My 9 for '09: "More beans and legumes for protein" - FamilyEducation

My 9 for '09: "More beans and legumes for protein"

January 12,2009

About three years ago SPH came to me and said, "I am thinking of going back to school." Thus began an adventure of GMAT preparation, admissions applications, acceptance letters, a big move and a major lifestyle change.

One of the biggest lifestyle changes for our family was that we would be winnowing our budget down in a major way and living the frugal student lifestyle, albeit this time with two kids in tow.

I took the challenge head on: How could I cut our grocery bills without sacrificing the healthfulness of our meals? A major answer to this question was using more legume beans and other vegetarian alternatives to gain our necessary protein.

So we ate a lot of Mexican, Southwestern, Indian and Mediterranean recipes that used beans as their primary source of protein. I also learned something new: If you cook a whole grain such as brown rice and pair it with something like a black bean, pinto, etc., you are eating all 20 amino acids that are contained within animal proteins. In other words, complete proteins.

Our family favorite quickly became Baked Bean Burritos, but we also have used black beans to replace only part of the meat in a dish, such as in Black Bean and Chicken Meatloaf and in various renditions of bean quesadillas. 

The recipe below demonstrates how versatile beans can be in all sorts of foods. I've taken a classic fast and easy Mexican dish and filled it with Mediterranean ingredients. It is a healthful, easy and inexpensive way to enjoy a tasty meal.

White Bean, Feta and Olive Quesadillas

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup+ chopped tomato (I used canned, since they aren’t in season)
6 oz can of black olives, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional)
14 ounce can of white or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon lemon juice
6 whole wheat (or regular) flour tortillas
4 ounce container of crumbled feta cheese

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then add tomatoes, olives, oregano, garlic powder and hot pepper flakes. Cook for a few minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and the extra liquid from them has evaporated.

In a shallow microwave-safe bowl, pour the beans and add about ½ cup water. Microwave for 4-5 minutes. Drain the water and mash the beans with the back of a fork (microwaving the beans makes them very soft and easy to mash). 

Add the oil and lemon juice.Take one tortilla and spread 2-3 tablespoons of the bean mixture on half of the tortilla. Top with 2-3 tablespoons of the tomato mixture and 1-2 tablespoons of the feta cheese. 

Fold in half. Repeat with the other tortillas. In a nonstick pan, cook two tortillas at a time over medium heat. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on one side, flip and repeat. Remove from heat, let cool for a few minutes and then slice into wedges.  

My boys inhaled this recipe, and SPH and I thought it was pretty awesome, too. A true 30-minute meal.

Psst--this recipe also is great for a lunch the next day.

Sweet Eats,