Can’t Get to a Greek Taverna? Get Some Mediterranean Flavor By Making Homemade Tzaziki and Roasted Vegetables

I have fond memories of my Air Force days in Greece (read more here), and especially of going out to local tavernas or finding one near some isolated beach.  Although its cognate in English, tavern, generally conjures up images of a place where men sit around tables with a mugs of beer in hand, sometimes singing chanties, a Greek taverna is the ubiquitous informal restaurant, which almost always has some kind of grill for cooking meat and tables outside, where patron sit under the shade of an arbor or umbrellas.

The typical meal that almost ordered was served in courses.  First came the Greek salad, with chunks of the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten, thickly cut pieces of juicy cucumber, and a slice or two of onion, all topped with a small slab or two of feta, several dark olives, and sometimes a tart pickled pepper.  Oil and vinegar were already on the table ready for drizzling.  Next arrived long stripped of battered and deep-fried zucchini and at about the same time, french fries.  But think big, chunky home fries here, not thin, McDonald’s style.  Along with the zucchini and potatoes appeared a small plate with the filled with a puddle of yummy tzaziki (sometimes spelled “tzatziki”), the slightly tart, yogurt-cucumber accompaniment for the zucchini and potatoes, and the soon-to-arrive, grilled meat.

Tavernas didn’t usually offer desserts, although some might have had some rice pudding, or something similar, for the asking.  Usually the meal ended with a small cup of thick Greek coffee (others call this Turkish coffee), which could be ordered three ways:  bitter, metrio (a Greek word I still remember, because this is what I ordered)–medium sweet, and glykos–very sweet.  Some other ways to end the meal might be a small glass ouzo, the well-known Greek alcohol, something I never acquired a taste for.  Generally, if something tastes like licorice, it should be licorice candy!

If there is one thing that makes me immediately think of Greece, it’s tzaziki.  I never learned to make it when I lived in Greece because if I cooked for myself, I didn’t cook Greek food.  However, when I got out of the Air Force and started living out in the plains of western Kansas, I began to miss the taverna food.  Greek salads were easy enough to replicate, though in those days, and especially living so far from any city, finding feta cheese was difficult.  I also learned to make a great pastitsio, which, for those who don’t know this casserole dish, might be described as Greek lasagna.

Because I like tzaziki so much, I have tried, based on various recipes, to make it,  but I’ve never been completely satisfied with the results.  One reason is because the recipes asked that liquids be drained from the yogurt overnight through a cloth in a colinder.  Even when the other ingredients were added, I never felt like I ended up with very “authentic” tzaziki.

I don’t eat yogurt on a regular basis, so I haven’t paid much attention to it in the super market.  However, in just the last several months, I’ve been hearing Greek yogurt being advertised, so I took a look in the dairy section.  Surprisingly, there were several different brands with quite a few different flavors along with plain.

Most of what's needed to make quick, fresh tzaziki.

Just recently, by trial and error with the Greek-style yogurt, I’ve created my own tzaziki recipe that is quick, and I think compares well with that from the tavernas.  I used my palate to do it without even a glance at my old Greek cookbook.  I have never deep-fried anything, so I wouldn’t even attempt to make the taverna-style zucchini and french fries, but I think this tzaziki goes great with the roasted vegetables and any meat from my outdoor grill.

And now it’s grilling season again.  Last year, I went to Lowe’s (read that post here) and became a first-time gas grill owner.  And I have never looked back.  I love taste and texture of grilled meats done on the grill, not to mention, no extra heat or greasy smoke smell in the house.  But the grill basket I received for Christmas has changed my whole idea about grilling.

These roasted veggies will be even better with some tzaziki slathered on them.

I’ve found that roasting on the grill makes for more delectable vegetables than just about any other way of cooking.  I’ve already tried roasting quite a few different vegetables:  potatoes, carrots, onions, yellow squash, acorn squash, zucchini, okra, bell peppers, and broccoli, and I haven’t been disappointed yet.  Like with grilling meat, it’s important to know your own barbeque grill, especially how to regulate the heat and where the food that you’re cooking needs to be placed on the grill so that it gets cooked like you like it, but doesn’t burn.  Here’s what I do:

Roasted Vegetables on the Grill

Make sure the grill grates are clean.  Then light all the burners on high, close the lid and let the grill get hot.

Prepare the vegetables by washing and cleaning them.  For potatoes, cut off any blemishes or dark spots, but you don’t have to eye or peel them.  Trim and cut carrots.  Cut the stem and bottom ends off of vegetables like zucchini and yellow squash.  Clean out the seeds from any type of peppers.

Cut the vegetables into manageable pieces–about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick works well for most vegetables like potatoes, onions, and squash.  More fragile vegetables such as bell peppers should just be quartered.  Potatoes and hard squash take longer to cook that other vegetables, so if you are cooking these together with other vegetables, zap them in the microwave for a couple minutes to give them a head start; however, you don’t want them fully cooked.

To season, put the vegetable pieces in a big bowl.  Splash on some olive or vegetable oil.  Then sprinkle with seasonings you like, such as black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, chile powder, ground cumin, and oregano.  I also add Kroger brand salad dressing and Asian black pepper sauce.  Use a couple of spatulas and gently stir to coat the vegetables with the oil and spices.  I don’t use regular salt either before or afterwards, but you can lightly sprinkle on salt after the grilling.

When I’m to grill the vegetables, I turn the burner which I’ll use for them to medium, but leave the others on high.  Burgers and steaks usually cook faster than the vegetables, so I start the veggies first.  Place the grill basket on the grill so that you can put in the vegetables without burning yourself.  You could also put the basket on a tray before you go to the grill and add the vegetables.  Layer the vegetables with those that need more cooking time, like potatoes and carrots on the bottom.  Scrape any remaining seasoning from the bowl onto the vegetables; move the basket to the back and close the lid.  After 6=8 minutes, use a long barbeque, tong-spatula to start checking and turning the vegetables.  Gently turn them 3 or 4 times throughout the cooking process to get them golden brown and done.  Cooking time can vary depending on the amount and type of vegetables. Using cooking mitts, carefully remove the basket from the grill.

Homemade Tzaziki (Trip to the Outhouse Style)

  • 1 small container of Greek-style yogurt (5-6 oz.)
  • 1 very small cucumber or 1/2 of a larger cucumber peeled
  • 1 clove garlic peeled
  • 1 small scallion (green onion) including part of the top, cleaned
  • 2 tablespoons cottage cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar (you might try lemon juice too)
  • black pepper

In a food processor, pulse the garlic and green onion until very fine.  Add the vinegar and pulse in.  Add the cottage cheese and pulse until creamy.  Add the cucumber that you’ve cut up into chunks.  (If the seeds in the cucumber look mature, scoop them out and discard them.  Don’t add them into the mixture.) Pulse until the cucumber is in smaller bits.  Sprinkle on some black pepper and add the yogurt.  Pulse until all the ingredients are just blended.

Make the tzaziki at least a couple of hours before your meal and store in the refrigerator.  It will keep in a covered container for 2-4 days in the refrigerator.  Serve in a bowl or on a plate with a little olive oil drizzled over the top.  If your meal is more formal, serve on small individual plates.

This recipe makes about 2 cups, which should be quite enough for a 1-family meal.  You could increase the amount by doubling the ingredients except for the garlic and green onion.

Breezy Sunday–Time for a Home-cooked Dinner Including Fresh Green Beans

The only thing that would make these home-cooked green beans better would be if they were also home-grown.

Blustery breezes and an uncertain sky haven’t put a damper on this penultimate day of February.  For the first time in a couple of weeks, I’m back in my groove.  (I’ll try to add another post about what’s been happening later.) 

The back door is open, with the screen on the storm door pulled down to let in some of the breeze.  What’s more, I’m making a real Sunday dinner.  (Isn’t it a bit confusing that we have Sunday dinners at lunchtime?)

So here’s what’s cooking:  a ham glazed with a mixture of jam, brown sugar, brown mustard, peanut sauce, and wasabi sauce, and simple scalloped potatoes with bits of onion and butter, layered with about 3 tablespoons of flour, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and a cup of half-and-half poured over the top before going into the oven.  Already cooked and resting on the cooktop is a kettle of fresh green beans.

Fresh green beans are one of my favorite vegetables.  In comparison, the frozen ones are almost inedible, and green beans from a can aren’t a lot better.

Making  fresh, home-cooked green beans isn’t very difficult.  Some people think getting them ready is too much work.  I just dump them into a colander and wash them several times, then take a kitchen scissors and nip off the stem, then rinse them off again a time or two.

Home-cooked Green Beans

  • 1 pound fresh green beans washed and stemmed
  • 3 slices of bacon cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 green onions including most of the tops loosely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 or 2 “splashes” of white wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic salad dressing
  • 3 to 4 cups of water
  • pepper and salt to taste

Put a heavy kettle on the stove and turn the burner to medium high.  When the kettle is hot, add the oil, then the bacon and onion.  Cook until the bacon begins to brown; then add the onions  and cook until they become translucent.  Keep the bacon and onion moving with a spoon or silicon spatula so they don’t burn.  If the bacon cooks off quite a bit of fat, remove the excess with a spoon.  (I find that most bacon these days contains a lot of water and not a lot of fat cooks out; that’s why it will stick to the pan and may burn.) 

Add a splash or two of white wine and a couple of tablespoons of water to de-glaze the bottom of the kettle.  Use a silicon spatula to help get all the “goodies” off the bottom of the pan.  Add the balsamic dressing (or balsamic vinegar) and about 1/2 cup of water and stir in.  Let the liquid cook until it bubbles. 

Put the fresh green beans into the kettle and add enough water so that there is an inch or two of liquid in the kettle.  About two-thirds of the beans will not be covered.  Put a lid on the kettle and leave on medium-high heat until the liquid boils, then turn down to medium-low and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the beans are cooked to your liking.  (Some like beans cooked less and other liked them cooked until they are limp.)

This recipe will make 6-8 servings.  You can make this recipe a day ahead of time, and just re-heat.  I think these beans are even better the second day because they absorb  more of the bacon flavor.

A View from the Suburbs: Not All the Dips Are in Washington; Here Are a Couple That Everyone at Your Holiday Festivities Will Want To Socialize With

The counter was filled with recipes, and then later filled with the results.

In less than two weeks Christmas will be here. 

I know that I haven’t posted anything for over a month.  I’ve been bummed by the entire political scene and just haven’t even wanted to write about any of that, but there are many other sites that express my viewpoint (check out my blogroll–“Places I Frequent”–esp. Towleroad and AmericaBlog Gay), so “my two cents” would only be just that.

More than anything, I’ve been busy, and with the time change, it’s usually dark when I arrive home from work, so the evenings seem shorter even though the actual clock time is the same as before.  Then too, there was Thanksgiving and an entire Sunday afternoon putting up a storm door on the backdoor, the continual necessity of sweeping up the acorns, and now the leaves, dropping from the otherwise wonderful oak tree which shades my house and patio.  More recently, another birthday decided to pass my way.

But most of my time has been spent preparing and decorating my house for a holiday open house for my colleagues and friends.  I had never gotten myself together to have a party after I had bought my house and moved in, now more than a year ago.  So as my mom used to say, “It was ‘high time.'”

I think my house looks plenty “Christmasy,” not over-decorated, but something in every part to say “tis the season.”  The dining room window is just the place for the tree, a white one trimmed in red and gold.  (Take a peek at the banner above.)

This was my first big party in years, so, of course, I overdid it.  Every evening for more than a week, I was cooking or baking something–9 pounds of meatballs, a turkey, even a roast made on the barbeque, plus a variety of cookies, a sugar-free fruitcake, queso and chips, some dips, and who knows what else.

I had dug out my recipes, wanting to make things I hadn’t had the chance to for years.  A couple of the dip recipes are even better than I had remembered.  And if you want to try them both, you can make them both, one right after the other, and only have to clean up the food processor once!

This first one is so good it will knock your socks off!

Beau Monde Dip

  • 12 ounces sour cream
  • 12 ounces mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons minced onions
  • 2 tablespoons Beau Monde spice (I used Spice Islands brand)
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh dill (my recipe calls for 2 tbsp. dry dill weed but I think the fresh dill is what makes this dip so good)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh or dry parsley (I used dry)
  • 1 large unsliced round loaf of pumpernickel rye bread (if you can’t find pumpernickel, any kind of heavy, coarse bread will do)
  • 1 small sliced loaf of pumpernickel rye bread

I used to mix this up in a bowl, but it’s super easy using a food processor.  Put a couple of green onions into the processor and pulse into fine pieces.  Add a generous handful of fresh dill and pulse again.  (If you’re using fresh parsley, pulse it in now.)  Add the sour cream and mayonnaise, then the Beau Monde spice and dry parsley.  Pulse until well mixed and the color is consistent.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Just before your party starts, hollow out the center of the round loaf of bread with a knife to form a “bowl”; be careful not to cut through the bottom of the loaf.  In fact, leave at least a couple of inches of bread on the sides of “the bowl.”  Put the “bread bowl” on a large plate or platter.  Cut or tear the bread removed from the center into pieces to be used for dipping and place them around the bowl.  Cut or tear more pieces from the second loaf for additional bread for dipping. 

Most people love the dill taste and using the bread makes a nice change from chips.

This second dip recipe is a great alternative to traditional guacamole.  Not only is it easy–and tasty–but it will last in your refrigerator for a week and won’t turn brown.

Guacamole Cheese Dip

  • 2 large avocados
  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Pulse the green onions into fine pieces.  Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until smooth.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

View from the Suburbs: A Great Fall Weekend, Just To Put You in the Mood for Corn Tortilla Pie

 

Corn Tortilla Pie–It’s an easy comfort dish just right for a fall supper.

This has been one of those perfect fall weekends–nothing out of the ordinary, but every aspect enjoyable.

The mornings have been fresh, so Annie and I went to the dog park both mornings.  Yesterday, we both got shots–bordetella and flu.  (You can guess who got which.)  I took Annie to our new veterinary–Hearthstone Animal Clinic.  The staff is  very accommodating and friendly, and the clinic is bright and clean.  We were in and out so fast that Annie didn’t even seem to realize she had been to the vet.

I did a good bit of gardening both days.  I’m starting to amend my vegetable garden, so I went to Lowe’s and got more bags of cow manure.  (It’s already decomposed–no smell.)  The okra is about to play out, but even so, I canned another pint of them with a few of the peppers, which are just coming into their own here late in the fall.  I’ve already put up 28 pints of pickled okra;  I think they should be called artisanal pickles, because I’ve only canned a few pints at a time, the most was 4 pints when the okra was in its prime.  (“Put up”–I hope this usage isn’t losing its meaning.)  I’ve already tried a jar of the early ones.  Tasty!

After our jaunt to the dog park, the morning was still so refreshing that we stopped off at Bear Creek Park and took a walk by the animal pens.  The park is only a few miles down the road from my house, but since I moved here almost a year ago, I had only driven by.  Today before stopping, we drove through the expansive picnic areas, playing fields, and the golf course, and then through part that is just natural reserve full of pines and other trees.  The most exotic animals there are the rheas from South America, but there are also buffalo, deer, burros, emus, turkeys, pot-bellied pigs, goats, and a white reindeer.  Annie was none too interested in the animals, but one turkey seemed to be infatuated with her.

Now that it’s a bit cooler, I feel like using the oven more.  Here’s casserole dish of my own creation that I have made several times.  I like Mexican food, but I know that I can’t compete with the authentic dishes, so this recipe is easy to put together and satisfies that hankering for that Mexican taste.  I call it “Corn Tortilla Pie”.

Corn Tortilla Pie

1 1/2 pounds of ground turkey (or lean ground beef or pork)

1 large onion chopped

1 clove garlic finely minced or pressed

olive oil

1 tsp. chili powder

Salt and pepper

1 can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes

3/4 cup ketchup

2 cups frozen corn or 1 can chili-style beans

1 package (approximately 2 cups) Kraft Mexican Style Shredded Four Cheese

1 small can whole green chiles

22-24 corn tortillas

Heat a splash of olive oil in a skillet.  Add the chopped onions, cooking until translucent.  Add the garlic, and let cook a few seconds more.  Add the ground meat, and cook until just done.  If you use ground beef, drain off any grease.  Add the chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste.  Then add the stewed tomatoes and ketchup.  (You can use salsa or hot sauce to make this dish more picante.)  Turn up the heat and cook until the liquids start to bubble and thicken just a bit.

While the meat is cooking, turn on the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large flat baking dish (I use a 9 x 13 glass one), add a splash of olive oil.  Use one of the corn tortillas to spread the oil onto the bottom and sides of the dish.  Line the bottom and sides with approximately 8 tortillas so that the dish is covered.  Spread half of the mixture over the bottom tortillas.  Then cover the meat with all of the frozen corn (or beans).  Sprinkle about 3/4 cup of the shredded cheese on top.  Cover with another layer of tortillas (approximately 8).  Spread the remaining meat mixture on the tortillas.  Tear the green chiles in half and arrange them over the meat, and sprinkle with another 3/4 cup of the cheese.  Cover with the last 6 tortillas and sprinkle them with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes until the tortillas on top are crispy and the cheese is golden.

Take out of the oven and let rest for about 10 minutes.  Use a knife to cut through and a spatula to lift to the plate.  Serve with a salad, and you have supper!  This makes 8 good-sized portions.

View from the Suburbs: The Flag, Pink Bougainvillea, and Even More Okra Recipes

 

Waiting for the breeze.

I put my flag out this morning for the  Labor Day holiday and took it down this evening.  This is the first Labor Day in my house, and just like other national holidays, I’ve put out the flag.  My Georgian-style house looks great with the flag hanging out from it.

Anyone who says liberals are unpatriotic have definitely got it wrong.  Even though the flag is just a symbol, if we don’t respect the flag, we don’t have much respect for all that it represents.  I have never liked that businesses and other places put flags up and don’t take them down until they are deteriorated almost beyond recognition.  I also miss the time when it was a daily ritual for school custodians to raise the flag in the morning and take it down and neatly fold it up at the end of the school day.

I know the Supreme Court and other courts have ruled that it’s a First Amendment right to desecrate the flag, but those who disrespect the flag really are showing no respect for the country that gives them that very right.

There’s a house in the neighborhood, which has cars parked in the drive with bumper stickers saying, “I’m proud of my U.S. Marine son.”  Yet wound around a pole jutting out from the house is a U.S. flag so faded and tattered, it looks more like a rag someone used for washing the car.

Then there are people like the notorious Phelps clan, of Topeka, Kansas.  They continue to trample and show complete disrespect for the flag at protests across the country, especially at funerals for soldiers who have died fighting for the flag and the very freedoms which give these people the right to  protest.   This entire family has never grown up.  It’s like the 15-year-old who calls her mother “a bitch.”  Give that same girl another couple of years and she’ll know better.  The Phelps have never grown up enough to understand the freedoms the flag gives them.  Or maybe they do, and they’re just using it to work the system.

This pink bougainvillea has found the right spot.

On a brighter note, while summer is still here there’s a promise of the fall to come in the air.  Each morning when I take out Annie for her “go”, the air is just a bit fresher.  Some of the flowering plants are now coming into their own.  The bougainvillea I bought in the spring is now covered in blossoms.  Each bloom goes through a wonderful transformation of colors, starting with the palest of apple greens, finally ending in almost a hot pink.

What’s left of the vegetable garden is still trying.  The okra continue to produce and even the pepper plants that would bloom without any peppers setting on are finally getting a few.  I’ve canned almost 20 pints of pickled okra.  I’ve even tried cooking it some new ways.  The results were definitely tasty.

Grilled Okra

Brush olive oil onto whole okra pods.

Arrange on a medium to medium-high grill.

Let cook about 3 minutes on each side for about 10-12 minutes total.

Okra should get nice grill marks on all sides and be sizzling when cooked.

Serve with garlic butter or just salt and pepper.  Great finger food!

 

Cast iron skillet works best for frying okra.

Battered Fried Okra

12-16 okra pods

1 egg

1/4 C. water

1/2 C. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Cover the bottom of a cast iron skillet with olive or vegetable oil.  While the oil is heating to almost sizzling, beat the egg and water in a medium-sized bowl with a fork.  Cut the okra–about 1/2 inch slices–into the egg mixture and toss with the fork.  Put the dry ingredients into a paper or zip-lock plastic bag and shake well.  Add the egg-covered okra into the bag a few at a time, shaking until all the okra are coated.  Add a bit more flour if the okra are not coated to your liking.

Put the battered okra into the hot skillet, spreading them out evenly.  Let them cook until golden on the bottom.  Then turn with a pancake turner.  Cook until done.  (Okra changes to a darker green when it is cooked.)

If you love okra, this recipe is enough to serve 2 people 1 helping.  You might like this with a dollop of ketchup on the side.

Use Fresh Summer Peaches To Make This Easy and Delicious Pie

 

Peach Crumb Pie--a delicious, homemade dessert that even a beginner can make!

 

It goes without saying that summer is the time for fresh fruit.  Even in the supermarkets at this time of year, there’s a much better chance of getting some local produce, instead of something shipped in from halfway around the world.  I had been looking through my recipe box just to check out pickle recipes–yes, the okra are still coming–when I ran across a pie recipe that my mom made and is one of my favorites.

I used to avoid baking in my apartment because I didn’t like making the AC have to work against the heat that filled up the kitchen.  However, here in my house, the venting from the oven works well and my kitchen stays cool.  Therefore, yesterday when I saw some nice looking peaches at the store, I knew exactly what I would do with them.

This is an easy recipe and much tastier than anything from the frozen foods department.  (If making the pie crust is not your thing, you can use a store-bought pie shell.  Normally, I like making the pie crust, but today I used Mrs. Calendar‘s, and it was OK.  My usual homemade pie crust recipe is here.)

Peach Crumb Pie

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

4 C. fresh peaches, about 6-7 peaches

2 1/2 Tbsps. dry tapioca (not the pearl type)

3/4 C. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice

Peel and slice the peaches.  Mix together with the other ingredients in a large bowl.  Set aside for 5 minutes or the time it takes to make the topping.

Topping

1/3 C. packed brown sugar

1/4 C. flour

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 1/2 Tbsps. soft butter

Use a fork and cut the dry ingredients into the butter until it all becomes soft little balls about the size of a pea.  Then put the peach mixture into an unbaked pie crust.  Even out the peaches in the crust so that there are no gaps.  Sprinkle the topping over the peaches.  Bake at 425 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

This is a very forgiving recipe.  Even if you have never made a pie before, you can make this one and have a dessert that looks elegant, tastes delicious, and is homemade!

Home-cooked Pinto Beans, Refried Beans, and Cardinals To Boot

Less than 1/10 of an inch (near 529 and Huffmeister), but the new rain gauge is ready to take on more.

Friday has brought another tranquil morning, and as I’m on vacation I’m going to enjoy it to the fullest.

This morning when I got up to take Annie out, there was a light rain coming down, so I was more ready to go out that she was.  Yesterday, I had put up a rain gauge.  The farm kid in me wanted a rain gauge to go along with my new garden.  There’s a perfect post right at the garden gate that’s right out in the open away from the influence of the surrounding trees.  Because it was still almost dark at that time, I couldn’t see how much precipitation–if any–had collected in the gauge.

I went back inside, but soon was ready for something to eat.  I don’t know what it is–on a work day morning, I’m not hungry when I get up, but when I have a day off, I feel like eating and usually make a substantial breakfast.

Yesterday I had made chile colorado and cooked some pinto beans.  (I’ll post the recipe for chile colorado later.)   I had wanted to make frijoles a la charra (ranch-style beans), but I didn’t have all the ingredients.  Anyway, when it comes to cooking, sometimes simple is better.  Here is what I did:

Home-cooked Pinto Beans

2 cups dry pinto beans  (Wash the beans in a colander, place in a large bowl, and add at least twice as much water as beans.  Let the beans soak for at least 4 hours, but overnight is even better.

When the beans are soaked and ready to cook:

1 medium onion chopped

1 cloves garlic (smash the garlic with the side of a big knife and then finely mince

2 tablespoons olive oil.

Heat the olive oil in a 2-quart pot and add the chopped onions.  Sauté the onions until they begin to change color, and then add the garlic.  (Garlic tends to burn if you cook for the same time as the onion.)

Once the vegetables are sautéd, dump the beans and water into the pot.  Add more water for a total of 1 1/2 quarts.  The water should be an inch or two below the rim of the pot.

At this point add a bit of ham, bacon, or salt port.  I had some thin deli ham, so I put in a couple slices, not very much at all.

Turn up the heat to medium-high, put the lid on the pot, and bring the water to a boil.  After the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat and partially cover the pot with the lid.  Cook the beans at a very low simmer for at least an hour and then check on them.  When the skins start to split, strain one or two beans out of the liquid and check them for doneness.  If they are still grainy, they’ll need at least an hour more.

In the food processor, pulse together: 1 can of stewed tomatoes, 2 tablespoons grape jelly, and 1/3 cup ketchup.

Add this mixture to the beans before they are completely cooked and let everything finish cooking together.  When the beans are completely cooked, salt and pepper to taste.

The broth is very tasty, so you could serve this as a soup, or strain the beans and serve them just as a vegetable.

Quick, easy, and yummy!For my breakfast this morning, I decided to take advantage of what I had cooked yesterday, so I strained out about a cup of the beans and pulsed them in the food processor.  Don’t overdo it, you want to keep some bean texture and not have a dip!

So in my non-stick frying pan, I cooked two eggs and added the beans for refried beans.  Why do they call them “refried” beans?  They’ve already been cooked, but “fried”?  Only once.  Maybe the refrying is in the method.  To get the beans nice and crispy on the outside, keep turning and turning them, something like you might do with a potato pancake.  Never made them?  Well, keep turning the beans until they look tasty.

Breakfast is ready!The light rain let up and I went out to eat my breakfast on the patio.  Once again, I feel like I’m truly on vacation.  My back yard is such as pleasant place.

Just to add to the peaceful environment, a pair of cardinals came to scratch in the grass and have a bit of breakfast while I was enjoying mine.