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Comfort food recipes from 'Brown Eggs and Jam Jars': Baked beans, cheesy penne

02/19/2015 04:54 EST | Updated 04/21/2015 05:59 EDT
"Brown Eggs and Jam Jars" is devoted to growing and preparing wholesome food for the entire family.

Author Aimee Wimbush-Bourque shares delicious recipes that are in regular rotation in her household, such as chicken pot pie, shepherd's pie, mac and cheese and meatballs.

Her nine-year-old son often makes the buckwheat pancakes pictured on the cover, and when she wants a "dreamy meal for two," she turns to balsamic glazed scallops with chard.

But the chapter on batch cooking is one of her favourites because they save the day time and time again.

"I tell people all the time if you're going through the motions to make a recipe of, say, meatballs or tomato sauce, it's almost the same amount of work and you're using the same amount of dishes to double it," says Wimbush-Bourque.

Before she headed out on a book tour, she left 11 dinners in the freezer for her family.

"I feel good about that. They're going to have a meal made by Mom and my husband doesn't even have to think about it. He just has to feed the kids."

Here are three recipes created by Wimbush-Bourque to try.

MAPLE CIDER BAKED BEANS

Maple syrup season is not far off and this recipe for baked beans is quintessentially Canadian and is fantastic comfort food, Wimbush-Bourque says.

The flavour of the beans just gets better with time, she says, so you can make them in advance.

If you have a traditional bean pot, this recipe will put it to good use. A Dutch oven also works well. Alternatively, stew the beans on low in a slow cooker overnight and wake up to a hearty breakfast.

If you make the recipe without the bacon, add 5 ml (1 tsp) or so of salt at the end of the cooking time.

If you're not serving young children and want to really transform these baked beans, stir 50 ml (1/4 cup) of bourbon into the pot in the last 30 minutes of cooking.

500 ml (2 cups) dried white navy beans

1 medium onion, chopped

4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped

125 ml (1/2 cup) pure maple syrup

50 ml (1/4 cup) molasses

30 ml (2 tbsp) tomato paste

15 ml (1 tbsp) Dijon mustard

1 l (4 cups) fresh-pressed apple cider (unfiltered, raw apple juice)

15 ml (1 tbsp) cider vinegar

2 ml (1/2 tsp) freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, place beans, cover with water and let soak overnight. The next day, drain well and place in a large pot. Cover with water again, place over high heat and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 150 C (300 F).

Drain beans, rinse and place in a 4-l (4-qt) Dutch oven or baking dish with a lid. Add onion, bacon, maple syrup, molasses, tomato paste and Dijon. Pour in apple cider; stir to combine.

Cover and bake for 3 hours. Remove lid and bake for an additional hour; the juices will reduce.

Remove from oven and stir in cider vinegar and pepper. Add more salt, if desired. The beans will still have some liquid, but they will absorb much of it as they cool.

Storage:

These baked beans will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Makes 8 servings.

CHEESY BUTTERNUT SQUASH PENNE

Macaroni and cheese is a mainstay around any family table and this one elicits whoops from Wimbush-Bourque's three penne gobblers.

She uses organic whole-wheat pasta and an entire butternut squash, a vegetable her boys would otherwise not touch. A little bacon doesn't hurt either. The squash acts as a thickener for the cheese sauce, eliminating the step of making a roux.

The casserole freezes well, so make two while you're at it. You can serve one and freeze one. Be sure to let food cool before you freeze it, she adds.

1 small butternut squash (about 625 g/1 1/4 lb)

5 slices bacon

500 g (1 lb) whole-wheat penne rigate

10 ml (2 tsp) sea salt, divided

250 ml (1 cup) half-and-half (10 per cent) cream

1 ml (1/4 tsp) black pepper

500 ml (2 cups) grated mild or medium cheddar cheese, divided

Position racks in middle and lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 200 C (400 F).

Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Wrap both halves individually in foil. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour, until they feel soft when squeezed through the foil.

Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spread bacon on sheet. Bake below squash until crispy, about 15 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel to drain. Crumble and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with 5 ml (1 tsp) of the salt. Add penne and cook according to package directions. Drain pasta and spread out on a baking sheet to cool.

Pour cream into same pot. Scoop hot squash flesh out of skins with a spoon and add to cream. Scrape both squash halves clean.

Over low heat, whisk cream and squash until incorporated. The sauce will be a little lumpy. Add remaining 5 ml (1 tsp) salt, pepper and 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) of the grated cheese. Cook, whisking constantly, until cheese melts and is stringy.

Add pasta and stir to coat. Transfer to a freezer-to-oven casserole. Sprinkle with remaining 125 ml (1/2 cup) cheese and crumbled bacon. (At this point you can let pasta cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze, or you can continue on to bake.)

To finish, bake casserole, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve at once.

This casserole will keep, well wrapped and refrigerated, for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat from frozen, place frozen casserole in a 190 C (375 F) oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until heated through.

Makes 6 servings.

CITRUS CHEESECAKE

This cheesecake can be served simply on its own or embellished to suit the seasons.

In spring she uses Meyer lemons and spoons rhubarb compote over the top of each slice. Summer calls for plenty of lime zest in the batter and a jug of blueberry syrup for drizzling. When the snow flies, she flavours the cheesecake with blood oranges and garnishes the top with a festive ring of pomegranate seeds or slices of clementines for the holiday season.

Plan to make the dessert the day before serving it, as it benefits from overnight chilling.

To get a pretty and tidy slice, cut the cheesecake with a hot knife. Run a sharp knife under hot water, give it a quick wipe with a clean tea towel and then slice the cheesecake. Repeat for each cut.

This cheesecake will keep, wrapped and in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

Crust

300 ml (1 1/4 cups) graham cracker crumbs

30 ml (2 tbsp) raw cane sugar

50 ml (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

3 pkgs (each 250 g/8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature

175 ml (3/4 cup) raw cane sugar

75 ml (1/3 cup) sour cream

Zest and juice of 1 lemon, scrubbed

Zest and juice of 1 orange, scrubbed

5 large eggs, room temperature

Topping

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) sour cream

50 ml (1/4 cup) raw cane sugar

1 lemon, scrubbed

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).

Crust: In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Add melted butter and mix with a spatula until butter is evenly distributed. Dump into a 23-cm (9-inch) springform pan. Shake pan to distribute damp crumbs evenly and then pack down well. Bake crust for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly golden. Cool.

Filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add sour cream, citrus zest and citrus juice. Mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition but not too vigorously. Pour filling over crumb crust.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. The cheesecake will have puffed significantly and the middle will still be slightly jiggly. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes. The cake will sink as it cools.

Topping: In a small bowl, combine sour cream and sugar. Zest lemon into bowl. Add 30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice. Stir well.

Pour lemon topping over warm cheesecake and let stand for half an hour at room temperature. Cover cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan and lift off the sides of the pan. If desired, slip a sharp knife under the crust and slide cheesecake off base and onto a cake stand or serving platter.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Source: "Brown Eggs and Jam Jars: Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites" by Aimee Wimbush-Bourque (Penguin Canada, 2015).

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