Though sometimes called the "poor man's meat," beans are rich in protein and have plenty to offer a healthy diet.
Packed with fiber and other plant-based nutrients, beans are low-fat, can prolong the feeling of fullness after a meal and help control blood sugar levels.
Many people won't bother cooking dry beans, which can require soaking overnight and, depending on the variety, long cooking on the stove. But convenient canned beans are essential for any healthy pantry.
The good news is that canned beans keep their nutrients during the canning process.
Canned beans are available in numerous varieties, and usually are found alongside the canned vegetables at the grocer. But be sure to check the ethnic aisle, too. You are likely to find less common, but delicious, varieties there.
Beans can replace some or all of the meat called for in many dishes. They also can be puréed (with seasonings) to make quick dips and spreads. Or simply add some to a salad for extra protein, flavor and texture.
Be sure to always rinse and drain canned beans before using them to remove excess salt and indigestible sugars that are in the cloudy liquid.
This recipe for Triple-Bean Casserole uses three varieties of beans to make a colorful and quick stovetop dish that is reminiscent of baked beans. Ketchup, cider vinegar, molasses and dry mustard combine with chopped onion to make a sauce that is high in flavor and low in fat.
The recipe calls for crumbled, cooked bacon for flavoring. To make a vegetarian version, simply leave it out or use diced smoked tofu instead.
Start to finish: 50 minutes (15 minutes active)
4 slices bacon
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2/3 cup tomato ketchup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
11/2; teaspoons dry mustard
1 cup water
151/2;-ounce can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
151/2;-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
151/2;-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Following the package directions, cook the bacon until crisp, then crumble and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat oil over low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the ketchup, vinegar, molasses and mustard and stir together thoroughly. Add water, all the beans and bacon. Bring the beans to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold.
Nutrition information per serving: 278 calories; 4 grams fat (1 gram saturated); 6 milligrams cholesterol; 48 grams carbohydrate; 15 grams protein; 11 grams fiber; 730 milligrams sodium.