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'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 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 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?


Paulette said...

Boy this post brought back memories of my childhood-there were 4 of us kids in the family, and my dad bought 1 gallon of regular milk a week, and boxed powdered milk. When the regular milk was gone, we drank powdered until it was gone...hopefully it lasted to the next week :-)
To this day I still don't like the taste of powdered milk to drink, but use it for cooking all the time.
Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed your post.

Kathie said...

We love beans around here, mostly we eat pintos and black beans (which I pressure can to have readily available). We use white beans, navy beans, etc. in lots of soups in the winter time. Honestly, they are cheap and so nutritious.
The recipes look fantastic!

Robbyn said...

Paulette, my grandma used powdered milk a lot, and we drank it at her house. It definately is an acquired taste, but she was a Depression-era homemaker and they really knew how to keep things in budget. When we have a cow someday, I'll feel richer than anyone with a McMansion :)

Kathie, I can't wait till we're in the pressure-cooking and canning mode. It's not something we're tackling this year, but I realllyyyyy want it to be a priority for years to come. I can't believe how easy to grow and cheap beans are...the ones listed in the seed catalogs look fascinating!

warren said...

My Dad was a milkman so we were pretty fortunate there. I understand your post title though about easing into eating beans. My wife's grandparents eat a lot of beans and we have started to follow their lead (on beans an a lot of things). It is interesting finding all sort so recipes on how to fix beans besides "cook until a pile of mush, then sop up with bread" (which really isn't bad either I have discovered). Anyhow, thanks for posting this recipe and the link to the source. I subscribed to that blog as well.

Twinville said...

Mmmmm! Thanks for passing along this recipe. I am bookmarking Crystal Miler's excellent site, too.

I've never been a huge fan of beans, most likely because, like you said, mosr recipes call for a tomato base, and I'm not fond of tomatos or sauce. (I know, weird).
I also don't like any cheese besides mozzarella or farmer's fresh cheese, but I digress.

This recipe with tortilla chips or corn chips for my kids, and yummy cornbread for hubby and I sounds perfect.
I bet it would also taste delish with some green chile added, too. (That's what we New Mexican's must have at every meal, by the way).

They grow pinto beans in the Estancia Valley which is less than 20 miles from us, so we'd still be buying local. I like that :)

I can relate to your history with milk. My kids would drink milk all day long and I also enjoy a tall glass of cold milk sometimes, but with milk over $4.00 a gallon here, we've cut back to breakfasts (and in my tea) and in recipes only.

I'm looking forward to breeding our mini-mancha goat this fall so she'll freshen in the Spring. Then we'll have our own fresh milk every day. That'll be a true luxury, just like we are grateful for our own fresh eggs from our beautiful chickens every day, too.

Thanks again.

TOCCO said...

Beans Beans Beans.... I love em.... We eat all sorts of beans. I think my favorite was this black bean soup in a little hole in the wall cuban restaurant in Tampa.... I can almost taste it now. One of my favorite easy suppers is to put a pot of pinto to soak over night and then slow simmer all day. Cook up a pot of collards and fresh corn bread... mmm mmmm good! Christina

MommaofMany said...

I have a couple of favorite bean recipes I'll share. These are scaled for my family of ten, so be ready for some leftovers for lunch!

I have made both of these with Stuban Yellow Eyes and with Speckled Cow beans, as well as the pintos. They are all great!

Enjoy! Beans are a wonderful addition to a family's diet.

Carolyn said...

I have been stockpiling Rice. Beans the next item I am going to collect. Except....... I really don't have much experience with Beans! Thanks for the great info!

Eve said...

So much I wanted to comment on but by the time I got here, I forgot. LOL...I am buying less milk too and all dairy products. They are just so expensive. I do use powdered milk now for cooking but we will not drink it.

When Billy and I were first married we had little money for groceries so each week, I bought the same things. I kept flour and cornmeal and oil handy and would buy, beans, rice, pasta, eggs, milk, cheese and canned stewed tomatoes plus sauce. I would then pick up 2 lb hamburger meat and one chicken. It got us through. We had pasta dishes with cheese, spaghetti with meat sauce, chicken and dumplings, chili, brown gravy and meatballs over rice,, can be done.

Pinto Bean Fudge is a recipe I ran across at the same time I found Velveeta Cheese Fudge. I tried the last one and it turned out to be our favorite Christmas treat. I haven't tried the Pinto bean one yet.

I grow various kinds of beans but my favorite is the Pinto. I love them with cheese melted on top or with just a dash of hot pepper sauce, the way Mama ate them.

I am going to give your baked pineapple bean recipe a try. Billy likes baked beans.