But what’s it called?

As with my other recipes, this one has a rather convoluted story behind it. There’s not anything unusual about a couple marrying and having a baby boy, but things did get a little weird after that. We are so fortunate that God blessed us with an easy kid. He was (is) healthy, smart, and he stayed out of trouble. Mostly.

On his 15th birthday Jordan was already way taller than me, and I am 5’10”. I guarantee that fridge behind us is EMPTY.

Except there was this matter with the food. Unlike some parents who need to resort to various gyrations to keep their offspring appropriately nourished, Jordan was the opposite. He. Ate. All. The. Things. On one hand, I was thankful that he wasn’t picky and didn’t require elaborate meal planning – on the other hand, it still required elaborate meal planning – to keep this active kid fueled. I had my day job at a T-shirt company, plus doing HoofPrints at home on the side, and all the farm stuff, cooking was hard to squeeze in. I made what I thought were GIANT meals that would surely yield enough leftovers to hold us over for a while, only to see them vanish at the end of the day in the form of “a snack.”

I was continually on the lookout for concoctions that were healthy, palatable, easy to prepare/serve and that I could make a huge amount at a time, hoping to be able to slack in the cooking department occasionally.

The recipe called for green onions but I had chives growing in the flower bed, so used a fistful of those instead.

Jordan was 11 when I saw a recipe for Ham and Black-eyed Pea Salad in a magazine. That summer, he and Rob were in the process of digging a pond here on our farm (full story here). Running heavy equipment was a dream come true for a kid interested in all things mechanical, and the two of them were putting in long days for weeks on end, with unparalleled enthusiasm. Appetites were equally enthusiastic and I was doing my best to keep up. The ham portion of this recipe made it a contender as they were perpetually clamoring for meat. Additional protein from the peas, fiber and crunch from the vegetables appealed to me. Vinegar and olive oil dressing keeps well and doesn’t get gross/separate when combined with veggies. The fact that it was a cold dish that could be served straight from the fridge was the major win.

As it was, the original recipe had some major deal-breakers, though. It called for frozen black-eyed peas, to be thawed (ugh – who has time for that?) And everything was to be “finely chopped” (snort – not by this gal.) I’m not one to follow cooking rules anyway, so I got out my biggest bowl and went to work. I changed the vinegar/oil ratio to be more vinegar and less oil. Cut the salt dramatically. Went to the pantry and started pulling out cans. I kept the black-eyed peas as the dominant legume and brought some of their cousins on board; garbanzo beans, black beans, cannellini. And I increased the ham. A lot.

By the time I finished, my giant bowl was full and I was feeling pretty proud of myself. When the hungry guys came in at dark I took the lid off the bowl and grabbed my big serving spoon. “What’s this?” somebody said suspiciously. I knew from experience that uttering the word “salad” at the end of a long day to ravenous men flies like a lead balloon. Quick thinking is not one of my strong points, so “Some recipe I found…” was the best reply I could come up with. “But what’s it called?” I was irritated that they were asking and they were irritated that I couldn’t answer. I didn’t understand why naming it was so important.

I thought this stuff was really good and fortunately they agreed. I was thrilled to have stumbled upon something I could make a massive amount of and avoid having to cook for a day or two. So I made it often. Really often. I experimented with different kinds of meat, using smoked turkey from the deli instead of the salty ham. Deli meat is expensive and I discovered that spicy pork sausage (cooked and cooled) is a much cheaper (and more flavorful) substitute.

Along about that time, Jordan’s interests were shifting away from toys (who wants to play with a toy bulldozer after you’ve driven a real one?) As an only child/grandchild, he had a lot of toys. HoofPrints was growing, my little office overfloweth and I had product stashed everywhere (I use the term “stash” loosely as most of it was anything but as we had to navigate through a maze of toy trucks and farrier t-shirts). This was way before Marie Kondo, but I was having the breakthrough realization that all this stuff in my house did not bring me joy. I went on a crusade, culling my own things and imploring the other residents to do the same. I was at war with clutter. (Spoiler alert: I lost)

No one else even remotely identified with my passion for order and neatness; the situation degraded, with mention of the word “clutter” immediately invoking eye rolls and groans. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t rally the troops and eventually I gave up. Occasionally I still pull out the anti-clutter sword and cape, much to the displeasure of the rest of the gang.

I continued to serve different iterations of the black-eyed pea salad (carefully avoiding the S-word when asked what was on the menu) and frustrating both of them with the fact that this thing they were expected to eat so often still didn’t have a name. Eventually it became “That Bean Stuff.” Somewhere along the way, unbeknownst to me and much to my astonishment, my kid with the limitless appetite for whatever he was served, got tired of “That Bean Stuff.” He continued to eat it without complaint, until one day, he came in and saw me with my huge bowl, row of cans and pile of crunchy ingredients; “Bean Clutter AGAIN??”

In his offhand sideways jab at both my badgering him about his stuff and perpetually serving him food that he was tired of, he succeeded in coming up with the absolute perfect name. We had a good laugh and everyone was relieved that the recipe’s name problem had finally been solved.

Some years later, my cowgirl friend Jill Stanford was working on a cookbook. A successful author, this is her 9th book, and her 4th cowgirl and horsewoman targeted cookbook. Cowgirls Cook for the Great Outdoors was delayed for over a year because of the pandemic, but it was worth the wait and I am honored that my Bean Clutter is one of the 90 recipes she chose; sourced from her many cowgirl friends (and one guy) from all over, including Great Britain. She and co-author (and sister) Robin Johnson rolled up their sleeves and added their own recipes, too; the result is a complete guide for cowgirl-style picnics, potlucks and pack lunches plus a few “grownup beverages” and other surprises. You can get the book here, and the Bean Clutter recipe is below.

Bean Clutter by Gina Keesling

3 – 15 oz cans black eyed peas
1 – 15 oz can garbanzo beans
1 – 15 oz can black beans
1 – 15 oz can cannellini (white) beans
1 – 15 oz can black olives, sliced in half
2 stalks celery chopped coarse
2 carrots chopped coarse
1 each green, red, yellow bell pepper (small/medium size) chopped coarse
about 4 cups of shredded cabbage (I buy cole slaw mix)
3 green onions, sliced thin (can substitute snipped chives)

Mix all this together in a giant bowl

Add 1 pound of meat (choose one) 
Baked ham – cubed
Smoked turkey (I have the deli folk slice thick and then I cube it into 3/4″ or so squares)
Kielbasa – I slice and then quarter the slices
Ground sausage – cooked, drained and rinsed (the spicy kind is good)

3/4 cup vinegar (first choice is red wine vinegar, Bragg’s cider vinegar is also good)
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 T fresh dill (or use dried 2-3 t)
1 T ground cumin
1 1/2 t sea salt (can be less if the meat you choose is salty)
1 t black pepper

Mix this all up in a bowl, then drizzle over bean/veggie/meat mixture, toss to coat. Serve chilled. Seems to get better after it sits for a while. Pairs great with cottage cheese. Makes about 20 cups. A serving for a hungry person can be 2 cups+; this recipe rocks in both the calorie and the fiber department and it is relatively low in carbs.

Wanna read more?

  • Is this all I do? Post pictures and stories about life here on the farm? Nope! HoofPrints.com is my “real” job.
  • You can read more posts about horses here
  • For more fun on the farm, go here
  • Adventures in remodeling are here
  • Is the house haunted? There are some stories about that here
  • Laughable housekeeping advice is here


  1. I love your description of having a son and the amount they eat! Our son is on his own now, but feeding him in the teen and early 20’s years meant almost living in the kitchen preparing food. He would finish leftovers and put the empty container back where it had been – macaroni’n’cheese, brownies, coffee cake, roast turkey and stuffing – you name it. It really became quite a joke between us and now is a favorite memory for me. The recipe for “bean clutter” does look tasty though! I always enjoy reading your posts Gina!


    • Thanks for the comment. Even after Jordan moved out and got his own place, when he’d come to visit he’d scope out the fridge. Sometimes if he was feeling ornery he’d eat whatever leftover restaurant takeout was in there.


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