I hate beans. Not really. I hate the popular New Year’s dish of Ham and Navy Beans. None the less, I have cooked them almost every year for the last forty years just to maintain the tradition. My husband was a big fan, so I cooked them frequently during the winter months. Since Joe’s death, I have not held with tradition and tried other beans on New Year’s Day. I don’t like them, either!
This year, because I have a plan for an annual project about frugal and fun cooking ways, I decided to begin 2023 with Joe’s favorite Ham and Navy Beans. My real objective was to remake the leftovers into something I might like more than the original dish, and something that stretched money. For this new project of mine, ‘fun’ had to be included. Wait until you see my creations.
Just look at my little cornbread waffles. You’ve seen tiny waffles in previous blog posts. I bought this waffle maker a few months ago so Phoebe and I could have fun making appetizer size fried chicken and waffles. I love this unique appliance and will continue to use it to add fun to my menus in 2023.
This is a frugal meal, and it begins with dried navy beans. I soak mine overnight in water. I always remove any discolored beans. This is an Instant Pot recipe but can be prepared in any pressure cooker. Another frugal part of this meal is to have saved the ham bone from a Christmas ham dinner. If you don’t have a bone, you can use a chunk of leftover ham or a small package of ham bits or a small, packaged ham steak. I always plan ahead and make sure I have ham in the freezer!
Soak 2 pounds of navy beans in cold water overnight. The next day, pick out any discolored beans. Place the ham bone, beans, a bay leaf and a ½ cup of chopped onion, celery and bell pepper with 6 cups of water in the Instant Pot. Put the lid on, turning the vent to seal. Cook on medium pressure for 40 minutes. Let the pressure cooker reduce pressure naturally. You’ll have flavorful creamy beans. Add salt and pepper to taste.
We enjoy serving our beans topped with pepper relish and on this day we used a tangy sweet red pepper relish. Sometimes we serve green tomato relish, chopped onions and hot sauce.
On the side, the mini cornbread waffles made the meal extra good and lots of fun!
Think ‘frugal’ and freeze leftover ham and beans in small portions to add to other recipes later on.
Tuscan Style White Bean Soup
A short week later, I used a bag of frozen leftover ham and beans to make soup for a Saturday lunch. Almost everything in the soup was left over, so it was practically a no cost meal.
At the end of cooking, add a handful of fresh kale … or arugula, spinach, radicchio or leaf lettuce. Stir it in until it wilts.
A Sunday Night Snack.
White Bean and Eggplant Dip
When I say I hate beans, I especially hate Garbanzo beans so Humus is certainly not a favorite of mine. I do like humus made with sweet potatoes, tahini and all the right spices. I also like Baba Ghanoush, the delicious dip made with roasted eggplants. I decided to create a combined white bean roasted eggplant dip to serve with fresh vegetables and pita bread. It takes less than 30 minutes to make this.
In the meantime, puree about 2 cups of leftover ham and beans in a food processer. Scoop out the eggplant and add to the food processer. Season with a heaping Tablespoon of Za’atar. If you don’t have this spice blend, make your own by combine garlic power, cumin, dried oregano and dried thyme. As you blend everything together, drop in 2 Tablespoons of tahini and drizzle in olive oil in an amount needed to make a creamy dip.
White Bean and Tomato Casserole
A Warm Weeknight Dinner
After a month of creating new menu items with my frugal leftover ham and beans, I can honestly say that I finally found something that I really liked! This casserole is all about leftovers, too, but it certainly has attitude of its own! It’s creamy in texture with the crunch of toasted croutons. It is tangy and herby in flavor.
Use about 2 cups of leftover ham and beans. Put them in a big bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of capers and several torn fresh basil leaves. If you don’t have fresh basil, just add a teaspoon of dried basil. Add a crushed garlic clove.
Stir in a cup of shredded Italian cheese (your choice). Gently stir in a cup of halved cherry tomatoes (or more if you want to use them up). Lastly, add 2 cups of toasted bread cubes. I made mine from leftover dinner rolls.
Blend all this together and pour it into a greased casserole dish. Drizzle olive oil over the top. This casserole is intended to be dry, but if you are worried that yours is too dry, add water, broth or tomato juice in small portions until you reach the consistency you want.
This casserole with chunks of ham was a main course for me. Add a salad or serve it alongside grilled meat. It would be nice with baked fish filets, too.
Here you’ve had a hearty meal of Ham and Navy Beans and three additional menu items made with the leftovers. How frugal is that? Oh, don’t forget that you probably had leftover cornbread mini waffles on that first day. They make a great snack with a little peanut butter and honey. I ate them for breakfast one morning. I’m pretty pleased with this first installment of my 2023 Food Frugal Fun columns.
Stay tuned in. I’ll write a column a month hoping to help all of us continue to have fun with our cooking and meal planning, while being frugal with our time and money. Enjoy!