If you have decided that 2012 is the year to include more beans in your diet

If you have decided that 2012 is the year to include more beans in your diet

Cookbook authors help you put the power of legumes into your diet

If you have decided that 2012 is the year to include more beans in your diet, you may want to consider perusing Spilling the Beans, a cookbook written by Calgary based food writer Julie Van Rosendaal and her long time friend, Sue Duncan.

If you have decided that 2012 is the year to include more beans in your diet, you may want to consider perusing Spilling the Beans, a cookbook written by Calgary based food writer Julie Van Rosendaal and her long time friend, Sue Duncan.

Trying to encourage more people to get on the “beaner bandwagon,” this book boasts everything the modern cook needs to know about preparing and cooking with beans and grains.

“Nobody is perfect,” Rosendaal and Duncan write, “but in the food world, beans are about as close as you can get. All legumes — beans, chickpeas, peas, and lentils — are high in fibre, protein, iron, niacin and folate. They’re low in fat, cholesterol-free, plus they are very versatile, environmentally friendly, and cheap.”

Though kitchens around the world are well versed when it comes to incorporating beans in their daily diets, they are still a mystery to the average North American cook.

“Give someone a chicken or a pound of ground beef and dinner ideas immediately come to mind, but the same does not seem to apply to chickpeas or lentils, particularly in their dry state,” they write. “The process of soaking and simmering seems daunting, even though it requires less culinary skill than cooking rice or pasta.”

With so many varieties of bean waiting to be eaten, the difficult choice is committing to one. Then there is the quandary of canned versus dry. According to the authors, both are the same. Canned beans are quick and convenient and they also tend to be softer making them ideal if you want to puree them into the hidden ingredient in baked goods. The only drawback of canned beans is that they could have a high sodium content, but that can be easily remedied by rinsing and draining them well.

If you like the idea of getting the most bang for your buck then dry beans are the best bet.

To some, cooking dry beans seems like a daunting task but Rosendaal and Duncan write, “It’s really not that big a deal. All you need to do is boil them until they’re tender —that’s really about it.” Pre-soaking does reduce the cooking time. There’s a couple of different ways to do this.

Long soak — Put desired amount of beans in a stockpot with enough water to cover them, and soak for 6-8 hours or overnight if you prefer.

Quick soak — Bring sufficient amount of water (enough to cover the desired quantity of beans) to a boil. Add beans and return to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside at room temperature for 2-3 hours.

After the soak, simply cook the beans in enough water to cover the beans a couple inches deep, until they are tender. If you want to skip the soaking step and not babysit the beans while cooking, the beans can also be cooked in the slow cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours.

In my household, if the kids see any beans in a dish, it is instant dislike. Spilling the Beans, however, has some kid-favourite recipes using beans as the hidden ingredient. Canned white beans, which have no taste, can be pureed into a smooth paste. Include them in pancakes, waffles, cinnamon buns, breads and pizza. It’s a sure way to get more healthful foods into children’s diets.

Recipes like Jamaican red beans and rice, chickpea masala sandwich, white bean vichyssoise, pulled pork and beans are sure to excite those that are long time lovers of beans and create an addiction for those just starting out.

Spilling the Beans also has a whole section on how to add healthy fibre to your favourite desserts. An entire segment on baking delicious desserts with beans amps up cakes, bars, and cookies with flavour and fibre.

Finally, Rossendaal and Duncan debunk the school yard children’s song: “Beans, beans, the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot!” To reduce the gaseous side effects of bean, simply eat more. They write, “if beans aren’t a regular part of your diet, introduce them gradually — eating small quantities of beans to allow your digestive system to adapt.” Eventually the gasey feeling should decrease.

So get excited and get on the beaner bandwagon with Rosendaal and Duncan! Here are a few recipes from Spilling the Beans for you to try.


Pancakes

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

Shake of cinnamon (optional

pinch of salt

1 cup canned white beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups milk

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon canola, olive or flax oil

Berries or sliced banana(optional)

In a large bowl add all dry ingredients. In a food processor, combine the beans with the milk, eggs and oil and pulse until well blended. Puree until it’s as smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk just until combined. Ladle batter into hot, greased skillet. You can add berries or banana directly onto the batter if you’re adding them. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes until the bottom is golden brown. Flip and the other side.


Chickpea Masala Sandwiches

Flatbread:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Canola oil, for cooking

Filling:

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon curry powder

2 cups cooked chick peas, rinsed and drained

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock or water

Mango or other chutney for serving.

In a large bowl, stir together all dry ingredients for flatbread; add 3/4 cup of warm water and stir until the dough comes together. Knead dough until it’s smooth and elastic. Place dough in bowl, cover it with teas towel and set aside for one hour.

Filling: heat a drizzle of oil in large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions until soft; add curry powder and cook for a few minutes. Add the chickpeas, garlic and cilantro and cook, stirring for a minute or two. Pour stock or water overtop and bring to a simmer. Turn heat down to medium-low and cook for an hour until the chickpeas are soft.

Flatbreads: divide the dough into 12 balls and roll each one out very thin on lightly floured surface, into circles. You can roll them all at once, or roll each one before cooking. Heat a generous drizzle of oil in skillet set over medium-high heat and cook the breads one at a time, turning with tongs, until puffed and golden. Transfer to paper towels to cool while you cook the remaining dough. Spoon the spiced chickpeas onto the flatbreads and top with chutney and extra cilantro, if you like.


White Bean Vichyssoise

(Potato and leek soup)

2 medium leeks

Canola or olive oil, for cooking

1 small onion, chopped

2 to 4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 lb potatoes(russet or Yukon gold) peeled and chopped

2 cups cooked white beans, rinsed and drained

4 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup half and half or whipping cream

Thyme for garnish (optional)

Wash, and thinly slice the white and pale green parts of leek. Discard green tops. Drizzle some oil into soup pot set over medium-high heat, and add the butter. When the foam subsides, sauté the leeks, onion and garlic for about 8 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the potatoes, beans and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender. Puree the soup in a blender. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cream. Serve hot, at room temperature or chilled . Garnish with thyme before serving.

Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at madhubadoni@gmail.com. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on www.reddeeradvocate.com

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