Monday, July 28, 2008
Easing Into Eating Beans
When I was growing up and we had a garden (some years, not all of them) we usually ate a lot of pink-eye purple hull peas, which we lumped generically under the term Black Eyed Peas, though they weren't actually. They are one of the few vegetables I actually enjoy the taste of better when home-canned, rather than cooked fresh. Either way, though, they made a fantastic supper with sliced fresh garden tomatoes, green onions, and any other vegetable...and cornbread cooked in a cast iron skillet.
That's really the closest we ever got to eating beans during my childhood, though I'm not sure why.
All these years, I've never really eaten beans except in the occasional pot of chili, or veggie soup. There may also be the reason that beans don't always agree with my digestive system... :)
That may be due to the fact I've not gotten used to eating them on a regular basis, though.
During the last few shopping trips to the grocery store, I've noticed how much prices seem to be soaring. I'm not sure if it's the prices, or if it's because I'm having to keep a closer eye on just how much I spend, since our gasoline bill now has edged out much of the discretionary spending cushion in our monthly budget. I'm enforcing a set spending limit now on every shopping trip, simply to keep track and make sure we don't come up short in other areas. I always had a limit, but it was more flexible...only now it is not.
That's fine with me...it's pretty much the way I've lived most of my life. However, during that time, there are certain things we buy now that we choose differently, and have to pay for the difference. Milk is one such item. I like my family to have milk, and to have access to milk for drinking at least once daily. For the past few months, we had been driving to pick up real milk...you know, for our ***pets***... but that had to be curtailed because of the gasoline and the price of the milk. We turned to organic milk in the local supermarket, and sometimes they have a store brand organic, but most times it's sold out, and we have to buy from the other brands. We have a favorite brand, but it's just plain expensive, so I've cut back on our milk.
This is a sign of the times. In my childhood, we seldom had much money and I remember milk was a luxury item for us. We had it for cereal, but not just for drinking, and never more than a single helping per person...it was bought, and rationed. When I became an adult, having milk for something other than cooking and cereal seemed like I was really living rich!
As I've tightened the belt with some items, I've been trying to substitute with others. I've been wanting for some time to experiment with beans.
I'm very unaware of all the different sorts of beans and their flavors and uses, but I've noticed fascinating lists of them, complete with pictures, in some of my favorite heirloom seed catalogs. Obviously, the rest of the world has been enjoying something I haven't yet discovered. It appears different beans have different uses in foods, and if I don't care for one, there are hundreds of others to choose from. As easy as they are to grow and store, and to cook, they will be a regular in our garden the next time we plant one.
They are just affordable as all get-out. It's time I began experimenting to see what some of our favorites will become.
I see a lot of bloggers using pinto beans, and yesterday I ran across an interesting recipe I thought I'd try. I just didn't want to spend all day cooking, but wanted some hot and hearty comfort food that would stick with us. Why I'm craving that in the middle of the blazing hot summer I can't tell you, but the urge was there, so I adapted this recipe and made a big pot along with some cornbread.
This recipe for Hamburger Pineapple Bean Bake is from Crystal Miller's wonderful site Homemaking Homesteader. What I liked about it is that it's not dependent on a tomato base. I've been using tomato in so many of my recent recipes, I wanted to try something different. The pineapple as an ingredient adds an interesting twist.
I tried it out last night when my daughter brought her boyfriend over for dinner. He ate several helpings, so I think everyone enjoyed it as much as I did, though my daughter who is picky picked out the pineapples. Nevermind though...this is the kid who picks the soft center out of homemade dinner rolls and leaves the entire outer crust because she doesn't like the texture. She only gets away with this when I'm not watching! ;-)
We're enjoying some of the leftovers today, and I'll freeze the rest. It's even better the second day!
This dish can be made in a slow cooker/crockpot or on low in a heavy pot. I substituted canned beans instead of soaking my own, simply because I didn't have the time that day for all the soaking. It is delicious with tortilla chips, or with hot cornbread, which is what we had. And because I'm a die-hard Southern girl, that cornbread went IN that bowl of meat-'n-beans! :)
Here's the recipe: (notes in parentheses mine)
Crystal Miller's Hamburger Pineapple Bean Bake (crockpot meal)
2 cups dried pinto beans (I used 4 regular cans of canned pintos)
1 cup dried black beans (I used 2 regular cans canned black beans)
12 cups water
1 T salt
1 lb hamburger
1 onion, chopped
½ cup chopped peppers (green or red or yellow) (I used 1 whole green bell pepper, chopped)
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T prepared mustard
2 T molasses
1 20oz can pineapple chunks
1 ½ cups bbq sauce
salt and pepper to taste
(I skipped this step and put the canned beans all in the crockpot) In a large pot combine the dried beans, water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce and cover and cook until the beans are soft, about 3 hours. Drain beans saving some of the bean broth to add later.
In a frying pan cook the hamburger, onions and peppers until the hamburger is no longer pink and the veggies are soft.
Put the beans along with the meat and veggies into a 5 or 6qt crockpot. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on low for about 5 hours. (If using canned beans, heat till tastes are blended...I heated about 2 hours in crockpot) Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
In addition to the entree recipe, Crystal has a recipe for cake...using pinto beans...on the same page. Check it out!
Not long ago, Jayedee at Life In the Lost World posted several delicious-looking dessert recipes using pinto beans, including one for pinto bean fudge. I've been promising myself to try it soon! Check out her recipes. Who knew beans could be the secret to rich, nutritious, affordable desserts?