Dirtbag Beans (aka: cheap, easy bean recipe!)

For the last few years I’ve had a plastic box I affectionately refer to as my kitchen. Its actually one of those plastic three drawer units college kids use (mine still has my old phone number from my early art school days sharpied on the top). The top drawer contains spices, yeast, baking powder, extracts, and teas. The second drawer houses dried pastas, rice, and flours. The bottom drawer has canned beans, jars of coconut oil, and jars of honey.

I've been pigging out on Vegan donuts lately, thanks to Asheville's Vortex Donut Shop
I’ve been pigging out on Vegan donuts lately, thanks to Asheville’s Vortex Donut Shop

For the last few years, I’ve moved this box with me every few months. It’s lived in a leaky, moldy staff housing rando (glorified porch), with a plastic box for my fruits and vegetables on top and a jumble of plastic measuring cups and knives stashed with the spices. In one house in Asheville, it hid in the corner of the kitchen during raves and parties, which would spontaneously erupt while I burrowed under blankets trying to sleep at two in the morning. Earlier this summer it nestled next to the oven of another staff housing house, this one with nice wood floors and sky-high ceilings. When I moved into my current cabin, before I caught six mice in five days (don’t leave the door open for your dog while you’re gone), I discovered mice droppings in every drawer, nibbled tea bags, and the dust from opened spelt flour bags.

As I scrubbed the drawers out and sanitized almost everything salvageable, I saw the spice rack on the wall of my new kitchen. I could put my spices there, I thought. Instead of putting them back in my “kitchen”, I arranged them on the spice rack. For the first time in years, my spices may have found a place to stay for a while.

Its weird: having a place to store my spices. I’m just now at the point where I don’t feel an urge overnight to put them back in my box. The less you unpack the less you have to pack when you move again is the lesson I’ve learned the past few years. But I expect to stay here for a while. I want to stay here for a while. I want to be able to own more than five spices because I have room for them. I want to make jars of applesauce and freeze veggie burgers because I have room and won’t have to figure out how to move them in a few months.

Summer's Dahlias… so beautiful
Summer’s Dahlias… so beautiful

Is my dirt bag, wanderer spirit growing up? Sort of, I guess. I still only manage to spend a few nights a week at my cabin. What I’m enjoying now is having a home base. Somewhere I come back to time and again. A place to base my adventures from. A place to return to when I’m tired. I’ve never been good at staying where I’m supposed to stay (agrees Will, who’s house I stayed at last night for no real reason).

New toy: biking to work off all those donuts
New toy: biking to work off all those donuts

The other day I made these beans. I call them dirt bag beans because they’re fast and they require limited ingredients (No cans of tomatoes, sixteen spices, etc). The secret is to not drain the beans… use the delicious gravy in the can. Of course, you should be buying organic, salt free beans already, but you should be doubly sure for this recipe because you won’t rinse the beans.

Dirt Bag Beans

The spices from my beans
The spices from my beans

1 TSP: Curry powder, cumin, oregano, pepper
½ Tsp: Chili powder, cayenne, paprika
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
½ red onion, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 green bell pepper… you guessed it, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 can black beans (organic, preserved in water and NOTHING else)
1 can red beans (same as black beans)
1 tablespoon tomato paste (if you have it), thinned with a little water

  • Melt the coconut oil in medium sized pot on medium heat. Add the garlic and onions, sauté until the onions are clear, and then add the zucchini and pepper. While they are cooking, measure out your spices in a small bowl.
  • Once the veggies are soft, add the spices. Let them “bloom” (fancy word!). Basically let them heat and start to really smell good (about a minute or longer) before you add the beans.
  • Add both cans of beans and tomato paste if available. Let simmer but watch carefully. It’s pretty thick and will want to burn on the bottom. After about thirty minutes remove from heat and let cool down. This makes several servings, so I usually freeze half for late dinners. Especially good served over sweet potato fries with avocado J

Possible additions as money and availability allow: Chopped cilantro, lime juice (fancy!), roasted corn kernels, fried plantains, salsa on top.


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