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Bean Soup – or what to do with your Easter ham bone…

Yummy Soup Ingredients

On Easter, we had the ham from the local hog we recently bought.  It was quite tasty and since it was a whopping 18 pounds, we have lots of leftover ham in both the freezer and fridge.  As we always do when we have a ham bone, I made our family’s Bean & Hominy Soup.  I used dry navy beans and canned hominy this time, but since I got the recipe from my mom and she always uses canned beans, I am giving the recipe using those. Of course, you can use dried hominy and beans, instead of canned, if you prefer. It will be both cheaper and healthier to make that way.

This is the navy bean soup that my family makes. It is a recipe that my Mom got from her Mom and is a dish that they used to make in Key West, Florida. My grandparents were Key West “Conchs”, meaning they were born and raised in Key West. I guess that this recipe came over to Key West from the Bahamas (or maybe Cuba?) along with the immigrants from there in the late 1800’s. I’ll call it “Ida’s Key West Bean & Hominy Soup” after my grandmother.

But, I will note that while my mom has always made it with hominy, recently she did she reveal that when she was a young child (late 1930’s) her Mom, Ida, made it with dried white “cracked corn”. Later, as it became easier to find hominy and more difficult to find food-grade cracked corn for human consumption (it is used today in chicken feed), they switched to hominy.

Wikipedia states about hominy that “Soaking the corn in lye kills the seed’s germ, which keeps it from sprouting while in storage. In addition to preserving the grain as foodstuff, this process also affords several significant nutritional advantages over untreated maize products. It converts some of the niacin (and possibly other B vitamins) into a form more absorbable by the body, improves the availability of the amino acids, and (at least in the lime-treated variant) supplements the calcium content, balancing maize’s comparative excess of phosphorus.”

It’s great with hominy, but I guess the cracked corn is more authentic.  Also, we always used white hominy, but this time I used half white and half yellow and it still looked and tasted fine. Feel free to adjust the hominy to bean ratio to your tastes, but there must be some hominy in it.  Sadly, there is no vegetarian version of this, since the ham bone and attached ham is what give it most of the flavor.

Ida’s Key West Bean & Hominy Soup

  • 1 ham bone (with some ham left on it)
  • 4 cans Navy beans, 15 oz. size cans (you can use Northern beans, but it’s not quite the same)
  • 2 cans white hominy, 15.5 oz. size cans (hominy is lye-soaked corn, yellow will do if you can’t get white)
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Old Sour, for adding at the table (optional)
  1. Simmer the ham bone in water until the meat drops off and the water makes a rich broth. I use my crock-pot and cook it on low overnight.
  2. Remove the bone and cut up any larger chunks of meat to small bite-size pieces. Drain and rinse the beans and hominy and put the chopped onion in the broth/meat in a pot along with the hominy and beans. Add additional water if necessary, as the final product should have the consistency of a stew when finished.
  3. Cook on low heat (or in a crock pot) for several hours, until the beans and hominy have softened a little and made a saucy-broth. Add salt and black pepper to taste. At the table, you can add “old sour” to taste.

“Old Sour”  is Key Lime Juice that has salt added to it, and is then left to sit and sour/ferment for a while.  I think that its use goes back to the seafaring heritage of many Key West and Bahamian folks, as the preserved  lime juice is a good source of vitamin C when you are out at sea.  That is why “limey” is a slang term for a sailor.

I found this recipe on a Key West web site, in case you can’t find it ready-made. By the way, my Mom doesn’t use peppers in hers, just lime juice and salt. Old Sour is a very old Key West tradition and Conchs use on it just about everything.

Old Sour

  • 2 cups Key Lime juice or Persian Lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 Bird Peppers or a few drops of hot sauce, optional
  1. Strain the lime juice through cheesecloth three or four times to make sure to remove all pulp.
  2. Mix lime juice and salt together. Pour into bottles with Bird Peppers. Cork.
  3. Refrigerate two weeks or more before using, the longer the better. Store in refrigerator three to six months.

Serve the bean soup with buttered Cuban bread, or French or Italian if you aren’t lucky enough to live in a town like Tampa were you can get Cuban bread.  A salad goes well with it and gives you something green.

The girls really like this soup and at their request have taken it for lunch in their thermoses the last two days.

– Stacey

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Wine, Lemon, & Herb Broiled Chicken

Wine, Lemon, & Herb Broiled Chicken

When I was a kid, my mom used to make this dish quite often.  It has simple ingredients and tastes yummy.  However, since we didn’t keep regular wine in the house, she always made it with cooking wine.  Since that stuff is full of salt and preservatives, I defintely recommend not using cooking wine and instead using a plain white wine, something inexpensive but drinkable.  If you do have to use cooking wine, then don’t salt the chicken or use any other salt in the dish. 

I had part of a bottle of leftover white wine that had been sitting in my kitchen, so that is what I used.  The alcohol cooks off, so this dish is safe for kids.  Oddly, because growing up we were a family of teetotalling Baptists and wine rarely made an appearance in our house, we always just called this dish “Wine Chicken”.  🙂

Wine, Lemon, & Herb Broiled Chicken

  • 3-4 lb. chicken pieces (including bones and skin), I used a whole cut-up fryer chickenWine, Lemon, & Herb Broiled Chicken - Ingredients
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • ½ tsp. dried marjoram leaves
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon (or 2 Tbsp. lemon juice)
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of white wine (preferred), water, or chicken broth
  1. Place chicken in shallow baking pan and season both sides with salt and pepper.  Mix together thyme, marjoram, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil.  Pour mixture over chicken and turn chicken in mixture to cover both sides. Place skin side down and let sit in refrigerator for at least 1 hour, turning twice during that period. Wine, Lemon, & Herb Broiled Chicken - Marinading
  2. Place the baking pan with chicken and marinade in it into the oven under the broiler.  Broil chicken skin side down for 8-10 minutes in oven until brown.  Turn chicken and broil on the other side (skin side up) another 6-8 minutes until brown.  Bake at 350 F until the chicken is cooked through, about 15-25 minutes until juices run clear (not pink) when poked with a sharp knife or the internal temperature of the chicken breasts is 165°F and the thighs 170°. During that time, when pan gets dry, add ¼ cup of white wine, water, or chicken broth and shake pan to mix.
  3. When done, transfer the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm.  Place the original baking pan on top of the stove.  Add about 1/4 cup additional white wine, water, or chicken broth and dissolve particles.  Cook down until it is a “sauce” consistency.  Serve sauce with the chicken.Wine, Lemon, & Herb Broiled Chicken - happy kid

I served this with steamed white fingerling potatoes and steamed asparagus that my friend brought me from her garden.  Everyone enjoyed this dish, especially the lemony-herby crispy skin.

– Stacey

Defending broccoli from politicians!

Broccoli and Parsley from our garden

Broccoli and parsley from our garden

What is it about broccoli that political conservatives hate so much?  From the first President Bush’s statement in 1990 that “I do not like broccoli, and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” to the current one in this week’s health care Supreme Court case by Justice Antonin Scalia.

On Tuesday, Scalia asked: “Could you define the market — everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli responded that buying food in the supermarket is “unpredictable and often involuntary,” unlike purchasing health insurance. Well, I feel that I need to defend the wonderful vegetable that is broccoli and mention that the government DOES affect the marketing and purchasing of lots of foods, to the detriment of poor little broccoli and lots of other healthy foods.

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) originated in Italy about 2000 years ago and is a member of the cabbage family.   It is high in Vitamin C, as well as dietary fiber, something most Americans don’t get enough of, especially from real food sources.  It also contains a good amount of vitamins K, B6, and B2 (riboflavin).  And, broccoli has multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties. Something for all of these older men that don’t like broccoli to think about is that a high intake of broccoli has been found to cut the risk of aggressive prostate cancers.

And it is misguided to think that the government doesn’t already have a significant role in deciding what Americans eat through the Farm Bill.  Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, and Mark Bittman have all written a lot more about this subject than I can state here.   But, we currently subsidize the production of corn and soy which is then turned into cheap highly-processed foods such as snack cakes and soda.  We don’t subsidize the growers of nutritious fresh vegetables, making them a lot more expensive in your local grocery than the junk food.  Corn is the source of HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) and soy is used to produce the cheap soy oil that is used in most processed foods.  My tax dollars are used to subsidize both these crops even though our family tries to avoid HFCS and soy oil. So, I am in essence being forced to pay for HFCS by the government.  I would rather my tax dollars go to making broccoli cheaper.

Although we are solidly in the lower 99%, we, unlike lots of Americans, are lucky enough to be able to afford healthy food for our family.  So, we go ahead and buy the unsubsidized fruits and vegetables.  But, it would be beneficial to everyone’s health if the veggies were cheaper than the Little Debbies, Lucky Charms, and Cokes.  In case you have not yet realized it, I am a political liberal, the bleeding heart kind.  So, since the government is going to subsidize things, I would like it to be things that help people, especially children, not benefit just the fat-cat corporations.  Not that I agree with everything in Michelle Obama’s children’s health crusade, but she is trying.  As a part of that, she is coming out with a cookbook soon that focuses on healthy foods including vegetables and here is a link to some of the her recipes including Broccoli Soup.

Now, time for a delicious broccoli recipe that even the first Pres. George Bush would like.  Several years ago, I watched Ina Garten make roasted broccoli and added that to our family’s vegetable rotation.  Since then, I have also seen Jamie Oliver and Alton Brown make their versions of various roasted veggies.  You can go to the Food Network recipe archives and find literally dozens of roasted broccoli recipes.  Here is the simple version we make.

Oven-Roasted Broccoli
(Serves 4-6 depending on appetites)

  • 2 to 3 heads of raw broccoli (or go the easy route and get a bag of the raw florets)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. 
  3. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan with a lip on it large enough to hold them in a single layer.  Drizzle the broccoli a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Some people like to add a bit of minced garlic, sliced almonds, or pine nuts to the broccoli before roasting or put a bit of shredded parmesan or lemon juice on them before serving.  But, most of the time, we go with the simple version.

I recommend cooking a lot of veggies by oven roasting.  Cauliflower, asparagus, brussels sprouts, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes are all excellent made by oven roasting.  Just adjust the roasting time to suit the vegetable.   For sweet potatoes, instead of olive oil, salt and pepper, I use a bit of melted real butter, pumpkin pie spice and some maple syrup.

Enjoy your broccoli and be healthy!

– Stacey

Another dinner from our hog – Mustardy Pork Chops with Shallots and Mushrooms

So, I told you about the quarter of a local hog we got recently, so needless to say, we are eating a lot of pork.Mustardy Pork with Shallots and Mushrooms  But, it is very tasty pork from a hog that got to enjoy mud, the great outdoors, and a social life with other hogs, unlike most factory farmed ones.

I had a pack of mushrooms in the fridge that I needed to use and so found a recipe at Skinnytaste.com that used them and some more of the pork.  I think her recipe was based on this one at the Food & Wine magazine site.  Of course, I didn’t follow it exactly, so below is the way I made it.  The girls and Mike all loved it and said to definitely make it again.  I served it on top of whole wheat spaghetti and with a side of roasted asparagus.

If you don’t have shallots, then just substitute a bit of onion and garlic.  As I tell the kids, shallots are like an onion and a garlic got married and had a baby.  🙂

Mustardy Pork Chops with Shallots and Mushrooms

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 – 6 pork chops, about 2 pounds
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 large shallot or 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 8-10 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  1. In a large frying pan heat the butter and olive oil over moderately heat. Season pork to taste on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Raise heat to medium-high and add the chops to the pan and cook for 7-8 minutes. Turn and cook until chops are browned and done through, about 7-8 minutes longer.  The exact time will depend on the thickness of the chops.
  3. Remove the chops and put on a warm plate. Add the chopped shallots to the same pan and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the stock to deglaze the pan, stir in the mustard, half the parsley, then add mushrooms, season with fresh pepper and salt if needed. 
  5. Cook about 4-6 minutes, or until mushrooms are done.  Add the chops back to the sauce and top with remaining parsley and serve.

– Stacey

Peppery Spiced Pork Chops

Peppery Spiced Pork Chops

Sorry I yet again disappeared for several weeks.  We have had a spate of illness here…stomach virus, then strep, and then another virus that caused high fevers.  One or two of the girls got each thing over the last 2 weeks.  Now I know one reason that folks home school, to keep their kids away from other sick kids.  🙂  I do post interesting articles and links on my blog’s Facebook page even when not posting to the blog itself, so come join me either there or on twitter if things are quiet here.

In the meantime, we purchased half of a locally-raised in the great outdoors hog from one of our friends that has a few. I shared the half with another friend, so I ended up with about 38 pounds of prime pork in my freezer.  All the meat we have had so far has been delicious and the bacon and sausage are both nitrate-free.  I have to say the bacon was amazingly tasty.

Well, last night, I pulled out a package of the pork chops to cook.  I got home at about 6:10 and had to leave at 6:55 to get to a meeting, so needed a fast recipe.  Luckily, Mike had already peeled and cut up the potatoes and had them on the stove, so when I got home, I seasoned the chops and sautéed them while steaming the asparagus and cutting up some fresh fruit, kiwis and blueberries.  I know the serving size on the mashed potatoes is a bit large, but we rarely have them, so I indulged. Timewise, I was a few minutes late, but did make it to my 7 pm meeting. 

The meal was delicious, especially the pork.  I don’t know if it was the spices or the excellent quality of the meat, but either way, I am sharing the recipe. I based mine on a recipe for “Pepper-Rubbed Pork Chops” from Bigoven.com, but I tweaked and simplified it even more.

Peppery Spiced Pork Chops
(serves 3-6 depending on appetite)

  • 1  1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper, coarsely crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4-6 pork chops (depends on thickness, about 2 pounds)
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Stir together everything except the pork chops and the olive oil until well mixed.  Rub spice mixture on both sides of chops.  (I put mine in an old spice shaker bottle to make it easier to apply.)
  2. Put olive oil in large skillet or frying pan and heat on medium-high.  When hot, add pork chops and cook thoroughly turning once, until crispy on the outside and chops are done throughout.
  3. If you want some “gravy”, after removing your chops, you can deglaze your pan with 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream. 

It was loved by all.   Mike and the kids had some of the “gravy” on theirs, but I didn’t.

– Stacey

Gingery Beef and Green Bean Stir Fry

Gingery Beef and Green Bean Stir Fry
Sorry that it has been awhile since I have blogged.  Life keeps getting in the way.  We have had a big birthday for one of the girls and some family visiting.  I will be posting the recipe and instructions for Emma’s “pizza” birthday cake in the near future, but today, you get a recipe for a ground beef and green bean stir fry.

My girls love the haricot vert (fancy French green beans) that you can get fresh in the produce section.  Normally, I just steam them or roast them in the oven, but last night I decided to make something Asian with them.  The local Natural Grocers has their grass-feed ground beef on sale, so it was to be ground beef and green beans.

Gingery Beef and Green Bean Stir Fry

  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup beef broth
  • 4 Tbsp real soy sauce or tamari (not LaChoy)
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 gloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 2 cups fresh green beans
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 small can sliced bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed (the girls call it Panda Food)
  1. Combine all sauce ingredients. That means everything except the green beans, the ground beef and the bamboo shoots. Set aside.
  2. Blanch the green beans in boiling water for several minutes-the beans should be tender-crisp. Drain and “shock” with cold water.
  3. Brown the ground beef and drain. Add the sauce mixture to the meat. Simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavors to blend and the sauce to thicken.
  4. Mix in the green beans and bamboo shoots, heat through and serve over cooked brown rice or whole wheat noodles.

Note: This recipe is not very spicy at all, so Mike and I added Sriracha chili sauce to ours at the table to give it more of a kick.  But, if you are not serving any kids, then feel free to use more red pepper flakes in the dish.

Sorry the picture is not so great, I forgot to take one until after we had already dug into it.  🙂  The kids all liked it a lot!

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili – a vegetarian recipe for everyone

You can definitely tell by the number of dishes including meat on my blog that we are omnivores, not vegetarians.  But, everyone needs to eat more fruits and vegetables, so a good vegetable stew or salad recipe is always helpful. 

The chili spices in this dish predominate, so you don’t even miss the meat.  I was concerned that with both the honey and sweet potatoes, the chili would be too sweet, but it isn’t.  To make the recipe vegan, substitute the honey with maple syrup or other vegan-acceptable sweetener and don’t use the optional dairy-based garnishes.

The coffee is just to give it a bit of a smoky taste. So if you don’t drink coffee, use water instead and then add a bit of smoked paprika.  That should give you the same effect.   I have given the recipe using canned beans and tomatoes; the ones I used were organic.  But, it is always better if you have the forethought to soak and cook your own beans and use fresh tomatoes.  But, I am not usually that organized.  🙂

The kids all loved this recipe.  We served ours with a dollop of plain yogurt on top, but no cheese.  You could also garnish with a bit of chopped cilantro.  The sweet potatoes will be giving you lots of vitamins A & C and the beans will give you lots of fiber.

– Stacey

Sweet Potato & Black Bean ChiliSweet Potato Black Bean Chili - potatoes and onions
Yield: 2 quarts, about 8 servings

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive, peanut, or coconut oil (I used coconut)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili - adding garlic and spicesblack beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 cup brewed coffee
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese or mexican cheese blend, optional for serving
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream, optional for serving
  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili - ready to simmer
  2. When oil is hot, sauté sweet potatoes and onion in oil stirring often, until the onion is beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin and cayenne; cook stirring constantly 1 minute longer.
  4. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, coffee, honey, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender.
  6. For serving, you can top with a dollop of plain yogurt and/ or a sprinkle of cheese.

Note: Another lazier option for making this is to just throw everything in your crockpot and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

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