The Best Green Bean Casserole

The Best Green Bean Casserole It all started out with the purchase of Williams-Sonoma’s Crispy Onions.  I was sold once I read the label on the package: The ultimate crunchy topping for savory casseroles.  A green bean casserole was the first thing that came to mind, but not the usual canned-ingredient variety.  The only mistake I made was not to buy more than one bag of these delightful onions.

Fresh Green Beans Kimberly of the  Daring Gourmet posted a recipe  that sounded perfect.  Besides the onions and green beans, the recipe calls for bacon, an ingredient that for me, seals the deal.

Hempler's Bacon Hempler’s bacon is top-notch.  It is thick, lean, and smokey.  I used the pepper coated bacon in the green bean casserole but you can use regular thick cut bacon instead.  You can find Hempler’s at Safeway.

Hempler's Bacon

Fresh Mushrooms It may seem there are way too many mushrooms in the recipe, but as they sauté, they shrink up quite a bit and they are essential in making this casserole so tasty (along with the bacon!).

Williams-Sonoma Crispy Onions I was able to make two green bean casseroles from the one package of crispy onions I bought. These crispy onions are far superior to the supermarket brands.  They would be delicious sprinkled over slow baked cannellini beans or any dish that would be enhanced by a crunchy topping.

The Best Green Bean Casserole

The Best Green Bean Casserole
Adapted from The Daring Gourmet
Serves: 6 - 8
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
  • ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces button mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (or regular butter)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup half and half (I make this with Organic Valley Lactose Free Half and Half)
  • 1¼ cups chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed, cut into 1½" pieces and blanched (boil for 5 minutes, place beans in ice water for a few minutes, drain well)
  • 3 ounces crispy onions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly butter 9x13" casserole dish and set aside.
  3. Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms, cook for another 4 minutes or so, until mushrooms are soft. Transfer mixture to a bowl.
  4. Melt 3 tablespoons Buttery Sticks in the same skillet and whisk in flour. Continue whisking for another minute until the mixture has slightly deepened in color. Add the half and half and chicken broth while constantly whisking to prevent lumps. Once slightly thickened, add the mushrooms and bacon mixture along with the salt and pepper. Add green beans and stir to combine.
  5. Pour mixture into a 9x13" casserole dish and sprinkle with crispy onions, covering the top of the casserole. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
  6. ***You may prepare the casserole a few hours in advance except for adding the onions (they will become soggy if you add them in advance). Remove the casserole from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to baking. Sprinkle onions over the top and bake.


Posted in Dinner, Lactose Free, Recipes, Side Dishes, Veggies | 4 Comments

Quick Aleppo Dill Pickles

Quick Aleppo Dill Pickles In earlier posts, I’ve mentioned that we love virtually all forms of pickles.  These refrigerator dill pickles are scrumptious.  Crunchy with a little heat from the Aleppo pepper flakes, they are ready to eat in just an hour. John, always on the lookout for different pickles, found the recipe in my Bon Appetit magazine and quickly ordered Aleppo pepper from Amazon knowing we wouldn’t be able to find it here on Maui.  Featuring large flakes with a beautiful deep red color and medium heat, it is widely used in Middle Eastern cooking. This is our new favorite savory pickle.

Aleppo Pepper

Keiki Cukes The original recipe called for Persian cucumbers which are difficult to find here on Maui. These beautiful Keiki Cukes are readily available at our local Costco and they are perfect for pickles.

Cukes & Dill

Quick Aleppo Dill Pickles If you are in the mood for pickles, go ahead and make a batch of these crunchy dills.  Once you taste them you will want to have  a jar in your refrigerator at all times.  Sprinkle on za’atar for a delicious finishing touch just before serving the pickles.

Quick Aleppo Dill Pickles

Quick Aleppo Dill Pickles
Updated 2/07/16: I reduced the salt from the original recipe.
  • 8 Keiki Cukes or Persian cucumbers (about 1¼ pound) quartered lengthwise
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
  • 2⅓ cups distilled white vinegar
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 medium garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Za'atar and flaky sea salt (for serving)
  1. Pack cucumber spears and dill into a large heatproof jar.
  2. Bring vinegar, sugar, garlic, Aleppo pepper, lemon juice, kosher salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Let cool slightly, then pour brine over cucumbers to submerge. Seal jar and chill at least 30 minutes.
  3. To serve, remove cucumber spears from brine, lightly shaking off excess liquid but leaving on any seasonings. Sprinkle with za'atar and sea salt.
Posted in Appetizers, Pickles, Recipes, Side Dishes, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggies | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Crispy Furikake Chex Mix

Crispy Furikake Chex Mix Here’s a crunchy, sweet and salty snack that all of my co-workers love.  I make two pans at a time and pack them in whatever containers I have handy. When at work and having a stressful day, snack on this.  Relaxation ensues!

Chex Mix Ingredients There are many variations of this delicious treat.  It’s up to you what crunchy ingredients you want to include. This time I tossed together pretzel sticks, corn Chex, Stacey’s bagel chips, rice Chex, honey roasted almonds, Honeycomb cereal, furikake and Fritos.  Your imagination is the only limit.

Chex Mix Sauce There is a bit of soy sauce in this recipe that lends a subtle saltiness to this snack.  Also a few dashes of cayenne pepper adds a nice zing. This is my favorite furikake mix.

Crispy Furikake Chex Mix

Crispy Furikake Chex Mix
Serves: 12 cups
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (or butter)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce (not light)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • few dashes cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups corn Chex
  • 2 cups rice Chex
  • 1 cup Honeycomb cereal
  • 2 cups pretzel sticks
  • 2 cups broken bagel chips
  • 2 cups Fritos
  • ½ cup honey almonds
  • ½ cup furikake
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Line two large rimmed baking pans with foil.
  3. Stir ½ cup + 2 tablespoons Buttery Sticks, vegetable oil, corn syrup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and cayenne pepper in a medium pot over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Transfer mixture to a small bowl, whisk to combine and cool slightly.
  4. Combine corn Chex, rice Chex, Honeycomb cereal, pretzels, bagel chips, Fritos, and almonds in a large bowl. Pour sauce over cereal mixture and toss well (I use disposable gloves). Sprinkle furikake over mixture, toss again. Bake for 90 minutes, stirring mixture every 15 minutes. Let cool completely on pans. Store in airtight containers.


Posted in Appetizers, Lactose Free, Recipes | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Jean’s Currant Tarts

Jean's Currant Tarts Many families have treasured recipes handed down through multiple generations.  This is a favorite recipe from John’s family.  His mom Jean, was taught this simple recipe by her mother Ida, and she, by her mother before her.  As children, John and his siblings just loved these tarts.  Once John left home and went off on his own, Jean would send these tarts to him in the mail.  How lucky he was!  We often make these for our own family get togethers.  Everyone loves a good, flakey pie crust.  However, most pies have far more filling than crust.  These tarts on the other hand, have equal parts of both.


Pecans Topping each tart with a pecan seals the deal.  They are perfectly toasted after being in the oven for 30 minutes.

Jean's Currant Tarts Tarts are a pie lover’s dream come true.  A crispy crust surrounding a sweet filling…..

Jean's Currant Tarts

Currant Tarts
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: 12
  • pastry for a double-crust pie
  • 1 10 ounce box currants or raisins
  • 1½ cups brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 whole pecans for topping (or chopped and added to the filling)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Divide dough in to 12 equal portions. Form into balls and roll out to 5" circles. Place dough circles in muffin tins and press to even out. Trim off excess dough.
  3. To plump up currants, soak in a small bowl of boiling water for 5 minutes. You may add a few tablespoons of rum to the water for added flavor. Drain well.
  4. Combine currants, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix well.
  5. Scoop currant mixture into pie crust filled muffin tins and top with a pecan. It may seem there is not enough filling however it will expand as it bakes.
  6. Bake until the crusts are very lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Serve as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  7. The tarts freeze beautifully.


Posted in Dessert, Lactose Free, Recipes | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Chocolate Dipped Oreos

Chocolate Dipped Oreos How can one improve on Oreos: America’s favorite cookies?  Here is the way! Dipping the cookies in chocolate takes these store-bought treats to another level. It might seem extravagant, but I suspect you will fall in love with these delightfully crunchy treats.  Sprinkle your favorite toppings on the cookies and wrap them up for gifts any time of the year.  They are one of the easiest holiday treats ever.

Oreo Cookies Oreos are wonderful as is, (they are apparently three times more popular than the next cookie brand), but even better dipped in chocolate and topped with toffee bits, toasted coconut, sugar crystals or mini chocolate chips. Thanks to Georgia of the Comfort of Cooking blog for this terrific recipe!

Toffee Bits

Chocolate Dipped Oreos The chocolate dipped cookies are placed in the refrigerator on a parchment-lined baking sheet to set the chocolate for about 2 hours.  These beautiful cookies are perfect for any occasion.  They are delicious served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Dipped Oreos with Toffee Bits

Chocolate Dipped Oreos
Serves: 36 - 44 cookies
  • 1 (14.3 oz.) package Oreo cookies (there are 36 cookies in this package but depending on how you dip your cookies in the chocolate, you could easily make up to 44 cookies in which case you will need to purchase the Family Size package!)
  • 4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Assorted toppings of your choice
  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
  2. In a medium heatproof bowl, microwave chocolate chips for about 1½ minutes on high. Give it a stir and microwave for another 15 seconds or so until all of the chocolate has melted. Stir in the canola oil (this makes for easier dipping).
  3. Dip one cookie at a time into the chocolate, coating completely. Lift out cookie with a fork and shake gently side-to-side to remove excess chocolate. Lay cookie on parchment lined baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with your favorite topping. Repeat until all cookies have been dipped and decorated. The chocolate mixture has a tendency to thicken a bit as it cools which makes it more difficult to work with. Simply place the bowl back in the microwave for 10 seconds or so to soften the chocolate.
  4. Place tray in your refrigerator to set chocolate, at least 2 hours. I store my cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator (warm temperatures in Hawaii!).


Posted in Cookies, Dessert, Recipes | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Beef Barbacoa

Beef Barbacoa Tacos We can never seem to get enough Mexican cuisine, with its amazing diversity and dynamic flavors.  Braised beef, pork and chicken dishes are some of our favorite meals.  So with that thought in mind, a Mexican-style braise was a natural choice.  One thing leads to another.  We had tacos the first night and quesadillas the following night.  This tasty beef barbacoa would be fantastic in tamales or enchiladas too. I love the idea that so many meals can be made from one recipe.  Plus, you can freeze the beef barbacoa and whip up a quick meal whenever you’re short on time.

Onion, Lime, Garlic, Oregano, Chipotle Peppers in Adobo The chipotle chiles in adobo add a bit of smokiness and subtle heat to the beef.  It wouldn’t be the same without them.

Beef Barbacoa

Beef Barbacoa

Beef Barbacoa Tacos

Beef Barbacoa

Beef Barbacoa
Updated 2/01/16
Serves: 6 - 8
  • 3½ pounds trimmed chuck steak, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons mild chile powder
  • 2½ cups chicken broth
  • 4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and minced + 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 4 ounce can diced green chiles
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Heat a few teaspoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or similar oven-proof pot with a cover over medium-high heat. Lightly season beef with kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Brown beef in two batches, adding more oil to the pan if needed. Beef should be nicely browned on two sides (let brown on one side for a few minutes without moving the beef). Adjust heat if too high. Remove beef to a platter and set aside.
  3. Using the same pot, lower heat to medium and sauté onions for a minute or two. Add a little oil if pan is too dry. Add garlic, cumin, oregano and chile powder. Stir constantly for a few seconds. Stir in 1 cup of chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add meat back to the pot. Pour remaining 1½ cups broth to pot, along with the chipotle chiles, 2 teaspoons adobo sauce, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, diced green chiles, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and bay leaf. Stir gently and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover and transfer to the oven.
  4. Let beef cook for 3 hours, stirring once during the cooking time. Remove from the oven. The meat should be fall apart tender. Remove bay leaf. Taste and add more salt if needed. Shred meat to desired consistency. Serve with corn tortillas that are gently heating on a comal or fried if you prefer.


Posted in Beef, Dinner, Mexican, Recipes | Tagged , , | 4 Comments