August 12, 2014

Stovetop Baked Beans

Does time move quickly, or slowly? How many years ago did I bike down the boardwalk of San Diego's Pacific Beach, past miles of sunbathers and crystal waves, to Trader Joe's on Garnet Avenue, to buy my favorite baked beans?

How many months ago did I slump in my wintry Long Island kitchen, plagued with morning sickness and craving those tender, syrupy beans I had only ever eaten from a can?

Darwin, former dollop, former question mark, seems to catapults toward his fourth birthday. Our second baby rolls in my belly, nine weeks from her due date. Time slides back and forth like a Matchbox car on the kitchen floor.

I'm starting to plan ahead some freezer meals, so we can try to eat together and well in the dazed, early weeks after the baby arrives.

Space is limited, but these baked beans have earned their spot in the freezer. I modified the recipe (heavily) from this one, shortening the cooking time and halving the amount of molasses to no ill effect.

The beans are deliciously smooth and flavorful. Navy beans simmered from scratch have the best mouthfeel, if I can borrow some wine-speak. Plus, they offer lots of fiber, protein, and a double hit of iron in combination with the molasses.

Here are a few reasons to make baked beans from scratch, rather than opening a can:
You can drastically reduce the amount of added sweeteners.
You can use iron-rich molasses instead of empty-calorie sugars like HFCS or brown sugar.
You can minimize your exposure to toxic can-liners like BPA.
You can make a big, hearty batch for big broods or freezing.

The bacon is totally optional, but a little fat rounds out the meal. Shredded cheddar melted on toast is another good accompaniment.


Stovetop Baked Beans
Serves 6

1 pound dry navy beans, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 sweet or yellow onion, chopped small
1 cup tomato sauce (we like Muir Glen)
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbls. butter
2 bay leaves
cooked bacon, for garnish (optional)

Cook navy beans until tender, along with the bay leaves. We do this in a pressure cooker, but you may also simmer them in a heavy pot with water for about an hour. Drain the beans, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water.

In a large, heavy pot, sauté the onion in the butter on medium-low heat until starting to brown and caramelize, 15-20 minutes.

Add the drained beans, tomato sauce, dry mustard, salt, and molasses, and stir to combine.

Simmer beans for ten minutes to blend flavors. If the beans seem dry or begin to stick, add the reserved cooking liquid.

Serve as is, or top with bacon or shredded cheddar cheese.

August 7, 2014

Whole Fruit Frozen Yogurt Bites

If you shop in a supermarket, you know there's an utterly dizzying selection of flavored yogurts out there. You've seen the tubes and pouches, the fruit-on-the-bottoms, and the rainbow cups topped with helmets of chocolate and sugary granola. These products are heavily-marketed (Probiotics! Fruit! Low Fat!) and designed to make us feel like good eaters and good parents, if only we buy them. They are rosy, cozy, Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light yogurts. Are you suspicious yet? You should be.

You have to stoop to pick up the good stuff, because it's usually on the bottom shelf, only the lid visible. Whole, and plain. Tart, rich, and creamy with the fat that belongs in it. A milk-white, empty canvas. Because yogurt shines when YOU doll it up a little, in your own kitchen, with simple, fresh ingredients.

On a hot day, these treats hit all the right notes: frosty, fun, and colorful, fruity and sweet-tart. They start to lose their shape out of the freezer fairly quickly, so I like to grab a few at a time and put them into a little dish for Darwin. The worst-case scenario is your shapes melt, and you have to eat a thick swirl of real-food soft serve. Torture!

If you have any leftover mixture, pour it into a glass and stick a straw in it. Do.


Whole Fruit Frozen Yogurt Bites

1 ripe banana (frozen is OK)
1 cup whole plain yogurt
1/2 cup frozen fruit (blueberries, raspberries, cherries, mango, etc)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1-2Tbls honey, optional for babies over one year

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into candy molds or make dollops on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet. Freeze and enjoy.

Here is a link to the molds that made the yogurt bites pictured. A word of caution: it is a very, very tiny mold, so you don't get much yogurt in these shapes without making several batches, or owning several molds.