As Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) approaches, I start to dream not of gumdrops but of the marvelous Cuban feast for that night. Traditionally, the 24th is all about sharing great food with family and friends. The 25th is for church and/or laying around. And Epiphany, the 12th day of [la la la] is for gifts. A slower, sweeter approach to a winter holiday.
The menu varies a bit from family to family, but typically includes yucca, fried platanos, roast pork, and black beans with rice (aka moros y christianos - reflecting both Cuba's multi-cultural heritage and its sense of humor). An incredibly savory and gratifying meal.
In the summer, I cook the beans in the solar oven; but in the winter I love to have the pot simmering on the stove. Although it's terribly easy to start with canned beans, if I have time to think ahead and soak some dried ones I find the process more satisfying. (Gorgeous, warm aromas infuse the house.)
Hardly any great source of protein, fiber, and iron can be found more cheaply than dried beans; and they store as long as you need them to without any refrigeration or canning. Best of all, they are a vegetable always picked in season but ready to prepare at any time. And for me, Cuban Black Beans are in season all year.