Thursday, October 15, 2009

And So It Begins

I've been toying with the idea of a blog for about a year, now. It all started when I stumbled upon Alice Q. Foodie during an internet search for good food in San Diego. I loved reading her posts, trying her recipes, and following her recommendations for good eats around SD. Alice, in turn, led me to other foodie blogs, fashion blogs, mom blogs, friends' blogs . . . And I got to thinking how fun it would be to have a blog. After all, I missed writing. But what do I have to say that anyone in their right mind would want to read about??

Meanwhile, in my daily life as mom, I continued to cook for my family and for many of my friends. And my friends continued to ask me for recipes. I love to cook and am passionate about food and feeding my family, and my friends know that. And so, they ask: how did you prepare that cauliflower? How did you manage to make risotto with two kids in the kitchen? What did you do with all that eggplant from the market? Where did you find that sausage? And I love to answer.

Suddenly, it was obvious what my blog should be about: what I feed my family, and why. Hopefully, it will give you some ideas about what to feed your family. And I hope you'll share your ideas with me, too!

Oh, and the blog's name, "Cooking With Gries?" That's my husband's contribution. He always wanted to have a cooking show with that title -- a play on our last name, Griesbach. Of course, my husband only cooks a few things, so it would be a short -- albeit delicious! -- show.

So, let the show begin! On this pilot episode of Cooking With Gries, let's talk about my new go-to, everyone-is-happy dinner: Spicy Beans with Sausage.

My kids are bean freaks. If dinner has beans in it, they will eat, without complaining. Obviously, this means I cook a lot of bean-based dinners: jambalaya, black bean burritos, red beans and rice, chili . . . the list goes on and on. This little casserole is our latest favorite. It's also been a great meal for taking to neighbors -- many of my friends have recently had babies, and this is a comforting, filling, nourishing, homey dinner to bring to new parents. The dinner equivalent of sitting on the couch, under a blanket, by a roaring fire and a Christmas tree.

I found the original recipe in Picnic, by DeeDee Stovel, and tweaked it so that it worked for me. It's a flexible, forgiving recipe. I've used lots of different combinations of beans, but I do recommend having at least one can of white beans. Also, I've used various types of smoked sausages and just use whatever I've got on hand. If you are serving a large crowd, go for the 2 lbs. of sausage. Otherwise -- or if you're also serving a hearty soup or side dish -- 1 lb. will do fine. I've tried adding small cubes of carrots and potaotes and enjoyed both. Finally, I think this would be divine with some buttered breadcrumbs sprinkled on top near the end of the cooking time, but haven't tried it yet. (Let me know if you do!)


PS This freezes beautifully, too!

Source: Adapted from Picnic, DeeDee Stovel
Serves: 8-10
Time: about 20 mins. of work and 90 mins. of unattended cooking

  • 3 cans of beans -- white, kidney, pinto, etc.
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 TBSP oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 x 10 oz pkg frozen corn
  • 5 slices already-cooked bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
  • 1 medium green bell pepper
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1-2 lbs. kielbasa, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 c grated cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Put the beans, with their liquid, into a Dutch oven or other large, lidded casserole. Add the bay leaf and bake, covered tightly, for at least an hour -- but longer is fine, too, if you forget about them. Just check every now and again to make sure they aren't drying out -- and if they are, add a splash of water.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and saute the onion and garlic until softened, about 2 mins. Set them aside and put the kielbasa chunks in the skillet until browned, about 15 mins.
  4. Remove the beans from the oven and add all other ingredients. Stir very gently, so as not to break up the beans too much. Return to the oven and bake, covered, another 30-40 mins., or until bubbly. Just before serving, sprinkle with some cheese.


  1. Very cool, Megan. You're off to a great start!

  2. Love it! Way to be ambitious! Can't wait to read more! :o)

  3. Love the recipes Megan - I'll definitely share some as well. Have you ever thought about joining a CSA? A few of the people I work with are a part of one and the produce they get is the best I've ever had!!

  4. AH!! I am so excited about this Meg. I am going to send this to everyone I know. I hope Mom can figure this all out. ;)

  5. This looks like a great recipe! I'm also in a CSA. The stuff I get is really great, though it tends to lend itself more toward throw it in there type of cooking then recipe cooking at times since you are never sure how much you are going to get of anything... I also love cooking with fresh ingredients and trying new foods for my family and have thought about doing a related blog, what has always held me up is the lack of a ... well... recipe! Even if I start with one I can't reproduce a beautiful and easy to follow recipe of the changes I've made like you have. I really admire that with two kids there you can not only adapt the recipe to your tastes, but actually TRACK what on earth you did to adapt it so others can do it as well. I'm more of a 'threw some white wine in until it tasted good' kind of cook. Who wants to read about that :) Great idea for a blog!

  6. Welcome! Way back when, I used to visit the food section of the San Diego paper- I always found such great recipes over there!
    I am a fellow food lover- love to eat it, talk about it and make it! So I'm excited to read about your recipes!

    This sounds so simple. Here's my question, when you say "spicy" how hot are we talking here? I have east coast weaklings eating my food and they're not big fans of anything "spicy"! thanks!

    ps adding you to my blogroll!

  7. love it...can't wait to read more!

  8. Chris, it's not that spicy at all. Only 1 tsp of chili powder -- when I make chili, I use 2 TBSP or more, and my kids still eat that! So this has a "spicy" flavor to it, but is still mild enough for toddlers. (And wimpy adults!) ;-)

  9. Swati and Katy,
    I've wrestled with the idea of joining a CSA for ages. LOVE the idea, but in the end, I am too much of an anal retentative planner/rule-follower. A CSA definitely requires a bit of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach. But I find comfort in planning my weekly menus (down to the side dishes) and having a recipe to at least follow as an outline. So I shop at the Farmer's Market for my produce -- same great fruits and veggies, same support for local farmers, but I get to indulge my control-freak tendencies by choosing exactly what I want. Plus, I adore going to market on Sundays!

  10. Hi Megan - Amy Kaitting Reverdy clued me into your site - I'm so flattered! It looks like you're off to a great start!