Category Archives: Sides

Homemade Baked Beans

Baked Beans are a wonderful thing. They’re easy to make. They’re delicious. They travel well so you can bring them to parties, picnics, or events. Kids and adults alike will eat them as a side. And, my favorite part, the crock pot does almost all of the cooking work.


Homemade Baked Beans

2 cups Navy Beans
1/2 lb Bacon
3 TBSP Molasses
2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Dry Mustard
1/2 cup Ketchup
1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup Brown Sugar

1. Soak your beans overnight in water, covered.
2. Drain the beans and transfer into a pot and fill with enough fresh water to cover the beans. Simmer until tender – approximately an hour and a half to two hours. Drain the beans and **reserve the water**.
3. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees if you are planning to bake the beans in the oven. If you are using your crock pot instead, you can just pull out your crock.  😉
4. In a sauce pan, combine the molasses, salt, pepper, dry mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire, and brown sugar. Mix to combine and bring to a boil.
5. While that is heating, pour your beans into either a 1/2 sized casserole dish or into your crock pot – whichever you will be using. Chop up your raw bacon into small bites and mix into the beans.
6. Once your sauce pan mixture reaches its boil, pour over the beans and bacon mixture and add just enough of the reserved bean juices to cover the beans.
7. If you’re baking in the oven, cover the casserole dish with foil and bake 3-4 hours until tender and add a little more of the reserved bean liquid half way through cooking if needed. I
If you’re using your crock pot, put the lid on your crock and cook for 6-7 hours on high or 10-12 hours on low. You might need to add some of the reserved bean water mid-way through the cooking.


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Basil Pinenut Pesto

There’s a restaurant that sets up at our local farmer’s market and they always offer free samples of their pesto. Every week we go to the farmer’s market and every week I try a sample and try to figure out what it is they have done differently. There is something about this pesto that sets it apart from the rest and makes you keep coming back for more. After numerous attempts this summer, I think I’ve finally gotten it.

This pesto is perfect for dipping salted bread chunks, tortilla chips, and corn chips. It pairs wonderfully with a simple pasta as a light summery sauce, and you can even incorporate it in a chicken dish (pound out a chicken breast, put a layer of pesto on top, roll it up/secure with a toothpick, and cook normally for a nice burst of flavor)!


2 cups Fresh Basil Leaves, packed tightly
3/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup of a really good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup plus 2 TBSP Pine Nuts either roasted or raw – I prefer a combination of the two
4-5 medium sized cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste – I like to go a little heavy on the salt, several heavy grinds of kosher salt really sharpens the basil and garlic flavors

1. Wash, rinse, and pat dry your fresh basil and dump it into your food processor or blender. Add in the pine nuts and garlic and pulse a few times to get the big pieces chopped up a bit.
2. Measure out your EVOO then turn the food processor on and slowly dribble the oil in while it’s mixing and chopping. When the oil is completely poured in, add the Parmesan cheese and let everything mix together. (You can stop the machine and scrape down the sides as needed.)
3. Add in your salt and pepper and pulse a few more times to mix and that’s it!


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Cheesy Smashed Red Potatoes

Have I told you all yet that my husband HATES potatoes? I mean really, he is a walking garbage can and will eat practically anything…unless it’s a potato!  French fries are ok, and he’ll do sweet potatoes, but anything else is simply out of the question. It doesn’t matter how much yumminess I add to it with cheese or butter or cream – bacon or sour cream – baked, mashed, smashed, or double baked. He just doesn’t like them.


I think I’ve found a way to make it work!

Red potatoes. Red potatoes are the key. They are creamier and somehow more appealing than the standard brown Russets. Their price is nearly identical to the Russet (as opposed to say, Fingerling Potatoes), and they are easily found year round where I live.

I’ve also decided that people who don’t own potato mashers, frantically Google “smashed potatoes” while cooking in order to find something that will work for them. During one of these searches I stumbled onto a site called The Very Best Baking that highlighted a recipe for some Creamy Smashed Potatoes and it has since become our go-to dish!


Cheesy Smashed Red Potatoes
6 or 7 medium sized Red Potatoes
1 cup Evaporated Milk
2 TBSP Butter
3/4 grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt/Pepper to taste

1. Wash and quarter your potatoes and place into a small pot with enough water in it to cover the potatoes. Boil 15-20 minutes until they are cooked through and tender.
2. Drain the water and return the potatoes to the same pot. Smash up the potato quarters with the back side of a fork and then add the evaporated milk and butter. Continue smashing and mixing until evenly mixed and creamy.
3. Stir in the Parmesan Cheese and add salt/pepper to taste.
4. Enjoy!!


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Mini Corn Dog Bites

For some unknown reason, I have been wanting a mini muffin pan. I had these visions of making all sorts of breakfast muffin type things that I could pop out of the freezer and heat up for my kids for breakfast, or healthier snack type muffins that I could make in bulk and take with us on summer picnics and the like.

Well, I finally got my muffin pan, and what was the first thing I made in it??
Mini corn dog bites!!!

I had seen a sign up at a fast food place for mini corn dogs a few days ago and it’s been in the back of my head ever since. This was super easy to make, and it proved a huge hit with the kids. I plan to make this for all sorts of kid playdates, birthday parties, just about any occasion that calls for a gathering of kids! The best part is, we ate about half of what I made, and I tossed the rest in a freezer bag and froze them, so I can pop them out and heat them back up a few at a time when needed!

Mini Corn Dog Bites
Hot dogs (1 hot dog 5 bites)
1 cup Corn Meal
1 cup Flour
3 Tbsp Sugar
4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 cup Milk
1 egg + 1 egg white
1/4 cup Vegetable oil

Boil hotdogs and cook them fully and preheat your oven to 400. When the hotdogs are cooked, slice into bit sized pieces. I only had 3 hotdogs on hand, so I made 15 corn dog muffins and made the rest plain corn bread bites.


While that is going on, make up your corn bread batter. Combine the corn meal, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add in your milk, egg, egg white, and oil then mix well until smooth.
Grease your mini muffin pan VERY liberally. I like to use a Pam Spray and really get in there with it – you’ll appreciate it when it’s time to get those muffins out, trust me!


I poured in roughly 1 TBSP of the muffin mix into each cup, and then dunked a hot dog chunk in, giving it a little push to get it all the way in there.

Bake for 17-18 minutes.


Yum! If you greased your pan well enough, you can just flip your tray over and your muffins will slide nicely out for you. Serve up with some ketchup or mustard for dipping and enjoy!


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Candied Sweet Potatoes

I don’t really know what to say about candied sweet potatoes. They are easy, delicious, and so super sweet that your kids (and husband) will celebrate their veggies as a treat!


Candied Sweet Potatoes:
2 Sweet Potatoes
1 1/4 TBSP Butter
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Water

1. Wash your sweet potatoes and poke several times with a fork. Bake at 425 for 50-60 minutes, until cooked through. (I recommend putting a sheet of foil under the potatoes to catch any syrupy drippings.)2. In a skillet, melt your butter and then mix in the brown sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a low boil.
3. While the skillet is heating up, peel your potatoes and slice them in half. Sprinkle them with salt and place them into the skillet (after it’s reached the boil). Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for approximately 15 minutes or until well glazed.


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Beer Bread

Oscar honey, this recipe’s for you.

In my family, it is pretty standard practice to slice up a fresh loaf of beer bread into large, chunky squares, pile them all up in a bowl with a nice tub of spinach dip on the side and watch it disappear rapidly at the beginning of any party or gathering. It’s almost a game really, the host makes up the bread, starts slicing it, and immedietly people start sneaking their fingers in there to steal a piece or two before the dish is even served up.

Now here’s the real trick to this tradition – this beer bread is very commonly made from a purchased bag of premade mix, all you have to do is add a can of beer to the mix, pop it in the oven, and in an hour you’ll have a fresh loaf! It’s great, it’s ultra easy, it’s delicious…but one thing it’s NOT is budget friendly! One loaf can run you six dollars! I have a copycat recipe that uses ingredients most people have on hand at home, and it tastes even better than the premade mix!

3 cups Flour
1/3 cup Sugar
1 TBSP Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt1 can (or bottle) beer
3 TBSP butter, melted
3/4 tsp Salt, Kosher or Sea salt preferably

1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray a bread pan with Pam Spray.
2. Mix dry ingredients and the first 1/2 tsp of salt together in a large bowl. Add beer bread and mix until combined (dough will be sticky).
3. Pour dough into the greased bread pan and pour the melted butter over the top. Sprinkle the 3/4 tsp of Kosher or Sea salt over the top of the melted butter.
4. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes until the top of the bread is golden brown.
5. You can serve warm if desired. Enjoy!


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Lazy Legs and Taters

This dish was an experiment of mine and I’m soo pleased with the way it turned out, I just HAD to share it! I’ve had a package of chicken legs staring at me from my fridge for a few days and I just couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with them. Spring is here and the house was getting warm enough in the evenings that I didn’t feel like running the oven to bake them up, but at the same time Hubby has been working until long past dinner time and wasn’t available to grill them for me. (I know I know, I”m sure I could figure out how to light the grill and cook on it, but I’m not interested and darn it, that’s HIS job!)

So what it all comes down to, is that these legs needed to be cooked and I needed to figure out a new approach since my stand-by methods weren’t available to me. The obvious solution would be to use the crock pot – but these were legs! Crock pots are good at tough cuts of meat, or maybe some chicken breasts with a gravy, but really, most chicken dishes come out a little mushy and bland, and just not all that appealing for a summery weather dish.

This is where I was wrong. These legs were not mushy. They were not bland. They were not drowned in gravy or cream soups and too heavy for a summertime meal. They were moist, packed with flavor, so tender the meat fell off the bone of a few legs, and it was SOO easy! I even tossed a few potatoes in the crock pot to cook with the chicken and those came out perfectly too….So it’s a one pot meal! Score!!!

The trick is to use a rub on the chicken, brown it in a skillet, and then build yourself some braces on the bottom of your crock to keep the juices away from your chicken while it’s cooking! Easy, easy, easy! I’ll break it all down for you. First the ingredients…

1 package Chicken Legs
2 Russet Potatoes, washed and halved
1 Onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves Garlic, smashed
2-3 stalks Celery
2-3 Carrots
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

First of, you need to mix all of your herbs/seasonings together in a bowl to make your rub. Once combined, proceed to rub it all over your chicken legs, both on the skin and directly onto any of the meat that is showing as well. Get a skillet on the stove top nice and hot and then place your rubbed legs in to brown them, making sure to turn them occasionally so they get a nice browning on all sides.


While your legs are in the skillet, you can begin to prepare your crock pot. You need to work in layers so the chicken meat isn’t soaking in it’s own juices and turn all mushy on you. On the very bottom of your skillet, spread out your thinly sliced onion and smashed garlic cloves. Next up is the celery and carrots. Cut your stalks into lengths that fit nicely in the bottom of your crock, both lengthwise and crosswise. You want to put a layer or two of these ‘crossbeams’ in to allow the juice to sink, but the chicken to remain supported above it all. Next up is the potatoes. I sliced two potatoes in half lengthwise and wrapped the halves up tightly in aluminum foil. They will steam themselves nicely and will be done and ready to eat when the chicken is done!


When your chicken has been browned, you can place it directly tin to your prepared and layered crock pot. Turn the crock on low for 6 hours and walk away!! Your dinner is cooking itself for you! I turned my crock on high for the last 45 minutes to try and crisp up the skins a little, but they were still a little too soft for my liking. You could place them under a broiler for a few minutes if you want to firm them up some.


The chicken and potatoes should be cooked perfectly, the carrots and celery were really used for structural support, but if you are so inclined you could always save them aside to make them into a stock with the juices in the bottom of the pot. Just cook it down a little more. I wouldn’t recommend serving them as a veggie side with your chicken dish though. 🙂

Enjoy! I really hope you like it! This is going to become a regular around our house for sure!


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