Back-to-school shopping can really add up: Pencils. Notebooks. Cute new shoes. And those are just for me…. Kidding! But the reality is that both time and money are in short supply at my house right now. Times like these, I turn to beans. They’re a less expensive source of protein than meat, so replacing some (or all!) of the meat at mealtime can add up to real savings. Plus, they’re delicious and simple to cook. What more could you ask for? So, behold, here are my top picks for hearty but simple bean-based dishes.
New Orleans Red Beans & Rice: Nothing says comfort like beans cooked with bacon and ham hock (a cheaper but super-flavorful cut of pork). This recipe starts with dried beans, which are the most cost-effective way to go. That does mean you have to let the beans soak overnight. So, don’t be put off by the total time, because you’ll only be busy for about 10 minutes of it.
Mediterranean Vegetable-Bean Stew: Creamy Cannellini beans are the base for this satisfying stew, and, because they’re coming from a can, you can put this beautiful dish on the table in less than an hour. With a mix of flavors, textures and colors from zucchini, spinach, fire-roasted tomatoes and feta cheese, no one will even notice this one’s meat-free.
Butternut Squash & Black Bean Chili: Canned black beans co-star with tender butternut squash in this hearty, warming chili. Butternut squash is in season right now. Buy it whole and chop it up yourself to get the best bang for your buck. It’s easier than you may think!