be to believe that it’s actually time for her to start school. It seems like just yesterday she was my little glow worm wrapped up tightly in her little blanket looking at me for the first time as if to say “Hey, I know you!” Oh how time flies! Where have the last five years gone? Some days it seems as if it was just yesterday that she was born….Others? Well if you’re a mom or dad you know exactly what I’m talking about here! ;oP

As I mentioned to you before we have decided to home school Alexis. I’ve known since the day she was born, and in all honesty actually well before that, that this is what we were going to do. So as you are reading this little missive we are in her school room working on her lessons. We’ve done lessons on and off since she was three, but this is her first official day of school. Thirty years ago I started Kindergarten and today it is time for my precious little girl to do the same! Sniff! ;oP

One thing I always thought was odd about the schools in Maryland since we moved here is how late they start their fall term. In fact the first official day of school for those in the Maryland school system is not for several weeks and then is immediately followed by the Labor Day holiday a few days later. Having taught preschool for several years I can readily tell you that that is a recipe for disaster. You get the kids there, get them somewhat into a schedule an then boom…Holiday! And holidays lead to having to go to all that trouble to get them back on schedule when they return and trust me it takes several days to do that because as you parents well know kids are easily distracted. You need a little more time to firmly the establish the schedule before you go giving them a holiday to rile them up! So I decided to start a few weeks early. One of the joys of home schooling! Plus that means we get to end earlier too so that’s a good thing as well! ;oP

Anyway….Where should we be?? Oh yes…Now let’s get to the real reason that you all are here…The food! ;oP

As I’ve mentioned in the past Alexis and Jamison love spaghetti. I don’t think I can stress this love enough to you…Seriously they would eat it every night if I let them and truth be told I’m spaghettied out! It was never one of my favorites to begin with, but given the number of times I’ve eaten it, first with Jamison, and now with both of them, I’m really not a fan anymore. Don’t get me wrong…I love pasta. In fact many times when they want spaghetti I’ll play around with some vegetables and things of that nature to see what kind of topper I can come up with, but I’m definitely over just your run of the mill spaghetti.

So what do you do when you’re over regular spaghetti? The other night when Jamison and Alexis wanted just that I decided it was high time to put some of the fresh veggies I have on hand from the garden to good use and whip up a delicious pasta salad! It’s the perfect way to put to use all those fresh, yummy veggies!

Sometimes pasta salad can be heavy and a lot of times it is made with a mayonnaise base, but I have to say when it comes to pasta salad I’m more of an oil and vinegar sort of girl. I also like to use whole wheat pastas instead of the run of the mill white pasta. These substitutions give you a dish that is much healthier and actually all of the ingredients in this salad except for the goat cheese are Weight Watchers Core ingredients. What’s not to like about that?

Whole Wheat Bow Tie Pasta Salad

What You’ll Need:
1 – 11 ounce box of whole wheat bow tie pasta
1 small red onion, chopped
1 banana pepper, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash chopped
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (Note: I used an orange tomato, but any tomato will work.)
1 cup of peas (Note: Fresh or frozen will work.)
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
4-6 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled
Celtic sea salt

Cook bow tie pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool. (Note: If you want to do a fast cool you can rinse the pasta under cold running water until it is cool.) Set aside.

In a very large bowl toss together vegetables until well mixed. Add bow ties and toss again to completely incorporate. Set aside.

In a canning jar or a bowl mix together olive oil, vinegar, oregano, thyme and ground pepper until well mixed. (Note: If you do this in a canning jar it is easier. You just dump everything into the jar, give it a shake and voila …You’re done!) Pour mixture over the veggie/pasta mixture and toss to coat.

Sprinkle the top of the salad with crumbled goat cheese and Celtic sea salt. Serve immediately.

Notes: Any vegetable you like will work fine. You can also play around with the herbs. I use dried basil sometimes too. You want to eat this salad within a day or so since the vinegar content can make things turn to mush if you don’t.

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Operation Baking Gals: Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

What You’ll Need:
3 cups of organic sugar
3 eggs
2 cups of creamy peanut butter
1 cup of chunky peanut butter
1 cup of chopped peanuts
3 tablespoons of vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Operation Baking Gals: Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

In a large bowl cream together sugar, eggs and peanut butters until smooth. Stir in chopped nuts to incorporate and then add vanilla and stir to mix. (Note: These cookies don’t “spread” out when they bake so you can put them rather close together as seen above. Be sure to leave a little room for the next step.) Place cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until slightly browned.

Operation Baking Gals: Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies: Baked

Once cookies are baked take the back of a fork and gently press down to flatten slightly. Let cook and then store in an air tight container.

Operation Baking Gals: Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Variation for Jamison:

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Using the same instructions as above mix 2 cups of creamy peanut butter, 2 cups of sugar, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of vanilla and 1 package of milk chocolate chips and bake the same way. Once baked take the back of spatula and flatten the cookies slightly. Let cookies cool and store in an airtight container.

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Grilled Portabella Caesar Salad

Grilled Portabella Caesar Salad with Sea Salt Croûtons

I love Caesar salad, but I had never made it at home. A while back I picked up a jar of sardines in olive oil with the intention of actually making a Caesar salad and then as I am prone to do I got side tracked. I put the bottle in the pantry and promptly forgot it was even there as it got pushed toward the back of the abyss.

The other day when I was pulling out ingredients to make Jamison another loaf of the gluten-free bread that we use for his sandwiches in his lunch at work I came across that jar and decided it was high time to get around to trying my hand at a Caesar salad.

There is some debate about what should or should not be in Caesar Salad dressing. Some use Worcestershire Sauce, others go for anchovies, some use vinegar, others lemon juice. The traditional Caesar consists of Romaine lettuce, croûtons, Parmesan and the dressing, but many variations have popped up over the years including grilled chicken or shrimp.

With this version I wanted to make it a bit more substantial that just lettuce, but I also wanted to make it vegetarian as well, but realized with the anchovies that wasn’t possible. There are vegan versions out there. I haven’t tried any of them, though I do find them intriguing.) The result was perfect! This was most definitely a keeper!

What You’ll Need:
2 portabella mushrooms, sliced, grilled and cooled
2 cloves of garlic, roasted (Note: The roasted garlic gives the dressing an overall mellow garlic flavor. If you don’t want to roast the garlic then you can just add 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, but the garlic flavor will be more powerful overall. To roast the garlic, put a couple of cloves of garlic in a dish covered and bake at 425 F until soft…The toaster oven is perfect for this!)
2 egg yolks
4-6 anchovies, chopped fine
1/4 teaspoon of ground mustard or 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard (Note: The mustard gives it a kick of heat. Use less if you’re not a fan of a little bite.)
The juice of 1 lemon
1/4-1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil (Note: Use less if you like a thicker dressing, use more if you like slightly thinner.)
Parmesan cheese, grated
3-5 cups of Romaine lettuce, chopped
Sea Salt Croutons

Grilled Portabello Caesar Salad with Sea Salt Croûtons: Sliced Portabella Mushrooms Ready to Grill

Slice portabella mushrooms into strips. Brush a grill pan with olive oil and cook, flipping once, until mushrooms are tender. Set aside to cool.

In the jar of a blender or the bowl of a food processor, process egg yolks until slightly thick. (Note: If you have an issue with raw eggs you can use the pasteurized version.) Once eggs are slightly thick add garlic, sardines, ground mustard or Dijon, lemon juice and olive oil and process until smooth. Set aside.

Place place lettuce leaves into a large bowl and pour dressing over the top of the lettuce. Toss to coat. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese and then toss again.

Grilled Portabella Caesar Salad with Sea Salt Croûtons: Sea Salt Croûtons

Add lettuce to a plate and top with grilled mushrooms and croutons. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 large salads or 4 side salads.

Notes: As I mentioned above you could use grilled chicken or shrimp in place of the mushrooms. This is not really a left over type of dish…You’ll want to eat it immediately.