A little Christmas mayhem

I can only blame myself for this, because they saw me doing it last night while I was trying to take pictures of them around the tree.

This is what happens when I take a shower and leave Eric in charge of the girls 😉 They sure were cute, though. I will also add that I made that tree skirt. I found the free pattern online…but I may as well have bought a skirt after the cost of supplies and the time it took to make it. It was about two years above my experience level (sewing on a curve is HARD!)…all the same, it looks great! Can we say, “heirloom?”

Also, here’s a recipe I just have to share. The temperature dipped down this week and I really wanted some pork and beans. I didn’t have enough great northern beans in my stash of dried beans, and then I remembered I had this recipe…and it’s dynamite. Here are the few things I did differently: I used dried beans, and if Katie hadn’t needed stitches that night, it would have cooked two hours (just enough). Instead, it cooked for nearly six. But we’re on the third night of leftovers tonight; last night, we reheated the beans and served them over salad greens (delicious) and tonight, we’re making nachos. Also, I used a pound and a half of dried black beans and three smoked ham hocks, not two (I try to always have ham hocks in the freezer). Plus, I didn’t have any stock thawed, so I used cubes of bullion and one can of chicken stock. Other than the bell peppers, these are ingredients I always have around. Seriously- this is WONDERFUL.

Note: I copied and pasted the following from an email that I receive weekly from the Splendid Table (wonderful, wonderful food if you don’t know already).

Cuban Black Bean Stew

From The Splendid Table’s® How to Eat Supper: Recipes, Stories, and Opinions from Public Radio’s Award-Winning Food Show by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by American Public Media.

Serves 4 as a main dish; 8 as a first course

15 minutes prep time; 30 minutes stove time

The soup holds for 4 days in the refrigerator and freezes for up to 3 months

Cuban black bean soup ranks with France’s steak frites and Italy’s spaghetti with red sauce as a national obsession. It is a touchstone dish of the Caribbean. Usually made with dried beans (and definitely worth the extra time when you have it), the dish can nonetheless be adapted to a streamlined model with canned beans.

One way to make up for the lack of long simmering is to blend the beans and some liquid into a highly flavored sauté and give everything a short time on the stove. The soup blossoms with a rest off the heat, and an overnight stay in the refrigerator gives it even fuller flavor. This soup demands a finish of onion and lime juice or vinegar (sherry vinegar is our pick).

Cook to Cook: We use a 10-quart pot because its size provides a broader cooking surface. Cooking that all-important sauté on the large surface discourages steaming and helps build up a flavor-packed brown glaze on the bottom of the pot. That glaze is a key to the soup’s success. Don’t worry if the vegetables don’t brown – the glaze is the thing. This, and the pork, creates the heart of the soup. If you have only a 6-quart pot, do Step 1 in a big sauté pan, then combine the sauté with the beans and broth in the 6-quart pot.

  • 1 or 2 meaty smoked ham hocks (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • Good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 medium to large onions, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 small to medium green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small to medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 14-ounce cans chicken or vegetable broth
  • 6 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves, broken
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 generous tablespoons tomato paste
  • Three 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 limes, halved or about 1/2 cup sherry, wine, cider, or palm vinegar


  • 1 cup chopped mild onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • Hot sauce

1. Trim the meat away from the ham hock bone, cutting it into small pieces. Don’t be too fussy; leaving some on the bone is fine. Film the bottom of a 10-quart stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Stir in the meat, bone, cloves, onions, bell peppers, and salt. Sauté for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are sizzling and there’s a brown glaze on the bottom of the pan (the vegetables need not brown, and take care not to let that glaze blacken).

2. Add a little of the broth along with the garlic, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, black pepper, and tomato paste. With a wooden spatula, scrape up the glaze as you simmer the mix on medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Then add the beans and the remaining broth. Adjust the heat so the soup bubbles gently. Cover the pot tightly, and cook for 20 minutes.

3. Stir in the juice from 2-1/2 limes or 1/3 cup of the vinegar. Taste the soup for seasoning. Adjust salt, pepper, and lime juice or vinegar to taste.

Ladle the soup into bowls, topping each serving with a heaping tablespoon of chopped onion and a little fresh coriander. Have the hot sauce on the table.




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