Beans, Beans, the Wonderful Fruit...

Photo Credit: Mats Heyman
I cannot help smile as I recall this rhyme that my cousin taught me when were in elementary school.  It must have been ghastly listening to the two of us chanting this amusing verse, but we were right.  Common beans just might be magical as Jack (of legendary beanstalk fame) thought they were.  I've recently fallen in love with these wonderful legumes for their nutritive and "clean eating" properties.  Beans are economical, versatile, shelf stable and SUPER good for you.  When we use dried beans, we also avoid additives like sodium and BPA, and we reduce our carbon footprint by reducing packaging, processing, and shipping.  My kids love them, but my husband doesn't, so I've been carefully collecting varieties of beans and interesting recipes, hoping to come away with a winning combination of meals that my whole family can enjoy while I (silently and inconspicuously) bask in the glory of the money I've saved and food additives I've avoided.  I made a simple lentil dish this week that everyone at my house loved.  I've included that recipe and a few links to other bean-y recipes that we all enjoyed. 

Boston Baked Beans (Here's where I mentioned these before.)
Curried Ham and Mayacoba Bean Salad
Red Beans and Rice

Easy Lentils (serves 6-8)

6 rashers bacon - optional (I call them slices, but was recently informed they are rashers.)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2-3 ribs celery, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, If you didn't fry the bacon.
2 c lentils (rinsed and sorted - Lentil do not have to be soaked.)
4 c chicken, beef or other broth
2-3 carrots, peeled or sliced (or frozen carrot slices)

Fry bacon until crispy, remove from pan.  Saute onions and celery in bacon grease or olive oil on medium heat for five minutes.  Add lentils and saute an additional five minutes, stirring constantly.  (Add additional olive oil as needed.) Slowly and carefully add broth.  (Lentils may "pop" as you add the liquid.)  Reduce heat and allow beans to simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir in carrots and bacon crumbles and simmer an additional 30 minutes.  Serve with cornbread.

Easy Cornbread (serves 6-8)

1 1/2 cup flour (I use unbleached or whole grain white.)
1 cup corn meal (I use Hodgson Mill, which is whole grain.)
1/4 cup (I sometimes add 1/2 cup to make it very sweet.)
2 teaspoons baking powder (I use aluminum free.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 c milk
1/4 cup oil
1 egg (or two egg whites)
1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)

Mix dry ingredients, add wet ingredients, stir in corn kernels.  Pour into greased 8 inch pan.  Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.

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