Tuesday, November 8, 2011

All About Beans!

Beans are a critical part of my families' meals - lunch and dinner - on a weekly basis. Beans are an awesome way to quickly add fiber and protein to your family's diet. If you are looking to bump up the nutrition content of your families meals, beans are by far the most affordable way to go.

I used to be a fan of canned beans - quick and easy. But I never really loved their flavor and consistency. For some reason, cooking my own beans was a little daunting to me.

Then I learned about the benefits of soaking and cooking your own beans (learn more about why you should soak your beans here.) When I discovered that I can prepare them in my crock pot, I was sold! As an added bonus, they taste so much better and their texture is what you would expect from a bean (i.e. not mushy!)

In addition to all of this, organic beans purchased in the bulk section of your favorite Co-op or grocery store are incredibly inexpensive. One pound of cooked bulk beans costs under $3.00 (as low as $1.30/lb when on sale at my co-op!) and is equivalent to 7 cups (or 4 cans) of beans!

Soaking your beans: Per the directions in the link above, you can boil the beans for 2-3 minutes, cover and leave overnight to soak. I use a big 6 quart crock pot, rinse the beans, pour them in, fill it with water and leave it overnight on the WARM setting.

Cooking beans: Drain the beans after soaking and rinse them thoroughly. Rinse out the crock put and wipe it dry with a paper towel. Add the beans back into the crock pot and fill with water (fill until beans are completely submerged in the water). Cook on LOW. Our favorite beans to cook are garbanzo (chick peas) and black turtle beans. The garbanzo take about 6-7 hours and the black turtle take 4-5. After they are cooked (take a taste test to make sure they are done to your liking), drain and rinse with cool water. Let them cool completely.

Here is the best part - you can freeze the beans in can-size portions to use for cooking later. As I mentioned, they have a great texture (and are sodium free) - freezing them does not impact their flavor or texture, in my opinion. I freeze them in 1-2 can potions (1 can = 1.5 cups cooked)

My little guy loves beans. Here are some great ideas of what to do with all of the beans that you have on hand!

  • Eat them as-is! I serve these as a snack (great for on-the-go)! Sometimes I will mix them with grass-fed sausage sticks or even as a side dish with lunch on their own.
  • Use them in burgers like these and these.
  • Roast them for an awesome, crunchy snack! Check out the recipe here.
  • Add them to cold quinoa and rice salads, crock pot chili, soups, or make this Moroccan Chick Pea recipe.
  • Make them into hummus. Pack the dip in a container for school lunch or serve a big bowl with raw veggies for a super healthy snack. Two great recipes (season to taste - remember these beans have little to know sodium content):
    • Black Bean Hummus
    • Basic Hummus (I sub in extra olive oil for tahini until I get my desired consistency, my son reacts to sesame,a lthough I can't say if it is an intolerance because we have not had him tested for sesame). You can add all sorts of things to bump up the flavor of this recipe, including roasted peppers/zucchini/eggplant, extra lemon, some seasoned breadcrumbs, etc.
  • Use in quesadillas and or as a side dish with tacos, etc. Almost all of my quesadilla recipes include beans! (One easy side dish idea: warm up 1.5 cups of black beans (1 can equivalent) with 3-4 tbsp of salsa and 1.5 tsp cumin and salt to taste - YUM!)

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