Want a protein source that's inexpensive, fat-free, extremely versatile, good for you, easy to use, readily available, and fast?
Embrace the bean! They work with a variety of cuisines and marry well with all kinds of flavors. You can find canned beans everywhere that are ready to use right away...and they're cheap, usually less than $1 per can. Opt for the organic or reduced-sodium versions when possible, because the downside to canned beans is they pack quite a wallop sodium-wise.
Beyond the obvious (bean soup, chili) try:
Replacing the meat in your tacos with fat-free refried beans or black beans;
Whipping up white beans, garlic, rosemary and a little bit of fresh olive oil into a dip for vegetables r whole grain pita chips...this also makes a great sandwich or cracker spread;
Throwing a handful of chickpeas in your salad;
Huevos rancheros for breakfast: beans topped with fried eggs, salsa, and a drizzle of sour cream;
Bean cakes: mix the lightly mashed bean of your choice with onion, minced garlic, parsley, a little whole wheat flour to bind, and saute in a little olive oil.
Bean salad: mix a few types of your favorite beans, onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, herbs, corn kernels, cooked brown rice, tomatoes...just about any vegetable you like, really, or try mango or pineapple...and toss with lemon juice and olive oil. Let it marinate for a few hours and serve with grilled or roasted meat or on its own on a vegetable platter. SOOO delicious!
A lot of people don't love beans because of the, um, aftereffects. But those can be lessened by not using the cooking water for beans you cook at home and draining canned ones well....also, make sure they are thoroughly cooked. Worst case scenario, there's a drop called Beano that breaks down the starch that causes the "tooting" effect...you add a few drops to your food before eating.
Do you like beans? How do you like to use them?
© IStockPhoto/Andrii Gorulko