Tis the season of summer cookouts, where family and friends gather for an outdoor meal. Whether you're the host or the guest, you'll need an outstanding side dish to accompany the usual grilled entrée. A pot full of baked beans will round out your meal and keep your friends happy and well fed.

There are baked beans and then there are Boston baked beans. Baked beans are traditionally made with navy beans, and despite the name, they are not baked at all, but rather stewed in a sweet tomato and sugared sauce. The Boston version uses molasses, mustard and salted pork, usually in the form of bacon, and slowly cooked to create a thick and rich stew.

While dried beans are incredibly nutritious with protein, fiber, potassium and iron, the addition of sugar and bacon can turn a "green light" food into a "yellow light" food. However, when making it yourself, you can simply reduce the amount of sugar used by combining small amounts of different types of added sugars and forgo the bacon, such as in the recipe below. The wonderful aroma of simmering baked beans will already get you thinking about your next cookout!

Vegetarian Slow-Cooked Boston Baked Beans (Printable PDF)

1 lb. dried navy or Great Northern beans (about 2 cups)

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

¼ cup maple syrup

? cup molasses

¼ cup light brown sugar

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon ground mustard

¼ teaspoon pepper

? teaspoon ground cinnamon

? teaspoon ground nutmeg

? teaspoon ground cloves

3 cups water

Remove any stones from beans before submerging beans in a medium bowl full of water. Soak overnight. The next day, stir together tomato paste, maple syrup, molasses, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, ground mustard, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and water in a large bowl.

Drain and rinse beans, then place them in the bottom of a 4-quart slow cooker. Pour sauce mixture over beans, then add water until beans are submerged and stir to combine. Cook beans on high for 6 to 8 hours, stirring every 30 minutes, until beans are tender. Add an additional ½ cup water to bean mixture as needed to prevent sticking or burning.

Yield: 18 servings, ? cup each

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 131 calories, 1 gram fat, 413 milligrams sodium, 27 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fiber, 5 grams protein


Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition magazine

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