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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. She's agreed to answer any questions you might ask about vegetarian food, its preparation, and even clean-up tips. But we have to prepare you. She just might want to come right over to your house and help you fix dinner.

To send any questions to Ask Aunt Nettie, .

Editor's Note: Instead of Aunt Nettie answering individual questions, she has decided to address a number of requests from people who want to save money on the food budget and still enjoy healthy dining. This is the first in a series of money-saving tips and recipes designed to stretch those slim dollars.

As an example of Aunt Nettie's impressive, penny-pinching ability to save, she still has some depression glass dishes and bowls in the cupboard--they're the real thing and she still treasures them.

In future issues of Vegetarians in Paradise, Aunt Nettie and her niece Zel will offer money-saving recipes for the most extreme skinflints along with suggestions to help bargain-hunter foodies seek out cheap fare that still brings good cheer to the table.

First in a series of articles


Howdy there Darlins',

Well now, I been thinkin' some 'bout some emails I been gitten lately from folks havin' real hard times, what with they workin' hours cut an' jobs lost. Why it's just a cryin' shame.

They's good folks that always paid the bills on time an' counted the pennies carefully so's they don't waste none. Now they's lookin' fer ways ta cut down on the food budget. Some o' these folks ain't vegetarian yet, but they's thinkin' mighty serious 'bout it fer the sake o' stretchin' them dollars.

So I come up with some mighty good grub fer dirt cheap. Now, mind, it's not fancy fixin's--just good ol' fashioned tasty eats that sticks to yer ribs and keeps ya tickin' away til it's time ta ring the dinner bell again.

I been on hard times in my years an' I gotta admit it takes some real different thinkin' 'bout how ta shop fer food and even where you kin find food that gives ya value fer money.

Now I knows you kin git a cheap hamburger at McDonald's fer 'bout a dollar. I see them signs in their winders. But I jes shake my head an' click my tongue. That ain't food fit fer humans--no, no, no it ain't I tell ya true.

I been cookin-up some dern good grub with my neice, Zel, so's we kin git y'all fixin' the kinda penny-savin' vittles I done grow'd up with. Now, we's ready ta share 'em with all them folks lookin' fer cheap eats that's good fer ya. Now, I'm headin' back inter the kitchen where I likes it best, but y'all mosey down yonder. My darlin' neice, Zel knows 'bout writin' fur better 'n I do, so she up an' wrote out one o' my idears you young'uns kin enjoy. Now, I jes knows you'll kick up yer heels 'n yell yeee haw after a good supper!

Yer ever lovin' Aut Nettie

This first article on Recession Grub features Aunt Nettie's Old Fashioned Baked Beans. In historic times as well as recent years, beans have been shunned as peasant food. Kings and queens and people with great wealth ate the fancy meats and refined grains and often became fat and sick, while the peasants ate the beans and black breads along with potatoes and cabbage and remained hale and hearty.

If you're working full time, plan to do the bean cooking on the weekends. Beans don't need constant attention, so you can accomplish plenty of the usual chores between preparations. Start the beans soaking on Friday night. Then on Saturday morning, while you're fixing breakfast, put the beans up to cook.

Nutritional qualities:
Beans deserve our respect for their highly nutritional qualities. Remember, they're high in protein and fiber, yet very low in fat. They contain no cholesterol, yet because of their soluble fiber they help to lower cholesterol. Beans are packed with minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and selenium and even provide a full range of the B vitamins that keep us perky and aid our concentration and memory abilities.

Money-Saving Tip:
Shopping for the best buy on dried beans, you may find yourself searching the aisles of 99-cent Stores, Big Lots, or Dollar Stores as well as ethnic markets in your area. Pinto beans at Hispanic markets are often as low as 50 cents a pound in bulk, while at the supermarket, prices range from 80 cents to $1.29 a pound for most beans.

Money-Saving Tip:
Cooking beans from scratch is a definite money saver over using canned beans. On average, you can buy dried beans in bulk for about $1.00 a pound or slightly less. You would need about 3 cans of beans at about 89 cents to $1.49 per can to equal the quantity of the dried beans after they're cooked. If time is a consideration, you have a choice to make.

Money-Saving Tip:
During the winter, choose store brands of canned tomatoes for the best buy over fresh tomatoes. Store brands of a 28-ounce can of peeled tomatoes average between 99 cents to $1.99. That size will stand in nicely for 1 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes that average between $2 and $3 a pound. Some stores will carry their own brands of canned items at lower prices, or those produced by smaller companies. Ethnic markets will frequently carry imported brands at amazingly good prices.

Check the ingredient lists carefully. Often canned beans are packed with EDTA and other preservatives you may want to eliminate. Stores like Trader Joe's and natural food markets sell canned beans without preservatives, packed only with water and salt.

Money-Saving Tip:
Aunt Nettie is the ultimate saver and reuses aluminum foil over and over. When it gets cruddy, she soaks it in soapy water for about 30 minutes, then, gives it a scrub with a scouring pad.

Here's an old fashioned dish that evokes pleasant memories of Mom's home cooking and fills your kitchen with deliciously savory aromas. Because beans take a long to cook from scratch, it's worthwhile making a hearty batch. The large quantity also allows you the opportunity to enjoy delicious leftovers that taste even better the next day. And if your grandma has bequeathed you a set of those cute little brown ceramic bean bowls, you'll swear the beans taste better when served in them. To complete the meal, serve the beans with whole grain bread and a fresh tossed salad.


    Yield: 6 servings

    2 cups (480 ml) dried great northern, pinto, lima, or white kidney beans

    1 1/2 pounds (675g) tomatoes, chopped or 1 28-ounce (790g) can diced tomatoes
    1 large onion, chopped
    1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup or 1/3 cup (80 ml) brown sugar
    1/4 cup (60 ml) molasses
    2 tablespoons yellow or Dijon mustard
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1 1/4 teaspoons liquid hickory smoke seasoning
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Pick over the beans and discard any imperfect ones. Place the beans into a large bowl with water to cover by 3 inches and soak them overnight.
  2. Next day drain the water, rinse the beans, and place them into a 10 to 12-quart (10 to 12 liter) stockpot with fresh water to cover by 3 inches (7.5 cm).
  3. Partially cover the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat, watching carefully to prevent the beans from boiling over.
  4. Reduce the heat slightly to medium and simmer the beans for about 1 hour, or until they are soft, adding more water if needed.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4). Drain the water and transfer the beans to a 2 to 3-quart (2 to 3 liter) baking dish. Add the tomatoes, onion, brown sugar, molasses, mustard, lemon juice, salt, hickory smoke seasoning, and pepper and mix well.
  6. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and bake the beans for 1 hour. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees (Gas Mark 3) and continue baking for 2 hours longer, stirring once or twice every hour.

Quicker-cooking Baked Beans
Substitute with 4 cups (960 ml) of canned (about three 15-ounce cans) cannellini, great northern beans, soybeans, or other white beans. Drain and rinse them, place them into the baking dish, and then add the remaining ingredients. Follow the same baking directions covered in #4 and #5.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with gigabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.

Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns

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