Beans: Worthy of a New Year's Resolution



Article Published: Dec. 30, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Beans: Worthy of a New Year's Resolution


This is the time of year when we consider how to improve ourselves in some small way. My strategy to become wealthier and healthier in 2011 is to prepare at least three meals featuring beans each week.

Beans are cheap! Eating beans instead of any kind of meat saves money. Beans are a great source of protein, containing 14-16 grams for each cup, which is comparable to the protein in 2 ounces of meat. Like meat, beans are a good iron source.

Nutritionally, beans are a powerhouse for antioxidants. Antioxidants help keep cells healthy, fighting off free-radicals caused by environmental pollutants. Replacing meat with beans not only boosts antioxidants in the diet, it lowers saturated fat. Definitely good for the heart.

The 8-12 grams of fiber per cup promotes a sense of fullness and even keeps blood sugar from fluctuating, which is great for people with diabetes. Eating beans helps prevent colon cancer and reduces cholesterol levels.

Using canned beans still provides nutritional benefits and saves money, but not as much as cooking dried beans. You may cook a large batch and then freeze for later use in recipes.

Use this recipe for dried kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas) and great northern beans. For more tender dried legumes, such as split peas, black-eyed peas and lentils, use the same cleaning method but start checking for doneness in 45 minutes, or even just 30 minutes if you soak the peas.

Active prep time: 10 minutes. Total time: 2 to 4 hours, with optional soaking time of 6 to 10 hours. Servings: 20 servings, 1/2 cup each.

Ingredients:

2 pounds dried beans
1 tablespoon salt
12 cups water

Method

Clean the beans by putting about a cup of them on one side of a light-colored plate and pulling a few of them at a time toward you. Pick out anything that is not a bean, such as small stones or stems. Also pick out any beans that look much smaller and more wrinkled than the rest. (These mummy beans tend to stay hard no matter how long you cook them.) After you've worked a batch of beans over to the other side of the plate, dump them into a colander and pick over another batch until you've checked them all. Rinse the beans well under running water.

Soak beans, an option that saves energy and may reduce side effects. The FDA recommends always soaking kidney beans for at least five hours and throwing away the soaking liquid to avoid problems with a toxin in some kidney beans. Once you've picked over and rinsed the beans, you can soak them in water for several hours or overnight. Soaking beans softens them without heat and cuts the cooking time by 30 minutes or an hour. Use plenty of water: 12 cups should be enough for two pounds of beans. You can soak beans in the crockpot or pot that you will be cooking them in. Leaving them on the counter is fine; you don't need to refrigerate them.

Optionally, drain and add fresh water. I usually cook beans in their soaking liquid. Some people throw away the soaking liquid and cook beans in fresh water (always do this with kidney beans). This will throw some of the taste and nutrients down the drain but may help if beans give you gas, especially when you first start eating them regularly.

Cook beans in a crockpot or on the stove until they are creamy and tender. Undercooked beans are hard to digest. After they have been boiling for awhile, test three or four beans for doneness; they don't always cook evenly. I like to use a crockpot because it's so easy and the beans get the best texture because they cook very slowly. You'll also save energy compared to cooking beans on the stove.

Using a crockpot (best way): Put the rinsed (and possibly soaked) beans into a crockpot that will hold at least 14 cups. Add water and salt. Turn crockpot on low. Cook until the beans are tender, adding extra water if needed to keep them covered. If you are in a hurry, bring the water to a boil before adding it to the crockpot, and turn the crockpot on high.

Using a pot on the stove: Put the rinsed (and possibly soaked) beans into a pot that will hold at least 14 cups. Add water and salt. Bring the beans to a boil, then turn the heat down to low. Cover the pot with its lid. Cook until the beans are tender, adding extra water if needed to keep them covered.
Drain the beans if you want. Either use right away, refrigerate or freeze.

Taken from http://www.cookforgood.com/index.html.

Check out this website to learn more ways to cook beans and also save money on a healthy diet.



Navy Bean Soup
Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 pound navy beans, soaked in water
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
6 cups water
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
2 1/2 cups diced carrots
1 1/2 cups diced celery
1 can diced tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt(optional)
1/2 teaspoon thyme

1. Place the beans, broth and water in a large cooking pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down so soup simmers for 45 minutes.

2. Add the onion, carrots, celery, tomato, pepper, salt and thyme and cook an additional 45 minutes, or until beans are soft.

3. Stir in the olive oil and serve.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups and is the local food coordinator for Watauga County. To contact Margie, e-mail margie_mansure@ncsu.edu or call (828)264-3061.

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