Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Full of beans

Big pile o' beansOne 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?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing those tips. I do not use dried beans as often as I should. They are a fantastic source of protein and yummy too. I need to slip them into our meals like I do the zucchini and squash. Do you have any favorite recipes that you use beans with?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great blog. I discovered the greatness of dried beans a couple of years ago. When I make beans; I make extra and freeze the extras in meal size portions. Next time I decide to use the beans, I take them out of the freezer and let them defrost in the refrigerator. This saves energy on cooling the refrigerator and on not running the stove again and time.

Anonymous said...

If you want to reduce your waste, there's another thing you can do: bring a reusable container to your local co-op or natural foods store, and refill your beans in bulk. Where I buy my beans, they weigh my empty container first and take note, and then subtract that weight after I bring the dried beans to the counter to be weighed and paid for. No plastic bags!

Green Bean said...

With trying to eat seasonally, I find myself with no as much to eat in the winter except for potatoes, citrus, frozen pumpkin puree and, you guessed it, dried beans. I'm looking for more and more ways to cook with these as they are so healthy. If anyone has some good vegetarian recipes, please post them - or links to them. Yum!

PS to Pam: thanks, didn't know I could freeze beans - not that there's any room left in the freezer after all the pumpkin puree I made but still. :)

Christy said...

This is a very timely post as one of my goals for 2008 is to add more beans to our diet. Thanks!

Chile said...

I loooove beans. I started a comment here but it got too long. Come check my blog in a bit, and I'll have a new post up about beans, beans, beans....

MissAnna said...

Excellent post, especially about the garbs. Seems like all I ever make with them is hummus though. If you have any other great recipes for them, I'd love to see them in your other blog!

Chile said...

Beany post up. Now I'm hungry. That dang Crunchy. Oh well, if I go cook some beans, it will warm up the kitchen so I won't be freezin' my buns off!

Anonymous said...

Slow cooker! You can pick up a pretty decent on for $30-50 at Target (or you may be able to find one at the local thrift store) and they work wonders for beans. After soaking (overnight or using the quick-soak method) you can pop 'em in the cooker and not have to worry about boiling all the water out of your bean pot (which is super frustrating after all that soaking time!)

As for recipes, I'd definitely check out some Indian cookbooks. Making dal out of lentils isn't as complicated as you might think. And I've found some really awesome chickpea dishes from Indian cuisine, too. My personal favorite is Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, but you can also find good recipes at

Also, as Pam noted, you can freeze the extra beans, either cooked and ready to be added to soups and chilis, etc, or you can freeze the bean dish and have a fast, home-cooked frozen dinner for one of those nights when time and cooking inspiration are lacking.

Arif Mamdani said...

to complement the slow cooker comment, and to acknowledge our busy lives, beans cook wonderfully in a pressure cooker, and fast too - I've got a small pressure cooker - pan really - and cook a cup of garbanzos in 10 minutes.

DC said...

If you're up for a bit of a challenge, you can buy organic soybeans in bulk for less than a dollar a pound and make your own tofu very inexpensively. There's a text recipe here and a good video recipe (complete with chill-out elevator music) here.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for spilling the beans about beans, Crunchy. ; ) I was looking for a pun, and that's all I could come up with - sorry.

Just wanted to add that beans are very easy to grow, they are beautiful plants, and they put nitrogen back into the soil for the next crop rotation.

Riana Lagarde said...

great reminder! and beans are great for warming up under the covers while you are freezing yur buns off. i have to make more beans!

i let them cook all day long on top of the wood stove, good winter food. we will be planting more this summer.

Anonymous said...

Do any of you have suggestions for those of us who would like to lean more towards vegetarianism, but are unable to eat most beans/lentils/peas/peanuts/other nuts that have been hanging out with peanuts because of allergies and/or food sensitivities? Some forms of soy seem to be ok (i.e. tofu and miso) but I'm out of luck otherwise

Anonymous said...

I love beans so much! I've been making them often enough that I can just set them to soak whenever I remember and I'll have used them up long before they go bad. I've been making a variety of bean soups, plus baked beans. Baked beans are great mixed with winter squash or sweet potatoes, and leftover baked beans or soup mixed with some extra tomatoes makes an amazing pasta sauce.

For baked beans, put a soaked pound of beans in an oven-safe container with a lid, plus enough water to cover the beans, a few tablespoons of molasses, honey, or maple syrup, some chipotle peppers or smoked ham, and a drizzle of oil. Cover and put in the oven at 250 degrees when you leave for work. You will have tasty baked beans when you get home :-) If there's nobody home to check on them, add a little extra water.

Anonymous with allergies -- are you sensitive to the legumes themselves, or just to ones that have been exposed to peanuts? If it's the latter, you might want to see if you can find a smaller farm in your area that grows beans but not peanuts, and make sure that they package the beans themselves so that they couldn't possibly have seen a peanut.

DC said...

"Do any of you have suggestions for those of us who would like to lean more towards vegetarianism, but are unable to eat most beans . . ."

The easiest way to get protein as a vegetarian is from milk, cheese and other dairy sources. Organic dairy products cost more but are best for you, the cows and the environment (they contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and certain vitamins, and they do not contain herbicide/pesticide residues).

There are also many whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat, etc.) that are high in protein. If you not going to be eating any meat or legumes, I would probably consume at least a little dairy just to be on the safe side since most individual grains do not contain high amounts of all essential amino acids.

A couple of our favorite vegetarian cookbooks are The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen and Linda's Kitchen by Linda McCartney. Both contain a variety of recipes with and without beans.

Debbie said...

What's up with the salt, flour and baking soda? I've cooked beans for decades and never used this. Furthermore, adding salt while cooking beans slows down the cooking process (acids, too, so don't add any tomato products until the beans are cooked either). I use either a slow cooker or a pressure cooker and never presoak or even do the abbreviated soak. Works fine for me. Kidney beans, however, have some sort of toxin and should be boiled for 10 minutes to get rid of it.

To make beans more convenient, cook a whole pot full any time you cook them, and freeze them in 1-1/2 cup to 2-cup portions (1-1/2 cups is about the amount of beans you get in a regular size can of beans). Almost as handy as canned and a lot cheaper.

Heather said...

May I second the comments on a pressure cooker? You can cook absolutely any kind of beans in 1/3 the time it takes to boil them on the stove. One third the time, one third the gas/electricity etc. In the time it takes our beans to cook (20-30 minutes for most beans) we prepare some kind of sauce or dry onion/spice mix that then gets mixed with the cooked beans as soon as they're done. Yum!

I don't know about the US, but pressure cookers are hard to come by here, except that every Indian grocery store sells them.

A good intro to cooking with beans and meat/bean mixtures is the mennonite cookbook "More with Less" - available online or at stores like 10,000 villages.

And you people don't know how lucky you are being able to buy soybeans! I *love* soybeans but they don't grow in NZ and all imports of them were shutdown about a year ago due to fears of them bringing in various plant diseases we don't currently have. You can import them direct to a food processing facility, so you can still buy tofu, miso etc., but sales to the public are banned. Grrrrr.....

--Heather :-)

Anonymous said...

I got a pressure cooker for Christmas, so I raised my one-bean-meal-a-week goal to two.

Our first was dal in the pressure cooker :) The second was curried chick peas & cauliflower, but the chickpeas were canned. I think this weekend, white bean soup.

allergic to beans - here are some quick easy bean-free veggie meals:

Sauteed veggies (zucchini, greens, & red pepper are good together) with a dash of salt in a whole grain wrap, with maybe some yogurt.

Cubed steamed winter squash, sauteed bok choi, and dumplings made with mushroom and napa cabbage (dumplings are a pain in the butt to make so you might as well invite a friend and make 200 so your freezer is full).

Cooked barley or brown rice with gingered carrot sauce, roasted beets (maybe with bleu cheese crumbles) and oven fries made out of parsnip, sweet potato, and fennel.

Steamed broccoli with almond-butter sauce (my brother is allergic to legumes but not almonds...but he's not allergic to peanuts either, so who knows.)

I am aiming more towards beans because they're cheaper (and I hope easier) but there's a whole lot of vegetarian cooking you can do without beans.

Anonymous said...

A super fast way to cook dry black beans is to combine the soak and cooking by putting them in a Crock Pot, covering the beans with water, and cooking them on low overnight. I combine these 2 steps all the time.

I would _love_ some good bean recipes. I found this one recently when I also had some leftover sweet potatoes from Thanksgiving:, and as strange as the recipe may sound, the sweet/spicy combo is absolutely delicious.

Miss Kris said...

Have you been able to find beans that are grown locally or at least in the U.S.? I thought I would have luck at the co-op, but nope!

Anonymous said...

miss kris -- If you're in the Northeast (or even if you aren't, but then they're not as local), Wood Prairie Farm sells utterly delicious organically grown heirloom beans.

Anonymous said...

No, no! Don't avoid the colonoscopy! I went for the age 50 screening and have a huge polyp that would soon become cancerous if I didn't have it surgically removed. And I eat a lot of beans, and whole wheat, and fruits and veggies, and all that fibrous stuff!

Anonymous said...

Beans are our substitute around the house since we eat very little meat.

This is a great post, although it should be noted that quick soaks of beans lead to more *ahem* digestive effervescence compared to longer soaks.

Tree Huggin Momma said...

I know this is an older thread and this comment might never see the light of day (much less me remember to come back and check to see if anyone answered it).

Frozen beans - does this affect the texture and would you say the the texture is comparable to canned beans or better? I would love to cook a large pot of beans and then freeze them for use in the summer. I can't stand to heat the kitchen cooking beans, but boy do we all love beans. And Kidney and White Kidney (aka Navy Beans) have a toxin (to my understanding it causes digestive discomfort which will pass) both have to be boiled 10 minutes to eliminate the toxin and it is not certain that the temp in a slow cooker gets high enough to do this. It would be my suggestions to boil them the 10 minutes freeze them and then use them in the slow cooker.

Pressure Cooker just got added to my list, my mother used one when I was a child.