The Beans Knees

I’m not the first person to tell you that beans are magical for all their health benefits. But did you ever think of them as a sauce or condiment?

Recently, I made a healthy pasta dish using cannellini beans to add flavor, coating, texture and to help fill me up. Ingredients were pretty simple, but totally satisfying: lean chicken breasts, fresh spinach, rice vermicelli and those pearly white (beans).

Same concept below, this time when I was in need of a home-cooked meal without having a lot of groceries in the fridge. Enter black beans, rice, frozen corn and those same lovely lean chicken breasts that hang out in the freezer. Blend ’em all together and you have a satiating beans-and-rice dish minus the lard. I sprinkled the chicken breasts with a little chili powder to add flavor, but the black beans added the rich “sauce.”

Mmm Soup

Leftover black beans + broth + random leafy greens + bacon = delicious wintery soup! I’m still trying to use up leftovers and exotic veggies delivered by Capay, before my next Safeway delivery arrives tomorrow. So tonight we played it safe with BLTs (cabbage in place of lettuce), and I experimented with soup.

Starting with black beans, I added cream cheese (not the most ideal ingredient for heating, so I wouldn’t endorse it), then put the mixture in a sauce pan, to which I added chicken broth, sliced Napa cabbage, kale and bacon. (I swear bacon makes soup instantly better – as discovered in October.) In fact, there was a slightly unpleasant smell coming from the stove, before I added the chopped bacon. But once it simmered for a few minutes, the soup adopted that delicious, smoky aroma. The results were delicious!

In summary, making homemade soup is easy. Any beans will do. Just make sure you have broth, spongy greens that will soak up the flavors, and bacon if you’re daring. ūüėČ

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Bringing Home the Bacon

Black bean soup + broccoli¬†+ mashed potatoes = just add bacon! In my quest to eat healthy this month, I’ve had a lonely package of bacon sitting in the fridge, waiting to expire. In a last ditch effort to use it on this lazy Sunday evening, I¬†dug up¬†a couple of bacon-based¬†recipes from one of my¬†old favorites, Epicurious¬†(which recently released a free iPhone app). The results didn’t compromise my diet, and David cleaned his plate:

  • Black Bean Soup – My paraphrased version left out the jalapenos, oregano, bay leaf,¬†thyme and cilantro; and since I used canned black beans instead of dried, I cut back on the simmering time (1 hour vs. 2.5). I also used homemade (frozen) chicken broth, defrosted in the microwave.

  • Broccoli with Hot Bacon Dressing –¬†I left out the vinegar and raisins.
  • Mashed Potatoes –¬† No surprises; standard butter, 1% milk, salt & pepper recipe.

I may have dodged a grease fire in the process, but I did learn a nifty trick for cooking bacon when you need to collect the fat for use later: layer the strips of bacon inside a wok or coffee filter-shaped sauce pan. Plus, the slanted angle seemed to prevent a lot of the typical splatter that happens in a flat frying pan.

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Drugstore Dinner

I’ve officially¬†joined the recession bandwagon. Tonight I made dinner from inexpensive drugstore ingredients. (Confession: There’s a Longs next to the dry cleaners right on our way home, so I happened to stop.) And it wasn’t bad. Come to think of it, there are quite a few recipes I could dream up from semi-perishable ingredients – you just have to watch the salt content!

Tonight’s menu: Tortillas + black beans + salsa + canned olives + sour cream + cheddar cheese


Other ideas…

  • Sundried tomatoes + cream cheese + toast = quick party app
  • Black beans + brown rice + sour cream = healthy dinner
  • White beans + roasted bell peppers + toast (or tortillas, toasted) = pretty app
  • Salsa + cream cheese + tortilla chips = best snack ever
  • Pasta + marinara sauce + Kraft parmesan cheese = you know you love it!

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