“Convenience Food”: Freeze Your Fave Bean Recipe

Healthy Time-Saving in the Kitchen

Grateful-Table-Convenience-Foods-Beans-OnionYou may have to be over forty to appreciate the “Manic Monday” heading, which comes from a 1986 Bangles hit (originally penned by Prince). But it seemed a fitting title for Monday posts featuring some of my favorite time-saving practices. (Can’t we all stand to save a bit of time on Mondays?!)

I have my own idea of convenience food. In my kitchen, it’s highly convenient to open the freezer and discover portions of the pinto beans I put up last month. (See recipe here, using the variation at bottom of page.) I took a few packages out this morning, so hubs and I could have an easy, healthy soup for dinner tonight. I still have some chicken left over, so I’ll add that to the mix too. This is my “convenience food”, and it won’t have weird ingredients in it!

All I needed to have on hand for the original recipe were some dry beans, onion, garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, and spices. That IS convenient, seeing as all those ingredients keep so well. I can stock items like that because they won’t go bad getting neglected in my refrigerator for a couple weeks…

Speaking of “convenience foods” probably conjures up images of prepared foods, often found in packages in the freezer section, or perhaps in cans or boxes on grocery store shelves. A common denominator in such foods is a limited amount of a quality ingredient (say, real vegetables, and/or meat, fish, poultry, or bean protein), held together by a preponderance of cheaper ingredients (flour, modified food starch, etc.).

Even Trader Joe’s  attractively-labeled can of Lentil Soup* (not the organic one) let me down. I was curious as to the ingredients. Alas, it fit my description of typical “convenience foods”. Yes, lentils were a main ingredient, followed by five vegetables, but right after that was modified corn starch, wheat flour, autolyzed yeast extract, and salt. There was more salt than olive oil (and seven other ingredients), which kind of surprised me.

But that’s the beauty of making your own “convenience foods”. You can save time in the future by preparing larger batches of fave recipes, portioning some for the freezer. And you can control the amount (if any) of salt you use, and you can leave out things like flour and other cheap starches. And you can leave out the chemicals. Whoo-hoo!

* Ingredients in that can of Lentil Soup (thanks for posting picture, Di!): Water, lentils, carrots, potatoes, leeks, onions, spinach, modified corn starch, wheat flour, autolyzed yeast extract, salt, olive oil, tomato paste, spirit vinegar, thickener (guar gum), sugar, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), spices, garlic.

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