If I were to sum up what the holidays mean to me, I’d say spending time with family and friends while gathered around delicious food and drink. Food has always been the center of our family gatherings: Mom’s green bean casserole, Dad’s famous gravy, Grandma’s plum pudding. The holiday season was my grandma’s favorite time of year. Her enthusiasm was contagious. At the beginning of November she would pull out all her boxes of Christmas decorations and set up a holiday scene that was out of this world. It was roughly 4 feet wide and included a cutout piece of glass used as a tiny ice rink. She had it wired so it had miniature streetlights and Christmas music coming from teeny carolers.
My grandparents would decorate their house from top to bottom in lights and garland. They even had an artificial white tree they would decorate with blue ornaments. My grandma loved to hit up the after-Christmas rush and stock up on ornaments and decorations for the next year. In fact, most of our family traditions originated with her. Now that I have a family of my own, I’m realizing the importance of these traditions. I feel an overwhelming responsibility to provide these experiences for my son. In an effort to start traditions of our own, we’ve slowly begun gathering a list of our favorite holiday foods. I’m hoping that one day I’ll have mastered these recipes so that that my children will want to pass them down to their children. So far, my list includes Nanaimo bars, sugar cookies, fruit cake, mushroom and veggie sausage stuffing, vegetarian gravy, brown-butter-glazed Brussels sprouts, homemade truffles and vegetarian barbecue maple baked beans. These items have made an appearance each year, which is a pretty good indication that they’re here to stay.
A few years ago, I started making baked beans after I received a bean pot from my mother-in-law as a gift. A bean pot is a fairly deep ceramic pot with a wide base and a narrow opening. These features help minimize evaporation and heat loss, and help facilitate a long and slow cooking time. It’s the ideal medium for cooking beans. As for my bean recipe, I had started out with something pretty mediocre. I’ve slowly been adapting it to the point that it no longer resembles the original, and now it’s uniquely delicious. I use tomato puree and barbecue sauce as the base. I like to add a few other ingredients for flavor: maple syrup (always), brown sugar, molasses and apple cider vinegar. Baked beans is one of those meals that’s easy to prepare but requires a decent amount of time in the oven to allow the beans to absorb all the flavors.
BBQ Maple Baked Beans is the perfect meal to prepare on a laid-back Sunday afternoon while you’re busy catching up on chores or, if you’re like me, wasting countless hours on the Internet watching reruns of your favorite sitcom. If you’ve never made a pot of homemade beans I highly suggest that you try it. The flavors that develop after hours of simmering in the pot are similar to those of stew or chili. Absolutely incredible!