Monday, January 5, 2009

I Know Beans

One day recently, I went to the grocery store and spent $159 and some change on 2 weeks worth of groceries for a family of seven. The woman behind me remarked on my food choices, wondering if I am also on "a diet" (she was) because of all the “healthy” foods in my cart. I explained, “No, this is just the way we eat...we are a family of seven and I try to be frugal and feed my family healthy foods.”
This reminded me that I’ve promised numerous times over the years to share tips and recipes with various mamas. It has taken me awhile, but here are a few.

One of the things I do to save money on groceries is to plan our meals. Every two weeks, on payday, I sit down and write out menus for the next two weeks. I look at the days that Bear or I are working, what activities we have going on different nights, and anything special coming up, and I plan accordingly. On the nights I know I’m going to be busy, I plan crockpot and bread machine meals. Voila, supper is done! Helps cut down on the temptation to get some processed quick-fix thingie. Or eat out.

As I mentioned, we do very little processed or refined foods normally. We drink water or milk (though the benefits of drinking milk—especially pasteurized and homogenized--are debatable, we are still in the habit.) Snacks are fruit/veggies, cheese, nuts, sometimes yogurt or Kashi crackers, or homemade snacks. And we substitute beans for meat on most nights. Beans are cheap! They also are high in protein, fiber, antioxidants,, I’m sure I’m forgetting something. But they really are good for the heart. Aside from using beans in chili, soups, and the good ol’ ham and beans, there are many other ways to eat beans. Here are a few of our favorite frugal bean/legume recipes...

Greek-Style Beans
1 pkg dry white beans
1 can tomato paste
1 TBSP lemon juice or juice from 1 lemon
1 med onion
Garlic cloves, however many you like! I use at least 2
Dried oregano, a few shakes
A bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can black olives
Soak, drain, and rinse beans as you normally would. Cover beans with water, add the rest of the ingredients except olives. Simmer til tender, I think I usually cook them around 3 hours? I’ll have to start paying better attention. Break olives in half and add. I serve with a nice green salad and homemade breadsticks or couscous.

Bean Burgers
1 pkg dry beans, cooked (any kind will do—we’ved used pinto, kidney, black, and navy)
1 cup rolled oats
1 egg
2 TBSP soy sauce
garlic (optional)
onion (optional)
Mash cooked beans. Mix in egg, rolled oats, and seasonings. Shape into patties, and fry in 1-2 tsp of a healthy oil (like olive oil) until browned. Serve on whole wheat bun with hamburger fixins! Even my picky eater will eat these. 

Sweet and Sour Lentils with Rice
1/2 c. dry lentils
3 c. water
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T honey
1 T soy sauce
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 c. water
1 t. cornstarch
1 small onion, sliced
2 T oil
Bring 3 c. water to a boil and cook lentils for 25 minutes. Drain and set aside. Combine next 5 ingredients and bring to a boil. Spoon out a little of the liquid and mix with cornstarch to make a thin paste, then add to liquid mixture. (This is so cornstarch doesn't lump.) Saute onion until soft. Add cooked lentils and mix well. Add lentil mixture to sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over rice, with steamed oriental vegetables.

Spicy Black Bean Soup
1 medium onion
4 medium garlic cloves (or 2 tsp minced garlic)
1 bag dried black beans
½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 can broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can green chilies
Salt & pepper to taste
Frozen corn
Soak and drain beans, cook with spices until almost done. Add corn, cook until done. I usually serve this with cornbread and a salad.

Split Pea Soup
2 TBSP olive oil
1 each medium carrot, celery, and onion, finely chopped
1 bag dry green split peas, rinsed and picked over
1 can broth + 4 cups hot water
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper to taste
Sauté veggies in oil until softened. Add these and the rest of ingredients to peas. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, and reduce heat so liquid is simmering. Cook until peas are very tender, about 1 to 1-1/4 hours. Remove bay leaf. Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse until almost smooth. Return to pot and heat until hot, adding more water, if necessary. Soup should be rather thick.

Refried Beans
1 pkg pinto beans
1 TBSP oil
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 med onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
Salt & pepper to taste
Soak and cook pinto beans as you normally would. Heat oil in skillet and sauté onion and garlic until tender. Mash beans, add spices, and transfer to skillet, stirring until heated through. Serve as a side dish to your favorite Mexican meal, or roll up in flour tortillas with some cheese and picante sauce to make burritos.

2 cups cooked chickpeas/garbanzos
1 TBSP lemon juice
3-4 cloves garlic (or 2 tsp minced garlic)
¼ tsp cumin
2-3 TBSP tahini or peanut butter
1 TBSP parsley
2 tsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Drain liquid from chickpeas, reserve some. Blend ingredients in food processor until smooth, adding more liquid if needed for desired consistency. Serve with whole wheat pitas, toast, crackers, or as veggie dip.

Chili verde
1 pkg dry white beans
2 cans green enchilada sauce
1 can green chilies
1 med onion
Salt & pepper to taste
Soak, drain, and rinse beans. Put all ingredients in the pan, bring to a boil, and simmer til beans are tender. (Add water if needed.) Serve with brown rice and a salad.

Hoppin' John
1 pkg dry black-eyed peas
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 garlic clove
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper to taste
1 can tomato paste
Bacon or ham pieces (optional)
Soak, drain, and rinse peas. Add all ingredients to pot, with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer til peas are tender. I like to serve with cornbread or brown rice and steamed cabbage.

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