I consider beans to be the perfect food. They're a complex carbohydrate with protein and are an excellent source of fiber. A dilemma can be how to serve them creatively and often without feeling like you're eating only beans all the time. (Also, some might point out that the resulting digestive disturbance is a side effect they're not willing to deal with, but I suggest Beano or Gas-X which usually solves that problem.) Canned beans are a staple in my cabinet and I toss them on salads or in soups almost on a daily basis. Often, I include them in main dish recipes even if they aren't meant to be the main attraction, such as in this delicious vegetable dish.
Another convenience food that's quick and easy to prepare are the fully cooked chicken and turkey sausages available in the meat department of your grocery. There are so many wonderful varieties, including some with spinach or sun-dried tomatoes, that are excellent. You may certainly cook this recipe without the sausage for a meat-free, vegetarian option, but the sausage does add a nice spicy flavor and more protein for a complete meal.
Zucchini & Bean Bake with Chicken Sausage
(Makes 4 servings)
½ large onion, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium zucchini, sliced in half moons
1 (14.5 oz.) canned diced tomatoes, drained
1½ tablespoons tomato paste
1½ cups canned beans (your favorite), drained and rinsed
1½ teaspoons dried basil
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
3 ounces low moisture, part skim mozzarella, cut into small cubes
4 chicken sausage links (fully cooked), any variety of your choice (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add chopped onion, a pinch of salt and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, for another 1-2 minutes. Add zucchini, tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, herbs and cook until just heated through, stirring to distribute ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Add cubed mozzarella and stir to combine. Transfer mixture to an oven-proof casserole dish. Pierce each sausage with a knife in several places and arrange on top of vegetable and bean mixture. Place dish in oven and bake uncovered for about 20 minutes, until sausage is heated through and cheese is bubbly. If more color is desired, place under broiler for a few minutes to brown sausage. Serve immediately.
Nutritional Information per serving with one sausage link: 391 calories, 27 g carbohydrate, 18 g total fat, 5.8 g saturated fat, 8 g fiber, 29.5 g protein.
Vegetarian Option: Nutritional Information per serving of Zucchini Bake only, no sausage: 201 calories, 26 g carbohydrate, 6 g total fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 8 g fiber, 12.5 g protein.
Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010