The impending Labor Day holiday means that summer is rapidly drawing to a close. All across the country, people are starting to shift into their back-to-school and work routines. There’s still a little time left before you pack up the citronella candles, however, to squeeze in one more fiesta.
The secret to end-of-season party giving is to keep it super simple. No need for complicated cocktails or loads of decorations. Buy watermelon, corn on the cob and tomatoes. They are at their best right now and need nothing to be delicious.
Tell your guests to bring something to throw on the grill (and make sure you have a couple packages of backup hotdogs, just in case). Put out an easy green salad. And for your single cooked item, make a pot of The Pioneer Woman’s Cowboy Bacon Beans.
Before you start cooking, read these tips
The unofficial end of summer has come and gone, but there’s still plenty of time for backyard parties and, more importantly, Sunday football gatherings around the big screen. Whether you’re serving up burgers or dogs, don’t forget hearty sides beyond potato chips. We’ve rounded up Food Network’s top five baked bean recipes — perfect on their own or on top of game-day classics.
5. Baked Beans With Swiss Chard – Green leafy Swiss chard adds color to this brightened-up version of baked beans from Food Network Magazine.
4. Infineon Raceway Baked Beans – Guy’s not a huge fan of baked beans because they’re so sweet, so he created this dish, which is a hybrid of chili and baked beans — so the beans will still have some texture and they won’t be as sweet.
Get the top three baked bean recipes
So often, when I think back to the food of my childhood, all I remember is the seriously healthy stuff. Dark brown whole-wheat bread, carob chips and apple slices dominate my memories of what we ate during those years. However, a recent conversation with my sister brought up a whole other set of food memories.
She remembers the toasted cheese on white sourdough, fruit snacks in our lunches and the fact that just about every Saturday, we ate hot dogs and baked beans for lunch. I don’t know if our parents relaxed their food standards when my sister came along or if my memory is deeply selective. I do know that once prompted, I vividly recalled that baked beans were one of our pantry staples.
Part of the reason my mom was so willing to keep baked beans in the pantry and hot dogs in the freezer was that they were things we could easily help prepare. Opening the beans taught can opener dexterity and the frozen hot dogs could easily be wrapped in a paper towel and microwaved until warmed through. Plus, I’m sure she figured it was a meal that offered plenty of protein for our growing bodies (my mother is a big believer in the power of protein).
With this memory fresh in my mind and Memorial Day looming, it seemed the perfect time to try my hand at a batch of from-scratch baked beans. As is so often the case, a little digging led to a recipe from culinary mastermind Alton Brown. His recipe for The Once and Future Beans helped me nail it on the first try. The active work is fairly minimal, but the beans do need a solid eight hours in the oven, which makes them perfect for a lazy weekend supper and a definite candidate for The Weekender.
Before you soak your beans, read these tips
I love a perfectly cooked bean — tender to the bite, yet toothsome. I’m also the first to admit that taste-wise, nothing compares to cooking up a pot of dried beans from scratch. My ideal strategy is to cook double the amount I need, and store leftovers in the fridge for the week ahead, or the freezer; I like to call this my secret stash.
This doesn’t mean I rule out recipes that call for beans when I find my fridge and freezer with nary a cooked one in sight. That’s when I dip into my other secret stash. Yes, that’s right, I keep canned beans in the pantry, too. First and foremost, beans are an inexpensive source of protein. They’re also high in iron, which is especially important for vegetarians since meat is the other main source of this necessary nutrient.
The trick is to test out different brands until you find one that isn’t mushy and overcooked. I usually keep a backup can or two of pintos, black beans and red kidney beans. They all help get a quick vegetarian meal ready in less than 30 minutes, add an extra boost of protein to breakfast or serve as a hearty side dish.
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