Jun 30, 2012

Beans, beans, they're good for you heart!

If you are thinking about switching, or trying, a whole foods, plant based vegan diet, one thing you might consider is how you will get your protein. All vegetables and fruits have some protein content (it's science: all living things are made of cells and all cells contain protein) and you can fulfill you daily requirements by eating a plant based diet. As I mentioned before, local produce is scarce in Florida during the summer. Mike and I rely more on dried (see side note about canned) legumes/rice for meals, than fresh vegetables. If you can, I recommend you buy from the bulk bins: you can buy only what you need, it's cheaper (when you compare versus pre-packaged), and, if your lucky, you can  find organic selections. I buy all my dried items from bulk bins at Whole Foods; it ends up being much cheaper than the organic packaged counterparts. Right now I have a supply of brown rice, black beans, pinto beans, great white northern beans, red lentils, green split peas, and quinoa (all organic).

*Side note: We avoid canned goods at all costs (and we use glass containers for storing food that will need to be re-heated) because of the BPA risks. Especially now since *spoiler alert* Mike and I will be trying to conceive come August!

Working with dried beans may seem like a big task. The main issue in working with dried is that you can't decide at 6pm that you want beans at 6:30pm. Planning is necessary, but not more than 24 hours of planning! I use two methods for incorporating beans/legumes into my meals.

Method 1 (same day method): If you decide you want black beans and rice tonight, you can still make it as long as you have about 2-3 hours. You can call this a "quick soak method". Fill a pot with the amount of beans you need for the recipe. Cover beans with 3 inches of water. Bring to boil, uncovered. Once they have reached a boil, cover and reduce to simmer. Allow beans to simmer for about 60 minutes. At that time check to see how soft they have become (they won't feel like they have been cooked, but won't be super hard). If they are still very hard (which may happen with larger beans), allow to simmer for about 30-60 minutes more. If they are beginning to soften, turn off the heat, leaving the pot on the burner, and let the beans stand in the water until you need them in the evening for the recipe (you can even do this in the morning and let them sit all day). You will still need to cook the beans (at least 30-40 minutes) to get them to soften all the way. For this method, I will some times add a little flavoring to the soak water: veggie stock, bay leaves, salt, etc.

Method 2 (the most awesome method): This is the plan ahead method which I use more for the days I am working. The night before, I decide what beans I want to use and allow them to soak in water overnight. I also prep all my other necessary ingredients the night before (i.e.: chop any onions, set out the spices). In the morning before I leave for work, I drain the beans, add them to my crock pot with the other ingredients called for by the bean recipe. Then just flip the crock pot to low and, when you get home at night (yes the house will smell like beans), you will have perfectly cooked beans that can be added to any recipe. Most recipes for beans in the crock pot call for about 8 hours of time, but if you leave if for more it is fine. For example, I start mine at 7:15am in the morning and I won't be home until 6:30pm and everything is fine.

Here are two of my favorite bean recipes for the crock pot:
Black Beans - for this one, I like to add chopped jalapeno
Pinto Beans - for this one I used banana pepper instead of green pepper because that's what I had

I am still looking for some good crock pot recipes for lentils and split peas; I will let you know when I find some good ones!

Alright, this has probably been too much talking for you. Here is a picture:
Not the prettiest picture, but it's stuffed green peppers. I sort of made the recipe up. Cooked rice and great white northern beans make up the filling and it is all topped with a homemade tomato sauce. A very filling vegan meal.

And another picture:
Look at those cute little carrots! These pre-roasted carrots came from our garden and Magnolia Organics from sometime back in May. They are simply roasted at 425 degrees after being sprinkled with a little salt. We paired them with a vegan okra gumbo (make completely from local, organic veggies from Magnolia):
I never thought I would like okra, but I was forced to find recipes for it when they appeared in our harvest boxes. Okra really is not that bad. Unfortunately, I cannot find the recipe I used for the okra gumbo.

That's all I got for today! Until next time, enjoy another picture of my babies:

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