Many of you who know me or have been reading my blogs will not be surprised by the ode to beans that is about to follow. Is there anything under the sun as healthy and delicious as beans? I’m sure the answer is yes, but really and truly beans are almost as essential to a healthy diet as water. People who eat beans regularly are less susceptible to a number of illnesses including diabetes and heart disease. If you are a vegetarian, I believe beans are an especially crucial part of your diet and should not be left out. One question that’s often raised is “is there a difference between canned beans and dried?” The answer is of course, yes! It is far better for both taste and quality to buy dried beans and cook them yourself. While the cooking process is not difficult, it does take a bit of planning (and counter space.) For best taste, you should soak beans at least 10 hours (so overnight) before cooking them. This helps with taste and texture, but also releases the enzyme in beans that let’s just say has given them a bad name and might give you reservations about eating them before a big date. If you do use canned beans, be sure to rinse them really well. Similarly to anything packaged in a canning factory, you just don’t know what might have fallen into the mix. But that’s for another blog.
Here is how I prepare beans. First off you should know that I eat beans at least once a day. I could easily go through a bag or even two of beans in a week’s time. It doesn’t matter what type of beans you make, although black beans and dark red kidney beans do have the highest antioxidant content. Once you have selected and soaked your beans of choice here’s a simple prep:
- Chop 1 onion, a couple of carrots and some celery and set aside.
- Strain the soaking beans, place them in a large pot with just enough filtered water to cover them.
- Add chopped veggies (these give a nice flavor to any variety of beans.)
- Bring beans and veggies to a boil and reduce heat to a steady simmer.
- As water evaporates add more 1 cup at a time.
- When beans are done they will be soft and have absorbed the water they were cooked in. Beans on average should be cooked 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
As I said, cooking beans is not difficult, it simply requires time (which if you set aside a few hours a week to cook you will have plenty of.)
Once you have a big pot of cooked beans cooled you can store them in a large sealable container or freezer bag.
Here are some great things you can do with prepared beans:
- Mix them with chopped veggies and a whole grain. Add lime juice or balsamic vinegar for a delicious bean salad
- Heat beans and a whole grain as well as your roasted veggies and serve on a whole wheat wrap with avocado and tomato or salsa.
- Serve beans alongside eggs and toast in the morning for added fiber and fullness throughout the day.
- Serve warm over brown rice with chopped tomato, cilantro and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper for a hearty and healthy dinner. Be sure to have a scoop of veggies or salad on the side.
People think that I must spend all my time cooking, but I’m telling you I eat great, delicious, healthy food every day and I really only need to cook once a week. Yes, if I want to make a special dinner I’ll go out of my way, but my basic food groups I keep prepared and on hand to keep my life simple and stress free. The key is not time, my friends. It’s organization.