My Dad’s Baked Beans

Hi and welcome back to the Library Life Hack test kitchen! Just so we’re clear, this baked bean recipe doesn’t belong to my Dad. It’s the culinary invention of the Dad of Leanne Brown, who wrote “Good and Cheap”, the cookbook that we’ve been exploring for quite some time now. (My Dad could cook, but his specialty was vegetable soup.)

My Dad's Baked Beans

My Dad’s Baked Beans
Just watch out for the sugar

If you’re flipping through the print version of “Good and Cheap”, this recipe is on page 48. (You won’t find it in the free PDF edition, which you can download at

Ingredient Notes
The recipe calls for:

  • chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (or any chile sauce)
  • canned baked beans
  • mustard
  • brown sugar

I stuck to all of the ingredients except for the chipotle chiles. I like them, but they’re just not something I’ve learned to cook with regularly — and I didn’t know what I’d do with the leftovers after taking 2 teaspoons out of a 6 oz can. Instead, I used a teaspoon of Vietnamese chili garlic sauce.

How Did It Taste?
This was another recipe cooked in the expert company of my friend Peter. (His Dad was professional chef.) He thought the beans were too sweet, and after some extra mouthfuls, I had to agree. The conversation went something like this:

“Did the recipe call for sugar?”
“Yes, brown sugar.”
“You know that there’s already a lot of sugar in baked beans, right?”
“Oh. I didn’t think about that.”
“See? There’s your problem. You probably only needed a bit of sugar to balance out the spiciness.”

So … if you’re making this recipe yourself, have a look at the label on your beans and see how much sweet stuff has already been added. Other than that, I thought they were really good. Next time, I’d just do some taste-testing as I was adding the sugar.

Money and Time
Beans are one of the all-time great cheap foods. No surprise that they make for a very economical side or main dish. And by removing the chipotle chiles from the equation, this recipe rang in at $2.92, or $1.46 per serving, which is actually slightly cheaper than the estimate in “Good and Cheap.” (Because of the exchange rate between U.S. and Canadian dollars, it’s rare that my Canadian versions come in close to the same price — or lower — than what’s in the book. But today is one of those magical days!)

Between putting the ingredients together and heating the beans through, the total cooking time was a scant 15 minutes. This was the third dish in a summer lunch for guests (the other two were Taco Salad and Mexican Street Corn) and I have to say that out of the three times I’ve made meals for friends using “Good and Cheap” recipes exclusively, this was the best yet.

But Wait! There’s More!
There’s actually a second baked bean recipe included in the book. The first one is designated as “super quick and cheap” and the second one is designated  “quick and cheaper” because it uses dried beans. I haven’t tried the second one out yet, but it sounds pretty good too.

And that’s it. I’m hanging up my pots and pans for a few days while I journey out to San Diego for a birthday party — but I’ll be back soon!signature

Mexican Street Corn

Hello! Today we’re cooking up a delicious version of a classic summertime side. I served this as part of a lunch menu and let me tell you, it was a hit.

Mexican Street Corn

Mexican Street Corn

Mexican Street Corn is found on page 47 of the print version of “Good and Cheap”. You’ll also locate this recipe on page 60 of the free PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (download it at

Ingredient Notes
If you’re a corn-on-the-cob purist, the list below will cause your eyebrows to lift. Don’t worry! This motley crew of ingredients will come together to make something magnificent:

  • corn
  • mayonnaise
  • crumbled feta cheese
  • chili powder
  • lime wedges

How Did It Taste?
This is UNBELIEVABLY GOOD. I’m serious. My friend Peter was over for lunch (you first met him back at Taco Salad) and we both loved this recipe. We took the very good advice in the preamble and grilled our corn but other than that, we followed the recipe exactly.

Money and Time
Super-quick this is. (That’s how Yoda would say it. And Yoda’s very wise. I bet that he would also have grilled his corn.)

The actual cooking time was about 7-10 minutes (as inexperienced corn grillers, Peter and I cautiously used the low setting on the barbeque). Dressing the cobs with mayo, feta and chili powder took another 3 minutes and we squeezed the lime wedges over the corn mere seconds before we sank our teeth into them. All in all, we clocked in at about 14 minutes.

The total cost for a half-recipe (to feed two people) was $3.69 or $1.85 per serving.

Beans, Beans, Beans
Next up, we’re squaring off with two super-fast baked bean recipes. Until then, have yourself a great weekend. See you soon!signature

Brussels Sprout Hash and Eggs

Hello and welcome back! Today, we’re munching on the first recipe in a new chapter of “Good and Cheap” — all about side dishes and snacks. This is a very novel (and healthy) take on what I’ve always thought of as a traditional American staple. Let’s get started!

Brussels Sprout Hash and Eggs

Eggs on a bed of brussels sprouts — who would have thought?

If you’re using the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (you can download it free from, you’ll find this recipe on page 65. If you’re cooking out of the print edition, head to page 46.

Ingredient Notes
This recipe takes:

  • brussels sprouts
  • garlic
  • olives
  • eggs
  • butter
  • lemon juice

How Did It Taste?
This is great! Somehow, the addition of garlic and butter cancels out that strong brussels sprout taste that turns so many people off. And it’s healthy! I was having my vegetarian sister over for dinner when I made this, and I forgot to add the lemon right before I served it. It didn’t matter. We both agreed that it was delicious.

Cooking hint: Don’t be afraid to let the brussels sprouts brown a little bit. It adds a ton of flavour.

My sister and I have an uncle who doesn’t much like vegetables (but does like eggs) so we’re going to send the recipe to our aunt, because we think he might go for this healthier version of eggs and hash. Maybe she can even fool him into thinking that the brussels sprouts are some kind of exotic potatoes!

Money and Time
All in all, this took about 30 minutes to prepare. About half of that was getting the brussels sprouts prepped. The rest is quite easy.

The total cost was $5.49, or $2.75 per serving. (And I actually had enough of the hash left over to make a third serving for breakfast the next day.)

Mandoline, Part Deux
Two recipes ago, when we were making Wilted Cabbage Salad, I struck out on my first attempt at using a mandoline. The mandoline came back for this recipe, to slice up the brussels sprouts. It actually worked pretty well this time.

The mandoline would slice the sprout down to about half an inch thick, and then I would chop that last bit by hand. It took about 15 minutes to mandoline my way through a pound of brussels sprouts, which I thought was reasonably quick. (It could probably be quicker but I am still very, very respectful of the wicked-looking blade on the mandoline.)

That’s it! Next up, we’re going to be road-testing a recipe for Mexican Street Corn. (You don’t want to miss that one — it’s REALLY good.)

P.S. Shout Out to Another Edmonton Cook
I heard Alexis Hillyard of the Stump Kitchen YouTube series on CBC this morning, and thought she was brilliant and hilarious! You can check out her latest video here.

Broccoli Apple Salad

Hello on a long-weekend Saturday! Today we’ll look at the last salad recipe in “Good and Cheap”: Broccoli Apple Salad. This is a good universal side dish because apples and broccoli are available pretty much all year round, and usually at fairly reasonable prices. Let’s find out more!

Broccoli Apple Salad

Broccoli Apple Salad
Not my favourite — but a great universal side dish

You’ll locate this recipe on page 54 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (download it free from, and if you’re working in the print edition, it’s on page 44.

Ingredient Notes
This super-simple recipe takes:

  • broccoli
  • apples

And for the dressing:

  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt & pepper

How Did It Taste?
This is actually the first “Good and Cheap” recipe that I honestly didn’t like. Something was missing, and I’m not sure what it was. Even letting the salad sit and marinate for a few hours didn’t change much. I’m going to try it again, with the alternate dressing that the recipe suggests: yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice and dill.

However, in its favour, let me say that it is a very attractive salad with a nice combination of colors (as you can tell by the photo).

Money and Time
I’m motivated to overcome the taste shortcomings because this is a very quick and inexpensive recipe. Start to finish, I was able to knock Broccoli Apple Salad together in 15 minutes. I whipped up a half-recipe, which made for two generous side servings, and the total cost was $3.10, or $1.55 per serving.

Sailing Into Uncharted Territory
As of today, we’re saying goodbye to salads and heading into a new chapter of “Good and Cheap”: Snacks, Sides and Small Bites. I’ve peeked ahead and we’re in for a whole array of tasty experiments. This part of the book covers off side dishes made with vegetables, duelling baked bean recipes, inventive popcorn toppings and what looks like a bazillion ideas for things on toast. See you soon!signature