I am very excited to introduce my newest guest, my friend, Sue Bracy. I asked Sue to come up with something to share for the blog. I left the topic up to her, because she is a women of many trades. Sue is the type of person that makes you think, is there anything she can't do? Let me give you some ideas of what I am talking about. She volunteers for habitat for humanity working with construction. She has her own set of power tools which she uses very comfortably. I have had the privilege of working on some projects with her. She enjoys making her own lotions, balms, and soaps. She is an awesome cook and conscious about eating healthy, beneficial food. Her house is surrounded by beautiful flowers that she has planted. In fact, my house is surrounded by beautiful flowers that she has planted! She enjoys the outdoors and going on long walks or hikes when ever the weather allows, often pointing out the different types of wild flowers and berries that she sees. If she doesn't recognize one, you know she will look it up as soon as she gets home. Sue is a thinker. She can speak with intelligence on many different topics, making her joy to talk with. She enjoys music, reading, and relaxing. She loves life and lives it to its fullest. She has a great sense of humor, loves to laugh, and is just fun to be with. You can't be around her long before you hear about her beautiful family and how much she loves them. She gives her all to the people she cares about and expects nothing in return. You can truly see her love for Christ abounding in her. She is a treasure and I am so thankful I can call her my friend. I was very excited when I received the post she is sharing, because again it is filled with awesome and useful information. Thank you Sue!!
OK – I have an admission to make…..I’m a bit of a bean freak. I love beans of any color, shape, or size. Since Kelli asked if I would be willing to do a guest blog for her, I had been mulling a few things over that I might write about. But then it hit me as I was putting some dried black beans in my crock pot before I left for church – I could write about beans!
I do eat meat, but I enjoy making lots of meatless meals during the week, and beans are such an easy way to add protein, fiber, color, and texture to a variety of dishes, and they are great on their own. As an added bonus, when you use dried beans, you can save a good deal of money, as well as keep anything you might not want out of your beans. I didn’t always love them so – as I kid I think I only liked baked beans. But luckily as I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried all different kinds and have come to realize how economical, versatile, easy, and tasty they are. When I’m in the aisle picking up bags of dried beans, I have to bite my tongue to keep from assailing the passing shoppers – “Do you know what you can do with these? These are so easy to prepare! Do you realize how many you get from a $2.00 bag? Do you know how good these really are?”
Throughout history, beans were traded and planted as explorers and nomads wandered the earth. Because of their great storage ability, beans were a primary food for sailors (where the Navy bean got its name). During the Depression, beans were known as “poor man’s meat” because of their protein power at pennies per pound. Besides beans supplying nearly all the amino acids, they are a source of Niacin, Thiamin, Riboflavin, B6, and many other nutrients. A cup of cooked beans contains more potassium than a banana. In fact, beans have more calcium and iron per cup than three ounces of cooked meat but contain no cholesterol and with less calories. They are the best source of folate, and their high fiber content and cancer-fighting characteristics have been specifically linked to lowering the risk of colon cancer. There are eight flavenoids in the outer bean layer, six of which are strong antioxidants. And they just taste good! Beans can be eaten raw, sprouted or cooked. They can even be ground into flour for those who need to eat gluten free. Beans can be juiced into milk, curdled into tofu, fermented into soy sauce, or even made into noodles (vermicelli).
How to prepare dried beans:
Sort: Put beans in a colander and rinse well. Check for foreign objects, such as small stones.
Soaking: This step isn’t always necessary, but there are advantages, the biggest being a shorter cooking time. You should add about four times as much water as dried beans. Soaking also leaches some of the gas producing properties out of the beans, but you need to discard the soaking water and replenish it with fresh water before cooking. I find the easiest method is to just soak the beans overnight. A quick method is to add water to beans, boil for 2-5 minutes, then cover and let rest for 1 hour before continuing to cook.
Cooking: Rinse the beans, add fresh water to cover by a couple of inches, heat them to boiling, then simmer gently (to prevent splitting) until desired softness. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the bean. You should check them for softness every 30 minutes (adding more water if necessary) and remove from heat when they reach desired consistency. My favorite way to cook beans is to put them in the crock pot, add water to cover by at least a couple of inches and cook on high for a few hours (3-4), or on low (6-8 hours). Sometimes I put them on low overnight. If doing overnight, add plenty of water, so they don’t boil dry. (If in doubt, add more water.) I cook large quantities of dried beans and then freeze in portions to use in recipes. This morning I put two pounds of black beans in my crock pot before church, and when I got home divided them into six portions (each one approximately the size of one can) and put them in my freezer. I don’t add any seasoning when freezing. Do not add salt until beans are at least 80% cooked, otherwise they may be tough. With black beans, I will often take out some portions to freeze, and leave a few cups worth in my crock pot, add onions, garlic, and brown rice (add more liquid if dry) and let cook until rice is done, seasoning with salt, pepper, and cumin.
NOTE: The more often you eat beans, the more your system will become used to them and avoid the problem of gas. You may skip the soaking portion if you’re not bothered by gas, but NOTE - Kidney beans are an exception to the normal rules, and must be cooked thoroughly before being used in a recipe using a slow cooker. Uncooked kidney beans contain a high concentration of phytohaemagglutin, also known as kidney bean lectin, which is toxic. To avoid any problems, soak kidney beans for several hours, then rinse, add fresh water, and cook thoroughly (for at least two hours) before using in any recipe.
Uses: I actually like garbanzo beans, pinto and kidney beans as snacks all by themselves. I especially like garbanzo beans in salads, hummus, and Middle Eastern recipes. I find black beans extremely versatile – I use them in salads, soups, casseroles, and one of my new favorites is an easy crock pot meal when you have not planned ahead – Place frozen chicken parts, frozen corn, frozen (or thawed) black beans, onions and garlic in the crock pot, and add a jar of your favorite salsa or canned tomatoes (no mixing or water needed). You can add whatever spices you prefer, and make it as mild or spicy as you like. I often put this together on a Sunday morning before leaving for church, and cook on high for around five hours or low for around eight hours (crock pots are sooooo forgiving). If there is lots of liquid, I throw in brown rice a couple of hours before I want to eat, and then all you need is a salad for a scrumptious meal! (Note: if you cook chicken that long, it will be fall-apart tender, so watch out for the bones.) Except during the hottest months, I like to make a big pot of soup each week. I sauté onions, garlic, carrots and celery, then add some type of broth, a can of tomatoes, any type of bean, and barley or lentils or brown rice, and let simmer for an hour or so. Sometimes I add cabbage, potatoes, parsnips or rutabagas. At the end I toss in any odds and ends of leftover cooked veggies I may have lurking in the fridge, and some type of green (spinach, swiss chard, or kale). It can be so varied with different broths, beans, veggies, grains and seasonings, that it seldom tastes the same twice.
My neighborhood grocery only carries the more common varieties of dried beans. But if you are fortunate enough to live near larger stores, you will be amazed at all the different types. Also in the health food aisle you can often find a few of the more exotic varieties. If you are cooking for kids, there are some great beans out there with catchy names like Adzuke, Anasazi (cool looking red & white beans), and Black Turtle beans. Involve your kids with the choosing, sorting, soaking and cooking, and they just might be more inclined to try these tasty, nutritious treats! You may even be raising some future bean freaks!