Remember when you were in school and just the word “bean” would send you into a fit of giggles. Well, the bean gets the last laugh because during the long winter months, it’s the start of the affordable earth -friendly dinner table.
Coming up with fresh healthy meals for the family in the middle of summer is easy. Inspiration is found easily when so much beautiful produce is all around. Winter is more challenging. Meal planning seems a chore when finding any sort of local produce is near impossible, and organic produce is vastly inferior or priced out of the budget. One staple, however, is my menu savior during the cold winter months: legumes. These dried little jewels are the perfect answer to dinner on any cold winter night. From humble baked beans to the rich and complicated Cassoulet, beans are the center of so many perfect meals.
Until a few years ago, I never bothered with dried beans. Actually, I never bothered with beans very much at all (except black-eyed peas, which for a southerner is just plain obvious!). I knew they were good for me and my family, but just not something I took the time to learn to prepare correctly. After quitting my job I started to really focus on feeding my family healthy meals that were also good for the planet. Out went the prepared foods and a lot of the meat we ate. Then beans just naturally started to creep into our diet. I always had a can or two of chick peas and white beans on hand, but not much else. Then I noticed the price difference. A 15.5 ounce can of organic chick peas costs 1.25 at a grocery store near me. Dried organic chick peas from Whole Foods cost 2.39/lb. A pound of dried chick peas is equivalent to 4 cans of beans; $5.00 worth, more than twice the price. For more information on the cost benefits of dried beans, read this article at MSN.
Even after I started using beans on a regular basis, I still shied away from dried beans. My culinary experience had taught me that dried beans were preferred, but I didn’t understand why. After all, I could open a can of beans and have dinner ready in minutes, and the dried black-eyed peas that I had eaten always seemed overcooked and falling apart. However, after reading about the amounts of BPA in canned foods, I decided to start trying dried beans over canned. Besides, the bulk section of Whole Foods is just too much fun to pass up. Old tomato sauce and jam jars started finding new jobs as bean containers. I still keep an emergency can of black-eyed peas and chick peas for nights when time is just too rushed, but the health and cost benefits not to mention the superior flavor and texture just can’t compare.
So, I’ve decided to provide a series of posts on beans. Each post will feature a different bean and a recipe to please the whole family. My header picture above provides a hint at what beans and legumes will be featured. Can you name them all? Post a comment trying to name all of them, and I’ll mention the first person to get all of them correct.
*It is important to note that not all canned beans are in cans that contain BPA. For example, Eden Organics has been using BPA free cans for all of it’s bean products since 1999. For more information on BPA in canned foods, I highly recommend this study.