Smile Politely

Food for all: Tuscan Beans & Carrot Gratin

As Cristy Scoggins shared last month, Common Ground Food Co-op has an interesting new program called Food For All. Food for All, among other initiatives, provides recipes that will produce four servings of nourishing entrees for about $5 in ingredients purchased at Common Ground. Food for All’s diverse food choices show that cooking meals from food purchased at Common Ground is within the reach of us common folks. However, some folks like me have a hard time following instructions, which led to some interesting scenarios in this case.


Tuscan Beans

1.5 cups dry, bulk navy beans ($0.70)

1 T olive oil (not extra virgin, not organic) ($0.16)

1/2 tsp. dried sage leaves ($0.04)

2 large garlic cloves, minced ($0.14)

1 T. bulk balsamic vinegar ($0.17)

salt and pepper to taste ($0.00)

Carrot Gratin

4 cups carrots (from 5 lb. bag), sliced ($1.25)

1.5 C bread crumbs (made from Rudi’s bread) ($0.85)

2 eggs, beaten (Farmer’s Hen House eggs) ($0.53)

1/4 cup Earth Balance vegetable shortening ($1.32)

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce ($0.10)

1/4 tsp. thyme ($0.02)

1/4 tsp. tarragon ($0.02)

salt and pepper to taste ($0.00)

1/4 lb Ropp’s cheese, baby swiss ($2.07)


The first mistake I made was not realizing that Tuscan Beans was a separate dish from Carrot Gratin. This will come up later.


I dropped by Common Ground on late Sunday afternoon after my shift at the bike co-op, and it was uncrowded. Since the idea of this program is economy, I didn’t buy some of the items on the list that I knew I already had in the pantry: the only spice I purchased was tarragon, and I left out the olive oil, garlic, and bread crumbs (always plenty of stale bread at our place). That really didn’t make a difference to the overall cost, as I purchased the big-ticket items other than crumbs: beans, carrots, Earth Balance, eggs and cheese ($5.87 right there). Cristy’s warning from last time about spending more than the cost to make this recipe held true in my case, as well: the total spent on these ingredients was probably in the neighborhood of $15. The eggs, earth balance, cheese and carrots will all get used in short order. I bought the big bag of carrots, and I’m still munching on those, a week later.


After soaking the beans for a good 24 hours (more than necessary), Gillian took some pictures as I got down to the cooking:

Slicing the carrots:

Steaming the carrots (I’m merely guessing that this is how you steam vegetables, so any foodies out there please go easy on me):

Grating the cheese (I must be used to mass-produced, bland cheeses, because the smell of the swiss really stayed with me):

Mixing it all together (the Earth Balance doesn’t melt as quickly as butter would, but it eventually broke down):

As I filled the 9 x 9 baking pan beyond the brim, I realized that the beans probably weren’t intended to be in the carrot mixture, and were supposed to be served separately. However, we were past the point of no return, so I just left them in there and hoped for the best. Here’s the finished product:


The bread crumb, shortening and cheese topping was delicious, and the carrots were very tender and flavorful. As feared, the beans dried out quite a bit after being baked, and I think I undercooked them a little to begin with, so they were not as tasty as they would have been if I’d understood the instructions. We only had two diners on this particular evening, but the portions were quite generous. We ate our fill, and I ate the leftovers for lunch for the next two days.


Gillian and I agreed that we’d have it again, and you certainly can’t beat the price of any dish that uses dried beans as its backbone. I’d like to say that I’d try to skimp on the cheese next time to save money, but I probably won’t because the topping was excellent. I’m excited to try some of the other recipes on the Food for All cart at Common Ground.

Photos by Gillian Gabriel

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