Monday, December 28, 2015

Spicy Amber Ale Beans

We have cold weather!  I never thought it would happen, but it has.  I am finally getting to wear the coat that I bought last year...that it never got cold enough to wear.  I am happy.

Along with being "coat happy", I am happy that it is cold enough to make some darn good comfort food.  I was craving a pot of beans...some spicy ones, when I found a recipe in the new Sunset magazine that could not go untested.  Except that I probably never really follow the recipe exactly, but I stick pretty close.

I knew that these beans were going to be quite spicy as the recipe called for chipotle chile powder and a jalapeño...two of my favorite things.  I wasn't crazy enough to use a quarter cup as was mentioned in the introduction but I do like beans with a punch and that is what these had.  Besides, beans and beer and heat are always a good thing!  

You can lighten up on the spiciness by reducing the chipotle chile powder to a teaspoon and only use half of a jalapeño, if you like.  We found the beans to be spicy but not unpleasantly so.  I added a dollop of sour cream when I served them and that made them pretty close to perfect.

Spicy Amber Ale Beans
adapted from Sunset Magazine, January 2016

1 lb dried pinto beans
1 ham hock (about 11/2 lbs.)
1 bottle Amber Ale (I used Longboard Big Wave Golden Ale)
4 cups chicken stock
2 tsp chipotle chile powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
3 slices of thick bacon
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeño, seeds and membrane removed, then chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
Kosher salt

4 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
sour cream 

Sort and rinse beans.  Place beans in a heavy Dutch oven.  Add enough water to cover by three inches.  Bring to a boil.  Boil two minutes.  Remove from heat.  Cover and let stand for one hour. Drain beans and put in a slow cooker.

Add the ham hock, beer and chicken stock to the slow cooker.  The beans should be just covered with liquid.  Add water if needed.  Set the slow cooker to low.

In a medium frying pan, toast the chile powder and the cumin until fragrant, bout 30 seconds.  Scrape the spices into the slow cooker and cover.

Cut the bacon crosswise into quarter inch strips. In the same frying pan, cook the pieces of bacon until crisp.  Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.  Set aside.  Drain all but about 1 1/2 Tablespoons of drippings from the pan.  Add the diced onion and chopped jalapeño.  Cook until the onion is light brown.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, a few seconds.  Mix the bacon and oregano into the onion mixture.  Stir and add the mixture to the slow cooker.  Add the can of diced tomatoes.  Cover and cook until the beans are tender about 6 to 8 hours.

Remove the ham hock to a plate and using two forks shred the meat from the bone.  You may put the shredded ham back into the slow cooker or you may set it aside.  Set the slow cooker to high without the lid.  Reduce the liquid to your desired thickness.  Season with salt.

Serve the beans in bowls topped with shredded ham (unless you elected to mix it back into the beans), a dollop of sour cream, and the chopped green onions and cilantro.

I was sorry to see the last of this pot of beans disappear....I think I need to make more, as it is really cold once again!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Terry's Mahogany Chicken Wings

Terry's wings are a much requested appetizer for parties.  I must admit they are really tasty!  Last week he prepared about fifteen pounds of wings for two different parties.  My daughter needed about fifty and we were headed to a neighbor's get together and took fifty with us.  Mighty good!

Terry's Mahogany Chicken Wings
adapted from Betty Crocker

2 1/2 pounds chicken wings
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tbsp chili sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
Red pepper flakes

Trim the wings of any excess skin and discard.  Place the wings in a large bowl or gallon size ziplock bag.

Mix the next six ingredients in a bowl.  Pour the mixture over the wings.  Refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Line a baking sheet with heavy duty foil.  Be certain the foil comes up the sides of the baking sheet so that liquid does not seep underneath.  Spray a rack on both sides with cooking spray.  Place the rack on the baking sheet.

Remove the wings from the marinade (reserve the marinade) and arrange in a single layer on the rack.  Baste the wings with the reserved marinade.  Sprinkle the wings lightly with crushed red pepper flakes.

Bake the wings in the preheated oven.  In 30 minutes turn them and baste with more marinade.  Bake the wings for 20 minutes longer basting occasionally until the wings are a deep brown and there is no pink when the center of the chicken is cut.  Discard the remaining marinade.

The wings may be prepared on the barbecue.  They are placed directly on the rack.  A baking sheet is not used.  Watch the wings closely so that they do not burn.  Cook and baste as above.


If you are looking for a super appetizer for a party, these wings would be quite popular!

Warm Spicy Cranberry Drink

One Christmas many years ago, my mother-in-law filled her crock pot with a warm and spicy cranberry drink.  It was one of those cold, damp and foggy days so you can imagine how nice it was to have a hot drink waiting for us upon our arrival.  It became a favorite and we could count on this drink during the holidays.

I got to thinking about those days and sipping that nice warm drink and decided to dig out the recipe and make it.  It was different from what I remembered.  I do not recall it being so sweet so the second time I made it, I did a bit of adjusting to suit my taste.  I reduced the amount of brown sugar and added some cranberry juice to the mix.  The can of pineapple juice I had did not specifically say unsweetened but it didn't say sweetened either so I wonder if that was the error that I made.

Warm Spiced Cranberry Drink

1 can jellied cranberry sauce
2 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
2 cups cranberry juice (Optional.  I used it to make the drink less sweet.)

Place all of the ingredients in a sauce pan.  Heat to boiling.  Stir making certain that the cranberry sauce has dissolved.  Pour the mixture into a crock pot to keep it hot.


I always look forward to holding a warm mug, the aroma of cinnamon and sipping away while enjoying the lights on the tree and music softly playing in the background.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Peppermint Crunch Brownie Bites

It is pretty hectic, isn't it?  Sometimes no matter how much I plan, I can't get everything done so that I can snatch a few minutes for me.  Don't you feel that way sometimes?  That is really how I felt about my baking this year.  I plan. I make a list. I check it twice..then thrice...go to the store, come home to bake and realize that I forgot something.  I live a good distance from the grocery store so hopping in the car and dashing to the corner doesn't work for me.  Oh well....

Needless to say, my baking has been haphazard.  It has also been very simple.  Like these cute little brownie bites.  I would like to say that I made them from scratch but as my luck would have it, a missing ingredient means fall back and regroup...I used a brownie mix and it was fine.  But, I am including a quick brownie recipe below for those of you who don't have a brownie mix in the pantry! It is quick because it uses cocoa powder instead of having to melt chocolates.  You can use any recipe you like...or any brownie mix for that matter.  Whatever works for you!

They still taste great and they are still cute little bites that can be made in a snap and serve as a quick dessert!  Basically, they are brownie bites, dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with crunched up candy canes.  Or, if you are lucky, you might have picked up a bag of already crunched up peppermints when you were at the store.


Peppermint Crunch Brownie Bites

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup flour

2 cups white melting wafers (I used Ghirardelli Candy and Dipping White Melting Wafers.)
5-6 candy canes, crushed

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Grease a 9-by-9-inch baking pan. 

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, melted unsalted butter and salt. Whisk in 3 eggs, one at a time. Add the cocoa powder and flour, mix well.  

Fill the mini muffin cups slightly more than half full.  Bake in a preheated oven for 15-18 minutes or until just set.  Cool for five minutes and remove the bites from the muffin tin.

While the brownie bites are cooling, melt the wafers in the microwave following the package directions.  Dip the tops of the brownies in the melted chocolate.  Sprinkle with bits of crushed peppermints.  Set aside for the candy to set before serving.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Peppermint Meltaways.....What is the Science Behind the Meltaway? - SRC

I have been saying that I want to make Meltaway Cookies since last spring.   I never seemed to get around to it until I saw a recipe for Peppermint Meltaways!  Peppermint and the holidays are such a winning combination that I had to give them a try.

The first thing that I asked myself was what makes these cookies different?   One must admit that their name creates an expectation.  Do they really melt in your mouth and if so, why do these cookies melt in your mouth?

With a little research, I learned all about cornstarch and its benefits.  Cornstarch comes from the endosperm of the corn kernel.  They are separated from one another using a lengthy steeping process. Once separated, each is ground into a fine powder.  Following that there is more processing ending with a cornstarch that has unique properties and can be used in cooking and baking.

At my house, cornstarch is used most often in sauces, soups or stews as a thickener.  I learned that when it comes to baking, cornstarch can be combined with flour which increases hydration and creates a fine texture.

In a meltaway recipe you will note that there is a combination of cornstarch and powdered sugar.  It is that combination which creates the melting sensation in your mouth due to the finer texture.

Science aside, the Peppermint Meltaways are light and delicately flavored and that is what will keep me coming back.

Julie at Little Bit of Everything inspired me to finally make the meltaways!  Thank you, Julie.  I noticed that she made the basic recipe her own by stuffing a mini Hershey's Kiss in each one.  She also rolled the cookies in a mixture of powdered sugar and crushed candy canes once removed from the oven.  I made some of the cookies in that manner but with a cookie this delicate in flavor I decided that I really wanted to put a glaze on the cookies, which is what I did for the remaining cookies.

I ended up doing three different finishes:  1) rolled in powdered sugar then topped with red sanding sugar, 2) glazed and topped with sanding sugar and, 3) since I grabbed Andes Peppermint Bits, not thinking that they would be soft, I topped some cookies with those!

Peppermint Meltaways

1 cup butter
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch

2 Tbsp butter, softened
2-3 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies or sanding sugar

In a mixer bowl, cream the butter and the confectioner's sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the extract.  In another bowl, whisk together the flour and the cornstarch.  Gradually combine the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator.  Using a cooking scoop or spoons, shape dough into balls about 1 1/2-inch in diameter.  Place the balls on an ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake the cookies from 10-12 minutes or until they are light brown on the bottom.  The tops of the cookies will not be golden brown.  Remove the cookies from the baking sheets to wire racks to cool completely.

In a small bowl, beat the butter until creamy, then beat in 2 tablespoons milk and the extract. Gradually beat in the confectioner's sugar until smooth.  Adjust the mixture to glaze consistency by adding the third tablespoon of milk, or more, as desired.  The glaze must be thick enough to adhere to the cookie.  Dip the cookies into the glaze.  Sprinkle with sanding sugar or crushed peppermint candies.  Set the cookies back on the rack to dry and set up completely.

NOTE:  We really liked the Andes Peppermint Bits on the cookies.  As an additional twist, I did tuck a small piece inside of some of the cookies....just for fun, but not part of an original meltaway recipe.


I found Julie's recipe as I am a participant in The Secret Recipe Club.  This month I was assigned her blog, Little Bit of Everything.  Since it is a month for celebrating and spreading good cheer, I went searching for something sweet.  I debated about making Julie's Sparkling White Cranberry Sangria, or her Peppermint Crunch Brownie Bites for this post but the Meltaways won.  I do have everything I need for the Brownie Bites so they will be coming up later this week. It was fun exploring Julie's "creative journey" as she makes her way through over one hundred cookbooks, clippings and new recipes. Thank you for inspiring me to make these wonderful Peppermint Meltaways!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Cheers! It is Celebration Time with A Randy Reindeer! - Blogger CLUE

It is celebration time!  I finally got the tree trimmed and the house decorated!  I got a bit of a late start but managed to bring it all together and to celebrate, Mr. T and I enjoyed a Randy Reindeer.  Just what is a Randy Reindeer?  It is a cocktail created by Anna at Anna Dishes.  The cocktail is filled with wonderful Christmas flavors like cranberry, pomegranate, orange and, of course, a splash of bubbly.   To me the Randy Reindeer was the perfect selection for this month's recipe exchange group, Blogger CLUE.  Each month we are assigned a blog, a theme and challenged to find a recipe that matches the theme.  The December theme was celebration!  Cheers!

I first searched Anna's blog in March as Anna Dishes was my first Blogger CLUE assignment. I was happy to pay her a second visit!  Anna's blog is packed with "homegrown, flavor-packed recipe creations".  I saw so many celebration dishes that I would prepare such as Eggnog Rum Cake with White Chocolate Snow or Almost Magic Stuffed Mushrooms, but when I saw this cocktail...well, it was decided.

Randy Reindeer
adapted from Anna Dishes

Serves 6

2 1/2 cups Vodka
2 1/2 cups Pomegranate juice
2 1/2 cups Cranberry juice
1/2 cup Triple Sec
Brut Rose Sparkling Wine or Proseco

1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Cranberry juice

White or Red Sparkling Sugar for rimming the glasses

Do Ahead:  Prepare a syrup by combining one cup of brown sugar and one cup of cranberry juice. Simmer until the brown sugar has melted and the mixture becomes a thin syrup.  Cool to room temperature.  Do not refrigerate.

In a large pitcher combine the vodka, pomegranate juice and the cranberry juice.  Stir.  Next add the Triple Sec and about 1/4 cup of the brown sugar syrup.  Stir again.

In a small flat-bottomed dish, pour the sugar for rimming the glasses.  In a second flat-bottomed dish, pour some cranberry juice.  Dip the rim of your glass in the juice and then the sugar.

Place a few ice cubes in the glass and pour in the drink mixture.  Add a splash of bubbly and it is time to celebrate!


Note:  The original recipe calls for a bit of Peach Bitters.  We did not have any so it was omitted.  We also adjusted the amount of Triple Sec to meet our tastes.


 Take a look at the celebration recipes that other group members selected!