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Lobster Mac n’ Cheese
7

When early June rolls around each year, I start dreaming of lobster.  Not quite literally, of course, but it’s a food I feel no summer in New England would be complete without.  Bright red, juicy claw meat dipped in butter.  The struggle to bust the tail out of the shell…and then dipped in melted butter.  A side of local sweet corn rolled in salt, pepper, and yes, more butter.  It’s quite a meal and my gosh I love it!

Sometimes I hold off on this if we have a vacation planned so that I can indulge at a wooden picnic table under an umbrella with the salty sea air spritzing my face but this summer I couldn’t wait.  Until the last couple weeks of July, we had no vacation planned and I was starting to fret that I’d miss out on one of my favorite summer treats.  So I made lobster mac n’ cheese.  It’s a recipe I’ve had on my to-make list for what seems like years and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  And really, it was no more difficult to make than regular mac n’ cheese.

If you can’t find cooked lobster in your seafood market or grocery store and you’re petrified of cooking a whole lobster, see if you can find frozen tails.  You’ll need to thaw them in the fridge first, but steaming them only takes about 12 minutes.  And that’s the most complicated thing about the whole recipe – the rest is just a basic mac n’ cheese recipe.  We devoured this mac n’ cheese for a casual Friday night dinner (a halved recipe for the two of us) and ate the leftovers for lunches but if you’re having company, this would be a fantastic meal to serve – fancy and comforting at the same time!

 

No-Bake S’mores Bars
12

It feels like the last time we bought cereal was in 2009.  Seriously though, we don’t eat cereal here except for the odd box of Kashi that gets used for yogurt parfaits once in a while.  Buuuut, when I starting seeing Golden Grahams used in place of Rice Krispies for these s’mores bars on Pinterest, I just couldn’t resist tossing a box into my cart.

And honestly, it wasn’t done without a inkling of shame because I certainly realize the amount of sugar a box of the Grahams contains…and then, oh lawdie, I’d be only adding a ton more sugar to them in order to complete the dessert.  And to cut to the chase, I made these bars twice in the matter of 10 days because I wasn’t 100% happy with how they turned out the first time.  The large surface area of the cereal must have sucked up extra marshmallow because the bars just weren’t holding together as I would have liked.  So the second time I made them, I added more sugar.  ::headdesk::

That made them perfect though.  Don’t get me wrong, these bars are super sweet and rich but they are definitely worth having just one.  The Hershey’s Drops that I used were beyond the best idea I’ve had in ages because really, what is a s’more without Hershey’s?  Forget using semi-sweet chocolate chips – it just won’t be the same.  Luckily, we were able to give away some of each batch that I made because they are definitely dangerous to have around!  So now you’ve got a dessert to bring to the next rainy-day BBQ where real s’mores won’t be in the cards or to make with the kids for a movie day…or frankly, for any other reason at all.  You’re welcome. :)

[Disclaimer: No compensation or products were given for writing this post.  This is not a review post of Hershey's Milk Chocolate Drops.  I simply love them enough to share my excitement about them with you.]

Maple Baked Beans
6

Be honest.  You, at least once in your lifetime, have eaten baked beans from a can.  Don’t be shy, it’s ok, really.  I’m right there with you.  And as much as I enjoy doctoring up a can of baked beans to our liking, I’ve been dying to make homemade baked beans for the past couple of summers.  Unfortunately, I’ve been eying this particular recipe, which a la typical Ina recipe, makes a lot of food which isn’t conducive to feeding just two people.  So last 4th of July (2008), I vowed that I would bring these homemade baked beans to this year’s annual 4th of July party at my mother-in-law’s house.

Admittedly, these were a lot of work, taking in total approximately 19 hours of prep and cook time.  But, they were most definitely worth it.  I made 1 1/2x the amount of the written recipe and ended up having to bake the beans for 9 hours; the last 1 1/2 hours were uncovered to encourage thickening.  I found that they needed some extra salt and I added an extra teaspoon.  The only other thing I would change about this recipe the next time I make it is to use pinto beans rather than kidney beans.  The kidney beans were just too big for my liking and it felt too close to eating chili rather than baked beans.  Other than that, they were great and went over really well on the 4th with all of the usual suspects.

Maple Baked Beans

source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home, originally from The Stonewall Kitchen Cookbook

  • 1 lb dry red kidney beans
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut in eighths
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 3/4 cup medium amber pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Chinese chili paste
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 5 oz thick-cut smoked bacon, cubed
  1. Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water by 1 inch and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight.  Drain and rinse the beans and then drain again.
  2. Place the beans in a large pot with 2 quarts water, the onion, bay leaf, and peppercorns.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 50 minutes, or until tender.  A good test is to scoop up several beans in a spoon and blow on them; if the skins start to peel off, they’re done.  Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.
  3. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
  4. In a small saucepan, whisk together the maple syrup, brown sugar, ketchup, chili paste, ginger, salt, and 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid, still reserving the remaining liquid.  Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat for 6 minutes.
  5. Transfer the beans to a medium Dutch oven or a bean pot.  Push half the bacon into the beans and place the rest on the top.  Pour the maple syrup sauce over the beans.  Place the lip on top and bake for 6 to 8 hours.  Check occasionally.  if the bean are too dry, add 1/2 cup more of the cooking liquid.  If you like, you can remove the lid for the last 30 minutes to thicken the sauce.  Discard the bay leaf.  Serve hot.