VeganMoFo: Legumes

30 Oct

Legumes are edible seeds that grow in pods, and they are by far the best plant source of protein.  Legumes include such interesting foods such as peanuts, carob and mesquite, but I’m going to focus on those most-loved legumes, beans.

Beans are full of complex carbohydrates, B vitamins, zinc, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron.  They are relatively low in calories, cholesterol-free, almost fat-free and high in dietary fiber.  A cup of cooked legumes supplies about 25 percent of the RDA of iron for women, although it is nonheme iron which does not absorb as well as heme iron.  You can improve the absorption of nonheme iron by eating its sources with foods rich in vitamin C, such as red bell peppers, broccoli, oranges or kale.

Beans are one of my favorite protein sources and I try to eat them multiple times each week.  On average, legumes contain about 22 percent protein by dry weight.  Soybeans are the only legume which are a complete protein; other beans need to be combined with grains or nuts to cover all of the essential amino acids.  Research has shown that this combining doesn’t need to be within the same meal, so as long as you’re eating a balanced diet including multiple types of foods, you’ll be covered.

You probably know that you can buy beans in dried form or cooked.  If you’re going to buy canned beans, choose organic and try to find cans without BPA, such as Eden Organic.  If you’ve never cooked beans from dried, give it a try – it’s not hard at all!  There are a million theories out there about how to cook dried beans and what will make them tender or reduce flatulence, but really, don’t let that put you off.  Just soak your dried beans overnight, drain them, then bring to a boil in plenty of water, reduce to a simmer, and cook until they feel done.  That’s it.  To test the beans, just take one out of the pot and take a bite.  You want them to be soft enough to bite through easily but not falling apart.  Then once you’ve got that down you can test adding salt at the beginning versus at the end, or adding a strip of kombu.  Keep in mind that beans will expand a lot during soaking and cooking, so start with less volume of dried beans than you want to end up with.  If you cook too much, they’ll keep in the fridge for a few days, or you can freeze them in a little of the cooking liquid.

Beans are super adaptable, so I’m just going to tell you about a few of my favorite ways to eat them.

Black beans pair wonderfully with Latin American flavors.  They’re an obvious choice for tacos or soups, and black bean-sweet potato enchiladas are a fantastic pairing.  Dried black beans do really well when cooked with flavorings in the liquid, as in this Smoky Chipotle Beans recipe by Rick Bayless.  They make a great burger patty as well – there’s a good recipe in Veganomicon (posted online here).

Black eyed peas are a southern favorite, which can also sometimes be found frozen.  I love black eyed peas with a big pile of greens, as in this Hoppin’ John from Vegetarian Times.  They are also great in salads like this Texas Caviar.

Chickpeas!  What can’t chickpeas do?  They’re the key ingredients in hummus (although you can make hummus from other beans), they are the base of falafels (make baked falafel if you’re worried about the fat), and so much more.  You can try the every-wonderful chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon, roast them to top salads, or try a chickpea “tuna” salad.

To me, kidney beans equal chili.  I love the larger size and flavor of kidney beans.  Use them alone or with pinto beans, or get crazy and make a three or four bean chili.  I’ve made lots of variations on this recipe with great success.

In the same way kidney beans equal chili, lima beans equal succotash.  If you think you don’t like lima beans, give them another try cooked with some corn, tomatoes and okra if you’re feeling adventurous.  Here’s a tasty looking recipe…add a dash of liquid smoke!

Pinto beans are my absolute favorite in Mexican food.  I won’t eat a burrito without them!  You can buy canned fat-free vegetarian refried beans, but it’s also easy to make your own – I described my method in this post.

White beans, including cannelini, navy and Great Northern, aren’t my favorite, so I don’t have too many tips on what to do with them!  White beans do make a very tasty dip with some olive oil and maybe fresh basil.  They’re good for a white chili, too.  To be perfectly honest, my favorite white beans are the gigante beans at the Whole Foods salad bar.

Lentils and split peas are also legumes, but they’re a whole ‘nother store for another day.  What is your favorite way to enjoy beans?

Sunday, 10/30/11

breakfast – 2 flax plus waffles with 2 tsp blueberry agave nectar, orange Emergen-C
AM snack – banana
lunch – 1 1/2 cups cooked whole wheat spaghetti with mushroom pasta sauce
PM snack – 1 cup warm vegetable broth with miso and dulse flakes
dinner – burrito (rice, beans, lettuce, guacamole, onions, salsa), 12 oz red wine

daily points used:  29
weekly points used:  3
activity points used:  3
non-existent points used:  6

One Response to “VeganMoFo: Legumes”

  1. Carrie October 30, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    Yay beans! I don’t know where I would be without them, I love them all!

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