Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A girl, a can, a plan

One time I grabbed a book at a yard sale as a joke for my husband (then fiance) called A Man, a Can, a Plan.  The premise of the book was simple; what can you make from just cans of already made food?  The recipes all went something like this: 1.  Open a can of chili.  2. Open a bag of Fritos. 3.  Pour chili into Fritos.  4.  Microwave for 20 seconds.  5.  Get a spoon and go to town.

It was equal parts awe-inspiring and horrifying.

Last week, I spent the afternoon with a 6-lb can of garbanzo beans.  That is one huge can, but I had a plan. A good plan.  One that involved garbanzo beans five ways, and all gluten-free, too!
The garbanzo bean tag line cracks me up every time..."A garnish for salads!" That would be a lot of salad.

You probably didn't know you make so many things out of garbanzo beans, did you?  Neither did I, but in case you missed the memo, things have been tight around here financially for quite some time.  The end of the month was still a week and a half away and our food budget was eaten up.  Literally.  So I stood in my kitchen, trying to get creative, when I noticed the enormous can of beans in the bottom of my tiny pantry.

You are probably asking yourself, "How, exactly, does one just happen to have a 6-lb can of garbanzo beans lying around her house?"  Well, during a recent trip to Costco, I happened to notice that giant cans of beans could be had for only three bucks a pop, while a two-pound container of hummus was over six.  We eat a lot of hummus because it's a great snack, it's gluten-free, and it's pretty cheap.  But I realized that six dollars wasn't cheap enough, and I was getting pretty tired of the same old flavor.  Plus, the ready-made hummus is a lot higher in fat and salt than it needs to be.  So when I saw that can I thought, "I've got a Magic Bullet/blender.  Why not make my own?"

So, that afternoon, I placed the baby in her highchair and doubled over my giant tin of beans, ready to go to town.  On the menu:
1.  Hummus (of course)
2.  Baby food
3.  Falafel
4.  Roasted garbanzo beans
5.  Chocolate cake
*see recipe links below*

All gluten-free, too!  I even started by rinsing a handful of beans, pulling off the skins, popping them in half and giving them to the baby.  A perfect distraction while I cooked.
"What on earth is this?"

"Hey!  I like it!"

First up were the roasted garbanzo beans.  I'd read a few times that you can spice up the little suckers however you'd like, pop them in the oven at 350 with a little oil and bam!  Out comes a delicious little snack.  I decided to try a savory version as well as a sweet version.  The savory was just sprinkled with cajun seasoning, and the sweet with cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar.

They roasted for about an hour each.  I found that it was better to remove the skins (not all of the recipes mention that) but removing the skins is time-consuming and annoying.  I also think that next time I make them (I'll make the sweet ones again, the savory weren't quite a hit for me) I'll increase the heat (probably to 375) and make sure I've dried the beans really well with paper towels after rinsing them.  I just sort of patted them off this time, and I think they were still too wet.  Also, a cookie sheet would have been way better.  I just didn't have one with edges.

Rating:  3/5 stars...I think I can get it up to 4 stars if I try them again.

Next, I tackled the hummus and the baby food at the same time.  The baby food was simply beans and spinach and water whirred together in the Magic Bullet.  Our Magic Bullet was a wedding gift, and I have loved that thing.  For the hummus, I combined the beans, spinach, some marinated artichoke hearts, a little oil, sea salt, pepper, and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
"Eat me I'm amazing!"
My Magic Bullet is on it's last leg, so it doesn't puree everything very well any more.  It left quite a few beans in tact, but that gave some added texture to the hummus that was really rustic and yummy.

Rating:  6/5 stars...this was hands down the best hummus I've ever had.  I put it out for a family get-together a few nights later and it was literally inhaled in about 5 minutes.  I think I alone ate half of it.  Even the baby loved it, and ate some for dinner that night.  I didn't think she'd like marinated artichokes, which is why I made her plainer baby food.  All she wanted was the hummus!
Artichoke hummus (aka baby food!)


After putting the baby down for a nap, I went after the falafel.  I have to say that I've never had falafel before in my life, so I really had no idea what I was doing.  Also, after pureeing the beans (about two cups) I realized that I didn't really have the right spices the recipe called for, nor did I have fresh onion.  So I had to improvise.  I had taco seasoning, which had all of the spices the recipe called for (plus a few more) as well as dried onion flakes.  I decided to go for it.  A few minutes later, I realized I didn't have enough gluten-free bread crumbs, either.  I knew I would be serving my falafel with corn tortillas instead of pita bread, so I decided to run with my "southwest" falafel theme and added a little bit of corn meal to thicken the batter the rest of the way.
Falafel batter, before I added the cornmeal

I rolled the batter into balls, then flattened and fried them.  I served them in warmed corn tortillas with seasoned greek yogurt, lettuce and tomato.

Rating: 4/5...again, I've never had falafel, so I don't really know how my totally improvised one measured up, but we liked it.  It turned out a little dry, so next time I would skip the cornmeal or maybe add another egg.

Then I ran out of steam and time, but I've still got enough beans sitting in my fridge for a family favorite, garbanzo bean chocolate cake.  Don't be weirded out; it's truly so good!  It turns out like very moist, fudge-y brownies.  There's a lot of sugar in the recipe, but all of the fiber and protein in the beans helps to balance that sugar.  No, really it does!

Rating:  5/5...this is really an old favorite of ours.  Try it; you won't be disappointed!

All in all, I'd call my afternoon a success.  I added another couple of recipes to my arsenal and found a way to stretch a few more meals for us for super (duper!) cheap.

Garbanzo beans, man.  Who knew?  Maybe I'll try dumping some in a bag of Fritos and go to town.

2 cups garbanzo beans
1/3 package frozen (thawed) spinach
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, including liquid (or about 5-6 hearts from a large container and 1/4 cup liquid)
splash of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and pulse with blending of your choice until smooth.  

"Southwest" Falafel (adapted from this recipe)
2 cups drained garbanzo beans
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking powder 
3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs (mine were gluten-free)
1/4 cup corn meal

1 tablespoon olive oil for frying

Mash the beans and add the wet ingredients.  Add the seasonings and cornmeal, stir to combine.  Add the breadcrumbs until the consistency is strong enough to hold together.  Form balls then flatten into patties, then fry until browned.  Serve with corn tortillas, sour cream or yogurt, lettuce and tomato.

Chocolate cake


  1. Taylor, all those creations sound great and you have totally inspired me to google recipes for all those weird things I have in my cabinet too. Thanks for posting the recipes, I may have to try some of those! And the pictures are gorgeous as usual! =)

  2. Roasted Garbanzo beans are really good with italian seasonings, a little garlic and rosemary or basil. I love it, really try it again. Though I'm totally going for cinnamon next time I make it. Seriously one of the easiest things ever and I eat it as a meal I love it so.


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