The Sweet Side of Beans

photo(18)Not that long ago, I posted a series of photos on Facebook featuring my husband and I on a date night. Aside from all the other nerd festivities, there were a couple shots of me holding a book I happened upon at a used book store we wandered in while waiting to eat. Now let’s back up a little bit; a few years ago I saw an offer up on Freecycle for a box of books; some philosophy, some religion, and some cooking. Perfect! I picked it up at student housing on Duke campus a day later and (the Greek New Testament aside) the awesomest thing I pulled out of that box was a cookbook I had never heard of by an author I had never heard of. Of course I read it anyway, and made a discovery of a life time: Bert Greene. Unfortunately, Greene went out of fashion with the turn of the century (or perhaps a little before), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he is an entertaining and wonderful cookbook author. Like, the best. His recipes are 100 per cent and you love them before you even try them… and then beyond. Unfortunately, his cookbooks are out of print. Therefore, the date night find and the explanation of why I am kissing the book; second in my collection.

You may recall me mentioning in an earlier blog entry about meatloaf, how I seem to have a few food Waterloos. Meatloaf was conquered in that blog. That leaves breakfast strata, shepherd’s pie, pork chops, and baked beans… until now. One of the first recipes I tried out of Bert Greene’s Kitchen was his easy version of baked beans. He used to make it as a kid; I plan on making it forever (even if the beans do come from a can).

As always, better ingredients mean better results, both in terms of taste and health. I start with quality canned white beans, natural sauces and spices, nitrate-free meats, natural sugar, etc. Then I can feel nourished eating sweet beans with a side of artisanal bread or brown rice, or heaping it on next to my potluck fare. And by the way, kids love beans when they are sweet, so we have always found baked beans to be a great, healthy family food.


I often double this because we all wolf it down. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad and you have a meal. Otherwise, it makes a great addition to many other meals, especially summer picnic fare like burgers or dogs or “fried” chicken, etc.

  1. Saute 3 (nitrate-free) slices of bacon in a Dutch oven until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside.
  2. Leave 1 tablespoon drippings in the pan and saute 1 minced onion until it turns golden.
  3. Stir in 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoon yellow mustard, 2 tablespoons catsup, 1 tablespoon molasses, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 teaspoon chili sauce (like Sriracha), 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Stir until sugar is dissolved some.
  4. Add in 1 can drained white beans. (Pintos, kidneys, or adzuki would also work okay, I suspect.) Stir.
  5. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle on top. Bake at 350F for 1 hour, making sure you have a nice crust on the top and the beans are soft.


Optionally, you can add 1 can drained kidney beans and a can of condensed tomato soup, but I don’t find this necessary. Serve this with brown rice or with fried eggs. For even more, add a side of hash browns or home fries, or another similar potato.

  1. In a Dutch oven, brown 1 pound (nitrate-free) bulk breakfast sausage over medium-high heat, breaking it up as you go. Remove sausage from pan.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon bacon grease (if you have some leftover, or use a neutral oil or non-hydrogenated shortening) and saute 1 chopped onion and 1 diced bell pepper (color of choice or availability) until golden. Add 2 pressed cloves of garlic and stir 30 seconds more.
  3. Remove pan from heat and stir in 1 can tomato sauce, 2 drained cans white beans (also of choice or availability), 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 tablespoon mustard powder, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon molasses, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Stir in the sausage.
  4. Put lid on pot and bake in a 325F oven for an hour. (You can actually keep this up for up to 4 hours.) Remove lid and bake another 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. Taste for doneness.


This is one of out most-used recipes. It is super easy for anyone (including an 8-year-old or a mom with a migraine) to prep in no time flat. It’s like cheating, but it’s still a warm, nourishing dinner that we all enjoy. It is key to find premium ingredients for this, and we always have them on hand in the freezer and pantry.

  1. Lightly oil a baking dish. (This is not exactly necessary, just so you know.) Pour 8-12 ounces frozen potatoes into the dish. (We like to use all-natural fries, tater tots, or hashbrowns.)
  2. Open a can of baked beans and stir in 1 tablespoon yellow mustard and pepper to taste. Spread baked beans over the potatoes.
  3. Sprinkle with 1-2 cups grated sharp cheddar, which we keep in the freezer just for this dish.
  4. Cover and bake at 400 for 45 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 15 minutes, checking that it is hot all the way through and bubbly at the top.



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