It's not even Labor Day, and already I'm seeing "back to school" photos on my feed. This is for all the families already on the hustle. I plan to join their ranks after Labor Day. In the meantime, I'm planning ahead. Our family isn't used to having lunch together during the week. It may be extra work, but it's an opportunity to improve on the usually-disappointing options at school. Because in no world should ketchup or pizza sauce count as a serving of vegetables!
I used to be a vegetarian, and still love the versatility of beans. They span the colors of the rainbow, are a great source of protein and are budget-friendly. I'm going to share a great flavor combination cooked in my slow cooker. You can simmer three pounds in one session, and freeze the leftovers for endless ready-made meal options.
- Grab one pound bags of dried black-eyed peas, green split peas and lentils
- Pour into a giant bowl and wash well, then drain
- In a saucepan, caramelize two thinly-sliced onions in olive oil. Two minutes before they're fully caramelized, toss in chopped garlic (about five cloves)
- There are many ways to add flavor and a little fat. You can use crumbled bacon bits or a little lard - vegetarians can use butter
- Place everything into a slow cooker, and fill it with water two inches above the food line
- Sprinkle in more flavor to taste. In addition to salt and pepper, I use cumin, jalapeno powder, and dried cilantro
- Turn the slow cooker on high for six hours, or on low for nine hours
- Check to ensure the beans are fully-cooked. Drain any excess water, then use an immersion bender to smooth the beans into a creamy mix
Veggie burgers! If the patties are too soft to stick together, you can mix in breadcrumbs. Fry in a pan with butter, then stack the veggie burger on a bun with sliced tomatoes, arugula and garlic aioli. They freeze beautifully too! Just individually seal each patty in plastic wrap, and stack them into a freezer storage bag before freezing.
Seven layer dip! Don't be limited to just seven layers either! We started with a smooth layer of beans, then stacked on guacamole, cheese, sour cream, salsa, chopped cilantro, chopped green onions, arugula and black olives. Dip in some tortilla chips, and you have a meal so fun, you don't even realize that you've touched upon all five food groups! Fill a quart-size freezer bag with beans, and it's the perfect amount for one layer.
You can do a polenta bean bake!
- Preheat the oven to 350
- Grease a pyrex or Le Creuset baking dish with butter
- Pour in one cup of Red Mill dried polenta
- Pour three cups of boiling water on top of the polenta
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter, one teaspoon of salt and mix well
- Take a spoon, drop in the beans, and mix everything
- Bake for at least one hour, or until the polenta bean bake is mostly solid in the oven
- Remove from the oven, cool, cut into squares, fry in butter and melt cheese on top
The perfect amount of beans for this dish can be frozen ahead in one quart-sized freezer bag.
Other fun options:
- Loaded nachos
- Bean soup (just mix with chicken broth)
- Mix with rice - a macrobiotic snack!
- Bean and cheese burritos
- Huevos rancheros