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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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.”

Never Boil Corn Again!

This week I fell in love with the internet all over again!

I was feeling lazy about getting out a giant pot, shucking the corn and steaming/boiling my corn on the cob. Ugh.

However, my desire for early corn (Florida corn) at this time of year outweighed my laziness so the big corn pot came out. And then I decided to procrastinate more and check the internet. There must be a better way, right?

And there was!!!

Cue angels singing!

Simply roast them on a sheet pan, in the husk, for 30 mins at 350 degrees. THAT’S IT!

look I will show you how easy….

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SOOOO easy! And the house fills with the most amazing smell of sweet corn roasting.

Now I can have my fix of “corn & tomatoes” much easier.

or “corn & pineapple” muffins!

or “chicken corn stew!”

or “corn, chive  & tomato omelets!”



I am not sure what inspired this. I think I saw a layered meatloaf somewhere out there in the world and thought “I can make that!”

As usual I had to put an Italian twist on things and make my stuffed meatloaf with fresh spinach, basil and mozzarella. The meat is simply a blend of ground beef, Italian sausage, 1 egg plus one egg white, Italian seasoning and S/P. No bread crumbs, no milk-soaked bread slices – just pure meat. Continuing the Italian twist I even added some Italian seasoning to the otherwise fairly traditional glaze of ketchup and corn syrup. (you can also use brown sugar but it burns easy and the corn syrup keeps the glaze glossy – a little won’t hurt you!)

This is a large and heavy meatloaf best served with a nap and some mashed potatoes!

Production Notes:

I happen to have some leftover ground beef from a big pack so not sure on the actual amounts, but if I had to guess, there was at least 1 1/2 lbs. I took two Italian sausage out of their casing and combined them with the ground beef. I added the seasonings and a dash of Worcestershire sauce (my secret ingredient for everything beef!)

Glaze the loaf initially and bake it in a hot (425 degree) oven for about 40 mins. Glaze again and bake until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees (F)