Whether you’re looking to lose weight, boost health, or reduce your grocery bill, beans might really be the “magical fruit.”
With a low glycemic index, beans can help you feel full longer. They contain chemicals that help reduce risk of heart disease (phytochemicals) and cancer (isoflavones and phytosterols) and lower LDL cholesterol (soluble fiber). Plus, a pound of dried beans costs somewhere around $2 — and that’s on the high end. So give meat a night or two off and serve dinners where the protein-rich bean is the star of the show. Here are seven ideas from our archive to help you get started:
Large Values in Low Food Cost
Originally published in The Country Gentleman, December 7, 1912
There are no vegetables that furnish so much real food value at so low a cost as beans. They can take the place of meat on your table to a very large extent.
Many people think them indigestible. This is true of the outer skin, which may be easily removed, however, by pouring the washed beans into a kettle of boiling water, using a teaspoonful of baking soda to every quart of water and boiling them rapidly for 10 minutes. At the end of this time nearly all of the skins will be floating on the top. Pour the water and skins off, rinse the beans in clear, cold water and they are ready for cooking. Very little of the property of the soda is retained by the beans, and a person of normal health will digest them easily. They furnish more work for the digestive organs, however, than most other kinds of food, so if one’s digestion is in an impaired state beans should be avoided.
Mexican-Style Red Beans
Many kinds of beans are grown, but the varieties best known in this country are the small white navy bean and the Lima bean. Mexicans use the red and black beans more than any others. Their methods of cooking them are very unlike those generally used in the United States. They make some extremely palatable bean dishes and we should learn their methods, for it would lend a variety to our menus.
The most common way the red bean is prepared by our Southern neighbors is to take three or four slices of bacon cut into very small pieces and fried a golden brown. The grease and bacon are left in the frying pan to which are added four onions of medium size, sliced, and half a pepper, from which the seeds have been removed. Cook these slowly with the pan covered. Add to this mixture 2 cupfuls of dried red beans, which have been thoroughly washed and soaked in cold water at least six hours. Add 5 cupfuls of water, cover the pot closely, and simmer gently for 3 hours. Strain 1 can of tomatoes and add this to the beans together with sufficient salt to season, 1 bay leaf, and 2 or 3 peppercorns. Cook slowly for another hour. The beans should then be thoroughly softened.
Mushroom and Bean Stew
Another Mexican bean dish is prepared by slicing together three medium-sized onions and three green sweet peppers. Place in a stew pan 2 tablespoonfuls of butter and the sliced onions and peppers, turning them frequently until a very delicate brown. Pour into them 2 cupfuls of the red beans which have been thoroughly washed and soaked, 4 cupfuls of boiling water, cover the kettle and cook slowly for 3 or 4 hours. When the beans are tender, add 2 tablespoonfuls of ketchup, and 1 pint of small fresh mushrooms which have been peeled, or a can of mushrooms after they have been rinsed in cold water. These should cook about 20 minutes, according to the variety of the mushrooms. The fresh ones are by all odds the best, and should always be used in preference to the canned varieties. This is an excellent dish and may be served as the staple food for any one meal.
Ham and Navy Bean Soup
Bean soups are very wholesome and easily prepared and make a dish of which children are very fond. Wash 2 cupfuls of white navy beans thoroughly and soak in cold water for several hours. Place them in a kettle with a ham bone, 1 small onion sliced, 1 bead of garlic, 3 stalks of celery cut fine, and 3 leaves of parsley. Cover this all with cold water and simmer gently in a closed kettle until the beans mash easily between the fingers. Turn into a colander or sieve and mash everything possible through. This leaves practically nothing but the skins of the beans, which should be thrown away in any event, and the waste from the other vegetables. This puree should be put back into the kettle and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, and sufficient boiling water added to make enough to serve five people liberally. The flavor of ham is especially good combined with beans. It is well to serve with this with squares of bread which have been toasted through and through in the oven. These are called croutons.
Creamed Navy Bean Soup
Another soup made of beans is especially good. Wash thoroughly and soak for several hours 2 cupfuls of white navy beans. Place these in a pan with 5 cupfuls of boiling water and 2 level teaspoonfuls of salt. When these are thoroughly cooked put them through a sieve. Return to the fire and add 1 quart of milk and bring just to the boiling point. Cream together 1 tablespoonful of flour and 1 tablespoonful of butter. Add these to the kettle and then put it over a gentle fire for 10 or 15 minutes. Add more salt if it is needed, together with 1/8 of a teaspoonful of paprika. When you take it from the fire and have placed it in the soup plates add to each a tiny bit of chopped parsley.
Layered Red Bean Loaf
A very good way to serve beans cold is to make them into a loaf. For this use the red variety. Take 3 cupfuls of beans, and, after they have been properly washed and soaked, cook slowly until they are tender. Put through a sieve. You should now have a puree which is practically free from water. To this add 1 cupful of stale breadcrumbs, grated, 2 tablespoonfuls of scraped onion, 1/2 green pepper chopped very fine, 3 tablespoonfuls of melted butter, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Have a greased baking dish ready. Place in the dish a layer of the seasoned puree and over it a layer of hard-boiled eggs sliced, over these sprinkle salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoonful of cheese. Alternate these layers, having the last of the puree. When the dish is filled, pour over it hald a cupful of sweet cream and bake in the oven for 15 or 20 minutes. This should be a good rich brown on the top and when it is thoroughly done it will pull away from the sides of the pan. Leave it in the pan until it is cold and then you can turn it out on a platter and serve.
Beef and Navy Bean Casserole
Beans make an excellent food cooked in the casserole. In fact they seem especially adapted for it. For one good recipe take 1/2 pound of beef cut into small pieces and browned thoroughly in beef suet. This should be done if possible in an iron kettle or skillet. Remove from the fire and add 2 onions sliced and 2 carrots chopped fine. The heat in the kettle and its contents should be sufficient to brown the two vegetables very delicately. Pour the meat, fat, and vegetables into a baking dish. Into it turn also 2 cupfuls of navy beans which have been thoroughly washed and soaked, 1/2 can of strained tomatoes and 4 cupfuls of water. Remove the seeds and white partitions from 2 green sweet peppers and chop fine. Add these to the baking dish, cover and bake slowly for 3 or 4 hours. Half an hour before ready to serve, take off the cover and increase the heat of the oven. This time should be sufficient, if the heat of the oven has been properly managed, to cook all the ingredients very thoroughly and make the dish palatable and digestible.
Boston’s Famous Beans
It would hardly do not to give you the recipe for the famous Boston baked beans. Wash a quart of white beans and soak them over night. The skins may be removed if necessary. Place the beans in a bean-pot, together with 1/2 pound of salt pork that has been thoroughly washed, the rind scraped and deeply scored. Season with 4 tablespoonfuls of New Orleans molasses, 1 medium-sized onion chopped fine, 3 level teaspoonfuls of salt, 1 level teaspoonful of dry mustard, and a 1/2 teaspoonful of paprika. Stir these all together with the beans and add 3 quarts of hot water. Bake in an oven of moderate heat for not less than 6 hours, eight hours being better. An hour before taking from the oven, remove the cover from the pot so that the beans may brown.
In the days when brick ovens were used the beans were baked many hours, 18 or 20 hours being the usual time. The methods of cooking have changed, however, and the housewife who now uses alcohol and oil for fuel would not feel that she could afford to cook any dish that length of time. If your house is heated by either a furnace or a base burner you have a very fair substitute for the brick oven in the ash pan of either one. Great care must be used in covering the bean-pot so that no ashes can reach the contents. If you wish to hasten the cooking of the beans and save the long baking, the beans and the pork should be boiled gently for 2 hours before being prepared for the oven.