Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homemade Baked Beans with Molasses and Bacon

As an aspiring foodie, I'm constantly trying to expand my food horizons.  One such recent venture has been into the land of dried beans.  Yes, I've been tackling those familiar yet mysterious pebbles found in the bulk food section.  The verdict?

Dried beans are awesome!  They are inexpensive, nutritious, and with a little forethought- very easy to prepare.  Oh, and RIDICULOUSLY delicious.  So for those of you who have been thinking about making the plunge, this recipe is a great way to dive into the world of dried beans.

So good!

This recipe combines the smokey goodness of apple wood smoked bacon with the deep savory-sweetness of molasses (along with a healthy dose of organic ketchup).  There are three major steps to this dish: an overnight soak in the fridge, a 2-3 hour simmer, and finally a 1 hour bake.  Obviously you could do all of these steps in one day (i.e. wake at the crack of dawn to put the beans to soak, boil in the mid-afternoon, and bake in the evening), however I am not an early riser, so I did the soak the evening before I wanted to eat the beans.  At any rate, this recipe is relatively simple and so delicious that you won't think anything of the minimal effort put into the extra steps.  Enjoy!

Homemade Baked Beans with Molasses and Bacon

Serves 10-12

1 1b Great Northern beans (Navy are traditional, but I prefer a larger bean.)
2 large yellow onions
1 medium carrot
1 medium stalk of celery
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
4 slices apple wood smoked bacon
1.5 cups ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
1 tbsp each cider and balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

1.  Sort and rinse the beans.  Place in a large bowl and cover with about two inches of water.   Cover bowl with wrap and place in fridge overnight.

2.  In the morning small dice the onion, carrot, and celery.  In a large pot or dutch oven heat the oil and add the vegetables.  When softened add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute.  Now add the beans and enough water to cover them by about two inches.   Add the bay leaf. (Note:  You can either add the beans with or without the soaking liquids.  Keeping the liquid means keeping the minerals and vitamins in the water, however some say that draining the liquid can help prevent some of beans' infamous side effects.)  Bring the mix to a boil for five minutes, and then simmer 2-3 hours partially covered until beans are tender, making sure that they don't dry out.  Drain and refrigerate beans until ready to use.

3.  Preheat the oven to 325.  In a large dutch oven fry the bacon.  While the bacon is cooking dice the remaining onion and mince the remaining garlic.  When browned, remove the bacon and cook the onions in the remaining bacon grease.  Once softened add the garlic and ginger powder and cook for another minute.  Next add all of the remaining ingredients into the pot and stir with the crumbled bacon.  Once thoroughly mixed, place in the oven and bake for approximately one hour.

Serve as a traditional side to BBQ fare, or eat by themselves (they're that good!).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

First Post and Salutations!

Hello food blogging community!  Welcome to my first post: Butternut Squash with Bacon Mac and Cheese!

I think this particular recipe is appropriate for the occasion.  As my title would suggest, I'm relatively new to the food scene.  I began cooking in about the last year or so, when I was booted off the student meal plan.  Since then I've made some really good (and bad!) food.

Anyway, this is my first time preparing butternut squash (although I have dealt with some of it's cousins), making it an ideal first time.

I decided upon this recipe after browsing the internets for various versions of the dish.  In my opinion this one is very good, however, I think next time I'll make a few adjustments by the way of increasing the amount of cheese sauce.  Enjoy!

Butternut Squash with Bacon Mac and Cheese

1 small- medium butternut squash
1 tbsp olive oil
6 strips of bacon
1 medium yellow onion
16 ounces whole wheat penne (you could really use whatever you want)
2 cups 1% milk
1/4 cup flour
6 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne to taste
1/4-1/2 tsp onion powder

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Peel and chop your butternut squash into approximately 1/2 inch cubes.  Remember, pretty pieces = even cooking!  Next, toss the squash with the tbsp of oil and then salt and pepper and move to a baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for about 40-45 minutes.

2.  While the squash is roasting, cook your bacon until crisp and small dice the onion. Remove bacon and grease from pan, leaving approx. 1 tbsp of grease behind.  In the remaining grease saute the onion until softened, seasoning with s&p and a dash of cayenne.

3.  Boil salted water and cook penne until al dente.

4.  In a small sauce pan off heat, slowly mix the flour and milk.  I usually start out with about a tbsp of flour and a fourth of a cup of milk, adding more as the flour is dissolved.  When the flour and milk are well mixed turn on the heat, and let simmer until thickened.  Remove sauce from heat and slowly mix in the cheddar cheese.  Once the cheese is well incorporated, give it a taste and season with s&p, cayenne, and onion powder.  The onion powder may seem like an odd choice, but it really intensifies the cheesiness of the sauce.

5.  Once the squash is done roasting, remove from baking sheet.  Turn the oven up to 450.  Toss together with the penne, bacon (crumbled into pieces), and onions.  Pour into a 13x9 casserole and spread evenly.  Pour cheese sauce over and mix until well combined.  Sprinkle mixture of parmesan and panko over the top.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.  Serves 4-6.
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