Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Iconic Baked Beans Are Kind of Fishy.

Supposedly, and I say supposedly as the spring time temperatures are in the forties, an article on baked beans would encourage barbecuing.  That one week, this spring, where the temperatures actually hit the 70s, we began our trek in barbecuing.  Pulled out the old gas grill (20 years old, but still doing its job), cleaned it, made sure the propane tank was full, and on it went.  Brats, pork ribs that were marinated in a new Japanese barbecue sauce (Bachan’s with 6 varieties) I had found, sauteed peppers and onions, and cheesy baked beans with brown sugar and bacon.  Later on, added all-beef hotdogs to the menu, along with sauerkraut.  A barbecue without hotdogs…blasphemy!

A Cokenour Barbecue.


Sauerkraut and All Beef Hotdogs.








So, when I decided to do an article on baked beans, the thought was, “This will be easy, it’s a Boston recipe from our British founding fathers.”  ….and I was wrong, oh so wrong. Oh, I was sort of correct with the idea of the British colonists making the dish, but they got the recipe from local Native American tribes: The Narragansett, Penobscot and Iroquois.  Jennifer Bushman is an advocate for “sustainable aquaculture”, or the development of techniques for keeping the availability of all varieties of seafood widespread, and plentiful for all.  Not just for humans to enjoy dining on, but to keep the oceans, seas, lakes, rivers and creeks well stocked for the future.  In her research, she came upon how the Native populace caught and cooked fish, or used seafood in their everyday meal preparations.  One such item was Kombu, and it was a main item in the broth that simmered away to making baked beans.

What is kombu?  Dried sea kelp.  Now sea kelp and seaweed are not the same thing, and do not have the same nutritional values.  When it comes to cooking, if kombu is asked for, use it!  If you cannot find it available, even with online shopping, then bonito flakes, dried shiitake mushrooms, or dried wakame seaweed will be adequate substitutes.  Kelp contains: Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin A, Folate, Protein, Fiber, Iron, Fat, Iodine, Sodium, Manganese, Potassium, Pantothenic acid, Phosphorus, and Vanadium.  It is cholesterol free, sugar free, fat free (bad fats), low in sodium and low in calories.

Here is Jennifer Bushman’s recipe for Traditional Native American Baked Beans of the Northeast.

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Preparation time, 24 hours plus 6-7 hours cooking, Makes 6 servings.

 1-pound dried beans  

 6 pieces Kombu

 1 cup white onion, sliced and sautéed in olive oil until softened

 1/4 cup molasses

 1/3 cup maple syrup

 2 teaspoons kosher salt (or kelp salt would be AWESOME!)

 2 teaspoons dry mustard

 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

 1 teaspoon ground ginger

 1 teaspoon ground kelp

 Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 2 tablespoons cider vinegar (or to taste)

Rinse the beans well in a colander. Place in a non-reactive bowl and fill with water covering the beans with two inches of water over them. Add 4 kombu leaves, cover, and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Put the beans and the kombu in a large heavy pot. Add enough cold water to cover the beans by two inches. Bring up to a boil, then cover, turn off the heat, and place the pot in the oven.

Cook the beans for 60-90 minutes or until they’re tender. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F. Remove the kombu from the pot and discard. Next, add the sautéed onion, molasses, maple syrup, salt, mustard, paprika, and ginger.

Cover and return to the oven for another 6-8 hours. Add the kelp, pepper, and vinegar then taste to adjust the seasonings. 

Cool the beans down, ideally allowing the beans to rest in the refrigerator, the sauce to thicken, and the flavors to amplify. 

When it comes to an authentic Boston Baked Bean recipe, I am going to defer to my friend, Marsha Birch Frank.  She and I met in a Facebook discussion group, about our favorite book series, Whispering Pines, by author, Shawn McGuire.  We quickly found we had much in common, especially cooking.  Baked beans is a mutual favorite, and her Gramma Jensen’s is close to mine, however, while I like the crock pot, she uses the old-fashioned black with white spotted roaster.  You know the type, used at Thanksgiving to perfectly roast the turkey.  I have one, and the next time I make baked beans, I will be trying out Gramma’s recipe.


Photo by Marsha Birch Frank

Gramma Jensen's Baked Beans

(From Marsha Birch Frank)

 Baked Beans: soak 2lb.s navy beans overnight, drain and rinse

 In the old-fashioned black with white spotted roaster:


4 slices raw bacon cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1 large onion chopped

1 tsp. Pepper

1 tsp. Salt

2/3 C brown sugar

1/2 C molasses

1 C ketchup

1 tsp. Dry mustard

Fill with water

275-degree oven for 8 to 10 hours or till tender.

The only addition I make, when making baked beans, is to add a very generous layer of shredded, sharp Cheddar cheese over the top, in the last 15 minutes of cooking.  The sauce oozes up around the edges of the cheese and creates a bubbling crust.

So, as the weather begins to warm, again, and the desire to barbecue tugs at you, remember, it is not a proper barbeque without the baked beans.

Mary Cokenour





Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Better to Create Than to Imitate.

 Influencer, what indeed is an influencer?  According to the Oxford Dictionary, in relation to marketing on social media, an influencer is, “a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.”  So, what does influence mean then? “The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.”  Let’s put that in simpler wording, “having the ability to make someone do, like, or change something just by talking about it, or leading by example.”  Well, that is my take on it.

When the internet first came into existence, better yet, when it first became available to everyone, everywhere, I lost count of how many times I heard, “It’s on the internet, so it must be true!”.  For some strange and unknown reasoning, people began to immediately “dumb down”, stop going beyond to find out “truth in advertising”, and just believe whatever it is they read, or saw.  With the 2000s, social media expanded with Instagram, Twitter, Tik-Tok and a myriad of social platforms.  Thousands of people became “influencers”, making recordings of themselves doing an activity or proselytizing a belief, to influence others to join in.  The minority being those who noticed that many of these influencers were just repeating what other influencers were saying or doing. 

So, when it comes to the internet, my advice is, “Take everything with a grain of salt, get out of the comfort zone, and do some actual research on the truth of it.”  (Gets off soap box before it breaks apart, they do not make them as sturdy as they used to.)

Now to relate influencing to cooking.  I happened upon this tasty looking photo/recipe for “Chocolate Covered Frozen Yogurt Bites”, only four ingredients, and easy to make.  Chocolate Covered?  Yes, that belongs up my alley.  I copied the recipe onto Word, to look at later on, and probably try out.  A few weeks later, I took a good, hard look at the recipe and was dumb founded.  The ingredient list had vague measurements, and the directions made very little sense.  Going back to the internet, I put the recipe name into the Search box, and up popped, at least, two dozen Instagram accounts with the exact same recipe; all with the poor ingredient list and directions.  Each account claimed the recipe was his/her own original recipe; not one linking to any other page as originator, or influenced by. 

Going to various food blogs, I did find similar recipes with definitive ingredient lists and directions.  So, with trial and error, I was able to take the Instagram debacle, and create my own recipe that worked out quite well.  The employees at the Monticello City Office were my guinea pigs, and they were very happy with my creation.

Oh, since I mentioned it, let me give you an accounting of what vague measurements are.  I grew up learning to cook with these measurements, and I am sure many of you did as well.  When it comes to measuring, your hands and eyes are major tools.  Then there is always that joke about, “How do you know how much spice or seasoning to put in?”  Answer: “When your ancestor tells you, “That is enough child.”

Vague Cooking Measurements

Large as a Fist = 1 cup

Cupped Hand = ½ cup

Palm of Hand = 3 ounces


Couple = 2

Few = 3 or 4

Several = 4 to 8

Dozen = 12

Baker’s Dozen = 13


Pinch = 1/16th of a teaspoon

Dash = 1/8th of a teaspoon


…and now for my creation.


Frozen Chocolate Covered Yogurt Treats


1 and 1/3 cups plain or vanilla Greek yogurt*

2 bananas, diced

1 cup roasted peanuts (skins removed) **

1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk chocolate or dark chocolate)

3 cups chocolate chips (additional), plus 3 Tbsps. coconut oil; melt together for dunking)







In medium sized bowl, mix together yogurt, bananas, peanuts, and 1-cup chocolate chips until everything is well coated. 

 Place parchment paper, or wax paper, on a jelly roll baking pan.  Spoon out one heaping tablespoon of the yogurt mixture, onto the paper.  Flatten down into half-inch thick discs. 




Place tray in freezer until discs are set (four hours, or overnight, dependent on when needed for completion).   





When ready for dunking, melt chocolate chips and coconut oil together, in microwave safe bowl, for 30 second increments; stir after each session until fully melted and smooth.  Dunk each frozen disc into the melted chocolate/coconut oil mixture, coating entire disc; place back on the paper, and set in freezer again for two hours. ***








Store remaining yogurt treats in a plastic freezer bag, or other freezer-safe container. Let them thaw slightly before enjoying.


Makes 15 treats.

*Option: if using plain yogurt, add 1 Tbsp. honey for more sweetness and flavor.

**Option: replace roasted peanuts with two tablespoons of a creamy nut butter.

***Option: sprinkle coarse or flaked sea salt, lightly over top of chocolate coating, before placing in freezer.

This recipe is not the gospel of frozen yogurt treats.  Try using a fruit yogurt instead of plain or vanilla.  Bananas not to your liking?  Try firmer fruits like strawberries, apples, or cut up fruits that have already been frozen, like peaches or another type of berry.  So long as they remain frozen when going into the yogurt mixture, they will not add extra liquid.

For example, strawberry Greek yogurt, diced strawberries and honey; after freezing, coat in a white chocolate/coconut oil mixture, freeze and enjoy!

So, when it comes to cooking, or even life in general, allow yourself to be slightly influenced, but not completely taken over.

Mary Cokenour