Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Best Barbecued Baked Beans

After doing this blog bit for a few years, many of our family favorite recipes have already been shared. But after delivering barbecue feasts, including our family's famous baked beans, to a few friends who have had either a new baby or surgery in the last several weeks, and getting thank you notes that said, "the flavors were so amazing," and "the beans were delicious!" I looked on the recipe index and realized I had yet to post this recipe.

Shame on me for waiting this long to share the Sweet Pea Family's Baked Beans. Every time I make this recipe, someone asks me for it. I try to be humble, but these are the best darn baked beans I have ever made, tasted or shared.

You can omit the bacon to make them vegetarian, and they still taste pretty good. But if you are a carnivore, the bacon makes these sublime. They are even hearty enough to be a stand alone leftover lunch meal; in fact R took these beans twice for lunch last week!

The Best Barbecued Baked Beans

1 medium onion, chopped
4 sliced bacon, chopped
2 - 15 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed*
2- 15 ounce cans Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed*
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a large stock pot over medium heat, cook the onion and bacon until the bacon is crispy, about 5 or so minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.

Increase temperature of the stove top to bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serves 8 as a side dish.

*Really, you can use about 4-6 cans of any combination of beans you desire. I have used kidney and chili beans too.

Have a sweet weekend!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Perfectly Simple Chicken and Orzo Soup

I don't use the word "perfect" lightly, I was just blown away with the simply beautiful result of this simple method to make chicken soup. Instead of using a complicated method, I relied on the most basic of ways to create what turned out to be a flavorful fall dish. The orzo jazzes up this recipe, but feel free to use noodles or any other pasta.

Perfectly Simple Chicken and Orzo Soup

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, sliced
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
12 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 pound orzo, uncooked

In a large stock pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables become tender. Add the chicken and let cook for 2 minutes, flip, and let cook 2 more minutes.

Add the water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Allow to simmer 15 minutes. Remove the chicken to cool (so you may shred it). Return the broth to a boil and add the orzo. Let simmer for 10 minutes or until the orzo is al dente.

Meanwhile, shred the chicken. Once the orzo is cooked, reduce the heat to low, add the chicken and keep warm until ready to serve.

Serves 6.

Not to make a grand statement about this soup, but a lingering cough was gone after a couple bowls...


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Apple Nachos

Yesterday I went for a walk by myself in a local park. The sky was brilliant blue and the leaves were a feast for my senses: the sound of them crunching under my feet, the beauty of the endless color combinations and yes, the smell. I love the scent of autumn leaves in the air.

Since the calendar is parked squarely in the middle of fall, here's an autumn-ish snack that was inspired by my friend Jenn. Jenn, I am not sure if this is what you had in mind, but here's our Sweet Pea rendition of Apple Nachos.

I whipped this snack up in about 5 minutes and the boys were giddy with delight eating it. If your sweet peas have a peanut allergy, you can easily substitute almond, soy or another type of nut butter.

Apple Nachos

2 apples, sliced thin (we used one Honey Crisp and one Golden Delicious Apple)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
1/4 cup pretzel pieces

Place the apples on a large plate and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Toss gently to coat the apples.

In a microwave safe dish, combine the peanut butter and honey. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir well to incorporate. Add the milk and cinnamon, stir well.

Place the peanut butter mixture in a plastic bag and snip off one end about 1/4 inch wide to allow you to drizzle the mixture on top of the apples (alternatively, you can sort of "splash" the mixture on the apples with a fork).

Top with peanuts and pretzels.

Serves 2.

And voila: the perfect salty-sweet healthful snack. Ours was gone quicker than you could say "yum!"

Have a sweet day-

Monday, October 18, 2010


We're back from a wonderful visit back to R's birth state and our home for 10 plus years, Virginia. Granted, we were in Charlottesville, not our former DC suburb home town, but it was wonderful nonetheless. We saw family, friends (including Deep in the Heart of Texas and Slacker Mama!) and lots and lots of SPH's classmates from his alma mater, University of Virginia.

Central Virginia in the autumn is beautiful, and we had lots of great views from where we stayed.

We toured campus, took in a tailgate and football game, went hiking and just caught up with lots of folks dear to us. It was a great weekend and we just got back this evening.

(Meg, I took this picture of the walls for you!)

So as I take a break from unpacking, preparing laundry, compiling a grocery list and the such, I thought I would check in with a few photos and let you know I will be sharing a new favorite fall recipe as soon as I recover from re-entry.

Have a sweet night,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


In case you missed this story on the web today:

Click here

Urban legend? True story? Only Sally Davies, the photographer who experimented with this McDonald's Happy Meal knows for sure.

After SPH shared this story with R, G and I at dinner tonight, there was only one response from G:

"Did she get a Happy Meal toy?"


Monday, October 11, 2010

Midnight (okay, 9pm) Snacks

During the day there are times, say around 5:30, when I could really go for a snack. But since the "sneak a quick little snack without the boys noticing" phase has long been gone in our home, I usually forgo any snacks except the ones the boys are already having during their snack time. If I do try and sneak a snack it usually goes something like this:

Me, opening something: "crinkle, crinkle, crinkle"

R and/or G: "Mom, what are you eating?"

(under my breath grumble)

At this point I can go one of two directions: I can take the responsible route and walk-away-from-the-snack. Or, I can share my snack with the boys, who have little to no will power with snacking right before dinner (they are, after all, hungry, and have a bona fide snacking gene) and then end up frustrated because they don't eat a good dinner.

So I like a good snack when they are asleep in bed and I can relish a snack moment in peace. These muffins are my latest sweet treat. I love a good, tasty, but healthful muffin, and these fit the bill perfectly.

Orange Cranberry Muffins

2 cups hot water
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or alternatively, use only all-purpose)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
4 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups buttermilk*
zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the hot water and dried cranberries. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and ginger in a large bowl.

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and add the applesauce, oil, buttermilk and orange zest.

*(I almost never buy buttermilk, but make it at home. Pour one tablespoon white vinegar into a cup container. Fill the rest of the cup with milk. Let sit 5 minutes. Voila! Buttermilk! For this recipe you will need two cups.)

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Drain the water from the cranberries and add the cranberries to the muffin mixture. Stir to incorporate.

Pour into muffin tins with liners. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Makes 36 muffins.

36 too many muffins for you? Halve the recipe, freeze some for later, or do what we did and wrap up a bunch and share them with others...R's and G's teachers, even R's bus driver got a surprise last week.

Have a sweet week,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Easy Cilantro Lime Empanadas

Empanadas usually require a pastry-type dough to assemble, which is a huge road block for me; first, the added calories and fat and second, pastry dough is too time consuming for a week night dinner. So I got to thinking about filo dough and how it might be the missing link to an easy empanada meal.

Using filo dough for empanadas turned out to be a home run idea. It was fast, tasty and the cooked flaky layers of the dough were a big hit with the boys. As they gobbled up this dinner, I was feeling pretty smug about the fact that they were filled with black beans and butternut squash. Yes, my theory continues to be proven in our home: when foods are wrapped up, and unseen, the boys eat them up.

You might suffer from filo intimidation, but conquer your fears and know that filo is much easier to work with than you might imagine.

Easy Cilantro Lime Empanadas

1 package frozen filo, thawed (they usually come with two separate rolls, you will only need one)
1 -12 oz package frozen pureed butternut squash
1 - 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Arizona Dreaming seasoning (a new Penzeys spice mixture, or you can use taco seasoning)
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of one lime
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out the filo on a counter and cut it in half lengthwise and be sure to cover with a barely damp cloth when you are not working with it.

In a medium bowl, mix the squash, black beans, salt and seasoning. With a pastry blender or the back of a large fork, smash the mixture together, breaking up the beans a bit while you do so. Add the cream cheese, cilantro and lime, and mix well until everything is fully incorporated.

Take 2-3 sheets of the filo and place 2 tablespoons of the cilantro lime mixture at one end like this:

Fold in triangles, much like you would fold a flag, like this:

Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat liner:

Brush with a bit of oil or spray with cooking spray. Repeat until the filling is gone.

Bake 15-18 minutes or until slightly browned.

Makes about 18.

Serve with sour cream, salsa and a touch more cilantro:

R liked these so much he was asking for more for a the next several days. I envision these as a good after-school snack as well...

Off to go buy more filo,

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Most Significant Food Project

The last two Fridays, and other times throughout the spring and summer, I have been off for the morning to do some food stuff far beyond anything else I've ever created in my kitchen.

Any guesses?

Here's a picture to give you a clue:

That's G in our church's Community Garden:

There are a group of very, very dedicated volunteers who have created a vast garden out of a plot of grass next to our church:

R (before school started), G and I have been honored to work beside them as they have tilled, planted, watered, weeded and harvested an enormous amount of food:

All of this fresh, healthy, locally-grown produce has been donated to low income and homeless individuals and families in Columbus. Does it get any more significant than feeding the hungry?

This past Friday we harvested bag after bag of greens, tomatoes, peppers and okra. And to date, the garden has reaped more than (wait for it)...

7,000 pounds (and counting!) of fresh produce.

I share this to encourage you, uplift you, and hopefully inspire you to do the same. Even with our family's small contribution to this effort, we have been honored to be a part of this amazing group of volunteers! And like most volunteering, we have come away with far more than we have given...