Friday, September 5, 2014

Baked Beans Extraordinaire: The Last Fling of Summer

Summertime is always filled with lots of warm summer evenings that just beg for cookouts shared with family and friends.  As the weather begins to shift ever so slightly to the cooler days of fall and we say goodbye to summer, perhaps there's still time for just one more cookout before we move inside once again.  

Now whether you toss some burgers and dogs on the grill- or carefully tend to a steak- or maybe even switch to ribs for a change, there's always a need for Baked Beans.  

Over summers past when it came time for the cookout,  I'd wander through cookbooks- or search the internet- and try first one and then another of the many, many recipes for Baked Beans.  This year I decided it was time to get serious.  To test a few out- and settle on what would become the summer beans to be passed down as the Kappel/Lucas Family Baked Beans.  And by golly I did it.  I think you're going to like these beans so well- and find them so flexible for what ever size pan you're using- and even adaptable for a winter bean pot you'll make this your families favorite recipe for Baked Beans.  

Now for the back story for these beans. The beginnings of this recipe can be traced all the way back to the late 1970s in Norman and a hand copied recipe on a card from a old friend.  With this recipe for starters the rest was just a lot of experimentation.  We did have lots of opportunities for cookouts this summer- so lots of opportunities to make these baked beans.  I think you'll be making them soon.  After all, there's still time for one more cookout before we move our lives indoors for the year.

First we start with the beans!

We use a combination of canned "baked beans" as well as red kidney beans and cannelloni beans (also known as white kidney beans).  You could also use butter beans though when I tried these they turned a bit too mushy for my taste. You mix the beans- about half "baked beans" and half plain beans (the plain beans need to be drained)- into the pan you're going to use to determine whether you need to add more beans or not.  Though I used this Lodge cast Iron Dutch Oven when entertaining at home, I found that a pyrex 11x14 inch worked better when I was carrying the beans for consumption someplace else.  To switch from one size to another I just put the beans in the pan and added more beans if I needed.

Though this recipe could be vegetarian by eliminating the bacon, I'm rather partial to all the bacon goodness that can be tucked into these beans.  I used a total of 12 ounces of bacon (you could go up to a pound if you'd like)- or leave out entirely if that's your preference.  See how versatile this recipe is?  And since I was going to top the beans with bacon, I layered the uncooked bacon on top of the beans to ensure I had the right amount- and set this amount aside- and then cooked the rest to be later stirred into the beans.

Next you're going to cook the bacon that isn't needed for the top.  And then saute onions and green peppers.  I used the left over bacon grease..

Next you're going to gather all the ingredients for the sauce (I'll list those later when I write out the recipe) and mix together in a bowl along with the  bacon and sauteed onions and peppers.

Mix the sauce into the beans and top with the uncooked bacon.  Place the covered pot in a 300 degree oven and begin cooking!


2-3 cans of baked beans of some sort (you can use "pork and  beans" if you'd like)
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 can cannelloni beans, drained
(As I mentioned above you can adjust the amount of beans to fit the size pan you are using.)
3/4 to 1 pound of bacon (again set aside the bacon you need to cover the top and cook the rest- cut the cooked bacon into small pieces before adding to the beans.)
1 large onion, diced and then softened in olive oil (or you could soften in the bacon grease)
1 large green pepper, diced and softened in oil just as you did for the onion.

1 cup of ketchup
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 tbsp of molasses 
1 tbsp of liquid smoke
3 tbsp of white vinegar
1-2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper
Hot Sauce (optional)
Mix the dressing ingredients together until well mixed.

Add the sauce, onions, peppers and the bacon to the beans.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees
Cover the beans.  If your pan doesn't have a lid use aluminum foil.)
Cook for 2-3 hours.  I uncovered the pan the last hour so the bacon on top would brown.

Serve with a summer cook out!


PS: I mentioned if you just can't get enough of these beans in the summer you can adjust the recipe just a bit and cook in a crock pot for a "Winter Bean Pot"!  To do this brown 1 pound of hamburger meat with 1/2 pound of diced bacon.  Remove this from skillet and remove all but 2-3 tbsp of grease.  Soften the diced onion and pepper together. Mix the sauce just as for baked beans.  In a crock pot mix together the meat, the beans and the sauce.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Chocolate Cookies- With a Granddaughter!

We were especially lucky this summer when Reeder- our beautiful granddaughter- came for a visit from Virginia.  Of course we had- I mean really had- to make cookies!  If you'll remember from this  blog post when we just moved into our beautiful new kitchen, we have a cookie jar that seems always to be saying "FEED ME"!  And "FEED ME" we did. Chocolate cookies this time of course!

I have been exploring the use of browned butter in the cookies I bake.  I'm still a bit on the fence about just how remarkable this is- though at the moment the feedback is generally positive especially when I used it for chocolate chip cookies-  but then who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies browned butter or not.  That said, with Reeder I decided to make two batches of chocolate cookies- one with browned butter and the other the old fashion way- regular softened butter.

We started by browning the butter. You can read how to brown butter here.

Which looks like this when you're finished.

After the butter is significantly cooled you proceed with the "cookie making" part and we did!

Of course since we were going to be very organized in our experiment we gathered all of our ingredients first.  

CHOCOLATE COOKIES: From here with very slight modifications.


Butter: 1 cup (2 sticks), softened (I'll tell you later about the browned versus softened for these cookies.)
Brown Sugar: 1 1/2 cups
Eggs: 2
Vanilla: 1 tsp
Flour: 2 cups
Cocoa powder: 3/4 cup
Baking soda: 1 tsp
Salt: 1 tsp
Turbinado (or raw) sugar: 1/2 cup (or more as needed) for rolling the cookie in before baking (you can use plain sugar, but the thick sugar particles in Turbinado Sugar are especially nice for rolling cookies before baking.)


Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt).

Then in a stand mixer (have I mentioned before how easy stand mixers make all baking whether we're talking cakes, cookies, or bread). So anyway, in the stand mixer cream the butter with the sugar until very smooth.  Don't rush this step. 

Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until completely mixed.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl.

Mix these just until combined- you don't want to over mix at this stage.

Refrigerate the dough for about an hour.  This improves the texture of the cookie- and also makes it easy to roll the cookies in the sugar before placing them on the cookie sheets.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Then cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before transfering to wire cooling racks.

And I almost forgot the best part of this process.  Licking the beaters!

And of course now was the final step.  The Taste Test!

We had 5 tasters in our experiment- Reeder and me of course- and then Grandpa Don (who isn't the best taster of chocolate) and then our very helpful neighbors Ann and Mark Lampe.  The results were mixed.  While the cookies are a big hit- you really must try them- they are for sure a kid pleaser (or any chocolate lover for that matter).  Reeder liked them both- though perhaps just a bit more the texture of the browned butter cookies.  Don liked the plain, I liked the browned butter, Ann liked the browned buttered ones- and Mark the plain.  

That said- you really couldn't tell the difference unless you were told there was a difference and you tasted one after the other.  It seems that with chocolate cookies- and that much cocoa- the chocolate overpowers the subtleties of the effect of the butter.  

I'm going to keep testing this "browned butter" in other recipes- but for this one just skip the extra work with browning the butter.  You're going to love these chocolate cookies! With milk of course.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Coconut Cheesecake

Better than a year ago- in fact Winter of 2013- we took a trip to Florida to visit our dear friend from junior high/ high school friend who just happens to live in Florida- and where it just happens to be a bit warm in the winter.  And of course we always have a wonderful time no matter the season or the place when we're with Gay.  While there I had the most amazing Coconut Cheesecake- I mean really, really, really, really good Coconut Cheesecake- and though I'm a huge fan of most things coconut, I'm not a huge fan of cheesecake.  But this cheesecake was amazing.  So when we returned to Cincinnati,  I began the process of deconstruction.  After much thought- and a bit of practicing- I found the Coconut Cheesecake that was just as good as the one I'd had in Florida. In fact it's probably better, but then I'm probably not completely objective.  

Well when last week our good friends from Oklahoma, Clare and Oliver, came for a visit- and of course a tour of our new kitchen.  Why, I can't imagine how anyone can resist visiting for a tour of our new kitchen- and even better a chance to cook in our new kitchen. Though I had a peach cobbler ready when Clare and Oliver arrived (the peaches are absolutely amazing this year- the best they've been in a couple of years!), because Clare's brother, Joe, was joining us for the weekend I decided we really needed something more- just a bit more.  As we were bouncing around ideas- I always start with my "go to" chocolate cake (not to be confused with Grandma Lucas' Chocolate Cake), Don- who is no fan of chocolate decided he needed to steer us away from chocolate and announced that he thought the Coconut Cheesecake I'd made last year was just the thing we ought to make.  Well there was no argument from me, so Coconut Cheesecake it was!

Now this is no ordinary Coconut Cheesecake.  It is THE COCONUT CHEESECAKE!  It takes coconut to an all new level.  Bet you can't eat just one bite.  This was one dessert that didn't end up wandering to a neighbor after we'd tired of it.  Not this one.  Don made sure of that.

The foundation for the recipe comes from a young blogger from Alaska which served as a spring board for all the great memories of our winter adventure with Gay.

But enough of that.  It's time to start cooking.  

First- did I mention that this is a "Coconut" Cheesecake. Oh yeah- lots of coconut!

But of course you can't just use coconut, so we gathered the other ingredients up as well.

So let's get start cooking!

Coconut Cheesecake

Coconut Graham Cracker Crust:
Graham Crackers- 1 package of crackers from the box, ground fine in a food processor
Melted Butter- 1/4 cup
Brown Sugar- 1/4 cup
Shredded Unsweetened Coconut- 1/4 cup (you can substitute sweetened coconut if you'd like)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix all crust ingredients together.
Press into a 9 inch springform pan.
Bake for 10 minutes.

Coconut Cheesecake
Cream Cheese- 2 packages of 8 ounce size
Sour Cream- 1 cup
Sugar- 1 cup
Corn Starch- 1 Tbsp
Eggs- 3- well beaten
Cream of Coconut- 1 cup
Vanilla- 1 tsp
Coconut Extract- 1/2 tsp

Flaked Coconut: 1/2 cup

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Whip the cream cheese and the sour cream.  This is when it is really, really nice to have a stand mixer.  Though it would be possible to do with hand mixer, I really wouldn't want to try!

Mix the sugar with the corn starch then add to the well mixed cream cheese and sour cream.

While mixing, add the beaten eggs 1 Tbsp at a time.

Mix in the Cream of Coconut and then the vanilla and coconut extract.  Make sure everything is well mixed.  It will look very smooth!

Place the springform pan in a bed of aluminum foil.  You're going to cook the cheese cake in a "water bath" and don't want any of the water to leak into the pan! Pour the mixture into the pan.

Place the pan into a large roasting pan and add hot water to the pan being careful not to get any within the foil.

Cook for 65-75 minutes. I rotated the pan half way because it was browning unevenly.

It is done when the top is browned and almost all of the jiggle in the middle is gone.  
Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for AT LEAST 8 hours.

Top with Toasted Coconut after refrigerated. I toasted the coconut in 350 degree oven for 6-8 minutes.

Serve it plain!

Or with Whipped Cream!

Or with Whipped Cream and Raspberries!

Don likes his plain!  I like mine rather dressed up!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Summer Quinoa Fruit Salad

You're going to love this salad! Honest! 

It's so good you'll want it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I promise.  In fact, Don- who is no big fan of quinoa- did have some of the left over salad for breakfast.  And it's Don who is insisting that while on vacation I write this blog so you can try it as soon as possible. So see- you really must try this salad.  By the way- not only is this salad delicious- it is easy to make and incredibly nutritious.  How's that for a trifecta!

I want to take just a bit of a detour and talk about quinoa.  Quinoa is a SUPERFOOD! It has more protein in it than any of the other grains, containing many essential amino acids.  It is also a good source of fiber and iron and calcium.  It was cultivated by the Andrean people of Ecaudor, Bolivia, Columbia and Peru between 3000 to 4000 years ago. And if all of this isn't impressive enough, just this year Quinoa was declared Kosher for Passover!  

So let's get started right away. But before we get started I want to give credit where credit is due.  With only minor alterations this recipe is from a wonderful food blogger called "two peas & their pod".  You can find them here:

So now we'll begin! Gather the ingredients.

You can use any color quinoa you like.  I used red because that's what I had most of on hand. Follow the directions of the package for cooking one cup of quinoa.

While the quinoa is cooking you can mix the dressing.  Because limes are scarce this year- and expensive when you can find them (something about bad weather in Mexico and with the price so high the drug cartels are ambushing the produce trucks!)

Anyway, because limes are rather more difficult to come by I used juice from a bottle of Key Lime Juice rather than fresh lime juice. I've made it both ways (with the bottled and with the fresh and you really won't notice a difference).  I used equal parts lime juice and honey (3 tablespoons of each) plus a small handful of mint. 

Add the dressing to the quinoa while the quinoa is still warm and let the dressing soak in for a while.  I left mine in the refrigerator overnight the first time (early preparation for a party) and then 4 hours the next.  

Now mix in the fruit! Lots of fruit!.  I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, but feel free to use what ever is fresh and available at your produce store- peaches, blackberries, banana, melons, pineapple- really any fruit will work!  And since it's summer time we all want to eat plenty of the "only tastes good in the summer" fruit. I also added more fresh mint with the fruit.  It is best when chilled before serving.

Summer Quinoa Fruit Salad
1 cup of Quinoa
2 cups of water

Cook according to package instructions.

Dressing Ingredients:
3 tbsp Key Lime Juice (or fresh lime)
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp fresh mint

Mix with stick blender.
Stir into quinoa.

Salad Ingredients:
Quinoa with dressing.
6 cups of mixed fruit (at least!)
1/4 cup of chopped fresh mint.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives

I have to be honest.  Brutally honest.  I love kitchen gadgets, kitchen pans, kitchen pots, baking dishes. The list goes on and on and on.  Can I share a secret with you?  When I saw this pot I absolutely knew I had to have it- and that I'd figure out later what I might do with it when it lived in my kitchen rather than on a store shelf.  It was a very welcome newcomer!

The pot is a Tagine pot- and harks from northern Africa- Morocco to be exact.  Its' magic is said to result from the steam that clings to the side of the dome top as it rises and then slowly makes its way back down again to make the dish so very, very moist and tender. Now I think it's possible to make this dish without this pot- and it might taste the same- or even better. I wouldn't know. I haven't tried.  But even if it doesn't have quite the magic that this Tagine Pot brings to the cooking, this recipe is really, really, really worth your time.  

You're going to love it. I promise. And your guests are going to love it.  And everyone will keep coming back for more.

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons requires a bit of a "plan ahead" detail.  It's not much trouble to gather all the ingredients- except for one- THE PRESERVED LEMONS!  The first time I made this dish I followed the exact details- I planned well in advance.  Because you see with Preserved Lemons you have to plan way, way in advance- like 2-3 weeks in advance.  You can tell right away that regardless of how good this meal is going to turn out if you have begin preparations 2-3 weeks in advance it just isn't going to happen very often.  Not very often at all. 

But then I found the short cut- And since I've now made the dish with both the LONG version of Preserved Lemons as well as the SHORT version of Preserved Lemons I can absolutely assure you that it really doesn't make a difference.  I'm sticking with the short version.  With this recipe you only need to start the day before, though if you change your mind and decide to cook something else the preserved lemons will last just fine in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.  And if unforeseen circumstances arrive and you aren't going to make this glorious dish after all then these lemons are equally great in a stir fry.

But for the details!


Slice 2 lemons into 1/4 inch slices removing seeds as you slice.   Place in small sauce pan. Add 2 tbsp of salt (1 per lemon) and then juice from 1 lemon plus enough water to made a cup total of liquid.

Simmer on the stove for 30 minutes until the skin of the lemon softens and the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 of cup.

Put in a jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

So now that you have the magic ingredient- and maybe even the magic pot it's time to make the Tagine!

Tagine of Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon: Adapted from Cafe Morocco by Anissa Helou

Chickens: 2, cut into pieces (I use 4 legs, 4 thighs and 2 breasts and saved the rest for chicken soup.  You can use all thighs if you wish.)

Onions, 2, cut into wedges
Green olives, I cup, pitted
Preserved Lemons, 2 (at least 24 hours old, but not the liquid)
Garlic, 2 cloves (or more if you like garlic and we do), minced
Parsley, 1 bunch with stems removed and then minced though not too fine
Lemon, 1, juiced.

Coriander seed, 1 tbsp
Cumin seed, 1 tbsp
Ginger, 1 tbsp, grated
Cinnamon, 3 whole sticks

Olive oil, 2 tbsp
Butter, 2 tbsp

Pepper the chicken (there is plenty of salt in the Preserved Lemons so you won't need any additional for this dish).
Heat olive oil and butter in Tagine Pot until butter is melted.
Add the coriander, cumin, ginger, garlic and brown.
Brown the chicken on all sides and then remove from the pot.
Add the onions and soften.
Return the chicken to the pot and add the cinnamon and the Preserved Lemons.  Pour the lemon juice over the chicken.

Cover the Tagine Pot and heat on the stove.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
When the oven is hot, place the pan in the oven.

I love this picture so much I just have to use it twice!

After about  1- 1/2 hours take the Tagine Pot out of the oven and add the olives and the parsley. Return to the oven for another hour.  Check for doneness at this time.  

The chicken should be very, very tender.  If the chicken is cooked to desired tenderness then place the Tagine on the top of the stove with the dome in place over a very low simmer- just to keep warm.

I served with buttered couscous and a roasted orange and beet salad!

Let the party begin!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lemon Coconut Crinkle Cookies: Welcome To Our New Kitchen

You probably thought we'd left for good- maybe dropped off the face of the earth.  Or, gasp, stopped cooking.  Well- only for the "stopped cooking" are you a bit close to the truth- but of course not the whole truth.  

It started with just "too much", "too distracted", "too busy"... The regular list that keeps us all from doing the things that we intend to do while we meander in the land of the "maybe tomorrow".  

We actually had a recipe and pictures ready for a post whose tomorrow never came.

And then we stopped cooking.  Really.  I mean it.  We stopped cooking.  For seven long months we were exiled into the world of "which restaurant do we go to YET AGAIN", punctuated with respite in the homes and kitchens of friends and family, while our kitchen was remodeled.  The kind of remodeling that cannot be ignored- the kind that makes you suffer as you dream of even a grilled cheese cooked at home!

And now we're back- and cooking. Again.  So let's start with cookies.

 Now when we ended our blogging last March (1 year and 3 days ago), we posted a recipe for Chicken Liver and Spinach Frittata.  And of course Don HATES chicken livers.  As we begin cooking again this first post is all about Don- and a cookie he can't get enough of.  Honest, he's addicted in a big way.  I don't think he is able to pass that Cookie Jar Nook tucked in between the dining room and the kitchen without having at least one- and from the looks of how quickly that jar is emptying, maybe two.

Now our house is a very old house, a very old house indeed. Circa 1894.  And the kitchen was added some years after the original house was built.  You get to the kitchen by passing through a short hall from the the dining room (passing on the left, the stairs down to the basement- "scary basement" according to more than one grandchild, or up the back stairs to the second floor- also a "rite of passage" for the grandchild that is suddenly brave enough to take the narrow wooden back stairs).  On the right was a narrow and very shallow pantry with bi-fold doors, something that truly did not complement our new kitchen. Our very dear and amazingly talented master carpenter for our remodeling project had a vision and designed a Cookie Jar Nook welcoming visitors into our new kitchen.

So now my job is to keep cookies in the cookie jar!  And you're going to love these cookies whether you have a Cookie Jar Nook or not!  Bet you can't eat just one!


Preheat Oven to 325 Degrees

Dry Ingredients: 
Flour: 1 1/2 cups
Baking Powder: 2 tsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp

Mix together and set to the side.

Wet Ingredients:
Butter, softened: 4 Tbsp
Sugar: 1 cup
Cream together in stand mixer until  very well blended.

Eggs: 2
Lemon Zest: 1 large or two small lemons
Mix well.
Lemon Juice: 1/2 of a large lemon or all the juice from a small lemon
Coconut Flavoring: 1 tsp (optional)
Mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and mix just until the flour isn't visible.

Coconut, Shredded: 1 cup (sweetened or unsweetened).

Refrigerate batter for at least one hour to firm.

Roll batter into balls and roll in Powdered Sugar. 

Bake for 13-15 minutes depending on how soft you like your cookies.