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Recipe: Maple Baked Beans

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I love Memorial Day weekend. Not just because it's a three day weekend, but because it's the weekend that signals the start of summer. Not officially, of course (that won't be until June 20th), but celebrating the start of Summer is always more fun over three days instead of one. Summer is actually not my favorite season (especially here in Texas where I live—can you say hot?!), but I love summer recipes. They are all about easy preparations and fuss-free presentations. I make these baked beans year-round, but they just seem to taste so much better in the summer. They are the perfect side dish to make for a cookout where they pair especially well with ribs or burgers. This is also one of my favorite big-batch and freezer-friendly recipes. When they are ready, I just like to serve them straight out of my bright red Dutch oven. It's simple, and shows that they are homemade.

It might be tempting to just buy a few cans of baked beans at the grocery store, but making them from scratch isn't hard, I promise. If you haven't used dried beans before, fear not! Dried beans are some of the most inexpensive and versatile ingredients you can buy and I always have a variety stocked in my pantry. You do have to plan ahead and start the night before by soaking them in cold water and yes, this recipe requires the beans to bake for close to five hours, but once you mix the spicy-sweet sauce with the beans, the rest of the cooking is totally hands-off so you can go grab a cold drink and put your feet up to enjoy everything that Summer has to offer.

Maple Baked Beans

Adapted from The Kitchen Sink

Special Equipment: Oven-safe Dutch oven/pot

Ingredients:

1 pound dried Navy or Great Northern beans
2 T. brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. molasses
1 8oz. can tomato sauce (unseasoned)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2-3 thick strips bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Directions:

Place the beans in a colander and sort through to remove any debris or discolored beans. Rinse the beans under cold water and transfer them to a large bowl, covering them completely with cold water. Soak overnight.

The next day, strain the beans through a colander and transfer to a large pot. Cover the beans with cold water and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Once the water is boiling, lower the heat so the water simmers and cook the beans until tender, about 1 hour. Drain the beans through a colander and transfer the beans back to the pot.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, pepper, mustard, molasses, tomato sauce and maple syrup. Add the mixture to the cooked beans and mix well. Stir in the bacon pieces. Cover the beans with just enough cold water to cover them. Cover the pot with aluminum foil followed by the lid. Place the pot in the preheated oven and bake for 5 hours, checking hourly to make sure the beans are not drying out. Add more water to the pot if necessary to keep the beans submerged. During the last half hour of baking, uncover the pot to brown the top if desired.

Flavia Scalzitti is a food blogger based in Houston, Texas. She is originally from Maryland and comes from an Italian family. Flavia grew up around people who used food and cooking as a way to keep their traditions alive, celebrate their Italian culture, express their love for their family, and nourish the people they cooked for with the freshest and best quality ingredients. She is entirely self-taught and is also passionate about baking. In addition to cooking and baking, Flavia enjoys learning about and practicing photography, reading, traveling, practicing yoga, and spending time with her husband, Peter. She blogs at Flavia's Flavors: http://www.flaviasflavors.com

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