Sponsored Post: What Lies Beneath? Plus A Food Gal Giveaway


What deliciousness is inside of this?

What deliciousness is inside of this?

Can you guess what lies beneath this lid?

A juicy berry crumble? Cornbread? An apple crisp? Maybe even a river of deepest, darkest chocolate pudding?

If you know my unabashed love of sweets and carbs, then those are definitely distinct possibilities.

But surprise, surprise: Lift the lid and you’ll find a delicious batch of home-cooked beans, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh parsley, and crumbles of goat feta cheese. It’s a dish not only full of flavor, but of fiber and nutrients, as well.

Bet you didn't think expect these tasty contents.

Bet you didn’t think expect these tasty contents.

I post a lot about extravagant restaurant tasting menus. I know that the largest category of recipes in my blog’s index is by far that of cookies. And there’s no denying that my Instagram account is full of images of buttery pastries.

I do cop to all of that.

But what you may not know is that in between those bites, I am careful about what I eat. Meals I cook at home are usually abundant with fresh veggies. Most nights, no matter what else I eat for dinner, a green salad usually accompanies it. And breakfasts and lunches at home are often punctuated with lots of fresh fruit.

I work out at the gym most mornings every week. I walk to the bank — rather than drive — when I can. I take the stairs whenever possible. And for the most “romantic” of birthday presents a few years ago, I got my husband to buy me a stand-up computer desk.

So, in celebration of February being Heart Month by the American Heart Association, I wanted to share with you today not a cookie recipe, not a dessert recipe, but a heart-healthy bean one that I love.

It’s especially important for women, as heart disease is often a silent killer. Indeed, since the Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign started, to focus attention on cardiovascular health issues specific to women, nearly 300 fewer women are dying every day. Not only that, but the death rate for women from heart disease has decreased by more than 30 percent.

I’d say that’s worth saluting, especially with beans. Not just any beans, but the very best beans around. Napa’s Rancho Gordo is an artisan bean grower and purveyor that got me to really appreciate the taste of specialty, heirloom beans. If you’ve never had a bean with real flavor, then you’ve never had Rancho Gordo’s.

Aren't these pretty?

Aren’t these pretty?

Every year, I buy a supply, choosing among its different varieties. This year, I took a chance to try its Christmas Lima Beans. Why a risk? Because I hate lima beans. I grew up on the mushy, mealy ones found in canned soups or in packs of frozen mixed veggies. I would always pick them out, and wad them up in a napkin so my parents couldn’t tell when I threw them out in the trash. That’s how much I loathed them.

These, however are a revelation. First, they are huge in size, with an almost pinto bean-like color after cooking. Second, they have the most amazing chestnut-like flavor. They are the farthest cry ever from the dreaded lima beans I grew up with.

I soaked them overnight. Then, I filled the pot of beans with clean water, as well as sauteed chopped carrot, celery, and onion. I also tried a trick I learned from Chef Chris Cosentino of Cockscomb in San Francisco and Acacia House in St. Helena. He told me he adds a cut potato when cooking a pot of beans, a trick he learned from Italian grandmas to make the beans and its resulting broth creamier. Darned if it didn’t work, too.

You can follow the cooking and garnishing directions in this recipe for most any type of dried beans. It may sound a little wacky to be making Christmas Lima Beans in February. But these beans are a gift of good health that’s surely welcome any month of the year.

Them beans, them beans.

Them beans, them beans.

CONTEST: Macy’s is the national sponsor of Go Red For Women. As such, one lucky Food Gal reader will win a $100 Macy’s gift card, plus some fun swag from the American Heart Association.

American Heart Association goodies, plus a Macy's gift card.

American Heart Association goodies, plus a Macy’s gift card.

Entries, open to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST Feb. 17. Winner will be announced Feb. 19.

How to win?

You’ve already read how I try to incorporate heart-healthy habits into my life. Tell me what you do. Best answer wins.

Christmas Lima Beans with Parsley and Goat Feta Cheese

(Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish)

1 pound bag of Rancho Gordo Christmas Lima Beans (or your favorite dried beans)

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 carrot, peeled and roughly diced

1 small onion, roughly diced

1 stalk celery, roughly diced

1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed

1 bay leaf

1 medium Yukon Gold potato, cut in half

Salt and pepper

Handful of freshly chopped parsley

Goat feta cheese, crumbled


The night before, place beans in a saucepan and cover with water. Allow to soak overnight.

The next day, drain the beans, return them to the pot, and add enough water to cover them by about 1 1/2 inches.

In a saute pan over medium heat, drizzle in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add carrot, onion, and celery, sauteing and stirring until vegetables soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute for another 30 seconds.

Add contents of the saute pan to the pot of beans. Next, add the bay leaf and potato to the pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook the beans, stirring them occasionally, until tender, about 1 hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When the beans are done, spoon them along with a little of their broth into separate bowls or a large serving bowl. Garnish with parsley, a drizzle of olive oil and the feta cheese. Serve immediately.

From Carolyn Jung

PLUS: You’re invited to a Feb. 24 Go Red for Women/Por tu Corazon health fair and blood pressure screening event at Eastridge Shopping Center in San Jose. The American Heart Association Silicon Valley, the Consulate of Mexico in San Jose, Santa Clara Public Health Department, Foothill Community Health Center and Telemundo are working together to increase awareness about cardiovascular disease among Spanish speakers and provide free health screenings and blood pressure readings during this event. The health fair, which includes fitness activities, guest speakers and entertainment, will be from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Level 2, in front of the Macy’s entrance.

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  • We grow scarlet runner beans on a trellis against a south or west facing fence in our yard. The green foliage and red flowers make a beautiful backdrop to the rest of your garden plants and in the fall when the bean pods turn tan and become brittle you can cut them off the plant and pop out the beautiful purple and tan beans. I store them in a container in the freezer and use them in cajun red beans and rice. They are very tasty.

  • I make an effort to cook with coconut oil instead of butter or other unhealthy oil. Works great!
    I also dance while cooking or baking easy way to exercise when you’re short on time

  • I cook a lot of veggies at once and store them in the fridge. This way, I always have a healthy snack or side to a dish and no excuses to reach for an unhealthy snack! My favorite is baked brussel sprouts.

  • I recently started following the DASH diet and I really like it! It is all the fresh veg and fruit that I love already, just without lots of salt or sugar. It fits well with my running program and my desire to eat a rainbow of produce, including delicious berries, nuts, and greens. Even if you don’t follow every detail, it is sure to be an improvement for the diets of most people in the USA. Apparently this diet gets really high marks every year for effectiveness and flexibility, so that makes it even more appealing.
    Your current diet sounds like it is most of the way there already, so look it up and give it a try for a few days, maybe!

  • I had heart surgery a year ago and even though I was a healthy eater, my mom (who has been my rock through it all) has made me really conscious about making healthier food choices. She has planted fruit trees, berry bushes, and things like mint in the garden so my daughter and I can use while cooking. We have switched to cooking with organic coconut or olive oils. It’s all been incredibly helpful in feeling better and staying healthy. Happy Heart Health month! 🙂

  • Nice job! I have yet to make Rancho Gordo beans but am inspired now by this post. Those Christmas beans are always fun anytime of the year!

  • I’m afraid my answer is very unsexy. Eating right (and locally), excercise, sleep and keeping stress out of my everyday life are my go to healthy habits. I feel better and think I’m a kinder person when I do all these things. By the way, I live in California and am so fortunate as to get to shop at the Rancho Gordo store at times. LOVE those Christmas limas – try their Scarlet Runners and Black Eyed Peas, too. Yum!

  • I go to the gym every single day (except Sunday when I sleep in). I know how many calories I eat daily, and am sure to hit my fiber goals with whole foods. I shop at the farmer’s market to not only support the small farmers, but for my health. I enjoy all foods, but practice moderation in the things we know we should not eat a lot of (fried foods, sugar, etc). I place a value on sleep, and don’t worry about things that I have no control over. I try to be present, and live in the moment and remember that I cannot recover lost time with people I love. I share my love of food and wine by cooking for others, a lot.

  • My mom had a triple bypass about 5 years ago. I’ve been trying to eat healthier since, just in case it’s hereditary. I’ve never tried Christmas lima beans but definitely want to try them.

  • How I try to incorporate heart-healthy habits into my life = daily meditation, daily workout that’s balanced (still combatting overexercising and under-fueling, but I’m getting better at it!), daily family quality time, couple times a month hot stone massages (self-care is super important), keeping in touch with friends both near and far (like you, Carolyn! Always appreciate your correspondence, seriously), and making time daily for my hobbies/interests. I believe all of these are good for heart health, the soul, entire body, and the mind. Keep the heart strong, positive, and alive.

  • While the focus here is food, it encompasses a whole lifestyle: how to have a day full of joyful activity, savoring each element. I try to ensure that, in my own days, everything I take in – whether by mouth or eyes or hands or nose – is as healthy as possible. So the garden includes flowers for the pollinators as well as food for me; the renovation of the house used materials that lessen the need for artificial heat and air conditioning; the porches are inviting for afternoon tea to have fresh air (and refresh my energy); and the bowls of fruit and veggies on the counter make an easy-to-pick snack in addition to a pretty still life. Approaching heart health in a whole way, in the spirit of it along with the literal meaning, helps me remember that enjoyment is a big factor in achieving that.

  • I’m trying to grow my own fruit, herbs, and vegetables to be able to eat cleaner. I don’t eat meat that often. When I do, it’s usually baked fish. I try to put fresh herbs in every dinner I cook. I lift weights as much as possible to lower blood pressure. I’m increasing my cardio and trying to go back to distance running – which enlarges the heart so it pumps blood more efficiently.I stay away from people that stress me out when possible.

  • I roast or steam my vegetables to reduce oil. I steam sugar snap peas as a side or snack with no salt (oil, etc) since it’s naturally sweet and my kids enjoy it. I unwind by doing quick walks on my treadmill – Netflix & walk! With my kids, we take them out for a walk on the trail nearby and they can practice learning how to balance and pedaling on their bikes. We eat nearly all homemade food since it’s healthier as well.

  • i do try to eat well, but having a baby leaves little time for workouts! i take my dog for walks with my girl strapped to my chest, and that extra 20 pounds ends up putting me out of breath quite a bit, especially when my dog is yanking the leash the whole way! 🙂

  • i’m caring for my elderly Aunt and we make nutritious blends of organic fruits and vegies with breakfasts and for meal supplements, some we plant ourselves and some we get from the Local farmers market. in the winter i incorporate more root vegetables in the blends such as ginger and tumeric–This greatly help with blood circulation ♡ i save and freeze the rare Leftover blends in iceCubeTray(s) and have them as ‘popsicles’ on warmer days. Gardening has been great exercise, especially for my elderly Aunt! #AmericanHeartAssociation #goRedForWomen #Macys

  • Meditation, deep breathing exercises and daily affirmations. Exercise and healthy diet are needed but mental health to lower stress levels that can lead to heart problems help too.

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