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Chet’s Combination Sandwiches

Combination sandwiches and Christmas Eve go hand and hand at our house.

For as long as I can remember the savory smell of bacon and fried eggs wafting through the house was a sure sign that Christmas morning was almost here. Before church on Christmas Eve we all gather in the kitchen as a pot of tomato soup simmers happily on the stove to help my mom arrange the assembly line of goodies for the famous combination sandwiches…

Chet’s combination sandwiches.

Chet was my dad’s dad, “Papa” to my sister and me. He was a handsome, gentle man who was happiest when quietly tinkering away in the basement building some sort of model or working on a carpentry project. He may have even played around with his beloved Red Rider B-B gun down there a time or two as well.

But a cook he was not.

Interestingly enough, when my dad was just a wee little lad, he began making these delicious sandwiches before church on Christmas Eve. Nobody is quite sure just how or why he decided to tinker with food rather than a model airplane, but nevertheless, we sure are thankful that he did! These delicious little gems were a cherished tradition as I grew up and now my kids are savoring the sandwiches and the tradition as well!

They also make a perfect breakfast sandwich or a tasty lunchtime treat! You probably have all of these already hanging around in your fridge! These are the simple ingredients…

Bacon, mayo, sweet pickles, Swiss cheese, eggs and bread. Papa always used soft white bread and after some experimenting, we all agree that it tastes the best!

Now let’s get started!

First you’ll want to get the bacon…

and fry it up in a pan.

Baaaaaa naa naa naaaaaaa…

(please tell me you know that song?)

Then melt some butter…

and fry up an egg…

I like my eggs cooked through, but you do what you like best.

Next grab some sweet pickles,

and cut them lengthwise, the thinner the better.

You are now ready for the assembly line to begin! There is an order that we like to follow to ensure the most satisfaction in every bite!

First, spread some mayo on two pieces of bread,

grab a handful of sweet pickles and arrange them all over one of the mayo slathered slices…

then the hot egg right outta the skillet,

and THEN the Swiss cheese. This will allow the Swiss cheese to slightly melt and become one with the egg.

Um yum.

And then finally the bacon.

That you fried up in a pan…

Baaaaaa naa naa naaaaaaa…

(Sorry I just can’t help myself)

And there you have Chet’s combination sandwiches!

For me they are the perfect combination of a little nostalgia, many of my favorite ingredients and a the magic of Christmas Eve any time of year!

Hope that you enjoy them as well!


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Popchip-alicious Encrusted BBQ Chicken (& Giveaway)




These are just a few of the words that popped into my head as I was scarfing my way through bags of popchips as I sat on a plane in San Francisco preparing to fly cross country back to my safe haven of suburbia.

I had just attended BlogHer Food 2010 and was in no way prepared for the multitude of fantastic people, phenomenal food, plethora of information and bags of swag that I would be encountering.

I mean, wow.

I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours, I had enough adrenaline pumping through my veins to fuel the plane in which I sat and I had just been forced to walk about 5 miles (most of which was outside AND it was 4:00 a.m. AND pitch black) just to get to my correct terminal.

Which reminds me that I need to fire my secretary a.s.a.p.

Needless to say, by the time my fanny hit the seat in that plane I was ready to have a meltdown. I knew that I’d feel much better after some breakfast and a little nap. I patiently waited for breakfast to be served and then quickly realized that, um there would be no breakfast. And I was facing about 10 hours of travel, 2 plane changes, one time change and I had packed all of my swag on my bag that was now so nicely stowed beneath the plane.

Through a blur of sweat and tears, I frantically dug in my bag to find, something, anything, a piece of gum, a lone lifesaver specked with mystery fuzz. I didn’t care. I needed some nourishment and I needed it now.

It was then that I saw them, tucked neatly and placed to the side of my bag as to not get crushed, 3 bags of popchips <insert angelic music with parting clouds here>.  Now I remember…I had decided to put the popchips in my bag because they were light and would be a perfect snack.

Note to self, don’t fire my secretary. I guess that I’m o.k. after all.

If I had a video of the glee and elation that I experienced while eating all three of those delicious bags of popchips while on that plane…

well, I probably couldn’t share it with you because it would be too embarrassing but let’s just say I was mighty happy.

Once I got home the nice people of popchips asked me if I’d like to do a review & a giveaway. Are you kidding me? OF COURSE! These light & crunchy, packed with flavor, low fat little rounds of heaven needed to be passed on to my readers. Not to mention, my poor family with whom I had already shared my life and death story and then sheepishly had to admit that no, they couldn’t sample these incredible chips that had saved my life because they were…all gone.

The minute I received this oh-so-fun-box and POPPED it open, I knew just what I had to do.

I had to make a meal out of these little yummies for my whole family to enjoy.

And boy did they.

Now you can too.

Without further adieu, I give popchip-alicious encrusted BBQ chicken to you.

These would be the supporting characters…flour, BBQ seasoning, an egg, and chicken breasts.

And but of course, the star of the show…BBQ popchips.

The first thing you’ll want to do is pour your bag of popchips into a zip lock bag, seal it, and roll the popchips with a rolling pin. Now make sure to smush them up into small pieces, small enough to easily stick to the chicken without turning into mush.

Now it’s time to put your assembly line together. Pour about 1 cup of flour onto a plate and add about 1/4 cup of BBQ seasonings and mix well with a fork.

Next grab a second plate (preferably with a lip) for the egg that’s been lightly beaten and then a third plate for your smushed popchips.

This is what your assembly line should look like…

Now the fun begins.

Grab your chicken breast and cover it with the flour mixture,

don’t forget to cover the other side.

Next, pop I mean, plop the chicken ever so gently, into the egg, on both sides…

then joyfully smather the chicken with the popchips.

Make sure to get plenty of the crunchy yummy little pieces all over the chicken until the chicken is literally popping with popchips.

Cheesy I know, but I couldn’t resist.

Next place the popchip-alicious encrusted chicken breasts onto a baking sheet…

and POP them into the oven…

and then into your mouth.

Repeat as necessary.

Wishing you popchip-alicious days and POP-tacular nights,


Here’s the recipe…and be sure not to miss the GIVEAWAY below!

Popchip-alicious Encrusted BBQ Chicken
serves 4

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • four chicken breasts
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 bag popchips
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup BBQ seasoning
  • 1 large zip lock bag

Here’s what you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 375º. Next, pat your chicken breasts with a paper towel until dry, set aside. Pour your bag of BBQ popchips into a large zip lock bag and roll over popchips with rolling pin until smashed into small pieces. Then on a small plate, mix 1 cup of flour with 1/4 of BBQ seasonings, on a second small plate beat your egg and lastly on a third plate, pour the smashed popchips that will become the delicious crust. You are ready to begin the assembly process. First, cover both side a chicken breast with the flour mixture, then dip in egg and finally cover generously in the smashed popchips. Repeat the process until you’ve covered each chicken breast. Bake the encrusted chicken on a baking sheet for 30-45 minutes depending on thickness of chicken and until chicken is cooked through.


**************Popchips Giveaway!********************

O.k. now here’s your chance to win a POP-tacular case of assorted popchips for yourself!

You get 2, yes I said TWO chances to win!
1. Leave me a comment below telling me what you would do with a case of popchips if YOU win! Would you share them? Hide them for yourself? Create your own recipe?
2. Go to popchips facebook page and “like” them and then post a comment on their wall telling them about this giveaway here at and then come back here and tell me that you did.

Giveaway begins today Friday December 3, 2010 and ends Friday December 10, 2010 at Midnight EST. 1 winner will be randomly selected and announced in the morning on Saturday December 11, 2010.

Happy Snacking all and good luck!

I would like to thank the POP-tabulous people at popchips for sending me the oh-so-fun case of popchips and for supplying another one for one of  YOU lucky readers!  I must mention that this contest is only open to U.S. residents. Sorry to my Canadian friends.

****************WE HAVE A WINNER*******************

The time has come to announce the winner of the popchips case! We have one lucky winner….

Are you ready?

The winner is…..

Rachel who said,

“I would scarf the whole box down because I love PopChips that much! No really – I’d love to try encrusting them in tofu, similar to your technique for a unique way of flavoring!!

Rachel I will be contacting you about your prize details via email!

A BIG thanks to all who participated in The popchips giveaway this week!

Happy Snacking!


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Too Much Thyme on my Hands (Hormel Giveaway)

Ironically, I have an abundance of thyme in my garden at the moment and very little time to do anything with it.

Story of my life.

However, after receiving some coupons from the nice folks at Hormel® to try their Always Tender® or Natural Choice® pork, a light bulb went off in my head.

Bling! I’ll use my thyme and save time at the same time! It’s perfect!

I just love it when the sun, the moon and the stars all align and the world makes sense.

Don’t you? Doesn’t happen all too often, so when it does I jump on it!

After picking up a Hormel® Pork Center Cut Loin Fillet, I pulled together some of my favorite ingredients and dinner was made in a flash!

I used: 

No specific measurements or amounts are needed for this quick and easy dish, just a dash of this and a splash of that. However, I decided to give you the measurements of what I used.

  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp coarse brown mustard
  • 3 Tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

After dicing and slicing the ingredients just throw it all into a zip lock bag along with your pork and give it a good squeeze until you see that all sides of the pork are nicely coated.

Could it get any easier? I don’t think so. Could be any faster? I think not.

Time is definitely on my side tonight!

Let your pork and ingredients mingle a bit in the bag. I was short on time so mine only got to mingle as long as it took to warm up the grill, but overnight in the fridge would be even better yet.

Grill your pork until it’s nice and crispy on the outside and a meat thermometer reads 160ºF in the thickest part of meat.

Don’t forget to let the pork rest a spell to lock in all of the yummy juices.

Slice and serve with a side that tickles your tummy.

See? Dinner was literally on the table in… No. Time. Flat.

No fuss, no muss and certainly a thyme time saver indeed. For more great ways to prepare Hormel®’s delicious pork products check out these easy recipes at Hormel®’s recipe site for more inspiration.

May you always have plenty of time to enjoy the moments rather than the must do’s!

Until next time,



So how would you like to try Hormel®’s Always Tender® or Natural Choice® pork for yourself?

Just leave me a comment below and tell me your favorite time saving recipe or try one of the recipe’s from Hormel®’s recipe site. One lucky person will win $20 worth of coupons from Hormel® Always Tender® or Natural Choice® brand flavored meats for you to enjoy yourself! Contest will end Sunday, September 26, 2010 at midnight EST and a winner will be randomly selected and announced Monday, September 27, 2010. Good luck!

Be sure to tell your friends about the fun and don’t forget to stop back to see if you’re the lucky winner!

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I was provided with complimentary coupons and recipes by Hormel® so that I could sample their product and provide coupons for one lucky reader to enjoy. I was not compensated in any other way for this post)


O.k we have a lucky winner of the $20 worth of coupons from the nice folks at Hormel®! A big THANKS to all who participated! And of course a big thanks to the folks at Hormel®!

The winner is Shari who said, “I have the thyme to help you with left over’s :) need some help? Yummy!!”

Congratulations Shari! I’ll be in touch about your prize details!

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Food For The Soul

Call it what you want…

Food for the soul, food for thought, a fabulous piece of lasagna …wait, more about that later…or “Big Summer Potluck”.  It was my very first time going to an “event” with fellow bloggers. Foodie bloggers to be exact. The title doesn’t really matter. What matters is, I walked in expecting that my brain be filled and walked out with my soul being fed.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend an event called “Big Summer Potluck” and let me tell you, it was all that and more. It was the creation of four lovely ladies, Maggy, Sharon and Pam of Three Many Cooks and Erika of Ivory Hut.

They decided to put together a day filled with information, inspiration and good old fashioned fun with the theme being “potluck.”

Brilliant, they are, seeing that we are all FOOD BLOGGERS and what do we love as much (if not more) than blogging? Well…yes, food.

I felt like “little grasshoppa”- I was excited, nervous, curious, anxious, nauseated, perhaps even a little bit bloated. But most of all, I was elated to meet a group of people who were just like me. People who were creative, innovative and behind a camera lens (and a computer screen) most of their day.

But once I walked in saw this room full of people…

I was instantly put at ease. Just look at all of those beautiful people (thanks to Erika of Ivory Hut for this fantastic photo)!

I even found Abby Dodge. Fellow Leo, lover of life. One of the many awesome demonstrators of the day. Oh, yea and former pastry chef, contributing editor of Fine Cooking magazine, author of 7 cookbooks…

Sheesh, maybe I was feeling a bit nervous again.


There’s just something priceless about being in a room full of people who “get it.” People who get the passion of cooking, creating, and sharing. Who get the hours of preparation, set up, grocery shopping, humongous messes in the kitchen and the lengths that you’ll go to carrying a plate of food around your house just to get the right “light” for the shot. It’s SO soul satisfying to see the understanding in their eyes and the willingness to share their stories as well.

So comforting that I actually found myself babbling about balancing my camera on my bosom to get the perfect shot while my daughters look at me as if I have lost my mind. Then I thought, wait a minute, DID I loose my mind? Am I really saying this out loud? Only to realize that heads were nodding and eyes were twinkling and I was not alone in my shenanigans.

It can’t get any better than that!

As I said it was a potluck and the food tasting took place all day in between learning. It was fabulous. Extra time at the gym for me, but totally worth every bite!

Along with the food, we all enjoyed wonderful demonstrations, intimate speeches, food styling and photography tips.

It was a five star day.

We even got goodie bags! Pam of Three many Cooks was kind enough to give us all a copy of her newest cookbook, “Perfect ONE -DISH Dinners”. This is Pam’s fifth cookbook just one of many successes of this dynamic blogger, food columnist for USA Weekend, contributing editor to Fine Cooking and Runner’s world magazine AND loving mother and wife. <whew> She really needs to do more with her life, dontcha think?

This gorgeous cookbook will be in stores mid September but you can buy it on Amazon now. Do yourself a favor and RUN don’t walk to get a copy. I poured over it the WHOLE drive home. I knew the moment I opened the book that it was imperative to myself, my family and all of you, that I cook a dish out of that book as soon as I stepped foot in the door.

And guess what? I did. And it was stupendous. So without further ado, I MUST share it with all of you!

I decided to make Pam’s Quick, Creamy Lasagna. And let me tell you, it was not only quick and easy, but it was TO. DIE. FOR.

The first thing you’ll need, Lasagna noodles.

Soak the noodles in salted, hot tap water for about 10 minutes until soft.

While the noodles are soaking, begin making the filling.

Here’s what you’ll need for the “dreamy, creamy filling” (as I now call it): cream cheese, dried basil, a jar of marinara sauce, chicken broth, Parmesan cheese, and grated mozzarella cheese.

And you’ll need 4 cups of chicken as well.

My Yanni had just grilled up some yummy chicken so I used that. Pam calls for shredded chicken, but I diced mine.

Mix your diced chicken, basil, cream cheese, and broth in a bowl.

And this my friends is the creamy, dreamy lipsmackingly incredible filling.

Once you have your filling mixed, it’s time to assemble the lasagna.

First spread 1/4 cup of marinara sauce in bottom of your baking dish.

On top of that, place 3 noodles, then marinara sauce…

The creamy, dreamy filling…

Sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese and then TOP that with Parmesan. I know can you believe it? I told you that this dish was divine!

Repeat these steps- noodles, sauce, filling, cheese, until you’ve got 4 layers.

When you’ve finished layering, you’ll top the whole thing off by slathering another creamy layer with the remaining cream cheese and 1/4 cup chicken broth.

Then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese topped with Parmesan.

Cover with foil (Pam suggests spraying the foil with cooking spray, she’s so smart) and then place into a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 40-45 minutes. Remove foil and broil for another 4-5 minutes until brown and bubbly.

This is what you’ll have as a finished product.

WARNING: Consumption of this dish may cause blinding euphoria and uncontrollable urges for more servings.

The recipes in Pam’s cookbook are easy, delicious and soul satisfying…which perfectly sums up my day.

I walked into Big Summer Potluck feeling like “little grasshoppa”…

And walked out to find this on my car.

Life is mysterious.

But as I drove away, with my mind full and my soul fed, I realized that I had indeed left that little grasshoppa behind.


Here is the recipe for Pam’s fabulous “Quick, Creamy Lasagna!” Thanks Pam!

Quick, Creamy Lasagna

Adapted from Pam Anderson’s Perfect ONE-DISH Dinners
(Serves 8 to 12)


  • Salt
  • 15 oven-ready (rippled- style, such as Ronzoni) lasagna noodles (from two 8-ounce boxes)
  • 4 cups (shredded) chicken
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened, divided
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 jar (25-26 oz.) good marinara sauce
  • 4 cups (1 pound) grated mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese divided


Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat to 400 degrees. Dissolve 1  1/2 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts piping hot tap water in a 13-by-19-inch baking dish. Add noodles and soak until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Meanwhile, mix chicken with basil, 8 ounces cream cheese, and 1/4 cup broth. mix remaining 4 ounces cream cheese with remaining 1/4 cup broth in a small bowl; set aside. To assemble, smear 1/4 cup marinara sauce over bottom of baking dish, then assemble 4 layers of each of the following: 3 lasagna noodles, a scant cup marinara, 1 cup filling mixture, 3/4 cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons parmesan. Top with remaining 3 noodles, cream cheese-broth mixture, remaining 1 cup mozzarella and remaining 1/4 cup parmesan.

Spray one side of a large sheet of heavy-duty foil with vegetable oil cooking spray. Cover baking dish with foil, oiled side down, and bake until bubbly throughout, 40 to 45 minutes. Leaving lasagna on same rack, turn oven to broil. Remove foil and broil until lasagna is spotty brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

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Orzo Stuffed Peppers

I fell in love with stuffed peppers while on my honeymoon in Greece. My Yanni’s Yaya would spend a whole day preparing the divine little packages of deliciousness. The kitchen would fill up with the wonderful aroma of herbs and vegetables and tantalize my senses until I thought that I could take it no longer.

Let me tell you, when those beautiful stuffed vegetables appeared from out of the oven, we were right there fork in hand, ready to dig into those perfect little pepper packages faster than you can sneeze.

I could live on stuffed vegetables alone. Forever.

The other night I had a hankering for my beloved stuffed vegetables but didn’t have the time for the whole shebang so I made my favorite standby recipe, orzo stuffed peppers. These are simple, delicious and nutritious! They are the perfect side for any meal or they can be an entire meal on their own!

Let me introduce you to your favorite new dish.

This is what you’ll need… six peppers.

Orzo. LOVE orzo.

Grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Often times I’ll make the peppers with feta instead of the Pecorino Romano, but I (gasp) didn’t have any on hand.

Fresh basil. I picked mine from the garden, it was still warm from the sunshine. Wish I could bottle that scent.




Italian tomatoes whole or diced.

I like to squish the whole tomatoes with my fingers, personally. But that’s just me.

Of course some extra virgin olive oil,

a little salt & peppa…

and chicken broth.

First pour the chicken broth into a pan and bring to a boil.

Next pour the orzo in and cook for 4 minutes. We want the orzo partially cooked because it will finish off in the oven while nestled inside the peppers.

Next, cut the tops off the peppers and remove all seeds and ribs. Feel free to slice the bottoms off if they seem wobbly.

I like to dice up the extra pepper from the tops and add them to the filling.

Put all of your peppers into a baking dish that fits all six peppers snugly, a 3-quart should do the trick.

We don’t want any peppers spilling their filling. There’s just nothing worse than that!

Once the orzo has cooked for 4 minutes, drain and reserve the chicken broth. We will be using the remaining chicken broth in the bottom of the baking dish while the peppers bake.

Now it’s time to make the filling.

Grate the zucchini.

Grab a big bowl and put in the partially cooked orzo, chopped mint leaves, minced garlic, squished up tomatoes, cheese, diced pepper tops, olive oil, basil and salt and pepper.

Give it a gentle stir to incorporate all of the ingredients.

Heck, I could just eat this entire bowl of filling, but I won’t because I looooooove my little stuffed peppers too much!

Now fill each and every pepper with the filling. You may have some extra filling left over depending on the size of the peppers, just pop the extra into a small baking dish and bake it off with the peppers.

Aren’t they just gorgeous?

Now pour the leftover chicken broth into the bottom of the baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes remove the foil and sprinkle the tops generously with the Pecorino Romano cheese. Cook for 15 more minutes until the tops are golden brown and you can’t possibly stand the incredible aroma that is permeating your nostrils for – One. More. Minute.

Garnish the tops with ribbons of basil, it’s the perfect way to wrap up this perfect little pepper package!



Orzo Stuffed Peppers
(makes six peppers)

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ Giada’s Kitchen

  • 1 (28 ounce can) can Italian tomatoes
  • 2 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo
  • 6 peppers
  • 1/4 sweet chopped basil


Begin by preheating the oven to 400° F.

Boil the 4 cups of chicken broth, add orzo and cook for 4 minutes.

While the orzo cooks, prepare the peppers by cutting off tops, remove seeds and ribs. Discard the seeds and ribs but save and chop the pepper tops.

Once the orzo is ready, drain the orzo and save the chicken broth.

Next prepare the filling. Pour the orzo, tomatoes, zucchini, chopped pepper tops, mint, cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper into a bowl and stir.

Put the peppers into a 3-quart baking dish, pour the remaining chicken broth into the bottom of the dish and stuff the peppers with the filling.

Cover the peppers with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove the foil, sprinkle the peppers generously with cheese and bake uncovered for 15 more minutes.

Garnish with basil ribbons.


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Baked Beans with Cornbread Caps

There is nothing more delicious on a hot summer day than something divine sizzling on your grill. The other evening as My Yanni, aka My Grill Master was doing his magic, I was in the kitchen whipping up the rest of the meal.

Which suits me just fine. It’s hot out there…especially with the grill going and now that My Yanni has a charcoal grill, well forgheeeet aaaaboout it. It’s just not my thing.

My thing is standing in my kitchen in the luxury of air conditioning thank you very much.

I like to prepare the side dishes and set the scene. In the air conditioning.

So as I was going about my business in the air conditioning, I got to thinking about my favorite summer dishes. Well there’s salad. I always make a salad. I LOVE salad. But then there are all the other fantastic sides. Take for instance baked beans. I do adore baked beans. But sometimes their just too, well, predictable. So I got to thinking about it and decided to come up with something different. Something sophisticated but easy, traditional with a twist.

I decided to mix old with the new and throw in a few favs that give the old stand by a new flare.

These are the usual suspects for a “traditional” baked bean recipe only with a Wenderly twist. There’s mustard, I used dijon instead of yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, beans of course (but I used 4 different varieties) brown sugar, garlic and shallots (instead of onions).

Now, I must back up a minute. While I was putting this all together in my head, I glanced at the balsamic vinegar that was innocently waiting to dress my salad.

That’s when it hit me.

I remembered one of my all time favorites…a balsamic BBQ sauce by Giada De Laurentiis (she’s another one of my favs) now that would be PERFECT paired with beans.

But a regular ole baked bean dish all gussied up in a balsamic BBQ sauce just wouldn’t do. So I decided to go a sophisticated route by using a medley of beans nestled in charming ramekins, pancetta instead of bacon and the cous de gras would be baking the beans with corn bread right on top.

Yep, you heard me. Cornbread, baked right on top of the baked beans.

And that my friend is how baked beans with a cornbread cap was born.

Now here’s the skinny on how to make them.

We’ll start with the balsamic BBQ sauce.

The star of this sauce is of course….balsamic vinegar. You’ll need 1 cup.

Pour the cup of balsamic vinegar into a pan.

Look at that gorgeous balsamic vinegar.

I could just get lost in balsamic vinegar.

Look into the vinegar and you’ll get very, very sleepy…

…or at the very least see your reflection.

Once you have the balsamic vinegar in the pan, you’ll just add…


brown sugar,

Worcestershire sauce, or “what’s this here sauce?” which is what my grandfather always called it.

Dijon mustard,

And of course a little bit of salt and…


Stir all ingredients with a whisk until incorporated  & smooth. Simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes until the liquid reduces by 1/3.

Now grab your pancetta. I found mine already already diced, but of course, you could dice it yourself.

Pancetta is an Italian style bacon. It’s salty. And smokey. And simply divine. It definitely gives the beans the sophistication that I was looking for.

Saute the panetta in a little olive oil.

While the pancetta is crisping you can dice your shallots and garlic.

I decided that shallots would add a fuller flavor than plain old onions.

Now peel your shallots & garlic and dice away.

Once your pancetta is golden brown, add the shallots & garlic into the pot. The pancetta makes a nice little bed for the shallots & garlic so they don’t burn.

Now for the beans.

I used 4 different beans, kidney, navy, pinto and black beans. I love the way the different colors and sizes look and taste.

Drain the beans but don’t rinse, you’ll want some of that yummy liquid to enhance the dish.

Add the beans to the pancetta, shallots & garlic.

Gently give a stir.

Look at that gorgeous bowl of beans.

Once the balsamic BBQ sauce is reduced by 1/3, pour it into the beans.

Now mix it all together and let it simmer for about 10 minutes with the lid on stirring occasionally. The balsamic BBQ sauce needs to get to know the beans and soak up the flavor.

** WARNING ** Use all self control to not just grab a spoon and dig right in.

Next all of this deliciousness needs to be put into darling little ramekins that are sitting on a baking sheet. Trust me, you don’t want bubbled up & over baked beans all over your oven.

Fill each ramekin about 3/4 of the way.

Put the filled ramekins into a 400° oven for 30-35 minutes. You don’t want them to get to dry, you’ll be putting them back in the oven to bake off the cornbread caps.

Time to make the batter for the cornbread caps.

I used Jiffy mix. It’s a tried and true stand-by at my house.

These are the 1,2,3 easy ingredients. Jiffy mix, egg & milk.

Whisk everything together.

Now take some of that cornbread batter and dollop it onto the pre-cooked baked beans.

Stick the cornbread batter topped ramekins back into a 400° oven for 10-15 minutes. Watch to make sure that they only get golden brown and not too dry.

They should look something like this.

Grab a spoon and dig in.

Summertime never had it so good.

A traditional stand-by made into a sophisticated one dish delight.

Does it get any better than this?

Well, only if you’re smart enough to stay in the air conditioning.

Stay cool!


Here’s the easy printable recipe:

Wenderly’s Baked Beans with Cornbread Caps

(Serves 10-12)


Balsamic BBQ sauce: (or use your favorite BBQ sauce)
BBQ Sauce adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon  ground black pepper


  • 1 16oz can Pinto Beans
  • 1 16oz can Black Beans
  • 1 16oz can Kidney Beans
  • 1 16oz can Navy Beans
  • 2 Shallots
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 4 oz Pancetta
  • S&P to taste

Cornbread Caps:

  • 2 boxes of your favorite cornbread mix plus ingredients shown on the box


For the Balsamic BBQ sauce:
Pour all ingredients into a sauce pan. Stir until incorporated and smooth.  Simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until reduced by 1/3. Stir frequently to avoid burning.

For the Cornbread:
Follow instructions on your box and prepare while beans are baking.

For the beans:
While sauce is reducing, dice Pancetta then saute in a dutch oven until browned.  Dice shallots and garlic then add to Pancetta. Drain beans but do not rinse.  When shallots are translucent add beans and BBQ sauce.  Stir and let simmer with lid on for 10 minutes (stir occasionally).  When finished, place 10-12 ramekins on a cookie sheet then spoon in beans filling 3/4 to the top.  Bake  at 400° for 30 to 35 minutes.  Remove beans from oven.  Pour cornbread mix on top of beans filling just below the brim of ramekins.  Place back in 400° oven for another 10-15 minutes (refer to your box’s instructions) or until golden brown.

Serve and enjoy!

Main Courses

Gourmet Pizza in a Pinch a la Trader Joe’s

I absolutely LOVE to entertain my family and friends!

Sometimes I’m really in the mood to whip up something that entails about fourteen trips to the grocery store (even with a list, I tend to forget things) two days of prep work and then, occasionally a “do over”.

Other times (more often than not) I want something as utterly FABULOUS as it is delicious AND easy!

I spend enough time running around like a crazy person as it is. So when it’s time for fun with friends and family I want to enjoy it (not be so tired that I’m tempted to sneak away and crawl into my favorite jammies before the night is done).

But I have found that I have a secret weapon….Trader Joe’s.

It is my stand by for easy, scrumptious, fast and FABULOUS.

These are the simple ingredients.

  • Mozzarella
  • Fire Roasted Red Peppers
  • Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
  • Pitted Kalamata Olives

Now, the most complicated part is…

-drum roll please-

Take the Pizza dough out of the fridge  20 minutes before rolling.  Really, honestly and truly, that is the most difficult part.

Because I always forget.

While the dough is getting to room temp,  prepare the other 3 ingredients-

  • Slice the mozzarella into flat medallions.
  • Drain the fire roasted red peppers and slice into long, thin, strips.
  • Drain the Kalamata olives and slice or you can leave them whole if you like.

Now for the fun part.

  • Sprinkle flour on your work surface, roll the dough into 1/4 inch thickness. I buy the whole wheat, it’s SO GOOD and my girlies who usually turn their noses up at anything whole wheat, love it!
  • Now continue rolling- I like a rectangle shape- but a circle is fine.
  • Place the dough on a greased pan.
  • Next, brush the dough with some olive oil.

I LOVE olive oil- and I always have it on hand. Married to that delicious Greek, ya know, comes with the territory  (and it’s good as a hair mask…just an FYI).


After brushing on the olive oil, place the yummy mozzarella all over the dough.

It will bubble and melt into little divine, gooey puddles of deliciousness.

I’m drooling…

OK… focus!

  • Next, arrange the roasted red peppers and kalamata olives all over the mozzarella.
  • Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and even some oregano if you happen to have it.
  • Place the pizza in the oven and bake 10-12 minutes. (my oven is screwy, so my pizza took 15 minutes)

Then get ready for all of the “oooooooh’s and aaaaaaaaah’s” and “How long did it take you? It’s so beautiful!!”

Simply smile and reply, “Oh not too terribly long. I wanted to make something special for you-you’re worth it.”

(You can thank me later)

And that my friend is how to make a gourmet pizza in a pinch!