Friday, January 23, 2015

The Best Green Beans Ever

Remember when you were little and the only vegetables you seemed to eat were green beans and corn? 

Maybe that was just me. 

I despised veggies when I was young. I forver ate my hamburger with meat and cheese only! No veggies!!

As an adult, I don't eat green beans as often as I used to because thankfully my palate has grown to love other vegetables.

However, I'm a sucker for the old fashion green beans with bacon and onion cooked with them! How much more southern can you get? 

We were discussing this recipe at work the other day. Every since then I've wanted some. 

Tonight, I needed a side dish to go with some turkey I had made earlier. This was my chance to fulfill a craving. Luckily I had all the ingredients on hand, but I didn't have all night so I opted for canned beans vs. frozen. They were great! 

First,  sizzle up one package of bacon. I recommend cooking it crisp. (Like, who wants to eat soft bacon anyway?) Yes, for you oven people, it would work fine in the oven. Just save your grease. 

My recipe is bacon heavy because I love bacon. Feel free to cut the bacon in half if that suits your fancy. 

While the bacon is cooking, chop half of a large onion or one small onion. 

When the bacon is as crispy as you like it, remove the bacon and drain half the grease. 

Then, add the chopped onion.  Cook these until they are clear...well, as clear as they can really be in bacon grease. :)

While the onions are cooking, chop the bacon into bite sized pieces. Crunchy bacon makes this step really easy. 

When the onions have cooked through, remove them from the grease. (I prefer to place them on a plate with a paper towel to absorb extra grease.) Drain any excess grease out of your pan and wipe clean with a paper towel. Be careful not to burn yourself...that pan might still be hot! (Every calorie counts...even if this recipe is latent with fat, bacon molecules.)

Next,  add two cans of drained green beans. You could use any kind of green bean that you fancy. This is all I had on hand. Most people make this with a full bean and not a french bean. But it works fine either way. 

Add your cooked onion and chopped bacon back to the pan.  

Add one cup of chicken broth. (NOTE: Frozen beans take longer to cook. If you opt for frozen beans, you may need to add a full can of broth and cook longer.) 

Cook 20 minutes on low until broth cooks off. You want to do this slowly so your beans absorb all the savory flavors. Don't rush it too much. 

Eat them as soon as possible...out of the pan because who can resist green beans all slathered in bacon..right? 

Confession: I ate most these myself. Not all in one setting, but I didn't let them linger long.

Craving gone! 

2 cans of green beans - or 1 package of frozen beans
1 cup of chicken broth (one can if using frozen beans)
1 package of bacon (depending on your love of bacon, you could easily get by with 1/2 a package)
1/2 of a large yellow onion, chopped (or one medium onion)

1. Fry bacon until crisp. Remove from grease and drain on a plate with a paper towel. 
2. Chop onion. Cook in bacon grease. 
3. Remove onion. Drain grease from pan. 
4. Chop bacon. 
5. Add green beans to the pan, cooked onions and chopped bacon. 
6. Add one cup of chicken broth. (more if using frozen beans)
7. Cook on low, uncovered for 20 minutes or until broth is gone. 
8. Cool and enjoy!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Secrets of the Kingdom of God

Have you ever heard someone say, "Repent, the Kingdom of God is near!"? 

What feelings or thoughts come to mind when you hear that? 

Honestly,  I have always had mixed emotions about that verse...until recently. God gave me a new perspective on this. 

John 1: 14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

One of the ways I've seen this verse was futuristic...Jesus is coming back soon, better get my life in order...oh my goodness! And, Luke 20:30 does lend itself to that thought pattern.   

But, in John 1:14-15 we see a different concept. What Jesus meant when he said this was literally...the kingdom has come is standing right in front of you!

How much closer can it get? 

Jesus was standing there, offering people heaven on earth. 

In the Old Testament, there was a system for getting near to God. People made long treks to the temple. They cleansed themselves before coming close to God. And even then, they needed a priest or a profit to tell them the things of God.  

Fast forward to the New Testament. God, through his Holy Spirit, would now live on the inside of his people. Awesome news! 

The Kingdom of God is near! 

I'm so glad He lives on the inside of me, being my comforter, being my peace, my joy!  While I love to go to church, I'm glad He doesn't only reside in church...but in my heart...where I can access him anytime....whether I'm clean or dirty, full of sin or repented. He is there!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

How to Make White Gravy

Okay folks, this blog is going to be extremely spiritual...especially if you take your food serious.

Blogging about food is something I haven't done until recently, but I cook ALL the time so I thought it was fitting.

In order to get good food, I just have to cook it myself! Plus, I have a sweet family that enjoys eating so cooking is a must.

My sweet friend Michelle asked me the secret to making cream gravy. She had done it several times and each time it had not turned out well. It reminded me of being in college. My roommates and I would try to make gravy, but we were never successful. It wasn't until I got married and really started cooking a lot that it got easier. It takes some practice.

I tried to snap some photos to capture the experience. Consistency is not the easiest thing to photograph, but maybe it will all make sense.

These particular photos were taken while making S.O.S. That is fried hamburger meat in white gravy. It is best eaten over biscuits.

First, after I cook my hamburger meat (or you can pour a little grease in the pan), I drain most of the grease out of the pan. I leave around 4 or 5 tablespoons. You don't have to be exact because you can add more or less flour accordingly.

This photo is hard to see, but I have tilted the pan to try to show you. Leaving a FEW drippings in the pan is good too. It makes the gravy taste better, but DO NOT over do it. You can actually have too many.

Next, sprinkle some flour in your pan.  You want it to somewhat be equal to the grease. Maybe 3-4 tablespoons. Not too much, not too little. (secret #1) This is where the mistakes are made people!!

Now, stir it around. It should be somewhat liquidy, not to clumpy. I recommend using a wire whisk (secret #2). If you are really good, you can use a fork. Cook it until it looks kinda like this. Thick and bubbly...but not too thick. This happens fast. No more than 2-3 minutes.

Now, get ready! Here is where the fun part comes in. Pour in some milk. Maybe half an inch deep and stir with that whisk I told you to use. Make sure you get around the edges and on the sides. Sometimes the flour likes to gather around the edges. You will gradually add milk as you go so don't panic that this is not enough gravy.

Make sure your temperature is set kinda low, maybe a 4 on the electric stove. You do not want to scald the milk. Cook until the mixture gets thick. (secret #3) DO NOT FORGET TO STIR. If you don't like stirring, this is not the dish you should be cooking. Stir! I said stir!!!!

Now, see this picture?  Can you see the thickness here.  Not over thick, but starting to thicken. You see that, right?

Now, it is the time to add more milk. This will be the last time you add milk. Do not over do it. Just add about what you added before...maybe a little bit more. If you are not comfortable adding that much milk, you can do it in smaller stages. Add a little, stir, thicken, add some more, etc.

You can go ahead and season it now. I only use salt and pepper. Don't ask me how much because that just depends on your taste buds. But, you can see from the picture how mine looks. (Equal parts of salt since you can't see that.) The salt and pepper make the gravy so don't be afraid to season it good.

You can take some very short breaks from stirring, but never leave the gravy on the stove alone. It can do tricks while you aren't looking. The milk will burn if you are not careful.

Continue to stir on and off for about 5-10 minutes, the gravy is going to get thicker. This takes a while, but remember...all good things come to those who wait. Your taste buds will thank you.

ALTERNATIVE STEP:  If you are stirring your heart out, and your gravy does not get thick, add more flour. You heard me right, add more flour. It will be fine because you are using your secret weapon - THE WHISK!  It will look clumpy, but whisk it in like it had been there from the start. You can do it.

If your gravy gets thick really fast, then you will need to add more milk. It will also thicken a little bit as it cools off. So, if it gets thick ASAP, and you have not had to stir much, you need to add more milk. Remember, it's gravy not flour. No one wants to eat flour!

You are almost there.  See this consistency? You are on the right track. Just keep cooking and stirring.

Finally the master piece is DONE! You did it. Can you see this consistency? Kinda thick, but not too thick? That is what you are going for. This whole process takes about 15 - 20 minutes.

When I finished, I added my hamburger meat back to my gravy because I was making SOS. If you are really talented, you can make the gravy with the meat in the pan, but why chance it? Just take it out, make gravy, then add it back.

Click here to share these secrets with your friends! 

And, if all else fails, I have a great alternative for you.

Pioneer Gravy Mix!

This stuff cooks in about 3 minutes and it's pretty darn good in a pinch.

Making gravy takes practice so don't be to hard on yourself if it doesn't work out the first time. Just keep trying. Comment below and let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Best Pancake Recipe in the World

For the love of pancakes ... or panclocks for those of us who have the movie 50 First Dates memorized!

Confession .. my family and I eat a lot of pancakes! I always throw in a fried egg for protein to counterbalance the sugar. 

There is just something about a pancake that speaks to me. I have a general love for all things pancake. Is this normal? 

I have an old recipe. I think it may have originally come from a Betty Crocker cookbook. I've changed it up over the years, but the basic ingredients stay the same.  

Another little yum factor for making these the best pancakes on the planet is cooking them in a cast iron skillet. (If you love cast iron, check out this facebook page.) The one I have is only big enough for cooking them one at a time, but it's worth it.  The edges get crispy in the cast iron! 

This lets you mix without over stirring. 

Getting just the right consistency is tough sometimes. If in doubt, don't overmix. But the real trick to perfect pancakes is a hot skillet. 

Set it to a 5-6 heat setting and get it hot. Spray the pan between each pancake so it doesn't stick. 

This consistency is right before you flip. See how puffy it is? It is just about to bubble. 

Look at the color? Beautiful! 

I always eat my pancakes with one or two eggs! This helps add protein to all those carbs.  

1 cup milk (2% or whole)
1 large egg
1 cup all purpose flour (maybe a little less depending how thick you like them) 
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of oil or butter (I get a better consistency with oil.) Vegetable or Canola oil
2 tablespoons sugar

This recipe yields 6 big, fluffy pancakes. Mix all ingredients together with a fork. Don't overmix. Leave slightly lumpy. Let it rest a few minutes and give the baking soda some time to work. Preheat your skillet on a medium setting and spray it with Pam between each pancake.

Pour batter in slowly. If the skillet it hot enough, the batter will hold and not run all over the skillet. After the first pancake you may need to adjust your heat. I usually have to turn mine down. The cast iron takes a while to heat but it holds the heat well.

When the edges start to crisp up and the top starts to bubble, flip it over. Slide your spatula under the pancake quickly. No hem-hawing around. This is where my kids have trouble. Flip without fear and you will succeed. 

Remove and butter immediatly. There is no buttering a cold panclock! And you must use real butter. I mean it! That is half of the awesomeness. 

These are so good you don't need syrup, but I use it anyway. It's lovely.

Make these and your family will love you forever. Then, leave me a comment and tell me what you thought of them. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Don't Worry Be Happy in 2015

Did you know that one of the main contributors to heart disease is lack of ability to sleep well? And, did you know that worry keeps us up at night? It also produces cancer, ulcers, high blood pressure.

Understandably, I can see where this would be true, but I had not  given it much thought. Then, I happened to catch a sermon on TV by John Hagee over worry. He preached out of Matthew 6:30. 

Jesus is the prince of peace. He tells us not to worry. 

He has already solved the problems before us. Angels go before us. Worry is sin.

Worry is not believing God can take care of you.

Fear not the past, present or the future. Be bold and be strong. The God of Isreal is with you.
Hebrews 13:6

You are a child of God. Do not fear your enemies. “I will make your enemies to be at peace with you.” 

There was a time when my faith seemed much stronger. These scriptures were my lifeline. I quoted them to myself daily and in all different kinds of situations. 

Now, when I hear them, a light bulb goes off. 

I feel something rising up inside of me…a boldness in the Lord. 

I remember. 

I remember these are the things God has spoken in his word.

I remember a time when God came through for me and my family or my situation. Oh yes, now it is coming back!!  I am remembering the things God has done.

Let not your heart be troubled. 

There is so much power in those six little words. There are many real situations that trouble our heart. Death of a loved one. Severe health issues.  Finances. These are hard situations, but the Lord still says to you and me, “Let not your heart be troubled.” 

Sometimes our heart is broken. But, knowing we have hope in the Lord...knowing we will see a loved one again...knowing our aches will be healed...knowing we will not taste death because God has a different plan for his people. That is what helps us to apply this statement, “Let not your heart be troubled.”

God has a plan for my life. 

I know this, but unless I hear it or read it often, I forget. (I like to think I have total control over that!) 

And, when I forget God is in control, I begin to worry. 

When I forget God can handle my crazy life,  I worry. 

When I forget my kids are really his kids given to me on loan, I worry. 

I hold the weight of the world on my shoulders sometimes.  I want to make everything right. I don’t want people to hurt. I don’t want people to be wronged. I can’t stand injustice. I see short term actions that have long-term affects. And, I carry these concerns as if they were mine to own. 

But only God gets to move the chess pieces. He has a bigger plan.  

My job is to do the things he has given me wisdom to do and simply to pray. The rest is up to him.  I have to give him that control. He is the prince of peace. He is the one who gives us rest. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tex-Mex Black Eyed Pea Casserole

I am not superstitious at all; however, I heart black eyed peas in a big way.  And, I love the fact they have their own holiday...New Years! Whoop whoop!

I made this last year and loved it. Soooo, I am making it again! My once-a-year recipe. Yum yum.  

The original recipe can be found here from the Recipe Girl. I changed it up a little to suit my taste buds. The main thing I did different was switch out the spinach for cilantro. So, if you are a spinach lover, check out the original recipe. 

First, get the bacon going. The recipe only calls for 5 slices but I used most of the package. You can use as much as your kids don't eat while you are cooking it. Save the bacon grease for sauteing the onions and garlic.

While the bacon is sizzling, chop your onion and garlic and get it ready to saute. If you choose to cook your bacon in the oven, you can certainly saute your onions in oil or butter. (We will talk about my butter addiction at another time.)

While the bacon is cooling and the onions are cooking, gather up your rice, broth and spices. This recipe calls for cumin, salt and pepper. If you like stuff hot (I do not), you could easily add some cayenne pepper or chili powder. Even though this recipe includes Rotel, it is not spicy. 

After the onions and garlic are done (clear in color and soft), use a handy strainer like this and drain the last of the bacon grease. 

Put your broth, spices, rice and onion mixture into a pot and bring to a boil. Then, turn your burner down and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is gone. Leave a little liquid to include while baking. 

Now, let me detour for just a minute. Look what I bought myself for Christmas.

Aren't they cute? They have chickens on the top. I thought they were addddddorable. I loved them so much I even gave some away for Christmas presents. You can find them here at Amazon. They come in all different themes. I originally saw them over at Fresh Eggs Daily.

Now, back to the recipe at hand!

While the rice is cooking, get out your favorite bowl. (Cooking with your favorite items makes cooking more fun. My mom gave me this bowl for Christmas.)  Start piling in the remainder of the ingredients: black eyed peas, rotel, cilantro, and one cup of the cheese.  Chop up the bacon into bite size pieces and include those as well.

Isn't it pretty? Mix it around with your favorite spoon. I like wooden spoons. They make me happy. 

Next, dig through your fridge and find your  9x13 dish still half full of left-overs. Dump the left overs into the dog bowl. They will love you forever, I promise. Now, wash that pan and hurry up, we got cooking to do!   

Dump everything into the clean 9x13 pan. Put it in the over for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. (Set the timer! Don't trust your multitasking brain to remember!) Once the timer goes off, add the last cup of cheese and bake for 10 more minutes. 

Look how lovely. All those wonderful mexican flavors nestled in close with the black eyed peas. They look cozy yeah? 

If you also love avocados like I do, you will want to top this off with one and some sour cream. These two items are not required, but I want to recommend you not eat it without them. ;) I'm just sayin...  I also ate mine with chips. It was a whole meal.

I hope you enjoy this recipe I found over at the Recipe Girl. She has lots of yummy stuff on her page.  Happy eating.


2 cans of black eyed peas (or you can make your own as in the original recipe)
1 can (10oz) of rotel (tomatoes and green chilies)
5 slices of bacon (or more if you like)
1 cup chopped onion 
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cup of rice (any kind) 
2 cups cheese - divided 
1/2 a bundle of cilantro (the original called for spinach)
Sour Cream and Avocado for topping


1. Preheat oven to 350. 
2. Cook bacon until crisp. Cool and chop. 
3. Chop onions and mince garlic. Saute in bacon grease until clear. 
4. Combine broth, rice, onion/garlic mixture and cumin, salt, pepper in a pot. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is done. 
5. In a separate bowl, combine peas, rotel, bacon, chopped cilantro and one cup of cheese. Stir it together. 
6. Combined cooked rice mixture with pea mixture and stir. 
7. Pour mixture into 9x13 dish and back for 20 minutes uncovered. Then, put the remaining one cup of cheese on top and bake for an additional 10 minutes. 
8. Remove from oven. Serve hot with avocado and sour cream. 

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