Fran Carlson is a registered dietitian/bean farmer with what would seem like a modest vision: “I’ve always had this dream of Americans eating more beans.”
It’s a good vision. Beans contain protein, fiber, calcium, folic acid and potassium. They’re naturally low in fat and contain no cholesterol. They’re a great food for anyone trying to lose weight because the rich fiber content keeps the stomach full longer. They’re also low on the glycemic index, which causes a slower rise in blood sugar than other foods, making them a good choice for diabetics.
Unfortunately, the average American eats just about 7 pounds of beans each year. In many other countries, people eat 25 to 35 pounds of beans a year.
“Why don’t people eat more beans? The No. 1 reason people give is they’re not easy to make. But they’re in a can,” says Carlson, a former spokeswoman with the American Dry Bean Board. “The other reason is people say, ‘I don’t know what to do with beans,’ but beans love to pick up flavors.”
As you might imagine, Carlson puts beans in practically everything. She adds extra beans — and several types of beans — to chili. She recommends adding beans to canned soup to make it taste “almost” like homemade. But her favorite way to eat beans is to add them to salads so they soak up the vinaigrette.
In recent years black beans have become more popular in the culinary field. “Anything we can do to get people to eat more beans,” Carlson-the-bean-farmer says.
Now Carlson-the-dietitian is thrilled that the USDA approved a label promoting beans as a food that may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Shopping tip: You could make these beef and bean enchiladas a strictly vegetarian recipe, but if you’re not ready to go all the way, ask your butcher for ground round. Although ground round, along with ground sirloin, is the most expensive of ground meats, it is also the leanest, around 11 percent fat.
Cooking tip: When it comes to sheer convenience, canned beans are one of the better fast-food options out there. Just be sure to rinse them off to remove a third of the sodium. Besides concerns about sodium, you’ll want to rinse them off so the color doesn’t bleed through the dish.
Beef and black bean enchiladas
Makes 6 servings
1 pound ground round
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 (10-ounce) cans enchilada sauce, divided
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
Cook beef and onion until meat is browned; drain and return to skillet. Add cumin, chili powder, pepper, 1 can enchilada sauce and black beans. Heat through.
Stack tortillas between 2 damp paper towels and microwave on high (100 percent) power 1 minute. Spoon meat mixture down center of each tortilla and place in 9-by-13-inch baking dish that has been lightly coated with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.
Pour remaining can of enchilada sauce over tortillas and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions.
Per serving (2 enchiladas): 513 calories (47 percent from fat), 27 grams total fat (12 grams saturated), 87 milligrams cholesterol, 41 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams protein, 588 milligrams sodium, 8 grams dietary fiber.
Recipes developed for The Kansas City Star by certified home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.