The Very Best One Dish Meal!

Cranberry bean

Have you ever had one of those days when you wake up and your taste buds simply don’t crave eggs, bacon, and toast? I’m sure you know what I mean, but if not, I’m talking about those normal foods we’ve been educated to think are the only true breakfast foods, and everything else is either for lunch or dinner. Well guess what? It doesn’t have to be that way!

I recently had such a morning here in colorful Colorado, where I live. It seems that we’ve been having just a bit of a cold spell in the last few days. (Even my sweet kitty wasn’t too anxious to go out on her leash this morning. Yes, I have a leash-trained cat named Trixie!) As I peeked into my fridge, I had the chilly sense that we’re going to have an early fall and one heck of a winter. Being the proverbial traditional cook, my eyes fell on a lovely fresh bowl of beans and oxtails that I’d prepared the day before to freeze but would be just right for such a cold morning. Brrrrr

As I pressed two fresh garlic cloves into my bowl of warmed bean soup with one oxtail, a  warm, pleasant aroma welcomed me. It was a “come on in” sort of moment! I sensed with every fiber in my body that I was about to eat a whole ton of the kind of food we should consume every day of our lives, rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, gelatin, and collagen. Yes, every single day.

I nevertheless felt a bit guilty as I’d replaced my normal high protein breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast with a humble bowl of beans. And a new kind of bean at that! I’ll tell you all about it and also give you my own recipe for this lovely one dish meal: the humble bean and oxtail soup.

Before I write another word, I want to explain why this is such a very special and extremely nutrient dense meal. This one isn’t as well-known as many of the other Nourishing Traditions recipes that get major press. So you can sit back, read quietly, and mentally savor your next one dish meal. Combine it with fermented salsa (as seen on my new YouTube channel), and you’ll be in heaven—if only for one meal. Mmmm.

Facts About the Humble Little Bean

Here are a few precious facts about beans, attributed to the work of Susan Raatz, PhD, MPH, RD. Known as perhaps the single most complete food, beans contain high levels of protein, select necessary vitamins and minerals, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Until the last few decades, the scientific understanding of the high nutritional value provided by beans didn’t receive much attention. Now that’s changing, which is very good news because the potential contribution dry beans can have on human health is nothing short of outstanding.

Dry beans are nutrient dense, meaning the amount of nutrients provided per calorie is particularly high. Increased intake of nutrient dense foods may help reduce risk of disease and enhance longevity. A recent cross-cultural study titled “Food Habits in Later Life” showed that the consumption of beans was the only dietary component related to longevity. Investigators found that for every 20 gram intake of legumes, including dry beans, risk of death was reduced by 6 percent in people aged 70 and older.

Dry beans are low in fat and packed with protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Half a cup of cooked dry beans contains approximately 115 calories and provides 8 grams of protein. In addition to macronutrients, dry beans contain several types of phytochemicals. They’re rich in lignans, which may play a role in preventing osteoporosis, heart disease, and certain cancers. The flavonoids in beans may help reduce heart disease and cancer risk. Dry beans also contain a natural component of plants known as plant stanol esters, or phytosterols, which can help to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Additionally, the complex carbohydrates and fiber content in dry beans makes them an ideal food for the management of abnormalities associated with insulin resistance, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia.

Why Beans Are High on My List of Best Foods

In my blog post “The Warming Power of RNA,” I wrote about the powerful ways we can rev up our metabolism to create an outstanding degree of energy, enhance weight loss, and improve our overall sense of well-being. Pinto beans were on the list. Why? Because after sardines, pinto beans contain the second highest amount of ribonucleic acid (RNA), a little known youth serum.

Beans are also an excellent source of copper, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium—nutrients many Americans don’t get enough of. White beans have almost twice the iron of black beans, while kidney beans fall somewhere in between. Dry beans are an excellent source of water-soluble vitamins such as thiamin and folic acid and also a good source of riboflavin and vitamin B6. Dietary fiber has beneficial effects on the digestive system and the heart, but the dietary fiber found in pinto beans also helps stabilize blood sugar levels. When beans are properly prepared by soaking them overnight, it’s my understanding that they don’t cause flatulence. I strongly suggest combining beans with probiotic rich foods, which you can learn how to make in my Cook Your Way to Wellness DVD and booklet.

If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, or diabetes, pinto beans can really help balance your blood sugar levels and provide steady, slow-burning energy. Studies of high fiber diets have shown they have a dramatic effect on blood sugar levels.

I’ve also grown fond of a book titled What’s with Fiber? It was written by Monica Spiller, a chemist, with her late husband Gene Spiller, PhD. Monica contributed to an article I wrote for the Weston A. Price Foundation titled “To Gluten or Not to Gluten?” and she’s one of the few people I know who has been able to maintain a vegetarian diet with the help of whole grains, beans, and legumes. If you’ve given up consuming fiber due to the negative views of many misguided diet dictocrats, this book is a must read.

Where Do All the Beans Come From?

According to the U.S. Dry Bean Council, America is the global leader in dry bean production. Each year farmers plant from 1.5 to 1.7 million acres of edible dry beans. While Americans are the chief consumers of these beans, 25 percent are shipped to international markets in more than 100 different countries around the globe. When I read this, it increased my willingness to eat more of these wonderful, humble nutrient dense foods while supporting U.S. farmers at the same time.

Try Them All for a Vibrant New Addition to Your Diet:

  • Adzuki
  • Baby lima
  • Black beans
  • Blackeye
  • Cranberry
  • Dark red kidney
  • Garbanzo
  • Great Northern
  • Large lima
  • Light red kidney
  • Navy
  • Pink, pinto
  • Small red

So now let me tell you about a wonderful bean that I’d never tried before but am now totally committed to using in my bean and oxtail soup (recipe below) and also keeping on hand for long-term storage. The flavor and texture of this bean is exquisite. What is it? The cranberry bean. Used in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese cuisine, cranberry beans are plump and pale pink with maroon markings. With their appealing, sweet, mild flavor, cranberry beans make a hearty addition to soups, salads, pasta dishes, and casseroles.

I discovered cranberry beans quite by accident at my local Whole Foods. Eyeing a package of Zürsun Idaho Heirloom Beans, I stopped to read the label. The first thing that caught my eye was the word “heirloom.” The second was “Grown in the USA.” Somehow two packages jumped into my shopping cart!

Here’s a little more about Zürsan Idaho Heirloom Beans: the company works with farmers from around the country as a packager-distributor of dried beans and lentils. According to owner Jim Soran, the beans are not certified organic. As Soran explains, “Bean farmers may use manure to fertilize beans, but it’s much more common for them to use fertilizers containing nitrogen, zinc, and potassium, among others. In addition, some bean fields don’t require additional fertilizers at all.” He also says that “all dried beans are non-GMO.” (Note: Should you want organic, please see the Weston A. Price Foundation Shopping Guide.)

Knowing I had some nice grass-fed oxtails from Lasater Grassland Meats at home, I could already taste my perfect next meal (smile). Gratified beyond words, I proceeded to the checkout register thinking how lucky many of us are to be part of the Weston A. Price Foundation, whose work is centered on the diet recommendations of Weston A. Price, and Selene River Press, whose work is centered on the inimitable Dr. Royal Lee. Both organizations provide so many good ideas and products that keep people informed on how to live a genuinely healthy life.

Traditional cooks, of which there are many, are pretty darn smart at finding neat little shortcuts. I knew that cooking the beans along with the oxtails would automatically make my soup gelatin and collagen rich. I also wouldn’t have to cook the broth first and then cook the beans in the broth.

Now here is my tasty and, yes, nutrient dense bean recipe for Cranberry Bean-Oxtail Soup. Enjoy!

Cranberry Bean-Oxtail Soup

—From The Traditional Cook Collection

Oxtails contain fat, which is part of what makes them so succulent. Though I suggest enjoying this natural source of saturated fat that’s so vital to our bodies and brains, you may choose to skim it off (see step #5) and either discard it or reserve for another use. Please note that this soup takes two days to prepare.

1 cup cranberry beans or other beans of your choice
3 cups spring or filtered water, plus more for crock pot
1–2 teaspoons organic apple cider vinegar or whey
1 small package (3–4) oxtails, rinsed
1 medium white onion, diced
Mineral salt to taste
2 organic garlic cloves, peeled and pressed


  1. Soak beans overnight in 3 cups water. Add organic apple cider vinegar or whey. The next day, rinse well and place in a medium-sized crock pot.
  2. Nestle rinsed oxtails in the beans. Add diced onion, then add water to about 1½ inches above the ingredients.
  3. Cook on high for 1 hour, then turn to low and cook an additional 4–6 hours, or until tender. Add more water if necessary.
  4. After beans are cooked and tender, place soup in a glass bowl to cool, then cover with Saran Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  5. If desired, before serving you may carefully remove the thin layer of fat that forms overnight on top of the bean soup. Discard or reserve for another use. Alternatively, you may leave the fat in the soup (recommended).
  6. To serve, heat soup. Add mineral salt to taste and a clove of pressed raw garlic to each bowl of soup. This soup may also be frozen.

Visit Zürsun Idaho Heirloom Beans for more great recipes.

An afterthought from The Traditional Cook...

The Bean Eaters
They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering...
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
is full of beads and receipts and dolls and clothes,
Tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.
—Gwendolyn Brooks. 1917–2000


To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:

  • chemical- and hormone-free meat
  • wild-caught fish
  • pasture-raised, organic eggs
  • whole, unrefined grains
  • virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
  • whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
  • pure, clean, spring water
  • sea salt
  • raw and/or cultured milk and cream products

Photo from iStock/AnjoKanFotografie

Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.

Maria Atwood, CNHP

Maria Atwood is a semiretired Certified Natural Health Professional and Weston A. Price Chapter Leader in Colorado Springs, CO. Visit her website at Also check out Maria’s Cook Your Way to Wellness DVD (also available as an e-learning course) and be sure to follow her Tips from the Traditional Cook blog.
Products by Maria Atwood

3 thoughts on “The Very Best One Dish Meal!

  1. aballiett says:

    Wow! Am I confused! I raise grass finished beef and think of an oxtail as a 2-4 pound piece. When I read the recipe, I thought I was going to use 6 of those (or something) That’s a lot for 3 cups of water! Since I’ve nver seen a ‘small pkg’ of ox tail, what exactly are you referring to? Thanks for an inspiring recipe!

  2. Sam says:

    Dear aballiett,

    Here is Maria Atwood’s response to your question:

    “Yes, some of the oxtails are bigger than others, and possibly your personally grass-fed animals produce a superior product. Most of the people I am writing for are those that can only get oxtails from a health food store that may carry them. The packages sold for the most part do come packaged with four relatively small oxtails or one medium one and two small ones. You are fortunate to have the nice large ones by raising your own animals. That being said, you are no doubt a superior cook and would need to modify the recipe to fit. Kindly post us back with your recipe so that others can also enjoy it :>) – Thanks much for your contribution.”
    Maria Atwood, CNHP

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