Wednesday, June 24, 2015

No Bake Oatmeal Cookies

WE WERE SKIPPING ALONG WITH OUR GOLDILOCKS SPRING, not too hot and not too cold, just enough rain to encourage plants to grow but not too much. In other words, just right. Then a week before the official start of summer, a heat wave oozed into town and put down its tentacles.

How about a cookie? Yes, a cookie you can make and enjoy even in summer. There is no baking involved and only a very few minutes of stove top cooking. Plus there are many healthful ingredients here.

No Bake Oatmeal Cookies
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tbsp. peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup coconut
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

Combine milk, sugar, cocoa, butter, and peanut butter. Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat. let boil, without stirring, for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in oats, coconut, vanilla, and salt. Stir until oats are evenly distributed.

Drop by spoonful onto parchment paper. Cool.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Summer Beans

EVEN IN SUMMER, a savory bowl of beans can be perfect, especially at the end of a day of outdoor activities.

When I was a girl, growing up in Alabama, my family would take trips to the nearby panhandle of Florida with the sugary white sands and beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Some of my favorite memories are of the times my Mother, her Mother, my brothers and I would stay for a week at the White Sands Motel in Laguna Beach. It was an old fashioned motel, right on the beach, which had rooms and apartments. In order to make the family vacation more affordable, we always had an apartment. We could eat our meals there rather than eating out three times a day.

Mama made some of our food at home before we left, her famous homemade rolls, a fabulous orange date nut cake, and more. Each morning, we ate toasted rolls with fresh fruit (oh the memory of that fragrant, juicy, and flavorful cantaloupe) with a glass of milk, then hit the beach completely slathered with sunscreen.

Later in the morning, Mama would herd us all back inside to avoid the high sun. We would eat sandwiches for lunch, play cards, take naps, do our shopping. After 2 o'clock, we could go back to the beach, once again smeared with sunscreen.

At the end of the day, as we entered our little apartment by the sea, it would seem so dark after spending the afternoon in the glaring snow white sand. Also cold, with its air conditioning. We would shower, get out of our swimsuits for the first time all day, and Mama would serve a simple and warm supper.

These beans, which are based entirely on pantry items, can come together quickly on the stove top after a day of hiking. They can be cooked all day in the crock pot, they can be cooked over a campfire, or they can be baked in the oven.  They make a great addition to a barbecue, They also taste great leftover and cold.

The recipe is entirely flexible. Start with ground beef if you like, or start with bacon. I made mine vegetarian. Use any beans you like. This is how I made it this time. . .

Summer Beans
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can baked beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can large white lima beans
1 can green beans
1 can condensed tomato soup
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
2 Tbsp. molasses
2 tsp. grainy mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the onions and bell pepper, cooking until tender. Stir in minced garlic, continuing to stir and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Rinse and drain the beans as needed and add to the pot. Stir in the tomato soup, barbecue sauce, molasses, mustard, vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour, until the sauce is thickened.

Serve with cornbread and salad.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Two Potato Salads

BOTH IMAGES ARE FROM MY PHOTO ARCHIVES. I have been in a Blog Fog lately.

I have been cooking and we have been eating, of course. I just haven't been inspired to photograph or post. Otherwise, I am loving life and trying to live in the moment. I have enjoyed many beautiful experiences in the past several weeks.

I have mentioned before that we live in a gorgeous small city in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Tourism has always been a vital part of the city's economy.

Saturday, we went to the theatre to see a ballet--A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a wonderful and impressive performance. Afterwards, we walked through the busiest part of the city to a fun and funky restaurant for dinner.

Along the way, we passed through crowds of tourists (they can always be spotted), hippies, freaks, musicians, artists, panhandlers, vendors, dogs (some dirty and skinny and some pampered and riding in a baby stroller), jugglers and every manner of busker, chic hipsters, sophisticates, you name it. I loved it!

Before I utter these next words I want to acknowledge that I am fully aware I'm of a different generation. Although I love technology as much as the next person and I am  thankful for cell phones, they don't rule my life. I was so amazed by the people walking around in a beautiful and vibrant city, so many great restaurants, aromas, entertainment everywhere, brilliant architecture, art galleries galore, fascinating shops and boutiques, not to mention the glorious mountains, with their heads down and fiddling with their phones. One woman even rammed right into me because she wasn't watching where she was going.

If you want to live a virtual life, can't you do that from home?

Meanwhile, here are a couple of delicious potato salad recipes for you..

Warm German Potato Salad
4 medium red potatoes (1 1/2 lb.)
4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Wash and scrub potatoes; place into a saucepan and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and cook until fork tender, Drain and let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut potatoes into 1/4 inch slices.

Cook bacon, in a large skillet, over medium heat until crisp. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels.

Cook onion in bacon fat until tender. Stir in flour, honey, celery seed and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly. Stir in water and vinegar. Heat to boiling and stir 1 minute.

Stir in potatoes and bacon. Heat over medium heat, stirring gently to coat potato slices, until hot and bubbly.

Serve warm.

American Potato Salad
2 lb. russet potatoes
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 Tbsp. sweet onions, diced
3 Tbsp. pickle relish
1/2 cup mayonanaise
1 tsp, mustard powder
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/4 cup fresh, chopped parsley
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped

Wash and scrub potatoes. Place into a pan and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil and add 1 Tbsp. salt. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are fork tender. Drain.

As soon as potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and cube. Placce into a salad bowl; sprinkle with the vinegar and toss lightly.

In a small mixing bowl, combine celery, onions, pickle relish mayo, mustard powder, celery seed, parsley, and eggs. Stir well then pour over the potatoes. Gently fold dressing into potatoes.

Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.