Invest in Regular Family Dinners (With Recipe)

Reader Contribution by Linda Watson
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Regular family dinners can bring you hours of delight and help strengthen your family for less than the cost of going to the movies. Include grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and those friends and neighbors that just feel like family. Serve a welcoming main dish like my Beans with Carrots and Caramelized Onions recipe below to keep the costs down and to avoid many allergy and dietary concerns.

A few months after I started dating the man who would become my husband and the Cook for Good Taster, he invited me to join his family for Sunday lunch. His mother served a Southern feast, complete with hot, homemade rolls, green beans from the back yard, and plenty of iced tea. Three generations came together every week to trade stories and discuss their interests, from karate lessons to computers. Fortunately, I fit in well enough to become a regular.

My niece and nephew who were in grade school then are grown up now, with a new generation on the way. We get together once a month instead of every week, with everyone who can bringing a dish and taking turns hosting.

This weekend as I set the table, I had a great sense of family continuity and investment. I have my grandmother’s oak dining table, who got it from her mother. The linen table cloth with the hand-crocheted edging came from my mother-in-law. My sister-in-law, who is no longer with us, made the needlework cat coasters. Our wedding china came from family and friends. All their spirits join us around the table. Casual works just as well, of course, for the main purpose of bringing everyone together. But as I told my Taster, who else are we saving our “best” for?

Beans with Carrots and Caramelized Onions Recipe

Whether you splurge on heirloom Anasazi beans or scrimp with pinto beans, this bean stew makes a fine main dish for family dinners or potlucks. Get rich umami flavor without meat from caramelized onions, chipotle, and kombu, a type of kelp makes beans more digestible. Carrots add sweetness and color. Yield 6 cups or 10 servings.

• 1 pound Anasazi or pinto beans
• 6 cups water
• 2 tsp salt
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 2 yellow onions, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 tsp ground chipotle powder or cayenne
• 3 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch wide half moons
• 1 three-inch strip kombu, optional
• hot brown rice for serving

Pick through and rinse beans, put in a big pot with water and salt, and cover. If you have time, allow them to soak for up to twelve hours for creamier beans and to save up to 45 minutes of simmering time. Bring beans to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to simmer so beans barely boil. Cook beans until tender, about 2-1/2 hours if unsoaked.

Meanwhile, and at least 45 minutes before the beans are tender, heat olive oil in a large skillet on low heat. Add onions and cook until golden brown and very soft, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Add garlic and chipotle to caramelized onions and cook until fragrant, about one minute.

Add onion mixture, carrots, and kombu to beans. Simmer until beans are tender but still hold their shape. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over hot brown rice. Any extra keeps refrigerated for four days or frozen for a year.

Photo by Linda Watson (c) 2015 Cook for Good, used by permission.

Check out Linda’s website Cook for Good for more recipes and tips. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. She is the author of Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet–All on $5 a Day or Less and Fifty Weeks of Green: Romance & Recipes.

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