De-Mystifying Grains/Legumes: Part 2

So… how did it go last week?  Did you try some new grains?  (If you missed it, go ahead on over there.  I’ll wait.) :)  

Ok, now that you’re back, did you know that dry beans/legumes can be like gold to your grocery budget?  Seriously, if you haven’t availed yourself of this incredible resource, I definitely recommend giving it a try.  (And there are even some options for sneaking them into a meal, if you have a bean-phobic person at the table!)  
There are some delicious main-meal options for legumes, or you can use them to stretch the meat you have planned for dinner.  Once upon a time, with busy jobs keeping me away from home 10-12 hours a day, beans were my meal life-savers (and they still are!).  They were cheap and easy.  Plus, beans are pretty low-maintenance. There’s no messy prep or clean-up (compared to most meats)!  In a house with a tiny kitchen and no dishwasher, I appreciated that aspect. :)  

First Things First
Head to the bulk section of the grocery store, and choose your new favorite legume or two. (Bulk is usually cheaper than buying a bag of beans.)  Just for fun, take a moment and compare the cost of dry beans to canned beans; remember your dry beans will expand after soaking/cooking. You will get much more for your money by purchasing dry beans!  Plus, you will be avoiding the preservatives and extra salt that are in many commercially-canned beans (check the ingredients for items like BHT).  
Once You’re Home
Find a schedule that works for you.  At one point, I found it worked well to soak some legumes starting in the evening (for ones that only require about 10 hours of soaking).  Then, in the morning, I would rinse them and cook them in more water while I ate breakfast and got ready for work.  After they were cooked, I placed them in the refrigerator, where they sat until dinner time.  When I arrived home, I could easily grab the pot of beans, and toss them into a recipe, in place of canned beans.  
Another option was to start soaking the beans in the morning, and then cook them that night (usually for the next day’s meal) while we watched a movie.  Or, I would cook up a big pot of beans on a weekend, so that we would have cooked beans available for the week.  Do whatever fits with your schedule.

How Much? 
If a recipe calls for 1 cup of cooked beans, DO NOT soak 1 cup of dry beans!  You will probably end up with at least twice as much as you need.  Use this handy equivalent standard: 
How to Soak?
Pour 4-5 cups of warm water over a cup of dry beans (plenty to cover).  Add about 2 Tbls. of lemon juice, whey, or vinegar to the water.  
How Long to Soak?
I recommend referring to this helpful chart (scroll to the very bottom of the article).  Legumes such as lentils and split peas will only need about 10 hours.  Other beans will need about 18-24 hours, ideally, to help them be more easily digested.  
How to Cook?
After soaking, rinse your beans, place them in a pot, and cover with more water.  Bring to a boil, and the simmer for a couple hours (until done).  
How to Eat?
I don’t think anyone would be really thrilled if you served up a bowl of plain beans (well, except for my daughter that asks for beans as a snack!).  Make them more appetizing for the rest of the family by adding your favorite flavors (Barbecue? Greek? Mexican? Creole? Indian?), or trying something new.  Besides the basic staple of Chili, here are some recipe suggestions:

For more Kitchen Tip Tuesday ideas, head over to Tammy’s Recipes!

Image courtesy of Clip Art Guide.
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