Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to start using or increase your frequency of use of dry beans in your menu plan.
For a while when I first started Kitchen Stewardship, I may have been known as a beany gal. I had lots to say about beans, focused a huge early Monday Mission on eating more beans, and even ran a meal plan analysis series to help people include more beans in their weekly plans. It was clear how I felt about beans.
Lately, we’ve been tackling many other things, and I think it’s worth a big re-visit to the beans topic. Using beans makes the list of my 3 Easy Changes to Make That Won’t Cost Too Much, and I’d put them pretty high up on any list of foundational Kitchen Stewardship habits. I personally try to include them at least once a week in our dinners.
Beans have a lot going for them. When you’re fighting the tensions of the four pillars of Kitchen Stewardship, you often feel the pull: your budget starts to hurt because of the meat, milk and eggs you are buying to be more kind to the earth and improve your nutrition. You’re spending a lot of time preparing healthy grains and wondering how much to spend on organics. It’s tough to balance them all, and that’s why I’m here. I love to focus on any habit that hits all four pillars with a positive impact.
- very nutritious, a source of both protein and iron, among other things
- extremely frugal, especially if you use dry beans
- fairly easy on the earth, with only a plastic bag going to waste with dry beans (or nothing, if you can find them in bulk)
- not time-consuming and can make huge meals that are easy to freeze for simple dinners later
I’m a big fan!
Take One Step Up
For your Back to Basics mission this week, ponder your relationship with beans and take one step forward on the continuum:
- Bean haters: Try sneaking some lentils into taco meat or finding a good hummus you can stand. Start small!
- Occasional bean users: Shoot for beans once a week for the next month in your menu plans (are you with Plan to Eat yet?). Your budget and waistline will thank you!
- Canned bean lovers: Learn to soak and cook dry beans, both to upgrade the nutrition and make more space in your food budget for other things (like next week’s Back to Basics focus, healthy fats).
- Dry bean aficionados: You all have it easy this week. Rest on your laurels a bit, but do find one new bean recipe to try and love.
The Everything Beans Book is here!
Inside The Everything Beans Book, published February 2011, you’ll find details on why beans are healthy, six arguments against beans and my counterpoints, detailed steps for how to cook dry beans and store extra cooked beans, soaking and sprouting instructions, how to menu plan with beans and even ideas for the bean haters among you.
There are also 30 recipes, many with multiple variations similar to my Healthy Snacks to Go eBook, so the total value ends up being more than 30 different dinners. I also include links to other great bean and legume recipes around the web, furthering your beany reach.
Here are some cameos to give you a sneak preview of what’s inside, but do keep in mind that beans are not always the most photogenic of foods! I’ve been working on my food photography a bit lately, and with my new camera (nothing fancy, a Sony DSC-W290, great all-around family camera, but a huge improvement over my 5-year-old Sony Elph), I’m pretty happy with the results. It’s almost embarrassing to put any of my old pictures next to these new ones, so I think I’ll just share the four dishes I’ve shot in the past few weeks, along with a few other recipe titles to pique your interest:
Chickpea Wraps…good for the bean haters among you!
Pasta with White (Bean) Sauce…even better for the bean haters! (free download)
Sausage, Bean and Kale Soup…one of my favorites! Perfect for summer or winter.
Mexican Beans and Rice…a classic!
You’ll also find recipes for:
- Turkey Vegetable Chili
- Cuban Black Beans and Rice
- Slow Cooker Lentil Rice Casserole
- Black-Eyed Pea Stovetop Casserole
- White Chicken Chili, two ways
- and much, much more!
Disclosure: Plan to Eat is a January sponsor of KS, receiving a complementary mention in this post. See my full disclosure statement here.