Beans are a traditional food all over the world. They are hearty, filling, inexpensive, and very nutritious. Beans are full of both soluble and insoluble fiber – so they not only keep your blood sugar levels even, but help you feel full, and clean out your arteries as well as your digestive system.

Beans are a nice, slow-burning fuel for cold winter days. There’s nothing as comforting to me on a snowy day as a pot of pintos bubbling on the stove. They’re easy to cook. They reheat beautifully. Even organic beans are very affordable. A meal of whole grains, beans, and greens is simple, inexpensive, filling, and meets all your dietary needs.

“Yeah, yeah,” I hear you saying, “that’s fascinating, but we expect to hear about pleasure from you. You’re the Organic Goddess. Tell us about something delicious and sinful we can feed to our loved ones on Valentine’s Day.”

Well, how about beans? From ancient times, beans have been considered an aphrodisiac. They’re not as famous in this regard as oysters or champagne, perhaps, but they have been believed by many to “provoke bodily lust.” Maybe, maybe not, but they are high in zinc and phosphorus, both of which are necessary for healthy amorous function.

Did I mention that beans are also delicious? Try these recipes and you’ll see what I mean. And with the money you save by making these inexpensive bean dishes, you can afford to buy your lover or yourself some really wonderful dairy-free, organic chocolate or a nice full-bodied organic red wine for a heart-healthy Valentine’s treat.

For those of you who are following my “whole foods” lifestyle – so far I’ve been pretty successful at eating at home and eating almost all whole foods. I splurged on a programmable 5-quart slow cooker recently, and I love it. I am thinking about getting a programmable electric pressure cooker as well, but so far am still using my old Presto jiggle top. I got a vacuum sealer apparatus awhile back, and am using it to pre-portion some meals in the freezer for back-ups on days when I haven’t planned ahead. My blood sugar seems more stable, and I’m more relaxed knowing that dinner can be as simple as beans, grains, and greens, or as elaborate as I want to make it. I’m sure we’re saving money, especially on eating out. We’re definitely eating healthier, with more vegetables, more fiber, and less fat.

Enjoy these recipes, and I’ll have some ideas to make greens, the third basic in whole foods eating, (even) more appealing next month.

Black-eyed Peas with Mushrooms
Makes the whole house smell wonderful!
Recipe By Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 6
Preparation Time 1 hour 30 minutes

1 3/4 cups black-eyed peas
5 cups water
6 tablespoon vegetable oil (canola, safflower, or olive)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1-inch cinnamon stick
1 1/2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, thickly sliced
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or about 2 cups canned, diced tomatoes)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Put peas and water in a covered pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes, turn off heat and let steep for 1 hour. Heat oil and when hot put in the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick. Let them sizzle for a few seconds. Add onions and garlic and stir-fry until the onions start to turn brown at the edges. Put in the mushrooms and stir-fry until they begin to wilt. Add the tomatoes, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Cover, turn heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Bring peas back to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Then add the cooked mushrooms and spices along with the remaining ingredients. Simmer, uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove cinnamon stick and serve.

Notes: I have made this numerous times since a friend gave me the recipe on a 3X5 card years ago. It’s from an old Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, the name of which I’ve forgotten. I’m pretty sure it’s out of print now, but this recipe has found a new home on a lot of websites, most without any attribution at all.

I have made this in a pinch with dried mushrooms instead of fresh. It was still delicious, but the texture is much better with the fresh ‘shrooms.

Arroz Non Pollo
Chickpeas instead of chicken – brilliant! This recipe contains saffron, which I think smells very sexy.
Recipe by Robin Robertson, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker
Serves 4
Preparation Time: about 20 minutes to prep, and 6-8 hours in slow cooker

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
1 14.5 ounce can tomatoes, diced, with their juices
2 cups vegetable stock
1 small red bell pepper, diced
8 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups slow-cooked garbanzos/chickpeas (or 1 15 1/2 ounce can, drained)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3/4 cup salsa (your choice)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup green olives with pimientos, drained and sliced

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, cumin, and saffron, and cook for 2 minutes longer.
2. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a lightly oiled 4 – 6 quart slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, stock, bell pepper, green beans, and chickpeas. Season lightly with salt and pepper, cover, and cook on low for 6 – 8 hours.
3. About 10 minutes before serving, stir in the salsa, peas, and olives, and cover. Taste to adjust the seasonings before serving.
4. Serve with freshly cooked brown rice. Brown basmati is nice, as is jasmine. They’re not traditional, but have more fiber and nutrients than white rice.
Notes: If you wish to serve a more “authentic” arroz, use 3 cups of vegetable broth, and then stir in 1 cup of converted rice about 1 hour before end of cooking time. Cook on low for 1 hour or until rice is tender. Stir in salsa, peas, and olives, and proceed.

Cooking regular white or brown rice in this way would make the dish starchy.

If you don’t have real saffron, you can use 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric to add color and flavor, but the saffron really makes the dish, in my opinion. Good saffron comes in tiny packets, often inside glass jars, and seems very expensive for the amount you get. It only takes a tiny amount, however, to flavor a large dish of rice and it’s worth it. Keep it in a dry, dark cabinet, and it will last for a very long time.

Slow-Fashioned Potpie with Biscuit Crust

This biscuit topping doesn’t qualify as exactly a “whole food”, but I changed the flour from all-purpose to whole wheat pastry flour to improve the fiber content and get it closer to the original grain. It’s a fun treat.

Recipe By Robin Robertson, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker
Serves 4
Preparation Time: 20 minutes to prep, 6 hours to cook in slow cooker

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 tablespoons all purpose or whole wheat flour
1 large all-purpose potato (russet or white or Yukon gold)
3 cups slow-cooked garbanzos/chickpeas (or 2 15.5 ounce cans, drained)
1/2 cup frozen peas
3/4 – 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried savory
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup soy milk (unsweetened preferred)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Transfer the onion and the carrot to a lightly oiled 3 1/2 – 4 quart slow cooker. Stir in 2 tablespoons of flour. Add the potato, chickpeas, and peas, stir in the stock, tamari, thyme, and savory, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.
3. About 1 hour before you’re ready to serve, make the crust: In a large bowl, sift together the dry crust ingredients. Quickly stir in the soy milk and oil, just until blended.
4. Spoon the biscuit topping over the surface of the simmering vegetables. Turn the heat setting to high, cover, and cook until the crust is cooked through – about 1 hour. Serve the potpie within 10 – 15 minutes after the crust is finished cooking for best flavor and texture.
Notes: This procedure produces a moist and tender crust. If you would like a drier (more bready) crust, remove the lid after one hour and let crust cook for an additional ten minutes uncovered.

I found the gravy a little dry in the original recipe, so I would use the larger amount of stock.

1/2 cup of nutritional yeast flakes stirred in with the stock makes a more savory gravy.

Lima Beans a la Grecque
These beans are like a distillation of sunshine – warm and radiant.

Recipe adapted from Lorna Sass, The Complete Vegetarian Kitchen
Serves 4
Preparation Time: 30 minutes with pressure cooker, up to 8 hours in slow cooker

1 1/2 cups dried large lima beans
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock (up to 2 cups)
2 large plum tomatoes or 1 large beefsteak tomato
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley (packed)
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Pressure cooker method:
1) Place beans in a large stockpot. Cover with at least 3 cups of water, or enough to cover the beans and have 2 inches or so to spare (the beans will double in size while soaking). Add 3/4 teaspoon sea salt. Soak the beans for 8 – 12 hours.
2) Drain and rinse the beans. Discard any loose skins and set the beans aside.
3) Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 6 quart pressure cooker. Saute the onion and garlic for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the oregano, bay leaves, salt, reserved beans, and just enough water to cover (watch for sputtering oil).
4) Lock the lid in place and over high heat bring to high pressure. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 1 minute. Allow the pressure to come down naturally, about 10 – 12 minutes. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow any excess steam to escape. If the beans are not quite tender, set the lid back in place and allow them to steam in the residual heat for a few more minutes or simmer them for a few additional minutes.
5) When the beans are done, remove the bay leaves. Puree about 1/2 cup of beans and stir the puree back into the pot to thicken the sauce.
6) Stir in the additional tablespoon of olive oil, tomatoes, lemon juice, parsley, and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature in small bowls.

Slow Cooker Method: Soak and rinse the beans as in steps 1-2 above. In a small sauté pan, sauté the onion and garlic for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Place sauteed mixture in a 4 – 6 quart slow cooker. Add the oregano, bay leaves, salt, reserved beans, and enough water or stock to cover beans by about 2 inches. Cook 6 – 8 hours on low or until beans are tender. Follow steps 5 – 6.

Standard Stovetop Method: In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, soak and rinse the beans as directed in steps 1-2. Dry the saucepan, and then use it to saute the onion and garlic for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the oregano, bay leaves, salt, reserved beans, and enough water to cover the beans by about 2 inches (watch for sputtering oil).
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until limas are tender, about 45 – 60 minutes. Stir in more water if the mixture becomes dry. Follow steps 5 – 6.
Notes: Unlike most beans, limas need to be cooked with salt to keep their delicate skins intact. Otherwise the skins slip off and the beans fall apart.

Lisa’s Very Veggie Confetti Chile

Recipe By Lisa Bennett
Serves 6-8
Preparation Time: 30 minutes prep, 2 hours cooking (or 8 hours in slow cooker)

This is a very loose idea of how I make chili. It’s always different, depending on what I have on hand and how many folks I need to feed. It is open to endless interpretations, but here’s a recipe to start with. Once you’ve made it once or twice, you’ll know what you like. Try the sweet potatoes, though, even if you don’t think you will like them. You’ll be surprised at how delicious they are!

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 cups other vegetables, your choice diced (optional)
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can hominy, white or yellow (optional)
2 cans beans (your choice, drained and rinsed)
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 chipotle pepper, diced (optional)
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 cup millet (optional)
1/2 cup red lentils (optional)
sea salt and pepper, to taste

In a large stockpot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onions are softened. Add sweet potato, green pepper, and carrot. Add other vegetables as desired. Cook for 10 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for 2 hours or until all vegetables are soft and sauce is thickened. Serve with brown rice, whole barley, or with crusty, whole-grain corn bread.

If you prefer, you can saute the onion and garlic, and put everything into a crockpot on low for eight hours or so. The size of pot needed will depend on how many extras you use.

Notes: Other vegetables that work well – celery, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, or other mild, non-starchy vegetables. Mushrooms are nice. Avoid eggplant or any of the cabbage family – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower – or other greens as their flavor is too strong.

Add more chile powder or a diced jalapeno or two for more heat.

Chipotle chili peppers are available canned in adobo sauce. They add a nice smoky flavor.

I like Muir Glen Organic Diced Roasted Tomatoes for this chili.

The millet and red lentils thicken the sauce and add a nice color and texture. If you don’t have them, don’t worry about it.

You can double this recipe and use four or six different beans. If I’m only using two, I like pintos and black beans. Garbanzos, red kidney beans, cannellini, black soy beans, and black-eye peas are all excellent choices. I like to go for a variety of sizes, colors, and textures – hence the name “confetti”.