Calico Beans

I love beans. This is a wierd confession--but you've probably noticed. And I've probably blogged about it before. I just like them. In the summer I make lots of different kinds of baked beans and in the winter I make lots of different chilis. If you don't like beans, we could have a problem here!

These calico beans remind me of my Grammy's beans. I kind of forgot about them until last summer when we were in Tennesse for a family reunion and my cousin Terri made some--they were so good! I looked at a few recipes and then threw a bunch of stuff together and it worked. I made these for 4th of July which means apparently I'm a little behind on my blogging! But I've had a few favorites that I felt the need to blog immediately so some stuff got pushed back. Make these, they would make a great Labor Day bbq addition! They work out great in a crockpot or you can bake them too.

Calico Beans

6 strips bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cans baked beans (I used Bush's)
1 can butter beans, drained well
1 can lima beans, drained well
1 can kidney beans, drained well
1 c. ketchup
1 c. bbq sauce
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. worcestershire
hot sauce to taste
Brown the ground beef with the onion and drain well. Stir in the garlic at the end and cook until fragrant. In your crockpot or a 9x13'' pan stir all ingredients together. Either bake at 350 for 35 minutes OR cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours in the crockpot.

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Chocolate Cake

Mark this date down. I actually made a cake from scratch. it was worth it. Really, really worth it. During college and after one of my best friends was from Colorado and her parents were like a pseudo second family to me and her mom is a goooood cook. She made this cake and it is super simple and turns out great every time. I mean, when in doubt, just note that there's three sticks of butter in the cake and frosting. What could be bad about that? This is not a beautiful cake, but it tastes beautiful and Rob requests it regularly. (Along with lots of other foods.)

Barbara's Chocolate Cake
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
½ t. salt
2 sticks butter
1 c. water
4 T. cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla

Mix together flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside. In a saucepan bring to a boil
butter, water and cocoa powder being careful to stir constantly and avoid scalding. Pour boiling mixture over the flour mixture and add in 2 beaten eggs, milk, soda, and vanilla. Stir until combined and pour into a greased 9x13'' pan. Bake at 350 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

1 stick butter
4 T. cocoa
4 T. milk
3 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
Bring butter, cocoa powder and milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat stirrin continuously. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar and vanilla. Pour hot icing directly over warm cake. Cool completely.
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PHOTOS are up!

Well, good news--my husband is such a rockstar that he was able to buy a new fan for our 6 year-old PC that wasn't even the right size to replace the broken fan, put it in and get the computer to work....all for $15 which should buy us several more months before we have to buy a completely new computer.

So, today I have uploaded the photos to go along with:

AND A new recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole


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Tuna Noodle Casserole

This recipe is a throwback to the 80's. We used to looove when Mom made this, although admittedly we were pasta hogs. We would eat anything with pasta and as previously mentioned, we also loved Velveeta cheese, so this is clearly a winner!

A few weeks ago I decided to make it and the entire family ate it happily so try it out! If you aren't tuna fans, a can of chicken would work great too.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

12 oz egg noodles (I used whole wheat) cooked
12 oz tuna, drained well
1 c. frozen peas
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 c. sour cream
1 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 c. Velveeta (about 15 thin slices, I used 2 % milk Velveeta.)
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 c. finely diced onion
salt & lots of pepper (easy on the salt, the cheese and soup are already salty)

1 c. crushed cornflakes
2 Tb melted butter

Boil noodles al dente, careful not to overcook! Add in the peas during the last minute of cooking noodles and drain everything well. In the same pot saute onion in the olive oil for a couple minutes. Turn heat to jedium low and add soup, sour cream and Velveeta cheese. Let cook, stirring occasionally until the cheese is melted. Add in cheddar cheese, noodles and peas, and tuna, stir well to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Pour into a greased 9x13'' pan. Mix cornflakes with the melted butter and top the casserole. Bake at 400 15-20 minutes.

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Three Bean Salad

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Mommy's Kitchen. Her food is just so homey and not really Weight Watchers friendly, but totally comfort food. If someone has a baby or a death in the family or a sad day, look to her for a super yummy comfort meal recipe. I usually check her blog a couple times a week.

Anyway, when I read this recipe I was immediately transported back to Scott County Park on the 4th of July during my childhood where my grandpa was standing over a gigantic grill cooking Oscar Mayer hot dogs and we all ate homemade potato salad and....someone always made the three bean salad. Maybe it's a 90's thing, or maybe it's a Midwest thing, but I love three bean salad and apparently Arizonans aren't big bean salad eaters because I haven't had this in years and years! SO, I quickly made out my grocery list bought the ingredients I needed and made this salad the same day I found the recipe. It's really good! Super simple, and somewhat healthy, and very inexpensive--try it! It gets better the longer it sits in the fridge so plan ahead!

Three Bean Salad
3/4 c. sugar
2/3 c. vinegar
3/4 c. water
1/4 c. vegetable oil

Bring dressing ingredients to a boil for just a minute. Remove from heat and let cool while you assemble other salad ingredients.

1 can wax beans, drained
1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can cut green beans, drained
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
3-4 stalks celery, finely diced

Mix everything together and chill at least 3 hours before serving.

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Pizza Pot Pie

This recipe is awesome. The first time I made it, Rob and I sat at the table in awe eating and eating and eating some more because it was sooo good. I first made this pizza several weeks ago and now every week when I go grocery shopping and I ask Rob if he wants to put anything on the list, he just says, "ummm....the deep dish pizza" which apparently qualifies as a grocery list item! Anyway, I've made it twice so far and it's on the menu again for this week because he just keeps begging for it and I'm 9 months pregnant so I better eat all the pizza I can before I have this baby because then the diet is ON. And we will quickly be back to broiled salmon, grilled chicken, and veggies.

Anyway, definitely make this recipe. This week I'm making it with a can of Pillsbury pizza dough because it's so easy and I got it on sale with a coupon for $.49 so I thought I'd try it! Here's the li nk for the original recipe. The possibilities are endless with this--sausage, pepperoni, chicken, ham & pineapple, maybe some pesto sauce and sliced chicken sausages--whatever you like you can make it work with this awesome recipe. I don't buy pizza sauce usually because it's pretty much a watered down version of spaghetti sauce, but more expensive so I just add a Tb or so of water to some marinara or I just add some seasoning to a can of tomato sauce. I'm cheap like that. Use whatever you like. Make this recipe your own.

Pizza Pot Pie
1 pkg yeast
1 c. warm water
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tb vegetable oil
2 1/2 c. flour
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add other crust ingredients and set aside while you prepare the rest of the pizza ingredients. (OR use a can of Pillsbury pizza crust and cook the pie 5 minutes less.)

1 lb sausage, pepperoni, ham, chicken or combination of any meats
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 c. mozzarella
2 c. marinara or pizza sauce (we like it saucy, if you like less sauce, use less)
2 Tb melted butter
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 Tb dried basil
2 Tb parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425. Cook the sausage (or other meats) with garlic and onion. Drain well. Grease a 9x13'' pan well and layer the mozzarella cheese, sausage mixture, pepperoni, then the sauce. Then roll out the crust and lay it over the top. Brush the top of the crust with butter and sprinkle with granulated garlic, basil, and parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes. Let the pie rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. Slice and serve upside down (crust on the bottom). Enjoy!

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Roasted Tomato and Garlic Marinara

I found this recipe on a blog and it looked so amazing I had to try it. Then I realized I had loads of tomatoes from my bountiful basket so I made it immediately. It turned out great! I took a picture....but again, the computer issue. My husband (our personal IT man) is home now but he's working on lots of stuff so once he gets the PC up and running then I can update all the pics! Until then...just trust me. I changed the original recipe a little, because I'm just rebellious like that.

Roasted Tomato and Garlic Marinara

20 plum tomatoes
30 garlic cloves
1 huge yellow onion, or two small ones
1/4 c. olive oil
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
plenty of sea salt
dried basil and oregano (about 1 Tb each)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375. Wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. Separate and peel all of the garlic cloves and wrap them up in foil. Peel and cut the onion into wedges. Place all the vegetables in a 9x13'' pan and drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the top. Sprinkle on the salt and dried basil and oregano. Place the foil packet of garlic on top. Roast the veggies for 40 minutes. Let the veggies cool and puree them well in the food processer (removing the garlic from the foil). Simmer the tomato mixture over medium-low heat for two hours. Taste and adjust seasoning/salt. Stir in the fresh basil at the end. Serve over noodles and/or meatballs or sausage, or use in place of a jar of marinara in any recipe. Yum.

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Classic Burgers with Caramelized Onions

We love burgers. You may have noticed. Rob's favorite food is burgers (and bread). If he chooses where to eat out, he wants Red Robin or Gordon Biersch because they have some of his favorite burgers. I've tried to explain to you how easy he is to please....I guess I should've just told you sooner that those are his two favorite places to eat. I mean, I like those places too--but they aren't my faaavorite places to eat. He just likes good, hearty food. Bless his heart for loving simple food. It makes my job a lot easier!

Anyway, I'm always trying new things with burgers. Our newest fave is caramelized onions which I now make every.single.time. we make burgers. The caramelized onions are also really great on some grilled sausages or bratwurst.

Classic Burgers
2 1/2 lbs ground beef (nothing leaner than 80% lean for burgers please~!)
1/2 yellow or white onion, grated
2 Tb. montreal steak seasoning
2 tsp granulated garlic
1 Tb worcestershire sauce
8 slices cheese, your choice
8 fresh bakery rolls...please don't use the $.88 store brand buns. The bakery rolls can change your life.

Mix everything together and form into 8 large patties. Use your thumb to make a dent in the middle of the burger patties, this helps them to stay even in shape and not get too round. (Thanks for this tip, Rachael Ray) Grill the burgers to your doneness preference placing the cheese on top at the last minute. Top with plenty of caramelized onions and serve on toasted bakery rolls.

Caramelized Onions
1 huge onion, or 2-3 small/medium onions
1 Tb olive oil
1/2 Tb brown sugar

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Thinly slice the onions and add to the heated oil. Saute the oinons over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. If they seem to be getting to brown/black on the outside and not getting soft all the way through, then turn the heat down a bit. After 10 minutes add the brown sugar, mix it in well and continue cooking a few more minutes. Yum!

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Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies and Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

These cookies are super yummy. I made both the Red Velvet version and the Chocolate version for Father's Day and my husband thought they were pretty great. At least that's what I gathered after he ate seven. I found the recipe on Mommy's Kitchen which is one of my favorite food blogs because her food is all pretty simple to make but very comfort-food-ish.

These cookies come together really quickly and require very few ingredients which fit both the requirements I have for baking.

Red Velvet OR Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

1 box Red Velvet cake mix or chocolate cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 c. oil

Preheat oven to 350. Mix everything together and roll cookies into small balls equal in size (no more than a tablespoon). Bake 8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on cooling racks. To put together, I put the frosting into a big ziploc bag and cut a small piece off of the bottom corner. Squeeze about 1 Tb filling on the backside of one cookie and place another cookie on top to make a sandwich.

Cream Cheese Filling

1 stick butter, softened
1 8 oz block cream cheese, softened
3-4 c. powdered sugar (depending on how thick you like it)
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream together butter and cream cheese with a mixer. Add in vanilla and mix well. Slowly add in the powdered sugar and mix until incorporated well and is your desired consistency.

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Balsamic Vinaigrette and Spring Mix Salad

This is my FAVorite salad dressing. I mean--ever. One of my lifetime best-friends' cousin made this salad dressing at a gathering once (years ago) and I have been obsessed with it ever since. Thankfully she was nice enough to give me the recipe, and why mess with perfection? I just make it as her recipe states, which I now have memorized. I promise that if you make a salad, toss in this dressing, and serve it to guests, they will think you are a hero.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/8 c. honey
2-3 garlic cloves (I always use 3)
1 T. water
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 c. olive oil

In a blender pour in all ingredients except olive oil. Blend until smooth. While the blender is running slowly stream in the olive oil. Streaming in the oil while the blender is running will cause the mixture to emulsify, which basically means it will be thick and creamy and not separate. Use this right away or store in the fridge for up to a month. When stored in the fridge, the dressing may be pretty thick when you first pull it out so you can set it on the counter a while before serving, or microwave it for 15 seconds.

Spring Mix Salad

There are no specific measurements for this saladjust make as much as you like!

Spring mix lettuce or spinach
red onion, thinly sliced
dried cranberries or golden raisins
granny smith apple, very thinly sliced
walnuts or pine nuts
feta or goat cheese, crumbled on top

Drizzle the homemade balsamic dressing over the top. YUM. This can be an easy meal with some grilled chicken on top.
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Boneless Country Style Ribs

I still can't get my PC to connect to the internet, which in itself just proves that I am not a smart girl. (Cue Forrest Gump impression.) Unfortunately the computer is 7 years old and has begun sounding like a quad riding though my kitchen. This cannot be good. I don't know how to use our external hard drive, so hopefully my husband makes it home from China in time to save all the pictures and documents from the computer before it actually dies for good!

Anyway, I have plenty of great recipes to share with you--just no pictures. SO I promise to update the photos if I get them back!

This recipe is a great option all year round. I can almost always find the country style ribs for $2 or less/pound and we really like them. They are a pretty lean cut of meat--I prefer the pork which is super lean but you need to cook them slowly for them to be tender.

This is a perfect main dish to serve with baked beans, sweet potato fries, OR if you're feeling crazy some homemade macaroni and cheese!

For this recipe I used a bottle of Kraft barbecue sauce which isn't generally my favorite, but I got several bottles for $.40 per bottle so obviously being as frugal as I am I will make do with the Kraft bbq sauce!

**Note, my friend Erin--who is a great cook by the way-- asked me what liquid smoke was and I figured if she didn't know (being as she is a cook) maybe someone else wouldn't know either. SO--here's a little explanation: liquid smoke is mostly used in bbq recipes, especially sauces to give that "smoky" flavor. A little bit goes a long way so just use a dash, taste and you can always add more. Here's a link to the brand I have on hand so you can see what it looks like. It's sold in any grocery store in the same aisle as the worcestershire sauce/soy sauce. Probably high on the shelf. Any brand will do!

Boneless Country Style Ribs

2 lbs boneless country style pork ribs

1 bottle barbecue sauce
2 Tb honey
dash of liquid smoke
2 Tb brown sugar
1 Tb worcestershire sauce
Tabasco to taste
1/2 onion, grated

Preheat oven to 250. Put the ribs in a pot of water and boil for 20-30 minutes (you can also add a dash of the liquid smoke to the boiling water for extra smoky flavor). While the ribs are boiling mix all sauce ingredients together, and set aside. When the boiling is completed, drain off the water. Place the ribs in a baking dish and cover with the sauce. Bake for one hour. The ribs should be super tender.

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