A few weeks back I posted a stuffed chicken recipe that I developed for Better Bean Co. Hannah, one of the owners of the company and I had the opportunity to chat and I have to say, I left the conversation wishing we lived closer to one another (she is on the West Coast–I’m here, on the East!) because we would totally hang! We connected over our kids and our love for food, as well as the fact that we both get giddy over produce! It’s awesome when you meet someone that sees life through a similar lens. She is super cool so I figured you might want to get to know her too! Her light shines through her answers– you’ll love reading this little Q&A and the prize at the end of this post, the amazing cassoulet, is well worth the read! You are going to LOOOOOVE this recipe!
Let’s get right to it! Hello Hannah!
ME: Why Beans? How and why did you start the business. What sets it apart?
Hannah: My father and I started Better Bean to offer people a better choice between
canned beans and the time it takes to cook up a pot of delicious beans at home. We
wanted to share my dad’s stellar recipe for vegan refried beans! After all, it was one
of my sister’s and my favorite recipes growing up and whenever my dad would
make his beans for friends they would rave about them. Raving reviews is not very
typical for beans, so we knew we had something!
ME: What about beans excites you?
Hannah: Oh my gosh – well so, so much. At first it was just their taste and texture,
my comfort food has always been beans, but after getting into Better Bean – I
started to learn more and more about beans and honestly became a little obsessed.
From all the unique varieties of heirloom beans to the amazing nutritional power of
beans, I truly believe beans are magical. I now have a collection of over 300
different bean varietals. There are so many – some are the same, but just have been given different names given where they were
cultivated, likely due to trading. Dry beans are so deeply beautiful all having unique patterns and colors (that I wish stuck around
after cooking). I am so amazed that humans have built civilizations on the nutrition of beans of these beans. After all beans are a seed.
A seed – meaning they have all the nutrition that is required to start new life. So of course these are potent superfoods containing not
only protein and complex carbohydrates, but vitamins and minerals that most Americans don’t get enough of – plus tons of
antioxidants. Did you know that red beans are higher in antioxidants than blueberries?
ME: What is your favorite use for beans (at this moment)? Do you have a favorite Better Bean Flavor?
Hannah: Well my favorite flavor/Better Bean recipe hasn’t changed much over the year –
the uncanny refried black beans have always been closets to my heart. I also love the
Cuban black beans since I love black beans, in general. Never much a fan of white
beans (unlike you, miss Katie!) I have actually fallen in love with the versatility of
our Tuscan White Beans. I have added them into soups, pasta dishes (pesto and
marinara), grilled cheese sandwiches, vegetable curries and even tuna for a tuna
salad sandwich. So while I am huge on beans for breakfast, because they give you long sustained
energy – think bean and egg tostadas or scrambled egg, beans and garlicky greens
wrapped up in a burrito. My favorite use at this moment is to mix beans in with
marinara sauce and eat them over brown rice pasta. yum!
ME: Favorite mantra or quote?
Hannah: One that my dad says all the time and has really influenced how we have built our
company is : “The strength of the dog is in the pack” another way of saying it is told
in an old African saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go
Me: Where do you find inspiration for new recipes, ingredients, concepts?
Hannah: We love to eat beans at restaurants. If there are beans on the menu, we order
them. New flavor parings and cooking techniques always inspire us. Recently we
came across beans cooked in smoked tomatoes – a multi-day process but boy were they worth it. We
also find inspiration from the traditional ways people enjoy beans. Right now we have our eyes set on a
vegan baked bean.
ME: What are five foods that you always have in your kitchen?
Hannah: FUN QUESTION! Better Beans and organic eggs – for beans and eggs for breakfast. Organic frozen fruit, kale and bananas
for my daily smoothies.
ME: Favorite meal?
Hannah: This is a hard one. If I had to choose one, my dad’s Tacos – these are the very tacos
he would make up for my sister and I whenever he made his beans. Lately we have
been calling them the “Two Minute Taco” to show people they can make tasty, easy,
healthy meals at home in minutes.
Me: What (other than beans) sparks your soul?
Hannah: Ah, thank you. I care deeply about the healing of our communities and our
institutions. I aspire to influence change not only in our food system, but our schools
and health care systems. And then it just goes on from there… we are at a time of
crisis and change, destruction and re-building. I am excited to be a part of re-
building systems that no longer serve us and support us as creates who just want to
love and be loved. I want to see people thrive – people as happy and healthy as
Me: Any advice for people looking to cook their own beans at home?
Hannah: Ah yes! So many tips – and I have to say it really depends on your goal. Do you want
beans that are the most nutritious? Or do you want beans that are the easiest to
digest? Or do you want the most flavorful bean? Or some combo of the three? I will
refer you to a blog I wrote up on how we cook our beans at Better Bean for the
maximum balance of taste, nutrition and digestibility — Sneak
peak: while we soak our beans, we follow in the Mexican tradition of keeping our
soaking water, then add apple cider vinegar to help ease the digestion of our beans
Me: Anything else you want to add?
Then onto the recipe! This is one of my (Katie) favorite winter meals. It has cozy written all over it. Want to make it vegan? Skip the sausage…simple as that! Enjoy and thanks for sharing, Hannah!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 links fresh, uncooked Italian chicken sausage
- 1 leek, green part removed, white part halved and sliced
- 2 cups butternut squash, 1 “ cubed
- 1 small-medium turnips, 1 “ cubed
- 1 small-medium rutabaga, 1 “ cubed
- 1 cup sweet potato, peeled and 1 “ cubed
- ½ cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried sage
- 14 ounces Tuscan White Beans (Better Beans)
- ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 400.
- In a Dutch oven or cast iron skillet with lid (12 inch), heat one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken sausage for 3 minutes per side to brown. Remove from pan, cool, slice and set aside. Note: the chicken sausage will not be cooked through entirely.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan with the leeks and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 3-4 minutes to soften. Add the sliced chicken sausage, squash, turnips, rutabaga, sweet potato, broth and herbs. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Cover and bake for 30-40 minutes or until root vegetables are tender. Remove the pan from the oven and stir in the white beans. Top the mixture with parmesan cheese and broil for 3-5 minutes to brown the cheese and heat through the beans.
- If you don't have Better Beans on hand you can use cooked navy beans or cannellini beans! Add some extra herbs to kick the flavor up a bit!