So I’ve lived all over the US–I grew up in Utah, live in the South, and have lived briefly on the West and East coasts. And no matter where I go, there are baked beans and no matter where I go, everyone truly believes that baked beans originated in that particular region or in their family. I like them okay–if you’ve ever served me baked beans, I’ve probably enjoyed them. But one issue I have with them is that they are almost always way too sweet; most recipes are simmered in ketchup, which is already quite sweet, and then they have a generous amount of brown sugar as well as molasses. Usually I have a few bites and call it good.

Well, a few years ago, I found this cookbook in a used bookstore and I have loved nearly everything I’ve made from it (although that BLT pasta salad was way better in concept than reality). One of my favorite recipes has been for the baked beans. I love that instead of ketchup, the sauce is based on stewed tomatoes. Instead of the usual 1/2 c. or more of brown sugar, it only calls for 2 tablespoons, and the molasses is enough to add a little sweetness and richness, but it’s not overpowering. I also love that you can throw everything together a few days ahead of time and then pop it in the oven an hour before you need it or, if it works better for you, you can even cook these puppies in a slow cooker. Not to mention the fact that my (semi-picky and super-picky) kids will inevitably eat these rather than whatever we’re eating as a main dish. Normally that wouldn’t fly at my house, but this side dish is relatively balanced and I’m more than happy to let them fill up on beans.
One kind of unique thing about this recipe is that it uses 4 different varieties of beans:

Now…this picture may look like an advertisement for Bush’s beans, but really, it’s an illustration of my OCD tendencies. See, I’m all about getting a deal and am totally all for generic brands. However, the pinto beans were the only ones available as the store brand; the rest were Bush’s and I couldn’t have a picture of 3 cans of Bush’s beans and 1 can of Walmart beans.

Everything else you need is probably in your cupboards and refrigerators:

All you have to do is fry up a few slices of bacon, cook your onions in the bacon drippings, rinse and drain your beans,
add your bacon,

and your sauteed onions,

then combine the rest of the sauce ingredients and cook it all together until your house smells amazing. It’s perfect for any type of festivity any time throughout the year, but there is something about a big pan of baked beans at a cookout that just fits, you know?

P.S. I totally realize that my ramekin is chipped, but I totally didn’t realize it until I saw this picture. Apparently my dishes have become like the Velveteen Rabbit or something and I love them so much that I don’t realize their flaws until they’re staring back at me from a computer screen.


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