Molasses Baked Beans and Yams with Sharp Cheddar

I’m sure you follow current events closely enough to be abreast of changes in season, but if not… Fall is here! The weather is still warm here in Lake Country, but the leaves are turning, Winter squash is showing up in volumes at the local grocer, and what’s even better, the mornings are staying darker longer. Many likely view the delayed sunrise this time of year with complete despair, and understandably so. Before Hunter was born it was always the worst form of brutality imaginable when my alarm would sound at 5:45am and the sun wouldn’t be up, not even a little.

No offense to Hunter, but back then I probably would have handed over my first born if it meant I spending another few minutes in bed. But now – even if I’ve been up several times a night to breastfeed (the little dude is still showing zero inclination to give up the boob) – I wake up early feeling pretty good. Not ‘I feel so good I’m going to jump on the Bowflex for an hour’ good, but good nonetheless, at least when compared to my pre-infant self. It must be some form of maternal adrenaline at play here, and/or the constant stream of caffeine in my system.

More darkness in the AM means Hunter sleeps a little longer, and after Mike leaves for work I’m able to get busy for an hour or so with a book and a few cups of black coffee. Typically I choose reading material that wouldn’t cause looks of consternation to be cast my way if I were to read them in a public place, but with Halloween coming up it seemed apropos to crack open my newly-acquired copy of V.C. Andrews’ uber-salacious horror novel, Flowers in the Attic! I recall this book being popular when I was in my early teens, but I never read it at the time. It’s a story of 4 ‘flaxen-haired’ siblings kept prisoner in the attic of the home of their wealthy and fanatically religious grandparents. How this book came to mind so many years later I’m not quite sure, and it’s definitely terrible, but I’m enjoying the ludicrous dialogue and all around cheese factor. I can only speculate about the heights of trashiness reached by the other three books in the series.

And with the arrival of Fall no longer do I feel compelled to issue apologies (as I did more than once this Summer, as I love to roast things) for posting recipes that require the use of an oven! I made the dish here exclusively with Mike in mind, as he tends to like my cooking that falls closer to the carbs-and-cheese end of the vegetarian spectrum than the kale-and-quinoa one. Plus he loves baked beans that come in a can, so in my ongoing attempt to get him to eat fewer packaged and processed foods I made my own version, although really it bears little resemblance to the original. I used yams in additional to pinto beans, and added molasses to the tomato base for some added richness and sweetness. It got his stamp of approval, and was even bummed I got to the left overs before he could. Snooze you lose! I recommend serving with a chunk of crusty sourdough or gluten-free whole grain bread. Yum!

Molasses Baked Beans and Yams with Sharp Cheddar (New and improved!)

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium yams, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 398ml can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons fancy molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar (or your choice of vegan cheese), grated
  • 2 green onions (green and light green parts only), chopped (for garnish)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Prepare beans and yams: Preheat oven to 350F. Drain and rinse pinto beans and place in a large casserole dish (mine is 8″ in diameter and about 5″ deep). Add diced yams. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.

Prepare sauce: In a large skillet over medium heat, saute onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until translucent. Add paprika, cumin, coriander and cinnamon and stir until spices coat onions. Add tomato paste and molasses and stir until everything is combined. Add water and whisk until sauce is smooth. Taste and adjust with salt if necessary.

Finish casserole: Pour sauce over beans and yams in casserole dish and place in oven, covered, for 40 minutes or until yams are tender. Remove from oven and sprinkle with grated sharp cheddar. Set oven to broil and return casserole to oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is beginning to brown. Remove from oven and serve, topping each portion with green onion and freshly ground black pepper. Eat!

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