The Thrifty Kitchen: Beans, Beans, and More Beans

The thrifty kitchen revolves around beans. Beans are a fabulous source of protein which also happen to be cheap. If you’re willing to buy them dried and take the extra step of soaking them overnight, they are really cheap.

Beans were a revelation to me in early adulthood. I had never cared for them growing up, and we didn’t have them very often. The only regular family event that involved beans was chili night at my Grandma’s, and she always dished out my soup before she added the beans! I had always heard that a person’s tastes change every so often, and so, as a young adult, I decided to give beans another chance. I’ve never been sorry.

Besides being cheap and healthy, beans are found in a number of really delicious meals. Here are just a few for your consideration:

  • “Honey Beans”—This is a recipe I made up because I hate breakfast food. Make your base: mix equal parts honey and mustard with some dissolved corn starch. Add a can of pinto beans and bring them to a boil. Let them simmer for a few minutes and then serve them over toast. For a meat option, add fresh, crispy bacon bits.
  • Cold Black Bean Salad—I had this at a church potluck; I would never have thought of a cold bean salad myself. But it is great! Prepare 1 cup of rice and then refrigerate it. Chop 1 red bell pepper, some onion, cilantro, tomato, and green pepper. Mix the chopped vegetables with 1 can of black beans, some lime juice, olive oil, cumin, salt, pepper, and frozen corn. Serve the bean mixture over the rice.

  • Black Beans and Rice—There are dozens of varieties of black beans and rice. This one is my favorite: Soak desired amount of dried black beans overnight. Cook them for at least 2 hours before you add the vegetables. Sauté desired amount of onions and garlic. Add cilantro, celery, tomatoes, cooked and cubed sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and basil; salt to taste. Add the vegetables to the beans and simmer together for at least one hour. Serve over cooked rice. For a meat variety, add a ham hock or some sausage.
  • Sweet Potato/Black Bean Quesadillas—Grate a portion of sweet potato and sauté it in olive oil until it is cooked but not crispy. Add black beans and cumin. Sprinkle cheese on to tortillas; place the bean mixture on the tortillas. Warm the quesadillas in the skillet until the cheese has melted and they are crisp on both sides.
  • Lima Beans and Cornbread—Incorporating this simple meal into your menu regularly will help save money over time. Soak the lima beans overnight. Cook them as directed the next day. Meanwhile, whip up your favorite cornbread recipe. Serve the beans with salt and butter. Serve the cornbread with butter and honey or just pour the beans on top.
  • Red Beans and Rice—My husband and I discovered this recipe two years ago, and it has become a family tradition! I have saved the best for last—this is a fabulous dish. The andouille sausage is a must. Chop onions, garlic, and bell peppers. Sauté them in oil with salt and pepper. Cut up some andouille sausage and chicken; brown these separately and then add them to the veggie pot. Pour in enough chicken stock to cook the amount of rice you are using; add tomatoes, cooked red beans, hot sauce, and red wine. Bring to a boil, then add the desired amount of dry rice. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover, and cook for 20 minutes without touching it. Salt and pepper to taste.

I hope you will have fun experimenting with these recipes and others that creatively use beans.

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