Beans, Beans! The Magical Fruit….

We have a serious bean problem in our house…

If there were one food item that my family seems to universally adore, it would probably be beans (steak *might* be a close second for the kiddos).  My partner in crime has never, at least to my knowledge, met a bean he didn’t like, and as a result, prominent shelf space in our kitchen is devoted to his favorite legume.  There are beans in our cupboard that I have never heard of, beans whose names I have forgotten, and beans who are like dear friends at our dinner table.

But here’s the problem with beans–if you want to make something tasty with them, you have to plan ahead.  And as much our family loves them, we often aren’t thinking about tomorrow’s dinner the night before.  Which is why many of our beans have been sitting on the shelf instead of being put to use.

Well that is about to change. Because we are seeking to live more simply in Lent, beans have automatically taken a prominent position at our table.  They are hearty, they are healthy, they are tasty (when done right), and most of all, they are cheap.  According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost of beef in the Mid-Atlantic (where I live) looks like this:

Type of Meat Price per pound (as of Dec 2014)
Ground beef $4.16
Beef for stew $5.65
Pork Chops $4.05
Whole Chicken $1.54
Chicken Breast (boneless) $3.48

These are average prices, which do not factor in our family’s preference for organic and local meat products.  As you can guess, you end up paying a premium for higher quality meat.  In our case, the awesome meat vendor at the local farmer’s market sells mouthwatering sausage for 6.99/pound, which means that we will be saving our appetite for sausage until after Lent is over.

Compare that with the cost of beans, which range in price from $.99/pound to almost $3/pound.  Then factor in the fact that you lose poundage from meat when you cook it, whereas beans gain weight when you prepare them.  A pound of ground meat will yield 4 servings; add any bones and you can end up with as low as two servings per pound of meat purchased. A pound of beans, by contrast, can yield 10 servings! So for us, at least, this question is a no brainer. Beans will allow us to stay well within the limits of our commitment for Lent, while also allowing us some wiggle room for the (inevitable) surprises that come with having two small children in the house.

Which brings me to this evening’s meal, which is simmering pleasantly on the stovetop as I write this.  Tonight we will be liberating one of our older bean companions from its jar: the humble Calypso Bean. Also known as the Yin/Yang bean, the Dalmation Bean, and the Orca bean, Calypso beans have a pleasant black and white pattern, and are a perfect addition to soup, or you can make up a pot (like we did) and allow the beans to shine.

Many thanks to the website Pen and Fork, who created the lovely and simple recipe below:

Calypso beans on their way to becoming dinner...
Calypso beans on their way to becoming dinner…

Calypso Beans 

Serves 6

1 pound dried red or black Calypso beans
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium)
7 cups cold water
2 teaspoons dried Italian herb mix
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Soak the beans overnight, or use the quick soak method outlined above.

2. Drain the beans and rinse with cool water. Set aside.

3. Heat the bacon fat* in a large sauce pat or small stock pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and garlic and stir, cooking just until the onions and garlic are fragrant, about 2 minutes.

4. Add the beans to the pan, plus 7 cups of cold water. Turn the heat to high and bring the beans to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer.

5. Stir in dried herbs. Simmer, uncovered, until beans are tender, but not mushy, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

6. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. (Don’t be stingy with the salt unless your doctor told you to, in which case, ignore me.) Stir in fresh thyme if using.

And finally, here is our total spending (and eating) for Friday and Saturday:

Friday, Feb 20
Breakfast S: 1 c. cereal, 1/2 c milk, 1 egg, tea $0.70
Alex: 1 c. oatmeal, apricots $0.43
Monsters: egg, 1/2 c oatmeal, apricots, orange, milk $0.81
Lunch Monsters: leftover pasta and broccoli, salami $0.64
Alex: 2 pb sandwiches, 2 carrots $1.04
Sarah: leftover dinner, tea $0.03
Snacks Monsters: cheese crackers, vanilla grahams, Hummus and Carrot $0.69
Sarah: 4 cups tea, 2 girl scout cookies $0.33
Dinner 4 Baked Potatoes (SC, Cheese, Broccoli and 2 slices bacon) and salad $5.69
 Total spent  $10.35
Saturday, Feb 21
Breakfast Sarah:tea, cereal, yogurt $0.46
Monsters: Orange, Banana $0.50
Alex: Men’s breakfast ($5 donation) $5.00
Lunch Monsters: leftover pasta with butter, carrot, hummus, milk, frozen corn $0.64
Alex: peanut buter sandwich $0.46
Sarah: 5 carrots, hummus, peanut butter $0.76
Dinner Chana Masala with Rice $2.44
Snack Popcorn $0.10
 Total spent $10.37

This brings our total spending for the first week (beginning with Ash Wednesday) to $39.76, which means that we have saved $48.24 to date!

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