Happy Valentine’s Day! I know that on this day of love, I’m supposed to offer you a rich, sugary indulgence or at least a romantic dinner for two with aphrodisiac potential, but what, dear reader, do I have in store for you instead? The lowly and much-maligned bean.
But wait, could there be any more thoughtful or loving gift of food? After all, in the words of the immortal “Ode to Beans”:
Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart,
The more you eat…
…the healthier you are! Or something like that. And it’s true: They’re excellent sources of soluble fiber, antioxidants, and folate. According to WHFoods, “As little as 3/4 cup of garbanzos per day can help lower our LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in a one-month period of time.”
And black beans, with their dark skins, are loaded with phytonutrients so they’re especially heart-protective. Moreover, beans are good for lowering blood sugar, promoting digestive health, and decreasing risk of cancer. We all want our Valentines to be healthy!
So my Valentine’s gift to you today is this sweet and spicy casserole, made with three types of heart-healthy beans. I couldn’t resist the chance to make a normally bacon-laden dish in the “pig baker” casserole dish that my sweet husband and daughter bought me for Christmas. I’d seen it in a local kitchen store and thought it was adorable, and apparently they were taking notes because they surprised me with it on Christmas day. I love his stub nose and floppy ears, and I’m happy to give him a home where he will never be forced to cook bacon or ham.
Speaking of bacon, most baked bean recipes almost cancel the health benefits of the beans by loading them down with pork and sugar, but my delicious vegan beans are sweetened only with dates and apples. And, if you’re watching your salt, you can cut the sodium in half by using unsalted beans. So cook them for someone you love today!
Smoky Apple Baked Beans
Since they contain no high-fructose corn syrup, these beans are subtly sweeter by the dates and apple.
- 2 large onions , finely chopped
- 1 large red or green bell pepper , finely chopped
- 8 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 large apple , chopped
- 1 15-ounce can black beans , rinsed and drained
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas , rinsed and drained
- 1 15-ounce can great northern beans , rinsed and drained
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 3 medjool dates , pitted and roughly chopped (see note)
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke or smoked salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
Preheat oven to 350°.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and minced garlic to the pan and sauté for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the apple and cook for another minute. Add the beans and remove from heat.
Combine tomato sauce and all remaining ingredients in blender. Blend at high speed until the dates are completely smooth. Pour this sauce into the onion and beans, and stir well. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch non-metal, lightly-oiled baking dish. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.
If medjool dates are not available, you can use 2 ounces (about 1/4 cup packed) of any pitted dates. Or substitute 1/4 cup of any sugar or syrup.
Have a lovely and loving V-Day!
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