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Beans help take bite out of rising grocery bills

We don't want to jinx a good thing, but could it be that canned beans are recession-proof?

The price of eggs, bread, milk, cheese, meat and other staples of the American diet bounce ever higher. But the lowly can of beans, versatile and nutritious, stays relatively steady. Dependable, like Tom Hanks. • We like a cheap date but canned beans have other redeeming qualities. They are good for us. Packed with fiber and protein and low in fat, they make us feel full longer than simple carbohydrates such as pasta and bread. Plus, there's plenty of variety. Stock your pantry with black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo, cannellini, navy and great Northern beans and you've got the basis for a sturdy dish. Or at least the tools to bolster meat-
meager meals. • Even less expensive than canned beans are dried, but you'll have to soak them for hours to soften and then cook for an hour or two. We like the convenience of cans. • On the negative side, canned beans can be high in sodium, a concern for some people, especially those with high blood pressure. A thorough rinsing, though, eliminates about 40 percent of the added salt. Some organic brands have less sodium; study the labels.

Beans also include raffinose, a natural sugar compound, that can produce intestinal discomfort. You'll find it in cabbage, brussels sprouts, asparagus and broccoli.

Well, nothing is perfect.

Still, get out your can opener. The St. Petersburg Times Taste staff offers these ideas for using canned beans. Remember, always rinse and drain the beans unless directions say otherwise.

• Add any variety to your favorite soup or stew recipes. Even canned soups can benefit from a blast of additional fiber and flavor. Make your own quick black bean soup by cooking 1 can of beans with 3/4 cup chicken broth, 1 to 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 chopped onion and 1 teaspoon (or to taste) ground cumin. Simmer until onion has softened, about 15 minutes. Puree and serve with cooked rice and chopped onions.

• Saute navy or pinto beans with a handful of cherry tomatoes, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. A tasty accompaniment for shrimp or chicken.

• Sprinkle dark red kidney beans over a green salad.

• Mix chopped kalamata olives with garbanzo beans, half of a sliced fennel bulb, olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper for a refreshing dish. To vary, substitute feta and fresh chopped basil for fennel.

• Prepare a quick burrito or quesadilla with black beans, shredded cheese and salsa. Include scrambled eggs or tofu and call it a breakfast.

• Puree white beans with olive oil, coarse salt and garlic for a quick dip; serve with pita chips. Make a black bean dip the same way with 1 can of black beans, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, salt to taste. If it's too thick, add water.

• Make an updated three-bean salad with kidney, black and cannellini beans plus chopped green (and/or red) pepper, red onion slivers, corn kernels, then dress it with a balsamic or Parmesan vinaigrette.

• Toss together a quick soup with red beans, chicken broth, shredded rotisserie chicken and spinach. Get a little kick from some red pepper flakes.

• Saute garlic in olive oil; add chopped parsley and minced rosemary. Slip in peeled shrimp and white beans and a tablespoon or two of chicken broth. It's ready when shrimp turn pink. Add crumbled feta if you'd like.

• Dress up canned tuna with white beans, sliced scallion, chopped red pepper and an olive oil vinaigrette. That makes it Tuscan. Add halved hard-boiled eggs and green beans and you've gone to France.

• Mound a baked potato with black or kidney beans, salsa and sour cream for a filling meal.

• Bake a bean gratin to serve with pork or pot roast. Mix two cans of white beans with chopped Roma tomatoes and minced rosemary. Sprinkle with seasoned bread crumbs, drizzle with melted butter and bake at 350 degrees until browned.

We take it back about perfection. Canned beans come pretty darn close.

Contact Janet K. Keeler at or (727) 893-8586. She gives weekday dinner ideas and recipes on her blog Stir Crazy,


Measuring beans

One 15-ounce can of drained beans equals 1 1/2 cups cooked beans.


Black Bean and Roasted Tomato Soup
1 pound plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 large onion, halved lengthwise, cut into thin wedges

1 medium carrot, peeled, quartered

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 cups (or more) canned vegetable broth

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed, drained, divided

1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine tomatoes, onion and carrot in large roasting pan. Add garlic, oil and oregano and stir to coat vegetables. Roast until vegetables are brown and tender, stirring occasionally, about 55 minutes. Cut carrot into small cubes and set aside. Transfer remaining vegetables to processor. Add 2 cups broth to pan and scrape up browned bits. Add broth and 2 1/4 cups beans (reserve remainder) to processor. Puree vegetable mixture until almost smooth.

• Transfer soup to heavy large saucepan. Add remaining beans. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors blend, adding more broth if soup is too thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in carrot. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made a day ahead. Cover; chill. Rewarm before continuing.) Ladle soup into bowls. Top with dollop of yogurt.

Serves 4.

Source: Bon Appetit, 1996

>>side dish

Curried Cauliflower With
Chickpeas and Tomatoes
1/4 cup canola oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons curry powder

1-inch piece of fresh ginger; peeled and julienned

2 ripe tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 head of cauliflower (about 1 pound), cut into florets

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Kosher salt

Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

• Heat the oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the onion, curry powder and ginger and cook, stirring for a few minutes to soften the onion. Then add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes break down and soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and 1 cup of water to dissolve the paste. Gently fold in the cauliflower and chickpeas.

• Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the cauliflower is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened and the cauliflower and chickpeas are coated with a thick gravy. Season with salt and garnish with cilantro before serving.

Serves 4.

Source: Eat this Book by Tyler Florence (Potter, 2005)


Tuscan White Bean Crostini

2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 large red bell pepper, finely chopped or 1/3 cup finely chopped roasted red bell pepper

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

18 slices French bread, about 1/4 inch thick

• Combine beans, bell pepper and onion in large bowl.

• Whisk together vinegar, parsley, oil, garlic, oregano and black pepper in small bowl. Pour over bean mixture; toss to coat. Cover; refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

• Arrange bread slices in single layer on large, ungreased baking sheet or broiler pan. Broil, 6 to 8 inches from heat, 30 to 45 seconds or until bread slices are lightly toasted. Cool completely.

• Top each toasted bread slice with about 3 tablespoons bean mixture.

Makes 18 hors d'oeuvres. Or serves 6 for a light lunch by serving white bean mixture as a salad on a bed of lettuce.

Source: Easy Home Cooking magazine.

Beans help take bite out of rising grocery bills 04/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 24, 2008 11:38am]
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