This is meat-free, dairy-free, and in the photo above, also made using gluten-free pasta.  Its rich and creamy taste would never make you suspect there are so many 'normal' ingredients missing.  You will not taste the avocado, and surprisingly, it doesn't even make the sauce look green.  It adds richness along with those healthy, satisfying fats.  
If you used canned chickpeas, you'll have about one cup extra; you can either stir those in with the pasta, or save them for another use.
If you don't have an avocado, or don't want to use one, omit it and increase the chickpeas to three cups instead.

12-16 oz. pasta, cooked according to directions; save the cooking water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked chickpeas- or use 2 cups from two (14-oz) cans, drained
one 6" sprig fresh rosemary, or 1-2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 medium avocado, peel and pit removed
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley, or 1 1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley

While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic; cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.

In a blender, combine 3 cups of the pasta cooking water (may also use the water drained off the cans of chickpeas), chickpeas, rosemary, red pepper, avocado, and lemon juice.  Blend on high until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste (start with 1/2 tsp. salt), and stir in parsley.  
Pour over pasta and toss to coat.  
If the sauce is too thick, add water 1 Tbsp. at a time until it's the consistency you like.  

These have fiber, protein, and much lower in sugar than almost any baked treat!  And they really are good.  My family snarfed down this batch. 
Besides all that, they're also wheat-free and dairy-free.

Healthy Peanut Butter-Chocolate-Banana Bars

1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (one can, drained and rinsed)
2 eggs
2 ripe medium bananas
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. brown sugar or honey (1/2 c sugar. if you like things on the sweeter side)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1/3 c. chocolate chips (the darker the better)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Put the beans, eggs, bananas, peanut butter, brown sugar, and vanilla in a food processor or high-powered blender.  Run until very smooth.  Stir in the baking powder, salt and oats.  Spread in a greased 8x8 pan then sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Bake 30 minutes or til test done with a toothpick.  Cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.  These are even better the next day.

For a variation on this, substitute pumpkin puree for the banana, increase sugar/honey to 1/2 c., replace almond or cashew butter for the peanut butter, then add 1-2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice.
Apparently these have been popular in the food world for about a year... but I first saw them last week.  My oldest son, the pickiest eater in the house, had noticed the printed recipe sitting on the counter for several days, grimacing everytime he walked past it.  So when a batch of brownies appeared out of the oven, he cocked an eyebrow at me, asking "Are these what I think they are?", then declared he would NOT eat them.
After everyone else begged for seconds, though, he decided he'd try just one bite.  Then a whole brownie.  Then he had seconds too.

Black Bean Brownies

1 1/4 c. cooked black beans, rinsed (about a 15-oz can or 1/2 c. dry beans- cook first)
3 eggs
1/4 c. melted coconut oil or vegetable oil
1/2- 2/3 cup honey OR 3/4-1 cup sugar (brownies with the higher amounts are sweeter and more moist)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup whole wheat flour, OR 1/2 c.gluten-free flour plus 1 tsp. xanthan gum
½ teaspoon almond extract or orange extract, optional
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
½ cup chopped walnuts, optional
¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a 9x13 pan.  Combine beans, eggs, oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and almond/orange extract (if using) in a food processor or blender.  Puree until very smooth.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.   Pour the puree over top, then mix both together.  Stir in walnuts if using.  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.  Bake about 25 minutes or until center tests done with a toothpick.  
To make these into Chocolate Truffle Brownies, omit the chocolate chips and frost with my favorite-ever chocolate frosting: creamy, soft, oh-so-smooth Chocolate Blender Frosting!
This recipe makes a big batch, about 11-12 cups (5 pounds) of refried beans.  The point is to have enough to freeze for later.  Since I buy beans in 25-lb bags for about $17, the beans for this cost just $1.40, a big onion was $ .30.  Not counting the spices – which are a small amount- this adds up to just under $ .08 for each half-cup serving of refried beans!  I used them to make some burritos to freeze for my husband’s lunches.

You can make these fat-free, but I prefer to use at least some fat, for a few reasons.  One is that it helps in digestion- fiber is easier on your system when there’s some fat there to help it along.  Another is that it helps make certain vitamins available- vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, which means if you don’t eat fat along with those vitamins in your food, your body is not able to absorb them.  Besides all that, fat helps you stay full longer, plus helps the beans taste more moist and delicious!

According to CalorieCount, a half-cup of these -before the cheese- have 3.7g fat, 15g fiber, 21g protein, 27% of your RDA for iron, plus are high in magnesium, potassium, and thiamin.  How’s that for cheap, filling nutrition?

5 cups dry beans (about 2 lbs) – I used black beans but pinto are also good
1-2 onions, coarsely chopped
9 cups water

Sort through the beans and remove any dirt or rocks.  Rinse them, then put the beans, onion, and water in a pressure cooker.  Put the lid on and bring up to pressure.  Cook on high pressure for 45 minutes.   Let the pressure drop completely before opening up.  

If you don't have a pressure cooker, put the beans and onion in a big pot, cover with about 3 quarts of water (12 cups), bring to a boil, and simmer for about 4 hours.  Check occasionally to make sure there's still enough water to barely cover the beans, adding more if needed.

You’ll have about 12 cups of cooked beans.  Drain them but keep the liquid.  Stir in:
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. liquid smoke
¼  c. coconut oil – OR use bacon drippings and omit the liquid smoke

Puree or mash them - I put 3 cups at a time in my blender.  Add a little cooking liquid if they’re too thick.  They WILL thicken some as they cool.  Taste them and add more of any seasoning you think they still need.  This version is lightly flavored.

To make bean and cheese burritos, stir in 4-8 oz. mild or medium cheese, shredded on the biggest shredding holes.

If you’re making 6-oz burritos, you’ll need about 24 flour tortillas (size about 8” across). If you want 4-oz burritos, you’ll need about 40-48 tortillas.
In the last few years, we've all heard that it's more inexpensive to eat high-calorie, nutrient-sparse foods.    Are we then doomed to a life of either nasty nutrition or perpetual poverty because of our ballooning food budget?

No way!   The whole premise turns out to not really be true.

But then, those of you who cook your own food probably took the earlier studies with a grain of salt.

Fresh and whole foods are cheaper especially if eating from scratch... whole grains and legumes are especially inexpensive per serving (you know, that stuff that stores long-term really well!).

The original studies, we now learn, were comparing price per calorie in healthy vs. unhealthy foods.

Now, if you're comparing a fresh apple to a side order of fries, it looks something like this:

1 medium apple, about 5 ounces (141g) = about 80 calories    at $1.50/lb,  this costs $ .47  (if you buy them when they're on sale for $1/lb, then it's $ .31)

1 medium order of McDonald's fries, about 5 ounces (147 g) = 453 calories, in my city it costs $1.49

Both weigh approximately the same.  You'll feel about as full with each one; they both fill the same amount of space in your stomach.  According to the old numbers, though, the fries are much cheaper because   $1.49 divided by 453 calories gets you 3 calories per penny.  The apple, at $ .47 for 80 calories, comes out at 1.7 calories per penny. 

This would matter in a country where every calorie is precious.  Our problem here, though is the reverse.  Most of us eat too many calories, and being full with fewer calories is a helpful thing.

The price difference gets worse, too.  Here in Utah, sales tax on food is 3%.  Sales tax on food from a restaurant, however, is 8%.  That means you're paying one to two cents to the government when you buy the apple, and twelve cents when buying those French fries.  (Maybe that's where the money came from to fund that first study saying fast food was cheaper?!)

So is healthy food always cheaper than fast food?  No, not always.  Often.  It depends on what you buy.  (like Dave Ramsey says, eat "beans and rice; rice and beans" for those trying to live very frugally.) 

But your grocery budget already told you that.

Click on the link below to read the article that sparked this blog entry:





Years ago a college friend gave me a cookbook her family had put together.  Though I haven't tried all the recipes in it, I'm inclined to say there's not a bad one in the bunch- everything I've tried has been fabulous.  Even the strange-sounding recipe for "Vinegar Dumplings" was amazing.  I may need to post that one later for you!

This recipe is from that cookbook.  Apparently 'Chalupa' is a misnomer, to be authentic you'd use thin, small, fried corn tortilla 'boats'.  But this tastes really similar and is simpler.
This batch is big; feel free to cut it in half.  The bean/meat mixture freezes well, though, so maybe make the whole batch and have some on hand in the freezer for a quick meal! 


2 lb. boneless pork roast *
1 lb. pinto beans, sorted and rinsed *
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 small can green chilies
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 tsp. salt
* I used beef roast and black beans

corn chips
shredded cheese
chopped onion
diced tomatoes
sliced avocado

(Start making this about 6-7 hours before you want to eat. Or see 'Faster Chalupas' below.)   Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Put all ingredients in a Dutch oven or roaster; add enough water to cover.  Bake, covered, for one hour, then reduce to 275 degrees.  Cook another 4-5 hours.  Add more water if the beans aren't all the way covered by it. 

Remove pork, cool and shred.  Meanwhile, cook the bean mixture with the lid off for 30-60 minutes or until thick.  Put shredded meat back into bean mixture and heat.

Serve on a bed of crisp corn chips and top with shredded cheese, lettuce,  onion, tomatoes,  avocadoes, and salsa. 

#1:  use a pressure cooker.  Mine took about 30  minutes under high pressure in a Kuhn Rikon.   Plan on 1 hour instead if you have a regular pressure cooker.

OR #2: use leftover roast and 3 (15 oz.) cans of beans, undrained.  Add all seasonings except for the salt, combine and simmer for at least 15 minutes to blend the flavors.
Beans and sausage have probably been around since sausage was first invented.  Take some bland beans, add flavorful ingredients, and -presto- a nearly-one-dish-meal.  We ate ours with homemade bread and a fruit smoothie.

You can use any kind of beans you like, and any kind of sausage or similar meat.  I used kielbasa because that's what was cheap this time.  Sometimes I use hotdogs.  Or link sausage.  Or I shape bulk sausage into meatballs.  Ham Spam, or bacon would also work; the point is to add something savory and meaty. 
You can leave out the kale if you prefer; I only added it because it was calling to me from the fridge (so it wouldn't die lonely in the vegetable crisper).  It also added to the nutritional content; my mom taught me the budget trick of using half as much meat and twice as many vegetables as most recipes call for.  The onions and celery are pretty important for flavor, but if you don't like them, fine, leave them out.  Add something you do like.  Carrots or peppers would be good.
I used onion powder because some of my kids think they don't like onions.  It's really the texture they revolt against; if I use onion powder or puree the onions, nobody notices them.  The tomato and chicken bouillon enhance the meaty flavor.  

This makes a big batch; you can freeze some for later!

Black Beans and Sausage

1 lb. black beans, or 3  14-oz. cans
2 medium onions, diced, or 1/3 c. onion powder or 2/3 c. dried minced onion
1 lb. sausage (or hotdogs), cut in coins
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced, or 1-2 tsp. garlic powder
1 bunch kale, chopped
1 Tbsp. chicken bouillon, or 3 cubes, or one 14-oz. can chicken broth
1 Tbsp. tomato powder, or use 1 Tbsp. tomato paste or 2 Tbsp. tomato sauce
2-4 tiny drops thyme essential oil, or 1 tsp. powdered thyme, or 1-2 Tbsp. fresh leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

Serves 8-10

If starting with dry beans, sort through to find any bits of rock or dirt, rinse, then put in a large pot with 2 quarts of water and the onions.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 4 hours.  I used a pressure cooker (a Kuhn Rikon, it's quick!) and needed only 1 ½ quarts water,  cooked on high pressure for 25 minutes.  Drain and reserve water.  If using canned beans, also drain and reserve.

In a 12” skillet, cook sausage and celery over medium-high heat until partly browned.  This really deepens the meat's flavor.  In case you like science-type stuff, this is because of the Maillard Reaction- simplified, it's the combination of amino acids (proteins) reacting under heat with the sugars (carbohydrates) to form completely new flavor compounds.  Anyway, yeah, you want to brown the sausage, even if it IS precooked.

Add garlic and stir 30 seconds, then put the kale on top, cover, and reduce heat to medium.  Check after about 5 minutes to see if you need to add a little liquid.  If so, use the bean water.  Cook until kale is tender, about 10 minutes. 

Add the meat and vegetables to the bean pot.  Stir in chicken bouillon or broth, tomato powder, thyme, 1 tsp. salt, ¼ - ½ tsp. pepper.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.  Heat through if it’s not warm enough.  The flavor will be better after sitting covered for 20-30 minutes.  If it's too thick, add more of the bean water. 

Do you not use dry beans as often as you intend to because they take so long to cook?  I used to have a designated "bean day" once a week, but fell off the wagon a while ago.  Here's the answer...

There are ways to speed  up how fast they cook.  If you have a pressure cooker, it can take as little as 30 minutes to cook the beans. 

If you have a grain mill (or even a blender), it can be even faster

Make bean flour with your mill; it cooks in only 5 minutes of simmering.
If you use your blender, put 1-2 cups of beans in the blender jar; run on high speed until powdered.  Pour the powder through a fine-mesh sieve to catch any bigger pieces; those can take a half hour to cook.

Cooked bean flour has the texture of very smooth refried beans.  They can be thinned with water, milk, or evaporated milk to the consistency of white sauce or cream soups.  White beans are recommended for these uses, though, just because you want it to look 'normal'.  Add seasonings to taste, and you can have nearly instant soup!
If you make them regular refried bean consistency, unseasoned beans can even be substituted for at least half the fat in baked foods.  You might be able to substitute them for all the fat, but try half first.  Then work up.  For that, use the recipe for 5-minute Refried Beans, below, but only use water and bean flour, not the  spices or salt.

Store extra bean flour in a tightly covered container, to keep out pests.  Its expected shelf life is 6 months; you can extend that by keeping it dark and cool, or freezing it.  It can last longer on the shelf than 6 months, as well- smell it to see if it has gone rancid.  If it smells and tastes fine, it still should be.

5-minute Refried Beans

2 ½ c. water
½ - ¾ tsp. salt
Pinch garlic powder, opt
¾ c. pinto or black bean flour
¼ tsp. cumin
½ -1 tsp. chili powder

Heat water to boil, whisk in dry ingredients.  Cook and stir over medium heat for 1 minute, until thick.  Reduce to low, cover and cook 4 minutes.  This will thicken as it cools.  Add ½ c. salsa if you want.  My family likes it best with cubed Cheddar or Mozzarella mixed in; I use 1/2- 1 c. cheese in about 1/4" cubes.

“Instant” Refried Bean Mix

1 ½ c. pinto or black bean flour
1 ½ tsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. cumin
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried onion

Mix and store airtight.

Whisk ¾ c. of this mixture into 2 ½ c. boiling water.  Cook and stir over medium heat for 1 minute, until thick.  Reduce to low, cover and cook 4 minutes.  This will thicken as it cools.  Add ½ c. salsa if you like.

3-Minute “Cream of Chicken Soup”

3 c. boiling water
1/2 c. fine white bean flour
1 T. chicken bouillon granules
1/2 c. diced chicken, optional
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning or sage, optional

Whisk together water, flour, & bouillon over medium heat, stir and cook 3 minutes.  Blend 1-2 minutes.  Add chicken.

Find more recipes like this at