Guest Recipe

Baked Beans

In the past several weeks, I have twice experiemented with making baked beans. These are something we had homemade when I was a kid, but that I have never made. I started by looking at recipes.

I can’t take seriously any recipe that starts with canned pork & beans or even canned baked beans, notwithstanding that in younger, single days I made a darn good chili based on Campbell’s pork & beans. These days I focus on what I can make from inexpensive dry beans.

The first recipe I used came from a friend I first met in seventh grade, who turns out to be distantly related, as we are both Howland descendents. The identical recipe can be found online, as the classic Revolutionary War era savory Boston baked bean recipe. For my friend it is her mother’s Howland family recipe. I will distill it below, after I comment about it a little more.

The objective for me with baked beans is for them to be cheap. Tasty, too, of course, but the ingredients should not result in spending much for the amount of food obtained. Salt pork (bacon, in some recipes) was a huge surprise, and not frugal.

For my first attempt, I did want to follow a recipe exactly, so I went looking for salt pork. I assumed this would be tough, having never noticed it in store. Nope. Walmart had it. Hannaford had it. Market Basket had it. Once I looked, there it was, large amounts. It came in small packs for something like $3.49 for 12 ounces. I pointedly bought navy beans, as they seem to be a favorite, though you can use whatever. My friend’s grandfather liked them with lima beans, which seems odd to me, to say the least. I like lima beans (she hates them), but have never had them dried and can’t picture them in baked beans.

I made a recipe-free attempt of my own a couple weeks ago, using pinto beans, no meat product at all, and substantially different everything else. I know this is going to run long, but bear with me and I’ll tell you what I learned from that adventure before the end.

Classic Howland Baked Beans

Soak 1 lb of dry beans over night in enough water to cover them generously. Par boil until fairly soft. Drain and rinse.

Put 1 large chopped onion and 1/4 pound salt pork in the bottom of a slow cooker or bean pot. Cover with the beans. Sprinkle beans with 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 1 tablespoon salt, and 3 tablespoons of brown sugar. Add 6 tablespoons of molasses, and boiling water to cover.

If you don’t want to soak beans overnight, it’s OK to use the quick soak method, but it is important to par boil the beans until tender and rinse them well. If they are not tender enough to start, the molasses will make them like marbles no matter how long you cook them.

Pea beans or navy beans may be used, or another variety if you prefer.

The traditional way of baking this recipe is in the oven all day, or over night at a low temperature. Use a covered bean pot. Remove the lid toward the end of the baking time to allow the top to brown and to evaporate some of the liquid.

I went a little heavy on the salt pork when I made this, using half, or 6 ounces, rather than 4 ounces. Just as well, since I did not find another use for the remaining salt pork before it needed to be tossed out, making for expensive beans. I used only part of a very large, sweet onion. I may have cooked the beans less soft before baking than I could have, but they were soft enough not be a problem. Then I promptly forgot that precaution, which does not seem to be included in other baked bean recipes, or in the responses on forums where people ask how to avoid their beans being too hard. Old beans? No.

We liked but didn’t love the result of the above recipe, but it had obvious potential. By “we” I do not mean the kids. I did like the salt pork in it, and would love to try that or bacon in the future, but in an otherwise modified recipe.

The next time I made baked beans, I experimented. I winged it, and used the pinto beans I already had on hand. Chili made with those is a staple here. We have it perhaps every two weeks. The exception was the time I tried making white chili, based on nothing more than a description of what my wife had had when visiting family in Oregon. For that I used dry cannellini beans, which had a great flavor and smooth texture. But I digress.

I can’t remember clearly what I used in the pinto batch of baked beans, but my objective was a sweeter flavor, albeit still centered around molasses. Which, incidentally, I also had to buy in order to make the first batch. For some reason, I had thought molasses was far more expensive than it turned out to be. It has the benefit of long shelf life. Not to mention one container of it covering a number of batches of beans or whatnot. Haven’t yet explored the whatnot angle.

The most important lesson od the pinto baked beans involved remembering to cook them soft before baking. They did indeed come out “like marbles.” It was edible, but not the texture I want from my beans. It made up for it somewhat that the beans were so utterly imbued with flavor and transformed, but no more chewy beans for me.

I’m afraid I don’t remember the details. However, I used some onion, as with the other recipe, chopped smalled and layered bottom and middle. I used plenty of molasses, layers of brown sugar, plenty of dry mustard, salt, and a spritz of maple syrup. Not that spritz is the right word for something of that consistency, but just a little, a couple drizzles. I may have used a touch of vinegar, too, and I might not have remembered that except for the hard bean issue. When I saw what had happened and was near the end of the cooking, I tried adding a wee bit of baking soda in case that would help. It naturally foamed up from the acidity. I had the anecdotal impression that it helped ever so slightly, but that could be illusory. At any rate, if it did, it wasn’t enough. I had forgotten the need for uncovering the beans at the end, but wound up doing so because there was too much liquid. That was an additional reason I kept cooking them longer than I had expected. Despite what the original recipe says, I found it didn’t need all day. Just a few hours.

Next I will try making them less sweet than the second experiment, but with beans cooked into submission ahead of time. They were delicious, and went fantastically with a burger or bread and butter, but less brown sugar would have improved them. If I can have some on hand anyway, perhaps from a sale, with the rest to be used for a different meal, I’d love to add some bacon.

I’ll try to remember to post about what I do and how it turns out.

Revisiting Mama Jedi’s Flour Tortillas

Once upon a time, Deb posted her mother’s flour tortilla recipe at our former joint/family/anything blog, Accidental Verbosity, before moving to Blogblivion. We eat these fairly regularly, and once etsimated the cost for perhaps 16 of them at under 40 cents, versus, say, $1.69 for a pack of 8 commercial ones. You pay to save time and effort and get uniformity, but even Manny’s brand isn’t as good as homemade. It probably costs more now, given the recent increases in grocery costs and particularly, we just noticed on having to replace an empty, Crisco. That resulted in buying store brand soy/cottonseed shortening comparable to the current Crisco formulation. Traditionally one would use lard, which Deb almost got me as it was available and inexpensive. Definitely have to try that sometime.

This is a repost and, because it wasn’t written by me, guest recipe, inspired because I recently started making these myself, and found that the recipe was harder to find searching than it ought have been. I realized I’d started a food and cooking blog but never posted this here. Duh.

This was something Deb knew how to do inside out and I deferred to her, as one of her specialties. I’ll comment further at the end, but here is her original text:

Mama Jedi’s Flour Tortillas

We’ve been experimenting with different things to do with flour tortillas ever since we finally got around to trying my mother’s recipe for them. She used to make these often when I was a kid, since they’re better and cheaper than store-bought (and, I believe, because at the time it was tough to get even a passable grocery-store tortilla in rural Minnesota, a situation that has since changed). She taught some of the other women in the neighborhood how to make them, too, and they’ve been a hit with all who have tried them.

Mama Jedi’s Flour Tortillas

4 cups flour
1/2 cup shortening, in small cubes
1 & 1/4 cups warm water
1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt

Dissolve salt in water and set aside. Rub shortening into flour with fingertips. (I’ve got the warehouse-club-sized can of shortening, so I meaure it into a cup then divide it as I add it to the flour…instead of a single lump, little spoonfuls. Works just as well…the point is to have it in small pieces so it’s easier to rub into the flour.) Gradually add salt water to flour mixture. (The trick here is getting the flour/water ratio right so the dough is smooth rather than sticky or flour-y. I always seem to need a tablespoon more water or flour to make it just right, depending on how perfectly I’ve measured and the weather that day.) Knead well. Set aside covered for a minimum of three hours (I wrap it in plastic wrap, to keep the dough from getting a “skin,” then toss it back in the bowl and cover with a towel.). Knead again. Divide into 1 & 1/2 inch portions and roll out on floured board. (I shape the dough into a cylinder, then cut off the appropriate portion for the size I want for each tortilla. Usually takes me a test tortilla or two to get it right. The best part of that is that the mistakes are so tasty…yum. I also roll them out right on my countertop…a board is certainly not required, unless you have tile. *grin* The dough should be good and stretchy and a bit of a pain to roll out, and tends to shrink slightly when transferred to the pan, so roll ‘em thin.) Cook each on a hot griddle/frying pan until it bubbles and browns slightly. Makes anywhere from 12 to 18 tortillas, depending on size, thickness, and how many get eaten along the way.

As for what we’ve done with them…we’ve made burritos and quesadillas and even chicken and veggie wraps in the last couple of weeks, and I have no doubt some of the turkey will find it’s way into them in one form or another. Very versatile and very, very yummy.

The first time I made these, I became the official tortilla maker, they came out so well. The directions above say knead again after the dough sits at least three hours. Turns out that Deb didn’t actually do that when she made them. I did it minimally at best. It doesn’t seem to hurt them and anecdotally may be better, though certainly if the dough needs a little extra to get the texture feeling better while making it into cylinders.

I use one of those Pyrex cups that has lines up to a cup but room to add an extra quarter cup by eye. I microwave cold water a minute or 90 seconds, stir in the half tablespoon of salt to dissolve, and set it aside. I’ve been using about a cup in practice.

I make sure the flour is worked into the shortening extremely thoroughly. It’s somewhat like making pie crust, but without the objective of flaky.

I flip them over and over while rolling, to hel combat the curling and get them thin enough.

Basically it’s an easy easy thing to make. The big consideration is the sitting time for the dough. It’s fast compared to making bread. It’s even relatively fast to roll out, and I roll a couple then start cooking as I roll more.

They are so useful and so cheap. We’ve had the challenge of a baby with food sensitivities that seem to be based around salicyslates, and these were a perfect introduction to wheat-based foods, which as expected don’t bother him. Being simple and homemade, I knew exactly what was in them. Not like, for instance, whoile wheat pasta that contains corn meal, which he can’t have. But I digress.

Enjoy!

Beth’s Banana Bread

I’ve been meaning for ages to post this guest recipe courtesy of Beth Mauldin. I’ve used it many times as my preferred banana bread recipe since she sent it to me over a year ago.

It’s also flexible. I’ve substituted a little corn flour into it, which gave it a grainier, almost dry result, which turned out especially good for banana bread french toast. The amount of banana can vary significantly and it’ll still be good. It can be doubled readily, as I did with the latest batch. I ran out of brown sugar, so for the two it was one part brown to almost three parts white sugar, plus a squirt of honey. I also added an extra egg, making it an egg and a half per loaf (large eggs, not extra large as I normally prefer – again, it’s not exacting). The dough was the least wet I have ever seen, with the modified double batch, puffed up higher than normal, and gave a delicious result.

Let’s get to it…

Beth Mauldin’s Banana Bread

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/2 cups bananas (usually somewhere near 2 bananas)

Mix all the dry ingredients together.

Add in the oil, milk and egg, mix, then add and mix in the bananas last.

Bake in a loaf pan, greased as appropriate, at 350 for 55 – 60 minutes. I find it’s usually shorter, but it’ll depend on the foibles of your oven.

Enjoy!

Honey Mustard Chicken and Sides

Here is the first ever Married Frugal Guy Cook guest recipe:

Honey Mustard Chicken with Potatoes and Vegetable of your Choice

Need:

  • Enough chicken to feed however many people are in your family. Tenderloins are useful because they come in strips already. Don’t use the stir-fry strips; they’re too small.
  • Three large potatoes.
  • Honey mustard (I prefer Publix brand, YMMV).
  • Cooking oil.
  • Bag of frozen vegetables (for the sake of argument, let’s use green beans).
  • Seasoning for potatoes (premade is fine). I’ve also done this with just rosemary, so you can use that if you want.

1. Get home from work. Put your stuff down. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Wash the potatoes. Cut them in half, then cut each half into three or more sections lengthwise.
3. Place potatoes in large bowl. Pour in about 2 tbsp of oil and sprinkle on 1 tbsp of seasoning (1.5 tbsp of seasoning if the potatoes are those massive ones you get sometimes).
4. Toss potatoes/oil/seasoning until evenly distributed.
5. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil (or use a large glass dish that is oven-safe). Lay out the potatoes on the cookie sheet.
6. Put potatoes into oven; set timer for 15 minutes.
7. Put chicken in microwave to defrost (unless you let it defrost overnight/during the day).
8. Go upstairs and change out of your work clothes. It’s okay if you take longer than 15 minutes; the potatoes won’t burn.
9. When timer goes off, flip potatoes (this takes a while) and put back in oven for another 20-25 minutes.
10. Get a large skillet and cover the bottom with a thin layer of cooking oil. Put it on the stove at low heat to warm up.
11. Squirt a generous amount of honey mustard onto a paper plate.
12. If chicken is not already cut into strips, do so. They don’t have to be thin.
13. Coat each piece of chicken with the honey mustard as if you were dredging it in an egg/flour mixture.
14. Place chicken strips into skillet and turn up the heat to 6 or 7 (medium-high).
15. Empty vegetables from bag into small pot. Put in enough water to cover 3/4 of the vegetables.
16. Put the pot on a back burner on high and cover it. Stir every five minutes or so. Once the water is boiling, it should be about five more minutes until the veggies are done. Taste one to test it.
17. Flip chicken every five minutes or so until done. If you don’t know how to tell when it’s done, cut a piece. If it’s pink inside, keep cooking.
18. When done cooking, drain oil from chicken.
19. When done cooking, take potatoes out of oven.
20. When done cooking, drain water from vegetables.
21. Arrange food on plates. Serve.
22. Get the kids to do the cleaning. After all, you cooked, right?

It seems complicated but it took me about 45 minutes to do all that last night, and I got other stuff done in between, like playing with the baby a little and giving her medicine, and also changing clothes and reading a few pages in a book.

This recipe, and the whole idea of guest recipes, is courtesy of the former blogger known as Josh Cohen of Multiplementality.com, who also posted at Wizbang Sports and Wizbang Pop, and can now could at the time of this post occasionally be found blogging or posting under his real name on 11Alive.com [he has move on since then].

I don’t know about you, but this sounds great to me. My father likes to make a plain version of the roast potatoes. After having garlic and rosemary fries while playing pool in Monterey with Deb, Denise and April, I eventually tried making rosemary fries myself. I hear they were yummy. But seriously, I did get to taste them, and they were good, but could have been even better. The potatoes above sound like a nice cross. Roasting saves work, but it’s not far removed from fries and can be seasoned, if anything more easily.