Bean Practice

I had a hankering for homemade baked beans and I couldn’t remember the last time I had made them. I checked online and saw that my original baked bean posting was back in September 2010 and after that only one other posting in August 2011. (during hurricane Irene – I should really not wait so long to make baked beans!)

So here we are in 2016 with another hurricane (Matthew) pummeling the country and me working to perfect a very traditional baked bean. The last batches were not too traditional. So this time I stuck to tradition. I ended up making 3 batches (!!!) over the course of a week.

Batch 1: I used a red kidney bean – that’s the bean I had used the last couple of times – but I must have bought some extra giant size and I was out of practice in general so my husband pronounced these “ok, but not great and why are the beans so big?”

Batch 2: My mom heard I was making baked beans and was dying for some so I made a vegetarian & onion free version for her and used a smaller pink bean. I soaked them overnight but was too lazy to do the boil-in-water step but did cook them extra long in the slow-cooker . She pronounced them “delicious, but maybe they could be just a tiny bit more tender.”

Batch 3: I again used the small pink bean and soaked them overnight. This time I boiled them in fresh water for about 10 minutes before cooking them overnight in the slow cooker. I kept them vegetarian and used onion. I am dropping some off at my boss’s house. Hopefully he will pronounce them “an excellent baked bean.”

here is how we like to eat them around here…


Cajun spiced-rubbed steak, corn bread, sliced tomatoes and traditional baked beans


The Recipe:

I used approx. 2 lbs (2 small bags) of small pink dried beans, soaked overnight, boiled for 10 minutes in fresh water (no salt) and drained. Place in a sprayed slow-cooker for easy clean up.

Whisk together:

1 6-ounce can of tomato paste

1 cup light brown sugar – barely (lightly) packed

1/3 cup dark molasses

1/2 tablespoon of dry mustard

1/4 cup ketchup

2 cups very hot water

1 tb of ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups small diced white onion (instead of onion this could also be 4 whole garlic cloves thrown in the slow cooker and fished out later – I tried that in one of my versions.)

Taste the mix and adjust as desired. Remember the flavors will deepen in the pot, but this is a chance to get the general “sweet and tangy-ness” right. Add this mixture to the beans in your slow cooker. Stir well. At this point I like to add 1 more cup of hot water to make sure there is enough “juice” as I cooked these on high, overnight. (or about 8-10 hours) The water level should just be “peeking” out from the beans not actually covering the beans. Use +/- water on that final cup of hot water to achieve the right level. Stir maybe twice during the cooking and scrap the sides down.

TIP: When they are done – tender, smelling good, looking good, tasting good – stir in a 1/2 cup of good quality maple syrup. (I like a dark amber from Vermont.) Add a couple pinches of salt. The syrup at the end gives the beans a warm, sweet undertone. I don’t add it in the beginning because I think the delicate flavor gets lost in all that cooking. (believe me I tried that in the first two batches.)

Patty Pan

Such a funny, odd name.  What is a “patty pan” anyway? I mean I know it’s a type of squash but that must be named after something? My husband thought maybe it was an another name for a cupcake-like thing. A quick search of the inter-webs told me that  “The name “pattypan” derives from “a pan for baking a patty”. Its French name, pâtisson, derives from a Provençal word for a cake made in a scalloped mould.”

I may have styled this photo just a tiny bit :)

I may have styled this photo                         …just a tiny bit🙂

The husband was pretty close to right on this one. Yup, a wife has actually admitted in writing that her husband was right! (just this one time)

I bought a couple of Patty pan’s from the farmer’s market at the Brimfield antique show this past week, along with a variety of summer squash called “Zephyr” along with some tiny little potatoes, Cipollini onions, some beautiful tomatoes, a few tomatillos and some tasty golden raspberries. No trip to the farmer’s market is complete without some corn on the cob, so I picked some up!

And of course since I was there to shop antiques – there was a small side table purchased!

The Patty Pans are small but mighty. They can be sliced or stuffed.

patty-pan-with-cupI sliced up mine along with most of my other farmer market finds and spread them all out on sheet pan with olive oil  and spices and roasted them . This is a great way to cook them easily, all at once. Later they can be arranged on a platter for a meal, snacking or sandwiches.


Interested in Brimfield? it happens 3 times a year near Sturbridge Massachusetts – here’s a link for more info and here is some pictures I took….

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Farm Days

August in New England is simply the best there is. Warm days, somewhat cooler nights and full, ripe tomatoes

– life doesn’t get any better than that.

fancy lady

fancy lady


Recently I spent a day at the New Hampshire Farm Museum listening to music, learning about daily farming activities before technology made everything easier and visiting some animals. My favorite was a beautifully marked chicken.

Down the street is Mckenzie’s Farm – a glorious operation with amazing produce, still-warm-from-the-fryer cider donuts and pick-ur-own everything – including tomatoes!

Nothing is fresher then a tomato you picked yourself!

farmstand purchases

The day’s bounty!  Homemade pickles, spaghetti squash, just picked blueberries, 2 kinds of garlic, tomatoes I picked myself, summer squash, zucchini and a cuke!

I came home with more tomatoes than this picture – about 10 lbs more!  A “sauce” was in the works!

When I got home I washed, cored and roughly cut the tomatoes. ( I don’t blanch, peel and all that jazz – too much work – and I don’t mind the peels, seeds, etc)

I simply added all the tomatoes to my slow-cooker along with one whole head of fresh garlic and a generous handful of basil leaves from my back yard pot. A little salt and pepper and that was it. I really wanted a “fresh” sauce. I let it cook on high for the day (about 6-8 hours) and stirred it once. The tomatoes were so fresh and sweet that nothing else was needed!

crockpot sauce

After all that time cooking, I used my immersion blender to get the sauce to the smooth consistency I was looking for. I blended the basil and whole garlic cloves right in. Tasted for seasoning (salt & pepper) and let it cook for another hour with the lid half off just to thicken things up a little. I cooled and packed some into the freezer for a taste of summer sometime next January. I used some right away as a sauce for an Italian style turkey meatloaf. It would also make an amazing base for a tomato soup and frankly it was just good enough to drink straight!

Meatloaf mix ( pre-turkey meat) consisted of diced yellow bell peppers, onions, garlic, basil, toasted cheese bread crumbs and

Meatloaf mix (pre-turkey meat) consisted of one finely chopped, spicy Andoullie sausage, a finely diced yellow bell pepper, onions, garlic, basil, toasted cheese bread crumbs, olive oil and an egg to hold it all together.

Italian seasoned turkey meatloaf with mashed potatoes and fresh tomato sauce. Parmesan cheese on top.

Italian seasoned turkey meatloaf with mashed potatoes and fresh tomato sauce. Parmesan cheese on top.

Who Needs A Ring Anyway!

Or maybe I am just cranky that I couldn’t keep my fresh pineapple rings as rings!

I tried to make the quintessential pineapple upside down cake- all pretty with perfect rings, but when the first one broke apart I knew I would have to just embrace the pineapple “chunks”  instead.

pineapple upside down cake 1

I choose the 9×12 baking dish size purely because that was the only dish I had that matched one of the baking choices on the back of the box cake instructions. Yep…I used a box cake mix. I did cut up a fresh pineapple and used real butter and brown sugar. I also added a splash of vanilla to the cake mix. That counts as “homemade” right?

It always better to let someone else do what they do best, like say my friend “Betty” – she is a great baker – so I can focus on what I do best…EAT!

cake piece

Author’s Tips

Spray the baking dish liberally with baking spray first.

1 stick softened, salted butter and 3/4 cup (lightly pack) dark brown sugar make the most amazing base to place the pineapple on. Just smear it together right in the baking dish and spread evenly as possible across bottom of the dish.

A light dusting of ground cinnamon over the pineapple chunks (rings) nestled in the sugar/butter mix goes a long way towards adding flavor.

No need to get a mixer out for that box cake mix- just follow box directions for adding water,oil, eggs and whisk it by hand for a minute or two till smooth and pour over the top.

Pro-tip: rotate the dish 1/2 way thru baking time for a nice even cake.

Mandatory to let the cake cool a solid 15 minutes before turning it out (upside down) on a pretty platter or simple wooden board. It will still be smoking hot (all the sugar-fruit holds the heat!) so let it cool just a few minutes longer before cutting the pieces.





Dilly Good

I think fresh dill is one of the most under-used, under-appreciated herbs. So every chance I get to use it, I do. And not just for pickles! or for Spanakopita!

This time I decided to use it in a quiche! My favorite way to use up stuff anyway is to pair it with eggs.

I decided instead of a crust to make more of  “Tortilla Espanola” or a Spanish style potato omelet. You typically start these on the stove-top and finish them in the oven, but feeling a little lazy I decided to do the whole thing in the oven. So I got out the trusty glass pie dish that I use for everything and layered the ingredients into it. I made sure to slice each ingredient thin so it would cook easily in the time I typically bake my quiches (about 45 mins at 425 degrees)

The layers of ingredients  – inspired by fresh dill – took on a decidedly “Eastern European” inspiration with red onion, potato and dill. A couple tablespoons of sour cream added to my standard quiche mix made everything extra light and fluffy! A little grated parmesan cheese on top never hurt anything !




Hot & “Board”

The hot weather here in New England has really got me thinking about meals in a new way. That new way being when/if I turn on the stove at all in the house!

Of course the back yard grill is the best option during a heatwave, but even that is just too hot to deal with on an afternoon topping 95 degrees! I will often grill early in the morning while I enjoy my first cup of coffee. The neighborhood is quiet, the temperatures are cooler and I can get my garden watered while I wait for the meat to cook.

And once I get the grill going (gas-fired so it’s easy) I like to make it worth it and grill marinaded meats and lots of veggies. These can be cooled and served later in the day, chopped up on top of salads, or as I did this past hot Saturday, as a composed grouping on a wooden cutting board.


“Lunch on a Board” 

This particular grouping was inspired by the fresh made mozzarella from Wolf Meadow Farm and a fantastic heirloom tomato and zucchini from Stillman’s Farm.

The fresh basil came courtesy of my backyard pot and the steak from my freezer – defrosted and marinated a day prior. A drizzle of olive oil, red wine vinegar, black pepper and some pink Himalayan salt completed this beauty.

TIP: Hot weather entertaining? Grill up everything the day before and serve on large cutting boards or chilled platters with a fresh drizzle of your favorite vinaigrette and some fresh herbs sprinkled over.


Red, White & Blue

A little nod to the holiday that just passed by. Fingerling potatoes in red, white & blue! So simply good – they only need a coating of olive oil, dried rosemary, salt & pepper. (Be generous with the salt, potatoes need it!) Roast on a sheet pan in a 425 degree oven for aprox 30 mins until the potatoes are soft and starting to brown. I served mine with a roast pork loin and a piece charred, toasted bread. There is a green vegetable “off camera.”