Simple Stove-Top Maple Bacon "Baked" Beans

Hellooo comfort food. Cannellini beans in a rich tomato sauce with caramelized onions, bacon, mild Spanish peppers, garlic, and a shot of maple syrup. These give Heinz a serious run for their money, if I do say so myself. I promise you won't miss the processed sugar for one minute either. 
On weekdays, I almost always go for a green smoothie for breakfast, since I'm in a rush mornings and don't work up much of an appetite just sitting at my desk all day. On the weekends, though, I have time to turn on the stove and want something that will fuel me up for a day out and about. In other words, I want a plate of food bigger than my head. Now that the days are cooler and shorter, this goes double. I want something hearty that sticks to my ribs and keeps me satisfied for a while. This fits the bill perfeccctly and is a surprisingly healthy option!  
These baked beans have a few things going for them health wise:
  • High in fiber: One cup of beans (click for nutrition data) contains one-half of your daily fiber needs! In my book, fiber is an absolute all-star. Diets high in fiber not only are known for helping reduce cholesterolpromote heart health, and lower risk of cancer and diabetes, they improve digestive (colon) health. You may have heard people talk about how a huge part of your health is actually in you gut. This is because your digestive tract is where you absorb nutrients your body needs. Fiber helps keep your digestive tract clean by brushing the microvilli in your intestines free of debris so they can do their job. Fiber also supports weight loss/maintence and helps control appetite by slowing the release of sugar into the blood stream and improving insulin regulation. 
  • Packed with protein: Beans are also a great source of plant protein. One cup has nearly 20 grams. Amino acids are the building blocks of life. We needs them to help repair cells and make new ones.
  • Good source of iron, folate, calcium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and other vitamins and minerals: Iron is critical for our red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body. Without oxygen we feel fatigued and everything from our nervous system to immune system suffer. Calcium is important for strong bones and zinc plays a key role in the immune system's defense, cell repair, and wound healing.

Simple Stove-Top Maple Bacon "Baked" Beans 
Prep time: 15 min.
Cooking time:  45 min. 
6 servings

3-4 slices of bacon (optional*), diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
1-2 Spanish peppers (or other mild pepper), finely diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. powdered mustard 
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
16 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp. maple syrup 
Two 16 oz cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 tsp. salt and pepper (adjust further to taste)

*For a bacon-free version, simply start by caramelizing onions in 1-2 Tbsp. of olive oil.

1. In a medium-sized pot on medium heat, render bacon until crispy (about 5 minutes). Remove bacon bits from pan with spoon and set aside.
2. Add diced onions into bacon fat and cook until they begin to caramelize, stirring frequently and adding 1-2 Tbsp. of water to the pot to prevent burning when necessary (about 15 minutes).
3. Add peppers, crushed garlic, spices and cook for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add soy sauce, vinegar, crushed tomatoes, maple syrup, beans and bacon. Turn down heat to low and simmer until sauce thickens (about 20 minutes).
5. Adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Serve for breakfast, lunch or dinner :) 

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