Visiting my dad’s house recently, I found the refrigerator quite empty. I didn’t want to go shopping so I scrounged for ingredients and came up with a delicious, main course I’d be happy to serve to guests. It involved canned black beans and lima beans (butter beans), curry seasonings, and salsa. I also incorporated a cooked chicken breast I found in the freezer, but the dish would be fine without meat.
3 Tablespoons butter – $.16
1 medium onion, diced – $.25
1 teaspoon ground cumin – $.06
1 teaspoon chili powder – $.05
1 teaspoon paprika – $.06
1 teaspoon garam masala – $.05
¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper – $.03
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper – $.02
½ teaspoon salt – $.02
15 ½ oz can black beans – $.50
15 ½ oz can butter beans – $.79
1 cup salsa – $.75
1 cooked, cut up chicken breast (optional) – $1.50
poultry seasoning, onion powder, salt, and pepper to season one breast – $.06
1 tablespoon cooking oil – $.01
(Note: $1.50 for a chicken breast represents boneless, skinless breasts on sale. You might pay less for breasts with the bones in and further reduce the cost of this meal—or substitute boneless thighs, which are often far less expensive.)
Season the chicken with poultry seasoning, onion powder, salt, and pepper and pan fry it for about 6 minutes on a side (boneless) or 9 minutes with the bones in. It needn’t cook all the way through as it will finish cooking in the stew. Set the chicken aside.
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pot on medium heat. Add the diced onion, and let it steep for five minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the onions from browning. Stir in the cumin, chili powder, paprika, and garam masala (substitute curry powder for garam masala if the only garam masala you can find is pricey—a store with a robust international foods section may sell large bags of garam masala for a surprisingly low price.) Add the cayenne, black pepper, and salt and stir. Cook for 3 more minutes.
Stir in the entire contents of the can of butter beans and raise the heat to high. Then drain and rinse the black beans, and add them. Mix in the salsa, bring it all to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes to evaporate some moisture. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, stir it into the pot, and let it all cook (slowly) for another 15 minutes. There should still be liquid in the pot, but it will be much thicker than when you started.
One serving is ¼ of the total—slightly more than a cup per person. If you wish it to be more filling, serve the stew over a scoop of cooked rice.
With a glass of 1% milk, each diner consumes 657 calories, 12 grams of fat, 93 mg of cholesterol, and 17 grams of fiber for $1.31. That’s $5.26 for a family of four, leaving enough in the budget to add a salad or a green vegetable.
Since writing this article, my bean stew creation has become a standard in my kitchen. I’ve prepared the dish at least eight times in two months and am happy to eat it for lunch, snacks, or dinner. (Confession: I had it with pork for this morning’s breakfast.) When making my third batch, I added a pint jar of home-canned sweet corn, and that has become part of the basic recipe.
As I suggested earlier: the curried beans make a fine vegetarian dish. However, I’ve prepared them with bite-sized chunks of chicken, beef, pork, and even fried eggs. I like the beans best with pork, but they’re yummy with any meat I’ve tried. We often entertain vegetarian guests, so I might serve meat “on the side” and leave it to diners to add what they wish.
This post originally ran as an article in the Daily Item, Sunbury, PA’s local newspaper. I made minor edits and added material to adapt it for The Untrained Housewife.