Friday, May 14, 2010
Beans & Greens...a thrifty, tasty dish
Dry beans are a money saver. Aside from having a large yield when cooked, they have a long shelf life and are nutrient-rich. Beans are also a wonderful source of protein, fiber, and iron and they are naturally low in sodium and calories, unlike their canned counterparts which can sometimes have up to 15% of the daily value of sodium. The only challenge with dry beans is the fact that you do have to plan ahead when preparing them. They need to be soaked overnight before proceeding with a recipe, or at the very least, quick soaked. If you don’t have overnight, you can “quick soak” them. Rinse and sort ½ pound of beans; place in pot and cover with 3-4 cups hot water. Bring water to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 1 hour. Drain soak water and rinse beans before proceeding with recipe.
One pound of dry beans will yield about 6-7 cups of cooked beans, depending on the size of the bean. A pound of dry beans costs about $1.20. Compare that to a can of beans (15.5-oz.) that costs about $.70 each. Dry beans make for quite a savings.
This recipe for Beans, Greens, & Pasta is a quick and easy slow cooker meal. You could even increase the dry beans to 1 cup making the dish thicker. Or, increase the dry beans and use those cooked beans in another recipe later in the week. Simply strain them out of your slow cooker before you add the pasta and spinach. Cooked great northern beans are a great topping on a green salad, adding protein and fiber. Great northern beans are also used in White Chicken Chili, a popular alternative to the classic beef, tomato, and kidney bean version.
Baby spinach is in season now, so this dish is quite an economical choice this time of year. And, during the late fall and winter months, kale can be substituted making this an easy, thrifty year-round dish for your family to enjoy. If you love spinach, add even more to the recipe. Pasta is on sale somewhere each week, so stock up on this staple when your favorite brand is discounted. Elbow macaroni and other pasta of similar size work well in this recipe. Just use what you’ve gotten on sale. Want to make it a little heartier? Add cooked Italian sausage or sliced, grilled chicken. You can’t go wrong with this money-saving dish.
Beans, Greens, and Pasta
½ c. dry great northern beans, sorted and soaked overnight
4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
3 carrots, scraped and diced
¾ c. onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
¼ t. salt
1 c. uncooked pasta
3-4 c. baby spinach
red pepper flakes, toasted chopped pecans, parmesan cheese for toppings
Place rinsed, soaked beans in slow cooker with next 5 ingredients; cook on high 3-4 hours or low 5-6 hours until beans are tender. Add salt, pasta, and spinach; stir well. Cover and cook on high 30 minutes until pasta is cooked and spinach is wilted. Serve with desired toppings and crusty bread.