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Posts Tagged ‘Beans and Legumes’

There are so many ways to eat beans. I feel like every time I talk to someone about beans, they can’t imagine eating them daily (horrors!!). Yet one of the healthiest things you can do, especially if you are vegetarian (and maybe even have to avoid soy on top of it all) is to eat beans, and to eat them every day.

Beans have huge amounts of fiber. We know this, because of what they do to your digestion. Turns out that your body adapts over time and your gastrointestinal reactions will simmer down, so to speak. You can in fact eat beans every day and have no problem – you just need to start doing it! How can you get to the recommended level of 35 grams of fiber PER DAY without the massive fiber punch that these little nuggets are packing? I don’t know. A bowl of grape nuts is just not going to cut it.

Then there’s protein… goes without saying. Except that what’s worth saying is that it is no longer considered necessary to eat beans AND rice, or beans AND any other starch, at the same time in order to consume a “complete protein.” You can eat them any old time, all by themselves, and it will all end up in the right place and be properly put to use by your body. Less worrying about food combining – always a good thing, if you ask me. I never could get my head around that.

So how many ways can you eat beans? Well, let’s think of a few ways I’ve had them since I started this new anti-cancer, vegetarian diet thing last November.

  • tossed into salads (I use them from a can, rinsed; or make a batch from scratch on the weekends to use for whatever ideas come up along the way during the week).
  • hummus, red pepper hummus, green chili hummus, garlic hummus, I could go on.
  • refried beans, popular on restaurant menus but also available in cans with NO FAT and no lard or any of that nonsense. Seasoned with lime juice, this is a great spread for any sandwich or taco or piece of toast.
  • for that matter, any bean dip in a jar, if you can be careful to get something without sodium, additives or any other junk, is another great spread for sandwiches, wraps and other concoctions, and for dipping as a pre- or post-dinner snack of course.
  • Bean soups: blended, chunky, pasta e fagiole or minestrone or one of my favorites: white bean and sweet potato soup from Claire’s Corner Copia, yum.
  • Geez, I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface. I practically live on Chipotle’s fajita burrito bowl (without the tortilla) – black beans, rice and fresh sauteed veggies with a good dollop of guacamole and I’ve covered most of my bases for the day (I eat an avocado a day, too… still not tired of that…).
  • baked beans, such as ridiculously easy and delicious vegetarian baked beans in a can.
  • Dal! So many great ways to make this wonderful Indian lentil stew. I recently made a lusciously sweet and spicy one that I’ll have to post here – I used several kinds of terrific lentils (all but the boring brown European kind), various Indian spices, coconut, and olive oil and it was fantastic. We scarfed it down in short order, even Tomas who has an aversion to lentils (from growing up eating too many of the boring brown European kind I suppose).
  • Lentil soup.
  • Split pea soup.
  • Black bean soup.
  • Chili.
  • Cuban black beans and rice. This super-tasty dish deserves its own bullet to remind you to make it once in a while! I will have to post a recipe soon.
  • Falafel. My problem with this is that it’s fried. I tend to avoid it.
  • Veggie burgers – order the fresh ones made in restaurants (yum) or check the ingredients of store-bought ones for those with beans, lentils, or chickpeas. There are some awesome recipes in vegetarian (and any other health-conscious) cookbooks as well, everything from black bean burgers to who-knows-what else.
  • Succotash.
  • Black-eyed peas. Cooking Light had several great recipes in a row for black-eyed pea stews and soups right around the holidays and New Year’s, including a vegetarian version.
  • Black bean and corn salad. Black bean salsa. Seasoned black beans right out of the can, or at most heated briefly and dumped over some rice or veggies.
  • Five bean salad.
  • All kinds of bean salads.
  • Frijoles… any old cooked beans they happen to have around when you are in Mexico, or the terrific refried beans always available for breakfast, lunch or dinner with eggs or anything else you might want.
  • White bean pesto dip. White bean salad from the Moosewood Cookbook.
  • Spiced chick peas, popular at Indian buffets, just as easy to make at home.
  • Speaking of Indian, all those divine curries and masalas with beans, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans or combinations. After your appetizer of dal of course.
  • The Italians have some splendid, simple ways of cooking beans that you would just never get tired of. White beans in a simple soup with tomatoes, kale or spinach, and sausage if you want it – now that’s comfort food.
  • White beans sauteed in a pan with some spinach, garlic, olive oil and a dash of parmesan.
  • How could I forget 7-Layer Dip? Not the healthiest though. Unless you just go for the beans and guac and avoid the sour cream and cheese…

Good lord, I’ve written 850 words about beans and I’m only just getting started. Get your basket into the bulk food aisle at Whole Foods and your nose into a cookbook or two (Italian, Cuban, Indian, all great places to start) and enjoy your beans!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Spring is in the air – albeit intermittently. We are still getting snow every other day it seems, just when things were warming up tantalizingly and drawing us outside to bask in the increasingly warmer sunlight. Various bulbs are poking their green shoots into the air. I can’t remember what I planted or where; this is the fun of bulbs, it’s a little like Christmas for yourself every spring when they come up. Were those tulips? Maybe the red ones? Did I plant red ones? And so the wonderful mysteries of the garden begin to unfold, reminding you why you are so hooked on the warmer seasons.

My compost pile is still a giant ice cube, so I have to content myself with dumping kitchen scraps on top of it. But today I am itching to start cutting back the winter’s yellowed grasses – Miscanthus, Little Bluestem, Nassella and others. There’s just going to be too much other work to do in the garden later; I feel compelled to get these easier, little tasks out of the way now, even though it means I am removing the one bit of structure from our winter landscape. And it’s supposed to snow tonight, so today is my chance, really, to enjoy a few minutes of sunshine and work outdoors.

This weather is also making me yearn for my vegetable garden. I can content myself for now with planning it, which I’ve miraculously put off all winter – what with holidays, vacations and health worries, I never really sat down to dream about vegetables. I didn’t order any rare or curious seeds from heirloom plant catalogs; we have so much variety right here during spring planting season that last year I’d filled my garden right up with Minnesota Midget Canteloupe, Hopi Beans, Cherokee Purple Tomatoes and Tequila Sunrise Peppers and there was no more room for mail-order wonders. So I figured this year I’d just do the same thing and see what sort of bounty it brought me.

In honor of the spring kitchen garden, I want to remind everyone of the 10 Reasons to Eat Local Food (the article is titled 10 Reasons to BUY Local Food, but for me so much is about growing a large portion of it yourself that I can’t limit myself to that outlook!). These pointers, in and of themselves, are inspiration enough to make our green thumbs itch with anticipation!!

Happy Gardening…

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I just returned from a long weekend away for Christmas, and was faced with the customary refrigerator full of mysterious tupperware containers – *oops*, what was that again? when did I make it? In my case, a box of baby spinach, a container with some freshly cooked navy beans, a small tub of leftover brown rice, some carrots, tofu in various stages of freshness, and all the various cheeses that Tomas likes to buy and eat –  to which I had added some special samples that I acquired at Trader Joe’s over the weekend (a wedge of Spanish Manchego, a sheep’s milk Gouda, and a small package of local New Mexican pesto-flavored goat cheese).

And today, Tomas is sick with a cold. Suddenly, the stacks of cheeses and tins of Christmas cookies are out of the question. So are the rich leftovers from Christmas dinner (vanilla-bean whipped sweet potatoes, red cabbage and roasted pheasant). I opted instead for something clear, brothy and healing. Into the pot went a shredded carrot, several minced cloves of garlic, cubed tofu, the leftover rice and some miso for a nice hot miso soup.

But as lovely as miso soup is, it’s rarely a meal in itself. I needed a starter or something solid to munch on. So I turned to the beans. Got to use those somehow… they still smell ok, we know that won’t last much longer…

Here is the result, which was flavorful and healthy enough that it prompted this post. No exact quantities are listed because I didn’t use any measurements, but I’ll give my best guess.

White Bean and Spinach Saute (prep time: 5 minutes; cook time: 5 minutes)

1 cup cooked white beans (navy or cannelini)

two generous handfuls baby spinach

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp (or less or more, to your taste) grated Parmesan cheese

splash lemon juice

Heat the olive oil in a small frying or saute pan. Add the white beans and stir to coat with oil. Add the spinach and turn frequently, mixing in with the beans as it begins to wilt. When spinach is mostly wilted, toss in parmesan cheese and a splash of lemon juice. Mix gently and serve immediately.

Since I’m trying to eat a serving per day of beans as well as leafy greens, this was a perfect supper for me; a perfect way to use up some oddball leftovers; and a perfect way to fix dinner in 10 minutes or less. Possible added side effects may be extra nutrients and energy for the sick one; a cleaner fridge; and a new recipe for the blog. You can hardly even call it a recipe, but that’s why I like it!

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