Your guests will never guess the secret ingredient on this one!
I’m a big fan of beans for both frugality and nutrition, and in spite of some eating plans that eschew their phytates, lectins or starches, we still incorporate them into meals often.
You can nail many of the anti-nutrients with a long, warm soak and a long, slow cook, so make your own from dry beans whenever possible. If you can’t, I recommend Eden Foods brand, the only brand I know of to use a long soak, include kombu for digestibility, and package them in BPA-free cans.
Thumbs up or thumbs down.
But some people…some folks don’t like beans.
I used to be one of them, so I know just how it goes.
The texture is too mushy or too chalky.
The flavor just isn’t doing it for them.
Or maybe they just had a bad experience with a bum bean recipe so they never try them again.
Whatever the reason for your bean-haters, this recipe is a sure-fire way to incorporate beans into your meal plan without anyone knowing. PLUS you can serve beans in the summer, which are usually more common in soups and chilis in the winter.
I served the second test batch to my in-laws and asked near the end of the meal if they could tell there were beans in the sauce. Their look of utter surprise said it all. 🙂
The dish is actually adapted from two of my own recipes in The Everything Beans Book, one of which was the free download with that eBook and both of which used pasta. I wondered if an easy gluten-free option was possible without buying expensive GF pasta, and I started fiddling with one recipe, then the other, over rice (or with rice mixed in) instead.
I ended up with the best parts of both recipes and a super simple, inexpensive, gluten-free meal that is bound to become part of your regular meal rotation soon!
- 2 Tbs. fat or oil
- ½ c. onion, diced
- ½-1 green or red bell pepper, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-4 Tbs. prepared pesto
- 2 c. zucchini, cubed or shredded
- 1 tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 1½ c. whole milk, divided
- 1 can or 2 c. cooked white beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 Tbs. arrowroot starch
- 2 c. cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
- ½-1 c. shredded white cheese: mozzarella, Swiss, Monterey Jack, Havarti or white cheddar all work great, with different impacts on the overall flavor, of course
- 2 c. frozen broccoli (or lightly steam 2 c. fresh)
- optional: greens of any kind
- optional: other veggies like artichoke hearts, peas, or just about anything you have in your fridge/freezer
- 4 c. cooked brown rice
- grated Parmesan to serve
- Mince garlic and set aside.
- In a medium-sized, heavy bottomed pot, melt the fat and saute the onions and peppers over medium heat, stirring occasionally until translucent (or a bit further until browned), adding the garlic for the last minute.
- Add the pesto, zucchini, salt, pepper, 1 cup of milk and the beans. Bring to a low boil and carefully whiz into a puree with an immersion blender. (If you don't have an immersion blender, use a food processor or blender and puree the beans and cup of cold milk, then add to the pot and heat, stirring often to prevent scorching.)
- Mix the remaining ½ cup milk and the arrowroot starch thoroughly and add to the boiling pot. Stir well over the heat to thicken.
- Reduce heat to medium and add the chicken, cheese, broccoli and any other veggies you'd like to include. Heat through, stirring to prevent scorching, and serve over cooked brown rice with freshly grated Parmesan (optional) to pass at the table.
* Zucchini is optional, but a great way to increase the veggie content without adding any flavor or texture – freeze cubed and/or shredded zucchini when they are abundant and inexpensive in the summer.
* Homemade pesto recipe: 4 garlic cloves, ¼ c. Parmesan cheese, ¼ c. walnuts, 2 c. packed basil leaves, 1 Tbs. lemon juice, ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil. Chop garlic in a food processor; whiz chunk of Parmesan if needed. Nuts next, then basil. Stream in lemon juice and olive oil while running the processor. Makes about 1 c. pesto. You can freeze pesto in 1-tablespoon “plops” on waxed paper for use all winter long.
* This meal is amazing for the bean-haters of the world, but if you'd like to showcase the beans instead of hiding them, don't puree them at all OR only add half to the puree and include the other half in their whole form.
* No arrowroot starch? Tapioca starch or cornstarch will work just as well. If you don't need to be gluten-free, you can add 2-4 Tbs. wheat flour to the pot with the garlic. Be sure to cook and stir about 2 minutes to cook the floury taste out, and you might want to add a tablespoon of butter with the flour as well. You could just add a few more beans for a thicker mixture or go for a thinner sauce and skip this step altogether either way.
* Use chicken from roasting a whole chicken or leftover grilled chicken.
* What kind of cheese? Use mozzarella or Monterey Jack for a mild, super-kid-friendly dish, Havarti or sharp cheddar for more flavor and Swiss for the most sophisticated. Havarti and mozzarella are the best creamy melting cheeses. Blend a few for a flavorful and creamy creation that everyone will love!
* Feel free to mix in the rice for a one-pot meal instead of serving over rice. You could make a casserole to share or freeze by mixing everything with the rice and topping it with a bit of additional cheese. Baking 30 minutes at 350F should rewarm it nicely; if the cheese is already on top, cover with a cookie sheet for the first 20-25 minutes and then remove it to brown the cheese.
Since this is a “one-dish” kind of meal (even though it technically uses two pots), I don’t typically serve other sides with it. All the veggies, protein, and carbs are in the mix. This means that it serves just barely four people, so you’ll want to double the batch if you have big eaters or a larger family.
Great for hot days since it’s all stovetop, too! Enjoy!
Do you ever serve “sneaky” beans? How about beans in the summer?
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