Call them beans or legumes, lentils or dhal; the nutrient-packed dried bean is a one of the healthiest foods, providing a wide range of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. And yet, most of us don’t include beans in our regular meals. While some people feel they just don’t like beans, many don’t know how to cook them or how easy it can be to include into standard meals. I’m a big fan of beans, there is usually either a pot cooking on the stove or one ready to eat in the fridge.
Not only a nutrient powerhouse, beans are also inexpensive and easy to store. And don’t be scared off by canned beans, they “can” be just as healthy ;). Just watch out for the sodium content, this varies widely from none at all to 30% of your daily needs per 1/2 cup serving. Or you can save money and make cook them yourself.
Here are some of my favorite, simple ways to cook and eat beans:
Cooking beans from scratch isn’t hard, but it does take time and some planning. If you are like me and want to have beans routinely available, cooking a pot every few days can become woven into your weekly habits. Note that cooking time varies based on how old the beans are; this is a bit unpredictable so make sure to check your beans and keep cooking until they are tender.
- Soak 1 1/2 to 2 cups of dried beans overnight (this will decrease the cooking time, you can skip this step, but then allow for about twice the cooking time).
- Add drained bean with water to cover by 2 inches or so. Add any of the following flavorings: 1 quartered onion, 2 smashed garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, one dried chili pepper, 1 glug olive oil.
- Bring to a boil over high heat and let boil for 5 minutes, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender. Check after 30 minutes, they may take up to an hour longer. Add 1 teaspoon salt (optional) once cooked and remove the flavorings.
- Store the beans in their broth. As you use them, don’t toss out the liquid as it’s packed with flavorful and can be used in any recipe that calls for broth.
The Meal Booster
Adding beans to any meal will make it more substantial; providing a fiber and protein boost, keeping you full with slow release energy. Add drained cooked or canned beans to salad, soups, stews, stir-fries, or pasta.
Combining cooked beans with sautéed onions, herbs and spices creates a dense, flavorful treat. Use as a dip for vegetables, spread on toast and tortillas, or add to your next Buddha bowl.
- In a large sauce pan, sauté over medium heat 1 diced onion in 1/4 cup of oil until soft and starting to crisp
- Add 2 diced cloves garlic, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp cayenne; cook for 1 minute
- Add 1 can or 2 cups of cooked beans along with 1/2 cup of bean or other broth. Cook 5 min until starting to thicken.
- Either mash in the pot with a potato masher or puree in a food processor or blender, adding more bean broth, stock or water to create a moist puree.
Bean Forward Eats
There are many ways to make a pot of flavorful beans that can be the centerpiece of your meal. Serve these with brown rice or over a baked sweet potato. Adding vegetables to the pot is an easy way to have a balanced meal.
- In a stock pot, sasuté over medium heat 1 diced onion in a tablespoon of oil until soft and starting to crisp. Optional: add 1-2 cups of chopped vegetables like carrots, cabbage, broccoli, or green beans and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add 2 diced cloves garlic, I can diced tomatoes with their juice or (2 large tomatoes), 1 tsp cumin, 1/8 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 can or 2 cups cooked beans. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add 2 cups broth or water. Optional: add 1-2 cups of chopped greens like kale, collards, or chard. Cook at a simmer for ten minutes.
These are just a few of the many options for adding beans to your diet. What are your favorite go to recipes?