Southern Baked Beans II

Nothing is finite.  And that includes my favorite recipe for Southern Baked Beans.  While I love to make everything from scratch when using dried beans they just don’t seem to come as tender no matter how long you cook them.  Not to mention the time involved for one side dish.

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It’s not often that I take short cuts but this one has paid off.

Ingredients

2, 15 oz cans organic Navy bean
3 slices nitrate/nitrite free pastured bacon
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped (Vidalia is the best if in season)
2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 organic ketchup (no added crap)
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard
Topping
2 slices bacon
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar

Preparation

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Pan fry 3 slices of the bacon until crisp; drain on paper towels, crumble and set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease and saute the onions until slightly tender, add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes longer.

Drain the beans and place into a casserole dish.  Add the onions and garlic to the beans.  Stir in the Worcestershire, ketchup, molasses, 2 tablespoons of the dark brown sugar and the mustard until well combined. Add the crumbled bacon.

Top with the remaining 2 slices of bacon, cut in half and sprinkle with the teaspoon of brown sugar.  Bake at 325 for 45 minutes.  Increase the temperature to 425 for 10 minutes to crisp up the bacon.  Allow to set for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves:  5

Nutritional information per serving:  335 calories; 7 g fat, 14 g protein, 55 g carbs

Green Tomato Salsa

One of my favorite seasonal treats is fried green tomatoes.  After indulging on them a few weeks ago I could not justify doing so again so soon.  Especially with bathing suit season fast approaching.  When I visited my local farmers market this week and he told me “last of the season, I saved a few just for you” I didn’t have the heart not to take them.

What to do with them other than fry them up?  I’d heard of salsa verde but never made it.  I scoured a few recipes but none appealed and most called for green tomatillos which while similar are not the same.  I also had a mango on my counter that was one day shy of being overripe.  That inspired a get together of the two…

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I served over baked chicken thighs and breasts with a side of boiled potatoes since it was a training day and I had earned my carbs.  Unfortunately my waistline was at it’s butter limit for the day.  The salsa made an otherwise boring meal exciting.  Unexpectedly delightful and the flavor was versatile enough for fish or pork.  A keeper!

Green Tomato Salsa

1 large green tomato, diced
1 small mango, diced (or half a large)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 scant tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons raw honey
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Stir together all ingredients.  Chill for about an hour before serving.

Servings:  approximately 6

Nutritional Information per serving:  80 calories; 1 g protein, 10 g carbs, 5 g fat

Train Alone or with a Partner(s)?

Training is on level three of Paula Lean’s hierarchy of needs; right after food and sleep.  I consider it a vital aspect of my physiological needs for without it nothing will be as great as it can with it.  Now that that’s been settled should you train alone, with a partner or in a group?

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I’ve done all three at different times of my life and have enjoyed them all with a degree of success in each.  I’ve been fortunate to have many great training partners and groups over the years.  Currently we have a crew of five.  Out of those five at least one is always with me generally these two ladies. . .

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Through thick and thin Michelle (left) and I have been training together since 2002 and Stephanie made it a threesome in 2009.  That’s longer than a lot of marriages last.  Oh we’ve broken up a couple of times.  Once over a marathon and another when Steph (center) just “wanted to be skinny and get some cardio in”.  Grass is always greener and good to try new things but neither of the break ups lasted very long.  Back together again and stronger than ever.

I stick to a pretty regular training schedule and it takes an act of Congress for it to get cancelled or interrupted but I much prefer not going it alone most days.  The competitiveness of the extra push I get as we each have our strengths and will try to one up each other.  On different lifts we encourage the other to keep up or surpass us.  It always makes me lift a little more or do a little more than I would alone.

The camaraderie.  The girl talk.  The silliness interjected periodically.  Not a loss of focus, just some humor. I struggle with technology Steph struggles with her straps.  But when you’re doing heavy rack pulls they’re essential.  So today when she was struggling I asked her how do you like your guy, up or down.  “Up” she replied.  Ok, so strap is up, hand in .  Voila lesson learned. Got to be able to relate.

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Or on a not so great day the support can pull you through; bonds are formed and friendships are deepened.  Heavy rack pulls with a dear friend and training partner will rejuvenate your soul and make for a helluva better day and life.

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Alone will generally only work for a short period of time or certain situations.  Long term training with a group or partner for most of us will enhance our workout, our results and the enjoyment of it.  Train on!

Mac n’ Cheese

Creamy, cheesy homemade macaroni and cheese brings back fond memories for most of us born in the baby boomer era.  Box style mac n’ cheese was around but traditional family roles allowed more time to cook.  As more and more females headed into the workplace taking on second jobs convenience foods started playing a bigger role in family dinners.  Thus began the decline in the kitchens and culinary habits across America.

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Well folks, here’s the story –most us juggle multiple balls nowadays but it’s not that hard or time consuming to make. Although I would suggest saving it for a weekend treat when you do have just a bit more time.  My long time favorite recipe comes from the back of a Mueller’s elbow macaroni box circa 1980 ish.

Despite the wonder of Google I can’t seem to locate the original Mueller’s recipe. I’ve watched it change over the years and fortunately I had clipped one and found it in an old yellowed scrapbook of my favorite recipes.  The only things I’ve changed are using real butter instead of margarine, substituting gluten free flour and pasta and I eliminated the bread crumbs.

Recipe & Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup King Arthur gluten free all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 1/2 cups raw milk
8 oz Bionaturae gluten free elbows (or other gluten free brand)
8 oz grated cheddar cheese (preferably raw and grass fed)

Preparation

Boil elbows only until slightly al dente – Bionaturae brand took approximately 11 minutes. Drain well and place in a buttered casserole dish.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat, stir in flour, salt, pepper and mustard. Stir to combine with whisk. Take off heat and slowly stir in milk. Return to heat and cook until slightly bubbly and thickened stirring constantly.

Remove from heat, add all but 1/2 cup of the cheese and stir until melted. Add to macaroni and stir well. Top with remaining cheese and bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until slightly golden and bubbly.

Serves 6

Nutritional Info per serving:  404 calories, 16 g protein, 38 g carbs, 20 g fat

Restaurant Review: The Sacred Pepper

As much as I love to cook and find being in my kitchen therapeutic it is very nice to eat out on occasion. Especially special ones; it was my Dad’s birthday and we had decided on a local new restaurant that had opened a little over a month ago. We had eaten there once before and had a great experience; was it luck or did they really have it as together as it seemed? We decided to find out.

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The ambiance detected immediately upon walking in causes one to take a very close look around. The décor was done with strategy, care and great thought to details.  The colors are soothing and the overall effect is beautiful. We arrived about 10 minutes before our reservations, were greeted warmly and promptly seated.  Within minutes a server arrived to take our drink order.  The proper amount of time was given to enjoy a few sips and look over the menu before arriving back to ask if we had any questions.

My only question to the server was ‘is your salmon wild’?  To which she replied “yes’.  After a slight pause she added “roped off in the ocean”.  Made me contemplate for a moment hmmm, is that truly wild or kind of sort of.  To her great credit she said “I had to tell you, you could be a food critic.”

That made me laugh since I had no idea what had given her that idea but it also gave me fodder for today’s blog post.  A food critic?  Why not, that might be fun…

For appetizers we chose the crab cakes again.  We had had them last time and wanted to conclude without a doubt they were the best we had ever had.  They were.  And I’ve had a lot of crab cakes.  Very lightly coated they consisted of 99% lump crab meat while the corn salsa and lemon aioli complemented them perfectly.

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We all ordered the house salad as we didn’t have one the last time.  It arrived on a perfectly chilled plate and came with a coconut white balsamic dressing.  That was one of the most delightful dressings I have ever tasted.  Made the salad beyond compare especially with the candied pecans.

Last time I had devoured a bone in ribeye so I opted for the grouper picatta (not because I questioned the salmon’s exercise habits) because it looked so good the last time hubby ordered it.  It did not disappoint.  The fish was at least a 6 ounce serving with a lovely picatta sauce served atop a cauliflower mash that was close to mashed potatoes as it gets.  Perfectly tender asparagus rounded out the meal.

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My husband got the honey truffled buttermilk chicken which was served with a side of creamed corn that I just had to have a bite of.  It was not sweet at all but flavored with chopped peppers and to the cream had been added a combo of six cheeses said out server.  Wow, on my list for next time.  My father had the chicken buratta — oak grilled with tomatoes, basil,capers, balsamic glazed and caramelized Brussels sprouts.  We were all equally pleased.

We passed on dessert not for the lack of offerings but they were full and as for me swimsuit season is fast approaching.  Sigh. I’ll be honest you would expect to pay quite more for the ambiance, food and service experienced; the bill was very reasonable.

Sooo, if I were a food critic how would I rate The Sacred Pepper?  A huge thumbs up or 5 stars*****.  Well worth it; we have found a new local favorite.

Chick n’ Grits

Grits go with just about anything from bacon, country ham and eggs for breakfast to fish or shrimp and grits for dinner.  Well, surprise surprise they go equally well with chicken.  This versatile carb was a total complement to the sweet and tangy apple glazed chicken.  And was easy enough for a quick weeknight meal adding a little excitement to an otherwise basic meal.

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Recipe & Ingredients

Chicken
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon duck fat (or coconut oil)
1/2 cup organic apple butter
1/4 cup stone ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 thinly sliced green onions

Grits
4 cups water
1 cup Arrowhead Mills organic gluten free non GMO yellow corn grits
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup blue cheese
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Chicken
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place each chicken breast half between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and using a meat mallet flatten to 1/2″ thickness.  Place the chicken breasts in a baking pan coated with lard, butter, duck fat or coconut oil.

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Combine the apple butter, mustard and spices.  Brush over chicken.

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Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Cut the chicken into 1/2″ slices.

Grits
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually add grits, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in sour cream, cheese and spices

To serve:  spoon the cheese grits onto a place, top with sliced chicken and sprinkle with green onions.

Servings:  5

Nutritional Info per serving:  407 calories, 45 g protein, 10 g fat, 28 g carbohydrates