Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pantry Staple – Beans

(A salad Ian made for us with black beans, corn, avocado, lime, and crispy tortillas)

This one will seem obvious to those of you who have been vegan a long time but may not be obvious to new vegans.  However a wide variety of dried beans is something that is always in my pantry.  At any time I typically have at 20 pounds of beans on hand at home and another 10 pounds on the boat.  Two or three times per week I pressure cook beans for our meals.  These either go into the refrigerator or the freezer to use like canned beans (only without salt).  Here is why I think it is important to have cooked beans on hand.

What are the benefits of eating beans?

Beans are a wonderful source of low-fat protein. They are very filling so they keep you satisfied for hours.  Beans contain a lot of fiber and this helps reduce cholesterol as well serves as food for the good bacteria in your gut which is critical to a healthy immune system. If you suffer from constipation the fiber in beans will also take care of that problem.  The fiber in beans also helps to keep blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal making them a wonderful choice for anyone with high blood sugar. Beans are a good source of folic acid, molybdenum, phosphorus, iron, protein, magnesium, manganese and potassium. According to the USDA dark red kidney beans are extremely high in antioxidants.  Some studies have shown that bean eaters have a lower incidence of breast cancer.  The bottom line is that beans are an extremely healthy food.

(bean and rice burrito with tofu sour cream and veggie salad)

How do you choose and store beans?

I buy my beans from stores with a lot of turnover. This will ensure that you aren’t buying old beans. The problem with old beans is that they take longer to cook.  When buying dried beans in bulk make certain that the beans are in covered containers.  Additionally they should be completely dry, no moisture.  You also want to look for insect damage (wholes) and that the beans are whole not cracks. Once you bring the bean home put them in an airtight container (I used large glass jars at home and Ziploc bags on the boat).  If you place the jars in a cool dry place the dried beans will keep for at least 12 months.

(Veggie and  bean topped quinoa with salsa and raw pumpkin seeds)

What is the best method for cooking beans?

I use my pressure cooker because it is quick and easy.  However dried beans can also be cooking in a crockpot or on top of the stove.

To shorten the cooking time there are two methods. The first is called the quick soak method. This method involved covering the beans with double the volume of water and bringing the beans and water to a boil then turning off the heat and allowing the beans to soak for an hour. After the hour you can pour off the soaking liquid, recover the beans with water and cooking the beans until they are tender. The amount of time it will take varies depending on the bean you are cooking and the age of the dried bean.

The second method is the overnight soak.  You simply cover the beans with double the volume of water and let them soak while you sleep.  In the morning you pour off the water, recover the beans and cook.
Using either of the methods above you are likely to see foam form on the surface of the water when you are cooking the beans.  Simply skim the foam off the surface of the water and continue cooking.  This is protein rising to the surface similar to the foam you see at the beach.

If you decide to use the crockpot you simply add the beans and water to your crockpot along with seasonings (discussed below) and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or low for 8-9 depending on the type of bean and its age.  When I used the slow cooker for beans I used to cook them overnight while we slept and move them to the refrigerator in the morning before I left for the day.

Pressure cooking is the quickest method for a few reasons. First, you don’t have to soak the beans so you can decide what you are cooking an hour of two before you need them. Since I never plan meals this is big help for me.  Second, some studies have shown that beans (and grains) which are pressure cooked are more digestible.  In the case of beans I am guessing it means less flatulence though that has never been spelled out but seems to be true at our house.  ;-)  Third, pressure cooking is very quick.  For example dried garbanzo beans and water go into the pressure cooker and 32 minutes later the cooking is finished.  That is crazy fast right?  Fourth, if you are using an electric pressure cooker it turns off when it is finished and switches to warm.  If you are someone like me who is always busy doing multiple things at once this is wonderful.  I often put a pot of beans on because I get on the phone with a client and they are done long before I am. But since the pot turned to warm that isn’t a problem. Love that!

(the device I use to season beans)

How should beans be seasoned during cooking?

My first tip is never add salt to dried beans as this will toughen the skin and may cause the beans to never become completely tender.  I add a couple of bay leaves for flavor but they are also supposed to help with the flatulence issue.  If you have a tea ball you can also add a few black peppercorns for flavor which we like.  I also include either diced onion or garlic.

(Zaytinya red lentil patties)

What do you do with the cooked beans?

There are so many things you can do with cooked beans.  I like to keep at least a quart of them in the refrigerator to add to our salads.  They can also be added to almost any cooked vegetable dish.  Beans are a wonderful addition to soups and stews or they can be the base of them.  You can also turn beans into bean spreads. Don’t feel that only garbanzos can turn into a dip use any bean you have. You can make a lentil walnut pate, a chocolate and peanut butter black bean spread, white bean cheese, anything you can dream up can be a spread.  You can make bean burgers which are always good. There are so many recipes for those on this blog and others.  The picture above is of red lentil burgers we had on Sunday at Zaytinya.

(one of the shelves in my pantry that contain dried beans)

What beans do you keep on hand?

This is really a loaded question because it would be easier to tell you which beans I don’t have.  My bean pantry is out of control.  I have garbanzos (which are my favorite for salads), cannellini, great northern, red kidney, pinto, black beans, adzuki, favas both small and large skinned and not, limas large and baby, red lentils, green lentils, brown lentils, beluga lentils, French lentils, yellow split peas, green split peas, black-eyed peas, mung beans, split mung beans, black split lentils, 15 bean mixes, borlotti (cranberry), Christmas limas, sprouted bean mix, and soy beans. Sadly since I didn’t go to my pantry I am sure I missed some but you get the idea. We eat a lot of beans.  However I think that our bean eating habits are a big reason that we both have lower cholesterol than most American’s.

(Wasabi and pickled ginger hummus)

If you have a small pantry what are three beans to have on hand?

This is a very tough question.  Honestly I have more varieties of beans than that on the boat and that is small pantry.  However I thought some of you would like to start small and that this was an important question.  Before you decide which beans to keep on hand ask yourself a few questions to help you decide. The first question is which beans do you like? The second question I would ask is how do you plan to use the beans? The last question is how much time do you have?

If I were limited to three types of beans they would be garbanzos, red lentils and soybeans.  Garbanzos are great for salads and hummus and I like the toothsome texture they have.  Red lentils are very quick cooking and are the basis of my curried red lentil and tomato soup.  Soybeans are something that I would keep around primarily for making soy milk but they are also good in entrees like any other bean.  Not to mention soy beans make delicious spreads since they have a little more fat than most beans.

Happy thoughts:
  1. It is tough for me to be happy on Monday since Dan leaves for work in the morning.  I have to trick myself on Monday to be in a good mood.  One of the ways I do that is by giving myself something to look forward to on Monday. Today am going to allow myself to indulge in a little down time after I finish working. I am planning to curl up with a nice mug of tea and a good book for an hour sometime today.
  2. The refrigerator is low on food so sometime today I will be cleaning out completely and restocking it.  This may not sound like a happy thought to you but I like doing things like this. Am I weird or what?  LOL
  3. Dan’s favorite Vietnamese restaurant is closed until February 26th because the owners go home to Vietnam to celebrate the New Year.  Poor Dan will have Vietnamese withdrawal being without Me Kong Delta that long. To help solve this problem I bought him a Vietnamese cookbook for Christmas. I told him he could select anything that looked good to him and I would make it vegan and healthy. That is a good present right?  Anyway I plan to spend a little time looking through that book this week and surprising him with a Vietnamese meal. Well it will be a surprise unless he starts reading the blog again that is.  Dan doesn’t normally read the blog since he lives this stuff so he is familiar with everything I write.  ;-)
  4. We are having a nice warm spell currently which I love.  This weekend our temperature is supposed to reach into the mid 60s can you believe that?  I am going to see if Dan wants to unwinterize the boat and take her out for a little sail. I think he will probably pass but I am going to ask anyway.  If nothing else we can go downtown and hang out at the marina and socialize.  J
  5. I made plans today to have lunch with a chef friend later this week. He is a fan and acquaintance of Jose. I want to get back into molecular gastronomy so I want some tips from my friend because I know he dabbles in it too.  Doesn’t that sound like a fun lunch?

Signing out:

I am writing this Monday morning to be posted at midnight.  Once I am finished I have a few things accomplish before Dan gets home.  Monday’s are always a little hectic at my house and this one is a bit more so since we were out all day on Sunday. I have to do a little cooking and food prep for tonight and tomorrow this afternoon.

I hope your week has started off well and you have some great things planned.  I will chat with you again soon.


  1. i have been interested in making a bean pasta. i know that they make noodles out of mung beans but id like to do it myself. what do you think will hold it together well? i was thinking arrowroot or egg replacer.

    1. Michelle,

      I absolutely love the idea of making our own bean pasta. Thank you so much for asking that question. I will definitely be experimenting with that very soon and will let you know what works for a binder. I love a good kitchen experiment. LOL


    2. YAY! i have been wanting to do that for long time. i was also thinking it might be easier buy bean powder(we have garbanzo bean flour at our health food store) i think that would work even better. OR make bean flour in our vita from dried beans? i think i tried that and the flavor was really strong, and not in a good way. but i did not try to make it into a shape and boil it..

    3. Michelle,

      I typically make my own bean flour but you are right you can buy it too. I was thinking white beans would be a more mild choice for the pasta. It make take me a few tries to figure this out but I will. You know how much I love my pasta and a bean version would be so much healthier. I suspect that I will have to make it partially whole to get it to hold its shape but won't know until I try.

      thanks again for the idea, :-)

  2. Ali - what electric pressure cooker do you use for cooking your beans, and how do you know how to cook each type of bean?

    1. Gloria,

      I have two of the Cuisinart pressure cookers. They come with charts of bean cooking times but I have developed my own since having it. Basically I tweaked what came with the machine. I will make certain to write a specific post about cooking beans in the pressure cooker and will include the times that work for me. Great question, thank you for asking. :-)

      If you buy a cooker before I publish that post let me know and I will email you the times that I use.


  3. I am so glad your back!!
    I gave up blogging about food and started concentrating on our house and juicing. I watched Fat sick and nearly dead and it changed my life. I went out and bought a high speed juicer and now I am set!
    Can't wait to see what you will be making!!!

  4. hey Brandi!

    How are you? I love that you are concentrating on juicing. Go you! I do have some juicing tips we should chat. My email was hacked while I was on hiatus but I can get into it now.

    I hope you had a wonderful holiday and that 2013 will be your happiest and healthiest year yet. ((hugs))

  5. That is ok, my email was hacked too! LOL
    I just got the juicer and I am going to go buy all the veggies/fruit on thursday. My email is the same if you still have it!

    1. Brandi,

      Everyone I know has had their email hacked it is crazy. I had to have my password reset. I should have your email. If not I will let you know here.

      talk with you tomorrow,

  6. Beans are my number one pantry staple, too. If I only had three on hand, I think I'd have to pick black beans over soy beans, since they are my (Mexican/Panamanian) husband's favorites. I would also have lentils and chickpeas, though, since they are so versatile. I typically cook mine in the slow cooker while I'm at work, which is very convenient. I always have to do the full eight-hour soak due to a very sensitive stomach.

    I can't wait to see your version of the lentil patties. They look delicious!

    1. Brigid,

      We really couldn't exist without beans. I am sure we eat them every day. It was so hard to pick three types of beans. Believe it or not that is another question that I get a lot from omnivores transitioning to veganism. Which 3 beans should I have? Really? I have at least 10 types on the boat and my pantry there could not be any smaller. LOL, they usually come around in a month or so. ;-)

      The lentil patties were amazing. I was so sorry that they didn't have a vegan version of the preserved lemon yogurt for me to try. However I am sure I can whip up something. I just missed knowing what other seasonings they used in yogurt. I will work on those lentil patties soon. No worries though I took notes during the meal. :-)

      Enjoy the remainder of your evening,


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