a hill of beans

By Nomadic Lass from Havre, MT, USA (Anasazi Beans) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Nomadic Lass from Havre, MT, USA (Anasazi Beans) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Departing from the heavier, more spiritual topics I’ve been focused on over the past few weeks, I wanted to share some recipes today.  Specifically, rice-and-bean recipes.  Beans and rice are the centerpiece of my family’s diet; my husband and I consider ourselves “flexitarian”, meaning we enjoy meat every now and then but eat mainly vegetarian meals.  There are lots of ways to eat vegetarian without having so many beans, but beans happen to work great for our family’s budget, palate, and health.  We felt super-validated this weekend when the Wall Street Journal ran an article proclaiming, “The secrets of the world’s longest-lived people include community, family, exercise, and lots of beans.”

We didn’t start out eating beans all the time, but over the past five years I’ve gotten to the point where my dinner planning revolves entirely around different types of beans.  I rotate us through mainly black beans, red beans, lentils, and chickpeas, and sometimes add in black-eyed peas, white beans, split red lentils, and whatever else we find at the store.  We buy dried beans, which can sometimes be a pain to cook, especially with an electric stove (bringing the beans down from a boil to a simmer usually means I need to have two separate burners going on different heat settings), but I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

A word about, um, digestion … of course beans have a bad reputation here.  But it’s all a matter of what you’re used to. If you slowly introduce beans into your diet, taking care to cook them thoroughly, and gradually increase the amount that you eat, you should be fine.  If you’re cooking dried beans, be sure to soak them first, in plenty of water, and discard the soaking water before cooking in fresh water.

And one more word, about kiddos: we’ve found beans to be GREAT baby food.  When Elizabeth was younger, we’d throw some of our dinner in the food processor and spoon-feed it to her, and she loved it.  Now that she self-feeds, we just lightly mash our beans with a fork, and usually mix in some baby rice cereal to thicken it up & make it less messy, and then give her loaded spoonfuls to feed herself.  She still loves it!  Toddlers are a different story; since many of our recipes involve interesting spices, and toddlers like bland, we’ve had some more battles.  But we can often make things more palatable by making sure they’re not too spicy, and by letting Maggie put cheese or plain yogurt on top.

After all that commentary, how about some recipes?  I created a Pinterest board to showcase some of our family favorites:

Hope you enjoy these!  Let me know if you have any good bean recipes to share!

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8 thoughts on “a hill of beans

  1. Previous enthusiastic reply got an error. So you may not have gotten it. : (
    Summary:
    Super excited about this post.
    After soaking them, how do you handle getting beans to the cooked stage (as they are from a can) if a recipe doesn’t call for cooking them first?

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  2. I just cook them ahead of time – The bag should tell you how much water to use, usually 6-8 cups, but the amount usually doesn’t matter. Bring it up to a boil and then simmer until they’re the consistency you like. It takes around an hour, but that varies widely – from 45 to 90 minutes maybe – depending on the type of bean, the pot you’re using, and how hard you’re simmering them. (And also how old the beans are! try to avoid especially dusty old bags of beans!) If I haven’t figured out dinner ahead of time and I don’t have time to soak and cook, we end up having lentils which don’t need soaking and cook quickly. Let me know any other questions you have – I’m happy someone else is excited about beans 🙂

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  3. I just read through this article on canned foods that contain (or may contain) BPA, and the possible adverse side effects. Do you know if canned beams typically fall in this category? I’m uncertain from the list.

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  4. Good question. I looked at the list you linked to, and a couple of brands we occasionally use for canned beans – Bush’s, and Goya – are on the BPA list. We use dried beans about 95% of the time for cost reasons, so I’m not too worried about it …

    I will say that I got worried a year or two ago after learning that canned diced tomatoes can be a BPA risk; we use a TON of those. But I eventually just decided that I could not worry about it. I would have to make a drastic change in the way we buy & cook food to avoid cans of diced tomatoes, and I just was not willing to do it. I also think the evidence is not very compelling yet. Yes, they say that scientists “have linked low-dose, long-term exposure of the chemical to to breast cancer, changes in the reproductive system, and other health problems” … but how much exactly is a low dose, and how strong is the link? I would want those questions answered before permanently removing canned food from my pantry.

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    1. Thank you, Sheila. It’s comforting to get your perspective and reasoning. We’re not in a spot where I can’t get in a habit of prepping dried beans, though we may be soon. So I’m telling myself that a) beans were not listed specifically, so they are probably less concerning than the items that were mentioned, and b) I’ll keep rinsing them really well. Oh! And my sweet husband is willing to go bean crazy with me once a week! That’s a partial conversion.

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