Practical food tips for parents from a RD and mom of three

Friday, April 23, 2010

Easy Beans

Beans are a great source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, folate, and iron. Beans contain soluble fiber (the type in oatmeal) which can help reduce cholesterol and insoluble fiber for “regular” bellies.

Canned beans are easy to keep on hand for quick cooking. Just open a can, drain, and rinse before adding to a recipe. Dried beans are also easy to keep around, cost less than canned, and are lower in sodium. They just have to be soaked and cooked before using them.

Here's a way to make dried beans as easy as canned: soak and cook them when you have time, then freeze them for quick use later. This is a trick I learned from Food Network's Melissa D'Arabian. There are two ways to soak beans –

Quick method: Put 1 pound of beans in a pot with 6-8 cups of hot water. Bring this to a boil for two minutes, then let it sit for about an hour. Drain and rinse.

Longer method: Use the same amount of cool water and let beans soak overnight. Drain and rinse.

To cook: Cover beans with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let them simmer until tender (each type takes a different amount of time up to 1 1/2-2 hours, I just try one every 10-20 minutes or so).

To store: Drain beans and let them dry off in a colander for a few minutes. Portion beans into small zip-top storage bags and freeze. I put about a cup and a half per bag, which is about the amount in a can.

My kids LOVE beans, and I will sometimes add plain beans to their plates as a side dish. Beans are also a great addition to soups, pasta, rice and casseroles.

Today's Tip: Add protein and nutrients to meals with beans.

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