Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Oyster and Rice Dressing

If you are a fan of oysters, you will appreciate this recipe. In fact, even if you are not an oyster lover, you will eat this. It is originally from my grandmother's old cookbook and was primarily used as a "stuffing suitable for a small goose or turkey." I have adapted it for a more appropriate side dish or casserole. It is rich, redolent with herbs, and delicious. It is especially the perfect complement to any kind of red meat, such as prime rib or simply a steak. And, of course, turkey.

The original recipe calls for three cups of cooked white rice. Instead, to save on time and cleanup, I used Uncle Ben's Ready Rice, two packets of "Original" white rice and one packet of "Long Grain and Wild" rice. I did not bother to microwave them since they bake in the oven. To save on money, one could make one's own white rice and then buy a package of the long grain and wild rice. Either way, I do recommend the earthiness of the long grain and wild rice with the oysters. Some recipes call for all wild rice; I don't recommend it since it is overpowering and, texturally, lacks the smoothness of plain white rice.

How you incorporate the oysters is up to you. If they are large, you may want to cut them in half. If small, leave whole. Or, as I did here, simply snip into pieces so they melt into the rice mixture giving it that briny, unique oyster taste from the sea.

Be sure to mince your parsley as fine as possible. Use salt sparingly. I like a bit of a bite from extra ground pepper and the red pepper flakes. I also add a few tablespoons of Parmesan/Romano cheese, but that is up to you. Of late, I have, more and more, begun to use fresh chopped fennel with anything containing oysters. The taste is not overpowering. It is great in chicken soup!

I often debate: should I add some bacon? Should I add some chopped kale? Green pepper? I think they would all work. Let me know if you do.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup, 8 oz, your favorite pork sausage
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery (I like a bit more)
  • 3 or more tablespoons finely minced parsley
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh fennel bulb (optional)
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • One or two pinches red chili flakes
  • 3 cups cooked white rice (see explanation above)
  • 1 pint (two cups) fresh oysters, drained and blotted dry (save the juice/liquor)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon or more freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning (I use Bells)
  • 2-4 tablespoons fresh Parmesan-Romano cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Lightly grease an 11 x 7 casserole dish or similar.

In a large skillet or pot, melt the butter. Add the sausage, onions, celery red pepper flakes and, if using, chopped fennel bulb. Cook until sausage is no longer pink and vegetables are soft. Add the parsley and garlic. Stir for about one minute. Add the rice and cook for several minutes over low/medium heat to incorporate all the flavors. Add the oysters. Continue to cook for a just a few minutes. If mixture appears dry, add a bit of the oyster liquor. Salt and pepper to taste. Add poultry seasoning. Mix. If using, incorporate the cheese.

Pour mixture into prepared dish. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.

This is an easy dish to prepare ahead of time. Cool. Cover. Refrigerate. When time to serve, re-heat in the oven or the microwave.

Suggestion: Serve with any roast beef, rare; a cold, crisp salad slathered with blue-cheese dressing; a robust, red, dry wine. If serving with poultry, a cold dry white or Zinfandel is a perfect pairing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Chicken, Barley, Rice Soup

Here in the central Piedmont area of North Carolina outside of Charlotte, between the mountains to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the ground is still saturated from the devastating deluges of hurricanes Florence and Michael. As such, if there is a silver lining from such disasters, our autumn has been extended.

By this time in late November, our trees have already shaken off their mostly-colorless dry and itchy leaves. Instead, those same trees still harbor and cling to washed-out hopes of green! The pleasant, pink-repeat azaleas have lasted weeks longer than those which initially blossomed in the spring and which are usually wizened and wiped out in one 90-degree May afternoon. Their Crayola-color of "carnation pink"makes me happy. 

Surprisingly (and wonderfully unexpectedly), trees are radiant with autumnal color. This is rare in the South. The combination of moisture, sun, and cold nights is the perfect sugar recipe for vibrant, electrifying hues and sparks of orange, red and yellow.

It has been a long time for this old Northerner's eyes to be amazed, to remember and to appreciate such dreams of color!

I have planted the Southern ritual of pansies. Half a dozen pots filled with joyful colors to help me survive the expectant months of sunless days.

I travel miles and shop for weeks to find the most unique pansies.

The nights here are unusually cold for this time of year. Shiver! This morning, my birdbath was frozen over. I want soup! Hot soup ladled into hand-thrown ceramic bowls. Artisan bread. 

Enter this recipe. It was too easy. Too delicious. It is one I will make again and again.


  • For the broth:
  • 2 pounds chicken cut up, skin on, bone in, preferably, thighs, legs, wings (actually, I used a Cornish Hen cut up into pieces)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 rib celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium garlic clove, smashed

  • For the soup:
  • 1, 14.5 oz. can chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup diced onion ( a bit less than 1/2 cup)
  • 1.5 teaspoon Kosher salt or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/4  teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme leaves 
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon pressed or finely diced garlic 
  • 6 tablespoons pearled barley
  • 2-3 tablespoons raw, long-grained rice

In a large stockpot, prepare the broth. Breasts have little flavor for broth. Bring just to a boil then lower to simmer for about one hour. If you boil your broth it will turn cloudy. Remove meat to cool. Strain the broth and then return to the pot.

The more bone and cartilage you have, the more flavorful your broth.

Add the soup ingredients. Taste for salt. Bring just to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until vegetables and grains are tender. Taste for salt before serving. Ladle into bowls and, if desired, sprinkle with a bit of Parmesan or fresh dill.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Easy Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese in Bacon-Onion Broth

Macaroni-and-cheese is an iconic American staple lovingly melted within our hamburger-and-hot-dog history and culinary landscape. Do not forget that thick-sliced staple of meat loaf served with mashed potatoes in greasy spoons across the country, especially during the Depression. Fried chicken? Barbecue? We are talking the national fingerprint of food. And, that cozy, all-American slice of apple pie!

My all-time favorite mac-and-cheese is Martha Stewart's recipe. Whenever I prepare it, people rave. The topping of toasted bread cubes is brilliant. But it is complicated. Time consuming. Gordon Ramsey also has a great recipe. But it uses cauliflower. Hmmmmm .... More work!

I revere the macaroni and cheese from my grandmother's old cookbook. It is more of a custard than "cheesy." I have since updated it a bit .... She would have loved it!

Truth-be-told, I probably make the following, simple recipe the most often. Why? It is easy. And, most importantly, you actually taste the cheese! The cheese is not lost or dissipated in a flour-and-milk paste sauce called a Bechemel. It uses no dairy other than a bit of butter. The water, flavored with bacon and onion, is all it needs. Well, maybe a bit sour cream on the side!

  • 1 slice smoked bacon, cut in half
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped dried onion (not fresh)
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1-3 teaspoons table salt
  • 3-4 ounces dried pasta of your choice
  • 3-4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter

In a 2-quart saucepan, add water, salt, onion and bacon and bring to a boil. Lower heat a bit and allow to simmer briskly for about ten minutes to fully flavor the water.

Raise heat to a boil and add pasta. Follow package directions until done. 


Using a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to a bowl. Whisk in the butter. While hot, sprinkle on the cheese. Add as much of the bacon-onion broth to bring to a creamy consistency--and then a bit more. The pasta will release its starches to thicken it up a bit. Add some of the bacon if desired.


Here, I paired it with smoked sausage! 

Friday, August 24, 2018

One-Pan Baked Chicken with Potatoes and Onions

Delicious! Easy! One Pan Clean-up!

As recipes go, this could not be easier. Why? Because it is more of a process than an actual recipe. It is easy to adjust the amounts. (Below, I have outlined the original recipe with my changes. Below that is the easy-to-follow ingredients if you only want a single serving or eight servings)!

Mmmmmm ........ Fluffy roasted potatoes ... sweet baked onions ....

I have now lived in the South for almost one decade. If there is one thing I have learned about cooking in this part of the country, it is this...SAVE YOUR COOKING FAT! Chicken fat. Bacon fat. Beef fat. Pork fat. Olive oil. Corn oil ... Canola oil. Butter. Any oil! It is liquid gold!

Strain it. Save it. Put it into a container ... Refrigerate it. For this recipe, I used chicken and bacon fat.

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, (I prefer legs and thighs)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter and/or chicken grease or bacon grease
  • 1 package Lipton dry onion soup mix
  • Garlic powder (optional)
  • Dried rosemary leaves (optional)
  • Dried thyme leaves (optional)
  • 6 medium potatoes cut into one-inch rounds then each round cut in half
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, root left intact, cut into quarters. (Keeping the root end intact prevents the onion layers from separating while cooking.)
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350F.

Arrange chicken in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Tuck in the potatoes and onions. Drizzle butter and or bacon/chicken fat over the chicken and vegetables and then sprinkle all with soup mix. If using, lightly sprinkle with garlic powder, dried rosemary and thyme leaves. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cover with lid or tin foil. Bake 50 minutes. Remove from oven. Discard tin foil or lid. Baste with juices and return to oven, uncovered, to bake an additional 10-15 minutes until chicken is browned and potatoes are soft.

For added crispness, place under broiler for 1-2 minutes. Do not walk away as it will brown very quickly.

Individual portions: for each chicken piece, use one tablespoon melted butter, one tablespoon dried soup mix, 1 medium potato, one-half onion. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Braised Chicken Leg Quarters with Sunday Pan Gravy

I could probably eat this easy, every-day-recipe once a week and not regenerate into food fatigue. In fact, I made it four nights in a row! It's all about that rich and creamy pan gravy. Spoon it over mashed potatoes, rice, or a simple stuffing. Sop it up with a biscuit! Serve with a side of cranberries.

Prepare it a day ahead and pop it in the fridge. Bake the next day and you have a great meal befitting company. There is no need to saute the chicken, but do use a metal pan, not ceramic or glass, since you need to put the pan on the burner to create the gravy.
Leg quarters, consisting of a leg and a thigh, are the least expensive parts of the chicken. I can usually find a pack of three for about three dollars! That's a bargain! They also often come in ten-pound bags, but they are rarely uniform in size, so be wary.

This is more of a "process" than a recipe. I highly recommend Bell's Poultry Seasoning. I think it is the best out there. Do try to use the wine. It's easy enough to find a cheap bottle of white wine in any grocery store. You do not have to use cream. Evaporated milk would work just as well. I love Wondra flour for making any kind of gravy. If you do not have access, mix equal tablespoon parts butter and all-purpose flour. Add by the teaspoon until you reach the desired consistency of your sauce.

  • 1 chicken leg quarter
  • 1/2 red onion, diced (about two ounces)
  • 1 thinly-sliced carrot (about one ounce)*
  • 6 tablespoons chopped celery (about two ounces)
  • Poultry seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, needles removed
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 medium clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • Chicken stock
  • Dry white wine
  • Cream (2-4 tablespoons)
  • Butter/olive oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons Wondra flour** 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Liberally season the leg quarter well on both sides using poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Scatter the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic on the bottom of the pan. Place seasoned chicken on top. Drizzle with oil and put a few pats of butter on top. Surround with rosemary needles and thyme sprigs.

Pour in enough chicken stock to cover chicken by 1/4. Pour in enough wine so total liquid reaches about 1/2 the height of the chicken (not the height of the pan!).

Bake,  uncovered,  for 30 minutes. Liquids will have evaporated.  Add a bit more chicken stock to attain original level the of liquids. Return to the oven and continue to bake another 30 minutes or until the meat just begins to pull away from the bone on the leg. See photograph.

Remove from oven and place chicken on a plate and cover with foil. Remove the thyme and rosemary. Place the pan on stove over low heat.  Add a bit more stock followed by cream. Stir in Wondra flour until desired consistency is reached.

*If you prefer soft carrots, you may first want to microwave them for 30 seconds or so.
**The rule of thumb is one tablespoon thickener per one cup liquid.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

New Soaps!

PURE HONEY. The name says it all. Clean and fresh with a bit of skin-loving goat milk. An incredible face bar before ending the day and going to sleep. I am very proud of this bar. No natural colors. We need more bees!  Do you agree?

SWEETGRASS. Green. Fresh. Clean. Herbal. Sunny. Delightful. Be happy!

LOVELY LAVENDER. Not at all medicinal. Clean and light. It may be too light for those who expect an overwhelming, cloying,  artificial scent. A blend of essential natural oils and fragrant oils.

MOON. If you enjoy the alluring scent of musk, you will appreciate this bar. Tempered with a soft,  powdery scent ... it is as mysterious as ... the moon. Why do we see only one side of the moon?

ORANGE/SANDALWOOD. Personally, I love anything sandalwood. Top notes of bold blood orange warmed with middle notes of sandalwood and a kiss of patchouli. Intriguing. Adult. Sophisticated.

COWBOY. Think leather. Think saddles and wool blankets. Hand-stitched boots. Sweat-stained Stetson hats. Horses. Sweet, cold water from canvas canteens! You provide the red bandana. Giddy-up! The cowboy in your life needs this soap! Lasso it while it lasts!

GINGER AND BERGAMOT. Very clean and fresh!

All soaps are handcrafted in small batches by me using plant-based oils. Great as shampoo or for shaving.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Tuna and Egg Salad

When was the last time you changed how you made tuna salad?

I thought so!

This tuna mix is more for a salad than a sandwich. The bread just gets in the way. It would be delicious stuffed into a tomato. Or simply served atop a few large lettuce leaves surrounded by slices of tomatoes and avocados. Place a small mound on a salad dish surrounded by a sunburst of Ritz crackers. If one must insist on bread, I suggest an open-faced sandwich like that pictured above.

I have always used celery in my tuna mix, but it is not something I always have on hand. Instead, I substituted sliced water chestnuts which gave a bit of a crunch I enjoy. Mayonnaise with lemon is now readily available in most supermarkets.  Or just use regular mayo and a bit of fresh lemon juice. Always use Albacore tuna. Nothing compares.

  • 1, 10-ounce can Albacore tuna in water, well-drained and blotted with paper towels
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs
  • 3 green onions, white and green parts, minced or 1/4 cup sweet onion, grated (I prefer the green onions)
  • 1 small stalk celery, finely chopped or
  • 1/2 can water chestnuts, rinsed and drained, cut into quarters
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise with lemon, add more if needed or to your preference
  • 2 teaspoons dill pickle relish, not sweet relish
  • 1-2 teaspoons honey mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Remove egg yolks and set aside. Chop egg whites. In a medium bowl, combine drained tuna, egg whites, celery or water chestnuts and onions.

In a small bowl, blend together remaining ingredients. Taste and re-season if necessary. Add to tuna mixture. Gently blend. Add more mayo if needed. Taste and re-season if necessary. Crumble in reserved egg yolks. Gently blend. Serve as desired. Even better the next day!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Pork Spare-Rib Soup with Sauerkraut and Vegetables (Kapusta) in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

When one thinks of spare ribs, pork or beef, one ordinarily thinks of barbecue with the meat slathered in rubs and tangy, peppery tomato-based sauces. I do not.  My heritage hails from Eastern Europe and Russia where pork ribs would be slowed cooked with onions, sauerkraut, and potatoes until the meat was unctuous and fall-off-the-bone.

I can still see my grandmother on Sunday family gatherings opening her oven door to inspect two slabs or pork ribs tied with string, one on top of the other and filled with sauerkraut and onions and then served with a side of mashed potatoes and that delicious gravy it rendered. Food is always best served with a large side or two of good memories!

Last winter, pork ribs were on sale, so I grabbed a slab intent to make a soup of which I had no recipe. My goal was to try to duplicate a wonderful tomato-based pork soup I enjoyed in a small Michigan town. After some googling, I really did not find any. They are rare. But, lo and behold, I found many pork and sauerkraut recipes. In Poland, it is called Kapusniak. In Lithuania, it called Kapusta.

I spent a good week pouring over different recipes taking note after note. Below is the recipe I created. It capitalizes on the most common of ingredients to be "authentic." And then the not so common ingredients, such as fennel, caraway and allspice berries. I have also suited it to more American tastes, hence it does not use straight sauerkraut. Instead, the sauerkraut is rinsed and squeezed so it is not so acidic or briny. I know many people only use fresh sauerkraut, not canned; actually, it should be the opposite. Fresh is laden with preservatives to keep it "fresh" in its plastic bag. My choice is Libby's or Eden's.

My associate at work, who is skeptical about sauerkraut, deemed it lick-the-bowl delicious.

I made this in my small, 12-cup Instant Pot pressure cooker. If you do not have a pressure cooker, just simmer on the stove, covered, for a good two hours or so. In the pressure cooker, it is done in 30 minutes!

Many recipes also use Kielbasa, but I only recommend that if you have access to authentic smoked Kielbasa that is not sold in sealed plastic. Some use mushrooms, fresh or dried, but I find mushrooms in the pressure cooker come out rubbery. If you do use mushrooms, cut them in large chunks.

At any rate, do not omit the spices--and that includes the dill! Sour cream could be an option---but when is the opportunity of sour cream ever an option!

And do garnish with the bones! If you have children, they will love the novelty.

  • 2 lbs. pork spare ribs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 cups diced potatoes (I used baby golden, some left whole, others cut in half)
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 small head of cabbage, shredded (optional)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup fresh sauerkraut after it has been rinsed and squeezed dry
  • 1, 10.5 ounce can beef broth
  • 1, 10.5 can chicken stock
  • 2, 10.5 cans water or more to just cover meat
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, lightly crushed
  • 2-3 whole allspice berries, lightly crushed
  • Dried dill
  • Sour cream 

Rinse the spare ribs. Pat dry. Using a sharp paring knife, make a slit under the silver skin on the backside of ribs. Grab and rip it off. Cut ribs into 2-rib sections. Set aside.

Place onion, carrots, potatoes, celery, garlic, cabbage (if using) and sauerkraut in bottom of Instant Pot. Throw in caraway, fennel and all spice. Mix. Salt and pepper to taste.  

Arrange pork ribs on top of vegetable mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

Slowly add beef broth and chicken stock against the side of the pot. Pour in water, about two cans or so, just until it comes up to the pork or the 10-cup mark. 

Cover. Make sure the vent is on "seal." Press "soup" button. Increase time to 30 minutes. Allow to rest 30-40 minutes before "venting" and removing the cover. The pressure button is usually down by then.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Leftover Lamb Open-Faced Sandwich with Cheese

I enjoyed these leftover lamb sandwiches more that the roast itself!

Regrettably, here in the States, unlike Europe, we do not eat each much lamb. Here, beef is king! That is unfortunate. Today's lamb, unlike tough mutton of years past, is mild in taste ... and tender. Today's lamb needs no mint to mask its once-assertive muttony taste!

In the States, lamb is prevalent during Easter, but pretty scarce the remainder of the year. Usually, most expensive cuts, like lamb chops show up but they are ridicuosly priced. Even more expensive than steak! An entire leg of lamb ...  Yikes ... I have never seen an entire leg of lamb where I shop here in the South. No. Not. Ever.

I especially love when it grilled and I love it a bit on the rare side with a squeeze of lemon. Lots and lots of garlic and rosemary! Juicy crispy fat!

Leftover lamb warmed up is just so-so. Maybe some gravy and a side or two. Kind of boring. Hmmm ... what to do?

SO,  I came up with these super-easy, open-faced sandwiches. How good were they? Well, let's just say that next time I roast lamb, I will make sure I have a lot extra!

For two days I debated what kind of cheese to use. ... Blue? Roquefort? Feta? All would be great. Finally, I settled on a dill Havarti for its warm melting qualities. I used a block rather than slices. The dill complements the tzatzki sauce. Tzatzki is now readily found in most supermarkets in the deli section.

This is not really a recipe .... just a process ... I imagine one could also use ham, even chicken!

I baked mine directly on the rack in a toaster oven set on the "bagel" setting until the cheese was lovingly melting and just beginning to drip. Maybe 10 minutes! In a traditional oven, I would bake at around 350 F on a cookie sheet until the cheese begins to melt.

I recommend a block of cheese because you can slice it thick and it will take longer to melt than thin slices and allow lamb to warm through.

  • 1 Kaiser roll, cut horizontally
  • Red onion, sliced razor thin
  • Tzatziki sauce, about 1/4 cup
  • 1 Roma tomato
  • Sliced, leftover lamb
  • Havarti-Dill cheese

Cut tomato in half horizontally. Squeeze out juice and seeds. Cut into thin slices.

Spread about 2 tablespoons tzatzki sauce over each half of the roll. Place a few of the razor-thin onion slices on top. Arrange lamb, as much as you like, for the next layer.  Place tomatoes on top and crown with cheese.

Bake, according to instructions set above!

This ... just great! Enjoy!

Oh, Yea!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Easy Baked Beans with Bacon

As a veteran public-school teacher, baked beans, with-or-without hot dogs, was a cafeteria staple. I never tired of them tucked away in their safe, tiny, geometric plastic compartment on the lunch tray. Remember?

Even today, I confess, I often snatch cheap, one-dollar cans of "weenie beenies" from the supermarket shelf to store in my pantry for a quick snack or lunch. I just pop open the lid and eat them cold right out of the can along with a piece of buttered white bread.  We are talking a meal fit for a hobo king!

Baked beans are the quinntesstial cornerstone of American simple fare. Think picnics! Pot-luck dinners! Church socials! What is a holiday baked-ham dinner without baked beans?

One "can" of course, prepare baked beans from scratch. It's a lot of labor. And time.

But, when I saw this particular recipe, I was intrigued. It is from a website I very much enjoy, Its hostess is Phyllis Stokes who hails from South Carolina. I recommend you visit sometimes. Here is the video link for her baked beans:

I mostly stuck to the basic "structure" of her recipe. My changes were to add bacon, a jalapeno pepper, a can of cannellini beans for a bit more "bite." Instead of regular pork and beans, I used Bush's which has a thicker sauce. If you don't use the jalapeno, I do recommend a few dashes of hot sauce just for a bit of heat in the background, like Phyllis suggests.

These were excellent! Thanks, Phyllis!

  • 1, 28-ounce can Original Bush's Beans ... Seasoned with Bacon and Brown Sugar
  • 1, 14.5-ounce can Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 slices smoked bacon
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno (optional) seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2-3 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce 

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Slice the bacon horizontally down the center, then cut/chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Fry the bacon over medium heat in a medium saucepan just until it begins to turn brown. You do not want it crisp. Remove from pan and allow to drain on paper towel. Leave the drippings in the pan.

To the drippings, add the chopped red onion, chopped bell pepper and, if using, the minced jalapeno. When softened, about ten minutes, add the garlic and stir just until fragrant. Pour in the beans, ketchup, yellow mustard, molasses and Worcestershire. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. If too sweet, add a splash of apple-cider vinegar. Not enough heat? A few shakes of your favorite hot sauce ... I use Tobasco.

Pour mixture into an 11 x 7-inch oven-safe dish or equivalent. Bake, uncovered, 30-40 minutes.

Great on its own ... OR ... split a hot biscuit in half ... ladle bean mixture on top with a side of hot dogs.