Monday, April 28, 2008
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Saturday, April 12, 2008
Beans are an excellent food source. They are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and they are inexpensive as well. They are a wonderful food source for your body and your budget. One comment I hear often from ladies is that someone in the family does not like beans. I have come to wonder for the most part if this comes from past bean eating experience. Most bean types, by themselves, are rather plain tasting (intrinsically not really enough there to actually dislike). They are not overly sour, hot, sweet, bitter, tart, etc. So how you cook and how you flavor them will have a lot to do with how they taste and ultimately someone’s overall opinion about them. A lot of bad bean dishes made by well meaning people of your past, equals a lot of bad opinions of beans. But a well cooked bean dish may be able to sway those dislikes to likes. ~smile~
I have been serving beans to my family for years and have learned how to cook some really good bean dishes (at least my family, friends, and ladies I hear from via email have told me this). I do have a few tricks and recommendations when you are learning to cook beans. Once you try a really good bean dish your feelings about beans may just change (and/or hopefully your family’s as well).
A few tips…
~Never use canned beans. They are yucky, in my opinion.
~Always add salt at the beginning of cooking them. That is what helps bring out the flavor in a pot of beans
~Never add tomato products (sauce, paste, diced, stewed, etc.) until AFTER the beans have finished cooking. The acid in the tomatoes will cause your beans not cook.
~Soaking is not mandatory. It is great for the optimal nutrition, and I try and remember to do it, but usually don’t succeed well at that task so I cook the beans right from the bag to the pot, no added steps.
Worried about beans causing gas? Yes they will if you are not use to eating them. Once they become a regular part of your diet your intestinal flora will adapt and the gas problems will diminish.
Best types of beans to try?
My first choice, especially for someone who is new to eating beans is the pinto bean. It is mild and adapts well to a large variety of recipes. I wrote an article on what to do with 25# of beans (buying in bulk is how you save the most money! :). After that I suggest, red beans, black beans and navy beans.
How to Cook a Great Bean Dish:
In the following pictures you will see how I cook one of our favorite bean dishes, Italian Pintos. It seemed I was always seeing how to turn beans into chili and at one point I set out to try something different and this was what I came up with and my family has loved it ever since.
The actual recipe can be found here: http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/italianpintobeans.htm
The recipe gives directions on how to cook this meal by fist soaking the beans. I, as mentioned above, forgot to do this so the water amount is different (beans expand and soak up water during an overnight soaking). The recipe also calls for optional green peppers. I would have added them except when I went shopping yesterday and Costco was out of the mini peppers that I love to buy. So they are not part of this recipe.
Here are the ingredients needed to make Italian Pintos (I forgot to add the parmesan cheese and garlic to the picture):
The first step is to cook the beans. This will take 2 ½ to 3 hours or more if you live at higher elevations.
Add the beans to your soup pot:
Add 12 cups water (this is the adjusted amount of water because I did not soak them. If I had soaked them I would have followed the recipe accordingly).
Add 1 tablespoon of salt (my standard measurement is 1 t salt for each cup of beans and this recipe calls for 3 cups beans):
Bring the beans to a boil leaving the lid off. After they have come to a boil slowly bring turn the temp down over the next 5 minutes. I usually set a timer for this:
I have found that if I bring the beans to a boil, cover them and turn the heat down they always boil out over the pot making a big mess. When I do it slowly over 5 minutes and then put the lid on and finally turn it down on low, nothing boils over.
Now go ahead and think about any other dinner preps you want to go with this meal. I served a salad and the second loaf of French bread that I made a couple of days earlier and froze. Or go and do something else, as other than side dish preps, there really is nothing more to do until dinner time.
When the time is up, check to see if the beans have cooked enough. Use a slotted spoon and pull up a couple of beans. Blow on them, the first thing that should happen is the skin on the beans should split. This is a good sign. Then taste one. They should not be hard in any way. They should be soft. If they are hard, let them cook a little longer. Another test I do is when I stir the beans is that they should not feel “clicky”. That is my own term (at least I have never heard it used before) and one that I don’t really know a better way to describe, but you should not feel them bumping up against each other when you stir them. Try stirring them when you know they are not done yet to get a feel for “clicky”.
When your beans are done go ahead and cook up the sausage and onions. Begin by chopping up your onions (and peppers, if you are using them):
Get out your frying pan and let heat up:
Add the onions and sausage (this is where you would also add the optional peppers):
And cook these until the meat is no longer pink and the onions are soft.
Now add the rest of the ingredients to the pot of cooked beans:
The sausage and onions:
Stir and taste and add a little salt if you think it needs it, I never do.. they taste delicious! :)
Serve this up in soup bowls with a nice salad on the side and maybe some French bread, dinner rolls, or even some good quality whole grain crackers:
Then enjoy your dinner!!!! ~smile~
***Last thing I should mention about this recipe is it makes a lot! So if you are a small sized family, feel free to cut it in half or freeze half of it for another meal.