Contributed by: Crystal Miller
Beans are one of the main food staples of our home. I serve bean based meals to my family 2 to 3 times weekly. Beans are a very high quality, nutritious, budget friendly food for your family. They are a good source of soluble fiber, the kind that helps lower cholesterol. Beans in general, are good sources of things like, folate, potassium, iron, manganese, copper and zinc. They are low in fat and when combined with grains or a little meat they amply supply your diet with its needed protein.
One of the main drawbacks that people complain about is that beans cause gas. If you are not use to beans in your diet, your body has more trouble digesting them. So the good news is that the more you eat beans, the easier it will be for your body to digest them and you will find that gas problems will greatly diminish. If you don't eat a lot of beans at all then I would suggest that you slowly start adding them to your regular menus. Begin by serving them once a week and then more often as time goes on. Basically you need to have them as part of your regular diet in order to build up natural good intestinal flora that enables you to digest them.
If you are new to cooking beans or have had less than satisfactory results in cooking beans then here are a few tips to help. To begin with I never bother with soaking beans. I don't even do the fast soak, the one where you boil the beans for 2 minutes and then turn off heat, cover pan and let them sit for 1 hour. I simply put my beans in a large pot and cover with the appropriate amount of water, add salt and cook. I think that the soaking does help cut down the cooking time, but I have never found that the soaking helps with anything else. The other thing that I "always" do is add salt to my beans right at the beginning. I have read in many places that salt will prevent your beans from cooking. I have never experienced this. When I salt the beans ahead of time I find that the beans are very flavorful and the bean broth is delicious. Another important tip to remember when cooking beans is that foods high in acid such as tomatoes will cause your beans not to cook. Make sure high acid foods are added `after' the beans are cooked and soft.
Basic Bean Cooking Directions
Put all ingredients into a cooking pot and bring to a boil. Cover and turn heat down to somewhere between medium and low. You want the boil to continue, just not to fast. Simmer beans for about 2 to 3 hours or until soft and completely cooked. Don't let the beans run out of water so check them now and again and add more water if needed. This recipe may be multiplied many times depending on how many beans you need. You can freeze cooked beans in 2 cup portions to use in any recipe that calls for a can of beans. This is very handy to have on hand and much more inexpensive than buying canned beans.
Here is one of my family's favorite budget friendly bean meals.
Serves 8 to 10
Serve on homemade whole wheat French Bread Rolls http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/frenchbreadsandwichrolls.html
Crystal Miller, 2004
About the Author: Crystal Miller ( mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ) is a mother of 8 children and enjoys her God given role as wife, homemaker and mother! She has a homemaking and country living web site called The Family Homestead http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com and has a free monthly newsletter called Homestead Happenings. You will find sign up information on her website.
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