Bean With Bacon Soup

There's this restaurant in Foley, Alabama where they throw rolls at you. I'm pretty sure they won't hire someone as a server unless they played softball or baseball in high school. Those folks can pitch bread across the room like a beast. The daughter who is now a doctor also played softball in high school (I love this picture of her in her gear).

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She can pick those rolls out of the air like a pro. The rolls are amazing, so having someone along who can keep them from hitting the floor is a plus. I took her and her boyfriend (now fiancé) a couple of years ago and sat across from them while they caught enough bread to feed an army (he played football, so he has skills, too). Once we had starched up, she ordered, among other things, cottage cheese, while he got the fried gizzards--eww. His coaches had apparently been trying to get him to eat cottage cheese for some time. He told us that he and a few of his football buddies had stared down at a plate of it, none of them brave enough to try something that, admittedly, looks like watery curdled milk. My daughter and I got a kick out of that. The thought of three or four big, strapping men scared of a plate of cheese was almost more than I could stand.  

That's when one of us, I'm not sure which, had an idea. He would agree to try some of her cottage cheese if she would try some of his gizzards. I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm not a fan of exotic foods. When I watch Andrew Zimmern, I usually have to close my eyes when he eats the really weird and nasty stuff. My daughter is cut from the same cloth as me. Gizzards are not in her playbook. So, of course, this bet was made for them. They swapped bites, and I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. They wore identical looks of horror and disgust. I guess it doesn’t take much to entertain me.

Anyway, until my doctor relents and lets me have gluten again, bread is off limits, so I won't be headed over to Foley anytime soon. I'm not going if I can't have the bread. I mean, I only have so much willpower. But they have this amazing bean and ham dish that I also love. Of course, since I can’t go get it, I start experimenting. I came across this bean and bacon soup recipe, and ...Oh. My. Gosh.

This recipe is made for a crockpot. My brother refuses to use a one. He says it takes too much planning. Me? I love the crockpot. You do have to think ahead, but what it loses in planning time it makes up for in effort. My crockpot doubles as a pressure cooker, which is even better. That's how you can turn laziness and lack of preparation into good cooking. Dry beans can become good in an hour. Throw in a food processor to keep from having to chop vegetables, and this dish has Shawna Lynn written all over it.

For this recipe, freshly cooked bacon is best, but if you’re short on time, patience or energy, prepackaged bacon bits will do, As long as they're real bacon bits and not that imitation crap. Grandma would roll over in her grave. And my husband (the butcher) would divorce me.

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Bean With Bacon Soup

32 oz. navy beans

2 yellow onions, diced

4 stalks of celery, diced

8 oz. matchstick carrots

4 cups chicken broth

4 cups of water

1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled

4 cloves of garlic

1 bay leaf

Dash of red pepper flakes

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Rinse and sort dry beans, add to pressure pot. Add remaining ingredients. Pressure cook for 1 hour, or until beans are tender. Add more water, if necessary, until soup is desired consistency.

 

Alternate instructions: Rinse and sort dry beans, add to crock pot, then soak overnight. Add remaining ingredients and slow cook until beans are tender (apx. 8 hours).

Bananas Foster Fondue

Okay, get ready to love me.

The cool part about the big V-day? If you have an awesome S.O., or if you’re just awesome to yourself, no cooking!! I’ve been blessed with some amazing men in my life-husband, dad, grandfather, brother. I’ve also been cursed with a couple of mind numbingly bad ones (if you ever want to swap notes, pull up a glass of wine and we’ll commiserate-a couple of friends and I have a competition going, and it’s hard to tell which of us is winning). But even the bad ones served their purpose. Not only did they give me an example of what I didn’t want in my life, they taught me how to be happy alone. Like, deliriously happy. That they weren’t there anymore.

So I have learned how to pamper myself. Bath bombs. Wine. Chocolate. Beach vacations. Disney World. I’m shamelessly high maintenance, and I love life. Fortunately for me, my husband is even better at pampering me than I am. If anything ever happens to him, I’ll never even look at another man. Anyone else would disappoint me, because no one could possibly be as good to me as he is.

Nauseating, isn’t it? Go brush your teeth. I’ll wait.

You can imagine Valentines Day is an Event around here. So are anniversaries. Like the one where I had to tell my husband that my deceased ex was coming to live with us. I’m not making that up. Fortunately, my spouse really is great. We’re still married, even after that. Anyway, we always go somewhere that involves reservations, muted lights, and good food. And usually, I end up on the internet at some point during the night because I want a recipe for whatever Holy-Moses-That-Was-Good food my husband has just fed me.

Like this. I LOVE fondue. And bananas. This simple dessert was made for me. Even in my current (reluctantly) gluten free state, this and some extra bananas, marshmallows or cookies (I managed to find gluten free vanilla wafers that taste like the real thing) makes for a dessert that’s better than...well, it’s Valentines Day, so we’ll just say it’s a close runner up.

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Bananas Foster Fondue

4 oz white chocolate chips
½ banana, thinly sliced
4 oz caramel ice cream syrup
1 tsp banana liqueur
1 tsp spiced rum

Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, stirring every 30 seconds. Slice bananas and place in warm fondue pot. Pour chocolate over bananas. Add caramel and stir. Add liqueur and rum and stir to mix. Keep fondue warm over low heat.

Mayhaw Jelly

My daughter is getting married in April! Woo hoo! As it happens, in addition to having the perfect daughter, I am about to acquire the best son-in-law in existence (although my mother would argue with me on that one, and I might just let her win).

My daughter approached me a couple of weeks ago and asked me if I would make mayhaw jelly wedding favors. Well, of course I would. I would do anything for those two. As it happens, my future son-in-law was one of the reasons behind the request. Despite the fact that his parents live in Louisiana, which is the mayhaw capital of the universe, he had never heard of mayhaws. So we introduced him.

My grandma taught me to make the jelly when I was about ten years old. Along with chicken and dumplings and snickerdoodle cookies, mayhaw jelly was one of the few cooking lessons that stuck, probably because I liked it so much. It had been a number of years since I had had any, and my daughter asked me out of the blue one day a few years ago to make her some. I scoured the countryside looking for mayhaws, and it was not an easy task. My grandma must have bought hers on the black market. So, after doing a lot of homework, I came across this charming old man in Foley, Alabama who had an orchard. He sold me the fruit, and I sat down with him in his living room and talked about his late wife and what a great cook she used to be. I adored him. He’s gone now, and I think the world lost a good man. I planted mayhaw trees in my yard after that, but I’m afraid the freeze this winter may have done them in. We’ll find out in March.

Anyway, I made a batch of the jelly and my daughter took it back to Birmingham, where my future son-in-law, a six-foot-seven mountain of a guy, tried it on some biscuits. He was hooked, and it disappeared in a flash. Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My daughter was looking for unique ideas for wedding favors when she came across a picture of a basket with small jelly jars in it. I think the jars in the basket were strawberry or something. I make a good strawberry jam, but if you want unique, mayhaw is the way to go. It has a light, tart flavor that is unlike anything you’ve ever tried. It’s absolutely amazing. Plus it has a beautiful color. I mean, look at that picture. Am I proud of that? Oh, yes, I am.

Canning can be almost as much of a pain in the butt as finding mayhaws, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll see there’s nothing to it (if I can do it, anyone can). And fresh jam/jelly is SOOOOOOO much better than what you get in a grocery store. If you’ve never canned jelly before, do some homework first, because properly handling the jars is important. Here are a couple of resources for how to can jelly: Al.com and Huffington Post.

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Mayhaw Jelly

4 cups of prepared juice (you can juice mayhaws by boiling 1 gallon of berries in 12 cups of water, then straining through cheese cloth. The juice freezes well, so just freeze what you don’t use.)
5 cups sugar
½ tsp. of butter
1 box Sure Jell

Prepare jars first (wash and sterilize), then keep jars hot until you are ready to use them. Measure exactly 4 cups of prepared juice into a large pot and add the butter (to reduce foaming) and the Sure Jell. Heat on high, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches a full rolling boil. Stir in the sugar. Return the mixture to a full rolling boil, then boil for EXACTLY one minute. Remove from heat. Skim the foam from the top using a metal spoon, then pour into hot, dry jars, leaving a ¼ inch space at the top. Screw lids/bands on tightly, then process.