Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Monday Mission: Legume Recommend Some Beans!

April 6th, 2009 · 46 Comments · Super Foods

Beans and Veggies Meal Plan Analysis

Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to simply eat more beans.  Once a week, if you can manage it in your meal plan.  This is the first Super Food Challenge.

Impact Ratings: earth?healthpositivemoneypositive

Level of Commitment: Baby Steps

Find 30 bean recipes, tested and with tons of frugal tips and transformation options, plus 20 pages of information on cooking dry beans, the health benefits of beans, and ideas for bean haters in The Everything Beans Book, available now at Kitchen Stewardship!
Dry or Canned?
Pros Cons
Dry Beans Less $ More work (slightly)
In control of ALL ingredients Must pre-plan
Long soak releases all the nutrients/health benefits
Less packaging waste
Canned Beans Quick and easy! More $
Most sources say canned beans are just fine nutritionally (unlike other canned foods – more on this later!) Conservative sources say method of cooking makes them less nutritious, both in proteins and nutrients
Might have added preservatives/junk
More waste (cans)
Where to Buy

My price point for canned beans was, until my last trip to Sav-a-Lot, less than 50 cents. (They just went up to 57-69 cents!!  Now I have to watch the sales again.)  Fancy beans like garbanzo (chickpeas) and cannelloni beans run more expensive, generally, about a dollar a can even on sale.  If you have an Aldi near you, check their regular price for beans (and leave a comment for the rest of us, if you would).  I always loved being able to totally skip paying attention to bean sales because I only bought the standard ones at Sav-A-Lot!  :( (Healthy Meals at Aldi and Save-a-Lot) (top photo source)

To price compare dry beans to canned, assume that you’ll get about 5-7 cups of cooked beans from one pound of dry.  A can is about 1 ½ cups of beans.  So a one pound bag will get you 3-5 cans.  Generally a pound of beans is less than a dollar.  You do the rest of the math!

How to Prepare

Canned – Open can, dump into strainer/colander, rinse gunk off (well!) and use in a recipe or cold.

Dry – Rinse thoroughly under cool water, then sort through them for any stones or other debris. (Yes, I’ve actually found a pebble and clumps of dirt before!  I’ve noticed that the store brands tend to have more broken beans and yucky stuff.  There’s a local Michigan brand, Carlson-Arbogast Farm, that I’ve had great luck with as far as a quality batch of beans.  They’re not usually too expensive, either, and I love buying “local”.)  If using lentils, mung beans, or split peas, you can skip the soaking section and go right to the cooking instructions. If using anything other kind of beans, continue to the next step: soaking.

Soaking Beans and Legumes

All dry beans and legumes, sometimes even lentils, mung beans, and split peas (more on why later) should be soaked before cooking. Soaking shortens the cooking time and makes the beans more digestible. To soak, cover the washed beans with four times their volume of water, then choose one of these soaking techniques.

  1. Normal soak: Leave the beans to soak for 4-8 hours
  2. Nourishing Traditions style soak: Soak for 12-24 hours in hot water, 140 degrees F is optimal (Nourishing Traditions recommendation). The long soak is the healthier method and makes the beans more digestible.  I write in my calendar to “soak beans” in the morning, then the following morning “cook beans” for dinner that night. Do not add any salt or acid for the soaking period (updated since NT was published).
  3. Quick soak: (Less healthy, but works in a pinch) Bring the beans to a boil for one minute, cover, and let sit for one hour.

Cooking Beans and Legumes

1.      Normal Cook (with methods 1 and 3):  You have the choice of cooking in the soak water (more nutrients) or draining, rinsing and adding new water (less flatulence).  Whether reusing soaking water or adding fresh, there should be twice as much water as beans. Boil furiously, uncovered, for ten minutes. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 1-2 hours, until tender.

2.      Nourishing Cook (method 2):  Drain, rinse, put back in pot and add water to cover beans.  Bring to a boil and skim off foam.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 4-8 hours.  Note:  it is actually possible to cook beans for 8 hours and still have them not quite done!  Make sure your simmer is a good, solid simmer.  My “simmer burner” on low is not enough.

timesaverTimesaver:  when you’re actually ready to cook and feel the dinner hour crunch, the dry beans are ready to go and you don’t have to do anything to them.

Tips

  • 1 c dry beans yields 2-2½ c cooked. Unless otherwise stated, the amounts given in my recipes refer to the cooked volume.
  • Salt can disrupt the cooking, so should not be added while soaking or during the first hour of cooking.
  • I almost always cook a whole pound of dry beans. This way I can add a little extra to my recipe, and then I freeze the leftovers in 1 1/2 cup servings to make “a can” for future recipes. They also can hang out in the fridge for 1-2 weeks (you’ll KNOW when they get bad!).

The above information is mostly quoted from this source.

If you’re really in a hurry, you can also pressure cook beans. Click here for instructions, but I include them with reservations.  This method of cooking does not release all the health benefits of the bean, BUT it is as good as using canned beans and cheaper.  Sometimes you need to let frugality and time crunches win!

A Monday Laugh, On Me

It’s amazing that I ever got brave enough to purchase and use dry beans again after my first experience with them.  If my mother ever soaked and cooked dry beans during my youth, I wasn’t aware of it.  I first used them in college…in a dorm room. (Read:  strike one!)

I was a youth minister planning to run a 30-Hour Famine, where my teens would fast from all food for 30 hours to experience hunger, raise awareness of poverty in the world, and raise money for a good Christian organization to feed the hungry.  One of the possible conclusions to the experience was to reveal their “first meal” to be Unimix, a high-cal, high protein mush served to starving people in third world countries.

30% maize (or corn) meal
10% oil
10% milk powder
40% beans (mashed or ground)
10% sugar

All that matters is that the recipe called for dry beans, and I wasn’t savvy enough to figure out that I could sub in canned beans.  I had only lived on my own one summer and was subsisting on dorm food at the time.

Our dormitory had a small kitchen on the top floor, so I managed to find a pot, and I poured the entire bag of beans in, covered them with water to soak overnight, and stuck the nearly full pot (strike two!) in the corner of our closet-sized abode.  Luckily, the pot was on one of the only scraps of tile floor uncovered by our carpet square…because overnight, those doggone beans expanded, and spilled nasty black bean juice all over the floor!  Plus, they seriously stunk it up.  If you’ve ever soaked black beans, you’ll know the color of the mess I had to figure out how to clean up.  Ick!  To end the disaster, the finished Unimix smelled and looked (and tasted!) atrocious.  It was perfect.  The teens were blown away by their final experience of the 30-Hour Famine, before being led into the next room for their lasagna feast!

So be warned:  dry beans expand!  Don’t fill the pot.

Pair Beans With…

Vitamin C:  helps iron absorption. This could mean having an orange at dinner when beans are served, or just pairing them with tomatoes.  Isn’t it wonderful that we tend to put beans with tomatoes in chili and tomato sauce anyway?

Whole Grains:  the protein in beans, because they are a vegetable, not an animal, is not complete in the form that our body can fully utilize.  When you pair with a whole grain (2 grains to 1 legume), you can complete the protein and give your body something it can really use.  Again, isn’t it great that we tend to eat chili with cornbread, beans and rice (only brown rice counts as whole grain), and bean burritos in tortillas?  A lot of this complementary food happens naturally, but it’s nice to know the science behind a good meal sometimes.

A little bit of meat: Research shows (from Nourishing Traditions) that the protein in legumes, even when completed by whole grains, is not as well assimilated by the body as animal proteins.  Adding just a little bit of meat – as much as 2% or one small sardine – to beans and rice, for example, allows the body to assimilate the vegetable protein completely, sufficient for growth and health.  Such a neat trick for frugal folks!

Simple Side Dishes

I use beans and rice as a side for a lot of meals.  It’s a great way to include beans and an extra protein source, especially if you don’t think your family will go for main-dish beans in soups, chilis and Mexican food.  Here are a few of my favs:

added bonusAdded Bonus: the chicken rice and Mexican rice are, seriously, as easy and quick as a boxed mix but without all the nasty additives.  Plus, they’re both very inexpensive, include whole grains AND generate more leftovers than boxed mixes (simple lunches!).

Watch for a Recipe Connection this week for a great, easy way to make homemade refried beans at a fraction of the cost and a multiplication of the nutrition of canned.

Some Favorite Main Dish Recipes

We’re totally leaving “soups and stews” season for summer, so I also want to remind you that cold beans are delish on salads and in pasta salads.  They are also good finger foods for babies over 8 months (my daughter LOVES them!).  UPDATE:  Broth and Beans: Ideas for Summer Cooking

But I Don’t LIKE Beans!

I understand, I’ve been there.  Every so often, I still cringe at the texture of beans in certain dishes, especially cold.  There’s got to be something for you, too!  Maybe you can use legumes mashed up as a dip (ever had hummus?).  You could try chickpea wraps, which are pretty benign as beans go.  I also had decent luck with making a pancake-like batter with lentils and rice. I’m sure you could skip the seasoning in a dosa and use it just like a tortilla for a wrap or taco.  Try a blended soup or just mashing half a can into a batch of tacos or spaghetti sauce. If we can hide pureed veggies in sauces, we can hide legumes, too!  Start with lentils, which are very bland and easy to cook.

A Note About Soy

Soy is one of those extremely controversial foods right now.  You can find lots of sources that praise soy as the only legume that is a complete protein.  You can also find sources that say soy is simply unsafe to eat unless it is fermented.  For the purposes of this Monday Mission, just stay away from soybeans, unless you’re making Japanese miso…  From what I understand, soybeans are tough to cook with and stink up the house, anyway!

Have a Bean-y Week!

For more great ideas for the kitchen and balancing your nutrition, budget and earth, see these links:


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46 Comments so far ↓

  • Katie

    Sarah, fabulous to share recipes! I’m already thinking about a “Beans Carnival” next fall to gear up for soup and stew season… Sorry about the link; it figures that as soon as I get complacent about testing every one, I miss a hyphen! It has been fixed. :)

  • Sarah

    Great post!

    And thanks for the link – but the url is wrong! :) Oops! Mine has a dash in the middle . . .

    Here is one of my favorite lentil recipes – a great salad for the summer!
    http://sarahs-musings.blogspot.com/2008/01/super-fresh-and-tasty-lentil-salad.html

    Enjoy!

    Best,
    Sarah

  • army_wife

    FYI – Sav-A-Lot is on the list of corporate sponsors of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which promotes politically and socially gay “marriage” and other LGBT causes. Go to http://www.nglcc.org and click on corporate sponsors to see the full list. You might be shocked at who all is on there.

    Katie Reply:

    Oh, bummer. I’m glad I don’t give them very much business…

    Jennifer Reply:

    I am so disappointed. I have been so intrigued by all that you have discovered and share with everyone. I have found so many helpful things. I have been reading and reading and taking so many notes. I signed up for the newsletter, too. Now, sadly, I am going to discontinue my viewing of your website. You profess to be Christian, and that has been very appealing to me. However I see now that you are just another holier-than-though-minded person on the earth….blind to the fact, or refusing to accept the fact, and it is a fact, that some people are genetically predisposed to having traits characteristic of the opposite sex and being “gay”, to put it lightly. There are those scorned women who have been hurt by men and turn to other women, or those that make it a dirty game and are attention seekers, and make sickening light of what is NOT chosen by some others. They ruin it for the ones who have deep rooted, biological homosexuality. They put it in your mind that gay people are sick and demented. Preachers preach the old “Adam and Eve, not Steve”…..but true Christians seek the truth and open their minds to the possibility that our sex drives and hormones are hardwired and we are not all hardwired perfectly the same. People are born with genetic disorders every day. People are born with genetic DIFFERENCES every day. I am disappointed that you and some of your followers are so closed-minded and judgmental. But then again, that’s so typical, I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m sure you are gawking at me right now anyway and not taking one bit of what I’m saying to heart because your mind has been ingrained to believe as it does. I’m sorry for that. I am not gay. I am just a supporter of people who have no choice but to live an alternate lifestyle and suffer daily because of it. I too despise the ones I spoke of earlier who make it nasty and obscene. They are the reason you think the way you do, so I can’t blame you. But maybe you’ll think about it again.

    Rita Reply:

    I know you won’t see my comment, Jennifer, I agree with you. I just found this site today and am disappointed in the comments above. What happened to love your neighbor as I have loved you?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Rita,
    I did approve your comment and actually realized that I had completely missed Jennifer’s comment when it first came in. She will see your reply and mine – I encourage you to read it above.

    Bottom line – love the sinner, hate the sin. I would not put any money toward gay marriage, because gay marriage is wrong. I have no problem loving a gay person as a child of God, but I can’t support a sinful lifestyle.

    Thank you, Katie

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Jennifer,
    I’m not quite sure how I missed this comment last summer, but I’m really not THAT behind on comments. Sometimes I just don’t see a few, I guess.

    I am not opposed to gay people. I DO understand that some people are born with an attraction to the same gender.

    However.

    God is very clear in the Bible and throughout tradition that homosexuals are called to live chaste lives – they don’t have to deny their sexuality, they don’t have to pretend they’re not gay. They cannot, however, marry someone of the same sex, because they were not designed for procreative union which is integral to marriage. Like ANY SINGLE PERSON, a gay person ought to choose a life of chastity to remain in good standing in the Church.

    Let me be very clear – it’s fine for you to unsubscribe because of my one-line comment here. However, as a matter of public record, it deserves my comment.

    I believe that God made all people to be good, holy, and made to love Him and other people.

    I also know with all my heart that any sex outside of marriage is sinful. With anyone.

    God’s Word is very clear that marriage is designed for family, man and woman. I wouldn’t judge or despise a gay person who lives in sin, but I can say that gay marriage is wrong and gay sex is wrong – just as I can unequivocally say that stealing is wrong, anger is wrong, when I snap at my kids I’m wrong, when I judge I’m wrong, and any other form of sex outside of marriage is wrong.

    There are alternative lifestyles that offer a lot more than a gay marriage – being a religious sister or priest is very alternative, and they don’t have sex either.

    I’m going to approve a comment just now from someone who agrees with you, because I believe in open conversation. However. This is a post about beans, so let’s keep it that way from now on.

    Katie

    Kerami Roberts Reply:

    I shall still be reading as your writing on beans and yogurt is interesting and I don’t care about being “in good standing with the Church”. Any Church that denies any person not entering into marriage for procreation isn’t a Church I want to be in any standing with.

    But I am also interested in your thoughts on people who can’t medically have children getting married, in postmenopausal women getting married and in those who are married choosing not to have kids?

    However, I have a creed of my own, which is live and let live and that I should not judge a person by one particular viewpoint, particularly when so much of your site makes so much sense to me.

    Being a priest is a shite alternative to having a loving relationship. Rock on, marriage for all!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Kerami,
    I truly appreciate readers who don’t run away because of one little agreement – thank you for being awesome!

    As for your question, the Catholic Church doesn’t forbid marriages without children at all – only two people choosing to have sex and intentionally block God from creating new life. So a married couple abstaining while the woman is fertile because they feel they are not ready for a child at that time is perfectly acceptable; a married couple (or an unmarried couple) putting the Pill or a condom or an IUD between what is supposed to be a full gift of self to one another, basically telling God, “Sorry, you have no place here,” is not. Does that make sense? So it’s not that marriage is ONLY for procreation, it’s that sex must be open to both procreative and unitive efforts, therefore the participating parties must be married (unitive = forever) and not be hijacking the possibility of new life using means outside of what God created in their bodies, namely the fact that both women are not fertile 100% of the time (men are).

    Thanks for the thought-provoking question, and I hope I answered it clearly! :) Katie

  • Jeanmarie

    I love beans, thanks for this. One correction/tip I just learned a few months ago myself. I had always studiously avoided salting the beans until they were cooked and soft, as everybody tells you, but they usually turned out mushier than canned beans. I read somewhere (don’t remember, sorry) a method that solves the mushiness while turning conventional wisdom on its head.

    You soak the dry beans in salted water! Yes! Rinse off the salt after an overnight soak and cook as usual, adding salt to taste at the end. The beans cook up nicely with a firmer (though cooked) consistency, not mushy.

    I checked this out in “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen,” by Harold McGee. He says that while soaking reduces cooking times of beans by 25%, salting at a rate of 1% (2 tsp/qt) “speeds cooking greatly” by making the cell wall easier to dissolve. While he says the texture may be more mealy this way, the original source (that I don’t remember) said it makes for a creamy consistency in an intact, not mushy, bean, and that has been my experience. I think the key is to soak in salty water but then rinse before cooking in fresh water.

    The Japanese use a square of kombu in soaking and cooking their beans, and kombu is full of minerals, including some salt, so that’s another viewpoint.

    Katie Reply:

    Jeanmarie,
    Wow! Fascinating! I hope you’ll stick around to help us all cook more with beans – I’m constantly trying to improve in that area. :) Katie

    Jeanmarie Reply:

    I’ve actually switched to using my crockpot for beans now. They do come out perfectly. I use part water and part chicken stock to cook the soaked beans. I might try a salted soak again sometime, but the crockpot is just so easy. Just plan 24 hours ahead: soak the beans one night, put them in crock pot the next morning (with fresh water, I don’t reuse the soaking water), and they’re perfectly done for dinner on “low” setting.

  • Jeanmarie

    It worked great on some black beans a couple of days ago. I’ll write it up and post back.

  • JK

    Hi Katie, what do you normally do with the liquid after the beans are cooked?
    Tks

    Katie Reply:

    JK,
    great question!
    Sometimes I just dump it, sometimes the recipe I’m using next (like chili or refried beans) calls for water or liquid, so I use it, and sometimes I throw in at least some garlic cloves while cooking or even carrots, onions and celery and make a proper veggie broth. Many of my bean soups call for either chicken stock or veggie broth, so I can go completely meatless, like for Lent, or just do 1/2 and 1/2 if I’m running low on chicken stock. :) Katie

  • Harold

    A very good source of heirloom dried beans is ranchogordo.com. Check it out

  • Stephenie

    I have some black beans soaking now. Crossing my fingers that my family likes what I have on the menu for tomorrow night. Do you suggest seasoning the beans (other than salt) at the end of cooking?

  • Teresa

    In the last year I have started usuing more beans in cooking, I have found that its not to hard to find recipes that go with our tastes (like southwest black beans and barley). I have found for me that I can never get the right consistancy in a pot on the stove so I started usuing my crockpot, since then they have come out perfect every time. I am not sure if it uses up more vitamins or not but, we do get more than having to throw a pot of beans out and eat something not so healthy because I messed up so bad they are unedible :) I also do not soak my beans as I have not seen any significant difference for us, sometimes I will dump the water and start fresh while cooking, but I rarely remember to do that.
    I have also moved onto and found many wonderful deserts that use beans, either as a main ingrediant or in replace of the fat.
    Thank you for this

  • Traci

    So does the thorough rinsing of canned beans include organic canned beans? I’ve never been sure about this and want to get the most nutrients I can. Knowing would be nice.
    :)

    Jeanmarie Reply:

    You can get rid of some of the starch and indigestible sugars that cause gas by rinsing canned beans, and you will lose a few nutrients that way, but none of the protein will be lost. Same whether it’s organic or not.

    Katie Reply:

    Tracy,
    Unless the recipe calls for the liquid, I always rinse. You can still get rid of the extra salt that way. Then again, I advise to use the bean cooking liquid from your home-cooked beans when possible, so maybe you have a point! Do what feels right to you. :) Katie

    Krysta Reply:

    To remove gas from dried beans, after the first soak (and the water is hot) pour in backing soda, IT WILL FOAM! Drain and rinse the beans and cook as usual.
    :)

    Krysta Reply:

    Baking soda.. I’m going to blame autocorrect :P

  • Ida

    We love beans but don’t eat them near as much as we probably could. We do eat a lot of lentils. My daughter is allergic to a lot of things and has trouble digesting grains. But she does fine with lentils. We started out making dosas without seasoning for breakfast. Eventually we ended up soaking and sometimes sprouting lentils, then blending it with some salt and water or bone broth and recently goat kefir. Sometimes I add a tablespoon or rice flour. We cook it either in ghee or whatever animal fat we have. It looks just like pancakes and are delicious. Even our mainstream, non-allergic friends love it.

    Katie Reply:

    Ida,
    Dosas are something pretty neat, I agree! They’re in my upcoming beans book. Great tips! :) Katie

  • May

    1. I’ve been increasing our bean consumption, however with canned beans. I never thought about rinsing my canned beans.
    2. I bought a container of dry bean soup mix. It has beans, split peas, and lentils and instructions for a couple of soup dishes. Did I make a mistake on buying this container? Or can I soak everything together as if there were only beans?

    Jeanmarie Reply:

    May, I’ve made those multi-bean soup mixes and I don’t think it’s a problem. Some things like lentils may be soaked longer than they need, or cook longer than they need, but it just means it’ll add some thickness to the soup.

    Katie Reply:

    May,
    I agree with jeanmarie, just soak as you need and enjoy! :) Katie

  • Linda

    HOW do you soak beans at 140 degrees for 12 hours? How do you keep the temp that warm for that long?
    Thanks!

    Katie Reply:

    Linda,
    Good clarification! I just start out with really hot water and let it sit at room temp with the lid on. You don’t need to keep it at 140F; you’re right, that would be quite a feat! ;) Katie

    Rebekah Reply:

    Thanks. I was wondering the same thing. :)

    Kim Reply:

    I wondered as well! Glad to find the answer here in the comments.

  • Rebekah

    I just cooked chickpeas for the first time. DUH. Why did I not do this before? Just soak, boil, simmer for an hour. They’re so much better than canned chickpeas, and I even LIKE those. Easiest thing ever!

    (Well, maybe sprouting is easier. And kefir. But you know.)

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  • Ronnie

    This time of year, I enjoy eating bean & grain stew for breakfast. I top them with cheese before warming them for some animal protein to complement the vegetable protein. Sticks to the ribs and keeps me warm.

  • Jodi

    You wrote “Do not add any salt or acid for the soaking period (updated since NT was published).” Would you be able to explain that comment further, such as where you read this research? Thank you,

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Jodi,
    NT is Nourishing Traditions, which, in the book, recommends salt for the soak. Because of many reasons, including phytic acid reduction and just plain getting the beans cooked, you’re not supposed to add salt until the end of cooking – you’ll get crunchy beans if you soak w/salt.

    Hope that helps,
    Katie

  • JJ

    Hi Katie
    I am also a little confused by your earlier comments. Do we soak with an acid medium or is there an update on this?
    I’ve been soaking with an acid medium eg lemon juice, apple cider vinegar etc.
    Would appreciate if you could clarify.
    Tks

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    JJ,
    The best bean soak is just water, 140F optimal, but lesser temps are ok. NO acid or salt or you’ll probably get crunchy beans even after a long cook. :) Katie

  • Amanda Yoder

    With the cost of electricity to soak them overnight at 140, I feel like canned beans are cheaper. Is there something I’m missing? I feel like the math of dry vs. canned is incomplete when not accounting for (very expensive electricity where we live at least).

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Amanda,
    Sorry I’m so late catching your comment; I got buried releasing the latest ebook.

    The answer is easy – just start the water at 140F, then leave it sit at room temp. No electricity needed. I often soak with room temp water the whole time. Hope that helps! :) Katie

  • Terri

    Hi there, im desperate to start cooking my own beans, especially as ive just found out im pregnant with baby #4 but i worry about the safety aspect? can we eat them cold the next day if they were cooked the day before? will reheating for 20mins be enough? sorry, im a worrier :)

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Terri,
    No difference eating cold beans that you’ve cooked yourself vs. cold beans from a can, safety-wise (except that you avoid the BPA from the can when you cook your own). ;) As long as you refrigerate them after cooking, I should clarify. For real – safe!! Congrats on baby 4! :) Katie

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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