Cooking with beans

February 02, 2012

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Beans, beans the musical fruit, the more . . .

Let’s talk about beans today!

One year ago I shared that my goal for 2011 was to add more whole grains, nuts and grains into our diet.  I took the plunge by purchasing 5 large 25 pound bags of dried beans (kidney, pinto, Northern, black and garbanzo) from Azure Standard.  Prices range depending on the variety but average just slightly over $1 a pound. For most beans: 1 pound dried beans = 2  cups dried = 4 – 5 cups cooked beans (source).  I split each bag with a friend allowing both of us to enjoy the savings of buying in bulk without having to store a ton of beans.  I found room in a guest bedroom closet for the bags and simply stocked and labeled Mason jars in my pantry for each type of bean.

I am super pleased to say that I am getting ready to place a restocking order through Azure for more beans.  Although I don’t feel that our bean consumption last year was where I want it to be, I feel it was a good start that I can build on this year.

Cooking with beans.

When it comes right down to it, the main two things that have kept me from cooking more often with beans is simply a lack of advanced planning and a lack of bean recipes.   Cooking with dried beans is not hard (in fact it is quite easy) but it does require planning ahead.  I simply can’t cook with dried beans unless I am meal planning.

Planning out my meals in advance is a crucial step for me because:

  • It allows me the opportunity each evening to examine what I will be making the next two days and if necessary begin the soaking process (details on how to do this below).
  • It provides me with the opportunity to be intentional about finding and scheduling bean based (or supplemented) recipes.

I found this one page PDF summery explaining how to soak and cook dried beans very helpful.

Bean Recipes.

Bean based recipes are not something that I have felt very equipped with in general.  I do have my favorite standard Chili recipe and within the last year I have discovered some other great favorites such as:

Black bean brownies

Slow cooker refried beans

Easy (and super yummy) hummus

Mexican Bean Burgers

But lets be real, refried beans are a side dish and hummus is more of a dip/spread.  These are not meals.

Lucky for me I have also been reading the Kitchen Stewardship blog.  Katie has an ebook called The Everything Beans book which (even after cooking with beans for a year) has been a wonderful resource.  Not only do I appreciate having an entire recipe book filled with new bean recipes as I plan out my weekly meals (this recipe book includes appetizers, soups, main dishes and desserts), but I have also found Katie’s detailed instructions on how to soak and cook beans to be extremely helpful.

I have learned things such as why it is helpful to do long bean soaks whenever possible, what foods to eat with beans to help make them a complete protein and helpful tips on how to reduce the gas that bean consumption can create.  I also realized how easy it is to simply cook more than I need and refrigerate (for about a week) or freeze the extras for another meal!

I also was SHOCKED to learn that bringing my kidney beans to a boil for at least 10 minutes is absolutely essential to deactivating a toxic compound called phytohaemagglutinin.  This compound can cause horrible nausea, vomiting and diarrhea by consuming as few as four-five beans which are raw or improperly cooked.  Because I like to use my slow cooker, this was really good to learn because cooking kidney beans in a slow cooker without bringing them to a boil can actually make the toxic effects five times worse!

Don’t let that last bit scare you away from adding this healthy, economical and versatile food to your meal plans!

Do you already cook with beans?  Why or why not? Which beans do you like best?  What recipe(s) are your favorites?

Please note: I am an affiliate of Kitchen Stewardship’s eBooks, which means I’ll earn a small commission from any sales made through links to her book. I first read and used her book personally before deciding if it was one that I felt you would find valuable.

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