Ham & Beans

Any reader who was a customer at Kete-Yama’s  Restaurant, on Lower Main St. in Wailuku, might remember having ham-n-beans with cornbread as their daily special at the cafe when my parents were visiting and making  specials for us.  When queired, “What get special?” as our ‘reglar’ customers arrived for lunch, my buddy Clarita would laugh and respond, “for special get ham-n-beans-n-cornbread that Katy says is “a haole soul food recipe. it’s something her fada made and stay good!” and those beans would sell right out. Yep, no rice in sight with this special dish, just beans seasoned with a ham bone, or like the beans today, with ham pieces and roast pork.   For people in the mid-west and south, beans are equivalent with the starchy rice which local people in Hawai’i enjoy with every meal, and certainly beans and potatoes, biscuits or cornbread equals haole soul food for sure!  Some might even say that equation also implies  “redneck haole soul food” and that would be descriptively accurate as well.  =)

Either of my grandmas would tell you that there are two kinds of cooks in this world: those who can cook beans and those who cannot. My Grandma Greer used to shake her head sadly every time she mentioned the family member of hers who “just can’t cook beans to save her life; awww, bless her heart” because being inept at cooking your family an acceptable pot of beans here in Missouri is a woeful thing indeed. A large pot of beans will feed six people, or three very hungry ones, and beans are a nutritious and inexpensive way, as is a pot of rice, for feeding those people.

There is nothing at all hard about cooking beans if you remember these few things: soak the beans the night before in 6-8 cups of cold water to cover, adding just a pinch of baking soda to relieve the gassy effects beans produce when eaten, be careful of the water you use for both soaking and cooking them, and do not season with salt while they are cooking as this will make them hard just as the water you cook them in might. I buy jugs of water at the grocery to use especially for cooking beans as my tap water is hard; it took several attempts before I realized it was the water that was making for hard beans.  $.89 for a jug of distilled water and softer beans.  It works.

The ADDED BONUS here (because you are into added bonuses, right?) is that cooking ham and beans means there is cornbread left  from the cornbread you surely made to serve with them, used as “dessert” later at night for smooshing up a slice in a very cold glass of buttermilk.  YUM!  Cornbread-for-dessert means less time in the kitchen today and you will be sitting down to your supper in just 2 hours with dessert already prepared.  How cool is that?

If you have a ham bone definitely add it to the pot.  My local market carries a Tennessee brand of “biscuit ham pieces” and that is what I used today along with some roasted pork I had on hand. If you soak your beans overnight, they will  cook in 1-1/2 hours; don’t over cook them or they will become mushy and shapeless.  Taste them after an hour and a half and either turn them off or allow them more time, simmering over low heat with the lid tilted, until they soften.  Adjust the amount of water you use depending on how “soupy” you want the beans.  I like my beans soupy, the better for sopping up with the cornbread; the amount of liquid is really up to the cook.

Stir up your cornbread and bake it the last 30 minutes as the beans simmer.  If you absolutely cannot manage a skillet of cornbread, then Jiffy Mix works too for corn muffins. Actually, I sometimes eat my leftover beans with just Saltine crackers, crumbled into the bowl, once the cornbread runs out so you can see how many are the options here.

That’s it.  Now just call ’em to the table for yet another best-of-winter-country-comfort food supper!

Ham & Beans

1 lb. package dry Great Northern white beans
1 large ham bone with meat scraps on
1 onion, chopped
1 chicken or ham bouillon cube
6-8 cups water
Bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions Soak beans overnight in 4-qt saucepot with a pinch of baking soda and enough water to cover. The next morning, pick over the beans and toss out any with loose hard shells; drain the beans and rinse saucepot. Leave meat and fat on the bone for seasoning; place soaked beans in pot and add 6-8 cups water. Add onion, bouillon cube, bay leaf, and the ham bone or ham pieces with fat and rind included. Bring to a boil over high heat. Taste broth and add pepper to taste; do NOT add salt until beans are finished cooking as this makes them hard. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, on low, for  1-1/2 to 2  hours. Add water during cooking if you like your beans “soupy”. Before serving, remove the ham bone and bay leaf, adding any scraps of meat left on the ham bone to the pot.

Vegetable Meat Loaf

The name of this recipe in my “Missouri to Maui” cookbook is appropriately enough “Meat Loaf”. I tinkered with that name today, however, because the one consistent thing about making a delicious meat loaf is that your recipe changes every time you prepare it, and that because the amoumts of the ingredients vary with the amount of ground meat you are using. Today I had only just over a pound of good, fresh ground chuck so I compensated by using more vegetables than usual and today’s meat loaf result was delicious and and so made the name change essential. This “Vegetable Meat Loaf” recipe will undoubtedly morph again the next time I want meat loaf and that’s fine. What’s NOT to love about a dish this satisfying and versatile? Use the same ingredients and adjust their amounts and you will have juicy moist meat loaf every time.

It is my theory that most home cooks (home cooks, not the professional chefs who use any of the hundreds of other meat loaf recipes) basically make meat loaf the way their mothers or aunties did. Today I used the cookbook recipe but adjusted the vegetables and added shredded carrots, snipped fine, for the moisture they add to the loaf. I adjusted the simple seasonings (salt, pepper, and Worcestershire) and used less Saltine crackers and Panko for filler than I would have normally. Be sure to get around to smooshing it up with your hands to see if it binds together easily (if not, add another egg and resmoosh). The only ingredients you need for a sauce for basting the top and sides of the loaf as it bakes are ketchup and brown sugar. The sweet-spicy sauce makes the perfect ‘salad dressing’ the next day for preparing cold meatloaf sandwiches. You will be having cold meat loaf sandwiches on white bread the next day, am I correct?  =)

A 30-minute prep is all and then 45-60 minutes to bake while you rest for 30 minutes before preparing  a good side dish or tasty salad (or stir up a package of Idaho Baby Red packaged potatoes, adding a healthy 2 T. of butter to them like I did today), and you’re at the table ready to go with a warming, best-of-comfort-food supper!

Vegetable Meat Loaf


1-1/2 to 2 lbs. lean ground chuck
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced thin
1/2 cup green pepper, cut in thin short strips
1 egg
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, to taste
8-10 Saltine crackers, broken small
1/2-1 cup Panko flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Basting Sauce

1-2 to 1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar

Directions Preheat oven to 350. In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. I do stir the mixture with a wooden spoon to blend quickly but then use my hands to shape, patting the mixture firmly. Place the log-shaped mixture into a lightly greased 9×5” loaf pan. Bake 1 hour, basting with the catsup brown sugar mixture several times as the loaf bakes. Remove from oven and allow to set ten minutes before slicing into thick pieces.

Ono Cinnamon Rolls

In Hawai’i, the word “ono” is the same as saying “DELICIOUS” for mainland folks, and that is just what these cinnamon rolls will have you saying when you taste them! I woke up wanting to bake bread of some kind today to bring warmth to an otherwise frozen day here in the Heartland and these ‘from-scratch’ rolls, adapted from a Paula Deen recipe,  are exactly what I was thinking of!

You do have to start early in the day as your dough is going to need to rise twice but as long as you are in for the day, there’s no better way to spend your time. These rolls are destined for mama and friends at the nursing home this evening though I did have to eat one of them right out of the oven! Today I needed just 3 cups of flour for the dough and I added chopped pecans, raisins, and orange zest to my filling. I love the zip that orange or lemon zest adds to any bread recipe and the orange zest I used today was a perfect pairing with the cinnamon flavoring. The nuts add crunch and texture to the soft rolls.  I think I got a little carried away on the raisins actually and so recommend using a little less, maybe 1/2 cup only.

Use as little flour as possible and give the dough plenty of time to rise. Today I left it alone for 2 hours and then again for 45 minutes before baking the rolls. Cut your rolled dough into at least 1/2″ thick slices for a filling and satisfying treat and brew up some fresh coffee, too, if you have time. You will love these rolls and the warming sweet aroma they spread throughout the house as they bake.  Oh, yes!  Yet another happy snow day!

Ono Cinnamon Rolls



1/4 -ounce package yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
3-1/2 to 4 cups flour


1/2 cup melted butter, plus more for pans
3/4 cup sugar, plus more for pan
2 T ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins and chopped pecans, optional
1 T. orange zest, optional


4 T butter, melted
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3-5 T. milk


In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside. In a large bowl mix milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg. Add 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Add yeast mixture. Mix in remaining flour, blend well until dough is easy to handle. Knead dough on lightly floured surface for 5-7 minutes. Place in well-greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, 2 hours usually.

Heat oven to 350. When dough has doubled in size, punch down and roll out on a floured surface into a 15 by 9-inch rectangle. Spread melted butter all over dough. Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over buttered dough. Sprinkle with pecans and raisins if desired. Beginning at the 15-inch side, roll up dough and pinch edge together to seal. Cut into 12 to 15 slices. Coat the bottom of baking pan with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place cinnamon roll slices close together in pans and let rise until dough is doubled, about 45 minutes then bake for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.

Prepare glaze while rolls are baking then spread over the rolls while they are still slightly warm.

White Chicken Chili

Lucky for me that I got to the market yesterday afternoon just as the sleet began pelting our little town because this morning we woke to an ice encrusted landscape.  I knew I braved the sleet to get to the store for a good reason yesterday! This dish, adapted from the Blue Owl Restaurant’s recipe is also found in my cookbook. Blue Owl chili will warm you right up; I know because there is rarely  a time when my family is shopping and having lunch at the Blue Owl, in Kimmswick, MO, that one of us doesn’t order this.

White chili is the New England Clam Chowder of chili dishes.  No tomato products and no ground beef, it is all white and green with diced or shredded chicken, canned Great Northern Beans,  and canned chilis.  The broth, flavored with onion and garlic, and spiced with cumin, oregano, and a dash of cayenne pepper, is bursting with rich goodness.  As the  Monterey Jack cheese melts it adds its soft texture to the mix and the result is a creamy spicy bite.  I adjusted amounts of everything today as I used chicken breast tenderloins that yielded less than 2 cups of meat.  I kept the chilis and the cheese the same though as they are the base of the soup’s flavor.

I love this chili with a big pan of Skillet Cornbread for a mealy crisp texture  balanced with the creaminess of the chili.  The cornbread recipe is here on my blog.; don’t forget to get the bacon grease hot and sprinkle some cornmeal in the bottom of your skillet for a crunchy crust on your cornbread.  Serve it up for lunch AND supper, and I’m guessing you’ll only need to call once up the stairs that the chili and cornbread’s on before you’re gathered at your table.

White Chicken Chili


4 whole chicken breasts, skin on
1 T. olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-(4 oz.) cans chopped mild green chilies
2 tsp. ground cumin
1-1/2 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3-(16 oz.) cans Great Northern white beans, undrained
6 cups chicken stock or canned broth
3 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream for garnish if desired

Directions Place chicken breasts in large, heavy stock pot. Add cold water to cover and bring to simmer. Cook until just tender; do not allow meat to become overcooked, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool, remove skin, and dice or shred. Set aside. Heat oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, then add chilies, cumin, oregano, and cayenne. Reduce heat; sauté, 2 minutes. Add undrained beans and chicken stock or broth, and increase heat and bring to a low boil. Add chicken and cheese to the pot and stir gently once. Remove from heat and leave covered until cheese melt completely. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle chili into individual bowls and garnish with sour cream if desired.

Aunt Dixie’s Chocolate Saltines

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Ut ohh and ohh no! More nasty winter weather on the rise! I wanted to make something quick and tasty to take mama today if I can’t get out tomorrow and my Aunt Dixie’s Chocolate Saltines were just the ticket I needed to pass GO! These sweet and salty treats have no prep, are ready in just 30 minutes, and give up an awesome moist nibble for a snow day! They were a big hit with mama and her friends at Woodland Hills and I absolutely cannot wait to enjoy several (or more) along with my book tonight.

I used both saltine crackers and a row of graham crackers today and added chopped pecans over all and dried cherries also over the graham crackers. The pecans gave an added nutty crunch and the cherries a sweet, but tart, chewy texture. The cracker crust flavored with the rich toffee mixture, made from melted butter and brown sugar. If you don’t like nuts or have no dried fruit, these are also delicious as the recipe lists in my “Missouri to Maui” cookbook. In that recipe use only saltines with the toffee middle, and plain chocolate chips over the top. I sprayed the foil lightly with cooking oil and there was no sticking at all. You freeze this after the chips melt and today mother nature supplied my front porch freezer space with a temperature out there of entirely 16 whole degrees.

If you have little helpers, they will get a kick out of placing the 40 saltines in the pan and spreading those chocolate chips as they melt, earning themselves first bite privileges maybe. A pizza cutter slices them into cracker-sized squares or just break them into pieces. Ten minutes to put them together and 20 to freeze and it’s another happy  snow day! A little sweet, a little salty. Altogether perfect!

Aunt Dixie’s Chocolate Saltines


40 saltine crackers
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 1-1/3 cups)
1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional
Dried cherries or cranberries, minced, optional

Directions Preheat oven to 425. Line a large jelly roll pan with foil and place the saltines on top. In medium saucepan, melt butter and add brown sugar, bring to a boil. Gently boil for five minutes, remove from heat, and pour over crackers, spreading evenly. Place into oven and watch closely for five minutes, until the top mixture becomes bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crackers. When chips begin to melt, spread them over crackers with a knife. Transfer pan to freezer for 15-20 minutes or until completely chilled. Mixture will form a solid layer over crackers; take from freezer and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container. Makes approximately 20 servings or, around here, 5 really large servings, shared liberally.  =)