The Ultimate Baked Beans for Your Next Cookout

When I'm in a hurry or there's lots of dishes to prepare for a cookout I have no problem opening a can of baked beans to heat and serve. But there are times when I want to go an extra mile and make something a little more special.

That's when I pull out all the stops and make the ultimate baked beans. My friend refers to these as "Those Beans" because when I make this dish for a potluck she says everyone want to know who made those beans.

Full of bacon, ground beef and three different types of beans it could be a meal in itself.

All it takes is a few cans of beans and a little of this and a little of that...

Ultimate Baked Beans

3 (1 pound) cans pork and beans
1 (1 pound) can lima beans (do not drain)
1 (1 pound) can of kidney beans (drained)
1/2 pound bacon
1 pound ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup ketchup
1 cup water
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Brown the ground beef, drain the fat and set aside.
Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain all but 3 Tablespoons of the bacon fat.
Cook the onion in the reserved bacon fat until tender.
Add the ketchup, water, mustard, brown sugar, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce to the onions and heat through.

Crumble the bacon and mix all the ingredients together in a large baking dish. (I used a cast iron chicken fryer.)

You can add additional ketchup and water if the dish seems too dry.

Bake in the oven at 300 degrees F for 1 1/2 hours until thick and bubbly.
In a crock pot on low 4 hours
for a cookout this can be cooked on the grill. I used a cast iron skillet and set it over the hot coals for 1 1/2 hours.

For your next cookout those beans would be great served with Sweet and Slightly Tangy Coleslaw and your favorite grilled meat. 

What's on your grill this weekend?

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Practice Hospitality - Talking to People in the Store

When I go shopping I'm usually on a mission to get in and get out! 

When I stopped at Sam's Club to buy 8 pounds of unsalted butter I was on that mission. Get the butter and get out. I had a lot on my mind as I was getting ready for a party I'm hosting and I had a long list of things to do. Making 4 dozen cupcakes was one of the items on my list.

I got the butter and was heading for the checkout when I remembered I was out of milk so I took a side step to picked up a gallon. That's when an elderly gentleman stopped me and asked me about the milk. Whole, fat-free, 1%, 2%??? He was completely lost. So for 10 minutes we talked about milk. I didn't know that a simple product like milk could be a topic of conversation! 

When we parted company he said to me "thank you for talking to me". 

It was a brief encounter but his words stuck with me all day. 

"Thank you for talking to me." 

I don't know the facts and figures but I read somewhere that loneliness is rampant in our society. Especially in the elderly who are often time widowed and have lost many of their friends. 

Whether this gentleman was lonely or not I'm glad I took a few minutes out of my busy schedule to have a simple conversation about milk.

Do you talk to strangers when you're out and about?

Check out this post for a few ideas for talking and listening to people when you're out and about.

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth


Summer Grilling - Chicken Kabobs with Pineapple Ginger Marinade

It's summer and we're really putting our grill to good use. Last night we grilled chicken that had been marinated with a combination of pineapple, ginger, garlic and few other ingredients. To go with the chicken I stir fried fresh veggies and used the same marinade ingredients to make a sauce that I served over kelp noodles.

Have you ever eaten kelp noodles?

This was a first for us and I was a little leery. I'm not fond of seafood and I wasn't sure if it would taste fishy. But the package promised it was a neutral flavor and since kelp is very high in calcium I decided to give it a try.

I purchased the kelp noodles from Whole Foods. Be forewarned. If you've never used kelp noodles before it looks a little bizarre when you open the package. Like clear plastic strings. The noodles can be eaten right out of the package in salad or you can cook them in liquid. They're still clear as you can see in the picture of the finished dish.

I used a mini chopper to make the marinade.

Bright, crisp veggies and clear noodles are so pretty in the pan!

Grilled Pineapple Ginger Chicken Kabobs With Veggies and Kelp Noodles 

This recipe will make four generous servings.

8 wooden skewers soaked in water for about 15 minutes. 

2 pounds of boneless chicken breast (About 4 large breasts)

Cut the chicken in to chunks roughly 1 1/2  inch square pieces
Place the chicken in a gallon sized zip type plastic food storage bag.

2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
2 Tablespoon Ume Plum Vinegar OR Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup oil (I used olive oil)
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger 
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon sugar 
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to your liking)

Whisk all the ingredients together and reserve 1 cup to use later. Pour the remaining marinade into the bag. Seal the bag and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 1 hour but not more than 4 hours. Turn the bag occasionally while the chicken marinates. 

When you're ready to grill equally divide the chicken and thread it on to the skewers. Discard the excess marinade.
Grill over hot coals for 5 minutes. Flip and grill another 5 minutes. Check for doneness. Make sure the chicken is no longer pink inside. 

Cook the veggies and noodles while the chicken grills. 

4 cups of broccoli florets
1 medium red or white onion cut in chunks
1 medium red or green pepper cut in chunks
1 clove of garlic, minced 
2 - 3 Tablespoons of oil for stir frying

Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the veggies in the following order. 
Broccoli - cook for 2 minutes
Onions - cook for 1 minute
Peppers - cook for 2 minute
The veggies should be crisp tender. Don't over cook.
Continue on to the sauce and noodles

Noodles and Sauce:
To the reserved marinade add:
2 cups of veggie or chicken stock
1/2  cup of pineapple juice
1 finely grated carrot
Packaged Kelp Noodles

Once the veggie have been stir fried pour the sauce over the veggies and add the package of kelp noodles. The noodles only need 5 minutes to soften up. 
Adjust the flavorings and add more soy sauce if needed. 

I hope you'll give Kelp Noodles a try! I did and I like it for a change of pace.

So what's on your grill this summer?


Sweet and Slightly Tangy Coleslaw For Your 4th of July Celebration

In my last post I shared a favorite book Table Experiment: Loving Your Neighbor One Meal at a Time by Ryan J. Pelton.  A partial quote from the author really caught my attention.

"implement the art of hospitality back into the daily rhythms of life"
This makes me think about how we can complicate the act of hospitality. The house has to be perfectly decorated and clean. The table must be beautifully set with a special centerpiece, matching napkins and of course a cute little name place card for each guest. The food must be right off the pages of the latest magazine or get the idea.

This is why I named my blog A Plate at My Table. I hope to convey that hospitality can be as simple as setting an extra place at the family dinner table. Inviting people to sit down to share your meal.

Share your table - Share your life

Almost every night I make dinner for six so adding one or two more people around the table isn't really that difficult. The other night we included a young couple and their baby at our impromptu cookout. 

We ate outside on the porch so it didn't matter that the house was a little messy.

The menu was simple.
A plate of sliced tomatoes, onions and lettuce to top our grilled burgers, baked beans (yep, right out of the can) and coleslaw. 

Now that's a burger!

Holidays Make it Easy to Invite Someone Over

If you aren't comfortable inviting someone over on short notice or when nothing special is going on take advantage of the upcoming 4th of July holiday. Holidays are the perfect time to entertain guest.
Remember that even for a holiday the menu can be simple.

Throw some burgers on the grill, open a can or two of baked beans and make a big bowl of coleslaw. You're good to go!

The Coleslaw

I'm not sure about other parts of the country but in the South everyone has their own version of coleslaw. Some people swear by coleslaw made with sweet relish other's use only dill relish. Apple cider vinegar or white vinegar, add carrots, don't add carrots. A few radicals even add an apple or grapes! I've had icebox coleslaw and hot coleslaw. After years of trying I finally perfected what my family says is their favorite version.

A combination of crunchy cabbage and carrots that's sweet and a little tangy with just a hint of dill. 

Sweet and Slightly Tangy Coleslaw
Recipe will serve 6 and can easily be doubled to meet your needs. 

About 7 cups of shredded cabbage 
1 or 2 carrots - shredded
14-ounce bag of shredded cabbage with carrots 

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons finely minced red onion
1/2 teaspoon dried dill 

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until smooth. 

Place cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. Pour on the dressing and stir. 
For best results refrigerate at least 2 hours. 

Will you be serving a special coleslaw at your 4th of July get together?

So Much At Home

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

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Book Share - The Table Experiment - Loving Your Neighbor One Meal at a Time

Table Experiment by Ryan J Pelton is the first book I downloaded to read on my Kindle. To be honest I bought it because it was only 99 cents and I wanted to see how my new reader worked.

I have to say it was the best 99 cents I've ever spent and I feel this book is worth so much more. It's only 4 chapters and around 20 pages in total but straight forward and to the point. I read it in less than 20 minutes and it inspired me to take up the challenge and do my own table experiment.

The chapters include:

The Forgotten Art of Hospitality
Eating Like Jesus
The Table Experiment
5 Simple Way to Love Your Neighbors

The author writes about the act of simply opening our home and inviting someone in to share a meal. Just a simple meal. Nothing elaborate or fancy and I like that.

A short quote from the book:
"My hope and prayer for this book is to explore how we can implement the art of hospitality back into the daily rhythms of life. Where our tables can be places of love, grace, community, mission, and forgiveness. The common meal and the common table can become places where friendships are formed and cultivated. Where the gospel of Jesus Christ is shared in word and deed over food and drink." Ryan J Pelton 2013

I encourage you to spend less than a dollar and check out this little book. There's a lot of lonely people out there that would love to have a plate at your table.

BTW: I reviewed this book because I bought it and I really like it. I'm not being compensated in any way. 

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

So Much At Home