|Beans, beans, they're good for your heart – and your wallet|
In terms of maintaing a healthy diet – and in maintaining equilibrium in most things in life – I'm all about the 80-20 ratio. Generally speaking, I aim for 80% healthy foods and 20% hedonistic. Some weeks are better than others. Sometimes without even trying, I can nosh 99.99% healthily for weeks on end. Other times, when I answer the call of the wild vegan cupcake with reckless abandon, the odds swing in the other direction. But on the whole, I would say that 80-20 is how my daily diet levels off.
We Americans are socialized to think in extremes. This said, I am sure a knee-jerk, visceral reaction to the terms "healthy" and "hedonistic" is that they are mutually exclusive. Au contraire, organic pear! Healthy can and should be hedonistic. Plus, what could be more self-indulgent than flooding your body with phytochemicals, vitamin, minerals and fiber, all tied together via a tasty recipe?
Easy Black Bean Salad
Case in point this easy, Southwest-inspired black bean salad. Besides infusing the beans and produce with a decadent creaminess, the avocado also adds 20 nutrients, including cancer-fighting lignans, and pretty specks of celadon. Like most of the recipes I share, this black bean salad is versatile. You can eat it as-is, room temperature, as a side – or use it as burrito filling, tortilla chip dip, Southwestern soup base or green salad topping. It's also flexible in that you can add virtually any flavor-compatible ingredients and spices. You can also omit ingredients without anyone noticing. Plus, as a special added bonus, the spectrum of colors in this rainbow salad positively vibrate, contrasting against the glistening black beans. Serve it on a white plate for extra visual pop.
Bean Counting: Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or a die-hard omnivore, beans are, without question, the ultimate frugal protein. I eat a lot of beans and admittedly lean on canned beans when I am busy. But when I have time, I cook dried beans [which I find meditative] and freeze them in 1-2 cup portions in Ziplock bags. The bean counters tell me this can add up to saving about 34 cents per cup of beans. If you're a big bean eater, that adds up to a lot over the course of a year. Cooking beans with a pressure cooker would only increase the savings. Although I don't own one, for space and simplicity reasons, I am sure this appliance that would quickly pay for itself.
|Last night's dinner: Black Bean Salad over baby spinach, clementines and steamed broccoli, livened up with Susan's Hidden Cashew Ranch Dressing [to which I added a fiery glop of harissa]|
Easy Black Bean Salad
- 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans [or 1 can, drained and rinsed]
- 1 mango, diced
- One ripe avocado, diced
- 1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced [more or less, to taste]
- 5-6 green onions, sliced, including greens
- 1 cup of corn [Frozen is fine]
- 2 tomatoes
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Juice of one lime
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Optional additions [About 1/2 cup each]: Fresh or roasted green, yellow, orange or red peppers, shredded carrots, diced jicama, diced pineapple.
- You can also season with your favorite Southwestern spices and smoked salt, to taste [eg, cumin, chile powder, coriander, turmeric]
Toss everything gently in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Allow flavors to marinate for at least two hours before serving, or ideally overnight.