One of the new things I've been doing around the Crunchy household this winter is making meals with more beans and less meat. Now, I'm not sayin' you should turn vegetarian to reduce your impact (although it's a good idea), but you should try reducing the amount of meat you have in your dishes and adding some organic or sustainably grown beans to make up for it.
You'll get the extra protein in addition to fiber and you'll be saving lots of money while you're at it. Pound for pound, beans are cheaper than meat. And I'm not talking gray, cheapo frozen meat that is past its pull date. By now, you should be looking more into grass-fed pastured critters if you are still eating meat.
If you opt for dried beans over canned you'll save even more money, and they taste a heck of a lot better, too. To be honest, I'm not a huge bean fan and when I've used them in the past they've always been canned. Well, not anymore. In the last few weeks I've used dried beans and I can't get over how much better tasting they are. And less mushy to boot.
Using dried beans always seemed like an enormous pain in the carcass, but I've found myself a few tricks of the trade I'd like to share with you to ease you into beaning up your diet. Plus, if you thought that canned beans were cheap, dried beans are ridiculously inexpensive and last pretty much forever if they are stored properly (in an tightly closed container). If you grow them yourself, the cost will be even more minuscule.
Now onto the hints and tips:
Soaking: WTF? Who has time to soak beans overnight? What if you do actually remember to soak the beans and then decide you don't want to use them that week and now you have a bowl of beans to deal with. Well, fret no more. This process only takes about an hour or so.
Put your beans in a pot and cover with 3 inches of cold water. Bring them to a boil and then take off the heat. Keep them covered for one hour and they are ready to go. Drain them as use them in your recipe. This method works great for kidney beans, navy beans and the like.
Cooking: What about those beans that take hours to cook, even after soaking them? We're talking about big ole beans like chickpeas (or garbanzos or whatever you like to call them).
These do require soaking overnight, but it's worth it. Make a paste out of the following, add water and beans and soak:
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon salt
Rinse thoroughly and you'll only need to cook them for about a half an hour (more if your water is really hard).
So, in sum, beans are low impact (if grown yourself or organically), inexpensive, highly nutritious, contain loads of fiber (a little too much maybe) and fill you up with not a whole lot of calories. If that's what you're after. And, you won't have to worry about colon cancer. Much. Well, at the very least, any excuse to avoid a colonoscopy is a good one.
Of course, if you like having a sluggish digestive tract, by all means, stick to the meats. I won't complain (unless it's CAFO meat).
If you are looking for a real kick-ass hummus recipe, mosey on over to Crunchy Chicken Cooks.
Who knew there was so much to say about beans?