Bean Lessons

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Beans have always been an economical protein that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Beans are available in many forms, such as dried, fresh, frozen and canned. Beans can be simply or elaborately prepared.

Bean Lesson #1: They can be fast!

Show your class a sample of ready-to-serve beans from your local supermarket. Canned varieties include: kidney, Great Northern, white, black, garbanzo, butter beans or baby limas, black-eyed peas and pinto. In addition to plain beans, you'll spot seasoned and baked beans or beans in sauce. Point out how to select the most nutritious variety, noting the additional fat or salt that some manufacturers may add. Include frozen packages of black-eyed peas and lima beans and remind individuals that these often do not contain added salt or fat. Bring along a few bags of dried lentils and split peas since they cook quickly without prior soaking.

Encourage your clients to have a ready supply of prepared beans on hand. This could be canned beans that simply need to be drained, frozen beans that need a fast steam or dried beans that have been cooked, drained and stored in the freezer or refrigerator. Cooked beans can last up to three days in the refrigerator. Suggest that if beans are cooked and ready to use, they will be easy to add to many dishes.

Lesson #2 - How to use ‘em:

Beans can be added to dishes whole, mashed or pureed. Cooked beans can be mashed with a fork or pureed in a blender or food processor.

Suggest that beans can fit into any meal. Cooked beans can be added to breakfast burritos or scrambled eggs or tofu in the morning. Whole cooked beans can be added to soups, salads and pasta entrees for lunch or dinner. Pureed beans can be used as a base for dips, rather than higher-fat dairy products.

Here are some fast and easy bean dishes to demonstrate:

1. Hummus: Puree cooked or canned garbanzo beans, add garlic and lemon juice to create your own garbanzo bean dip. Use as a dip for bread sticks or cut vegetables, or as an alternate spread for mayonnaise on sandwiches. • Mashed Potatoes: Mash cooked garbanzo beans and add to mashed potatoes. They impart a golden color and rich flavor plus add fiber to everyone’s favorite dish.

• Three-Bean Salad: Toss together three or four kinds of cooked beans, such as pinto, black and white. Show how they can be mixed with a little vinegar and oil and served as a side dish or tossed into a green or pasta salad as a combination dressing/ingredient.

• Soup Thickener: Puree cooked white beans and stir into soups or sauces to make them thicker and creamier.

• Pasta Sauce: Puree red beans or kidney beans and add to pasta sauce for a thicker, higher-fiber sauce.

• Universal Bean Medley: Combine two types of cooked beans and use them to make the following:

a. Chili: Add cumin, chili powder, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and make a fast two bean chili.

b. Fajitas: Heat beans in a microwave, add chopped onions and peppers and add to a tortilla. Top with lettuce, tomato and fat-free sour cream.

c. Pasta Bean Salad: Toss beans with cooked pasta, vinegar, oil, oregano, garlic and black pepper.

d. Bean Salsa: Add prepared salsa and fresh tomatoes to the beans.

Lesson #3: Let them sample:

Suggest that your clients broaden their bean horizon with some of the following bean varieties, available dried and canned. Some varieties will be available fresh and frozen.

• Great Northern beans: medium size, white, round and mild, good for baking or soups.

• Cannellini beans: kidney-shaped, white or beige, very mild. Good for soups and casseroles.

• Navy beans: pea-sized, white or beige, very mild, good for baking, soups and casseroles.

• Pinto beans: medium-sized, kidney-shaped, pink, good for pureeing in soups and sauces.

• Kidney beans: medium-sized, deep red, popular in chili, in cold salads and in soups

• Black beans: medium-sized, completely black, good for sauteeing, steaming and in rice and pasta dishes.

• Lentils: flat and small, fast cooking, can be black, brown, gray, green, yellow or orange, good for vegetable. Stews, soups and in curries

• Split peas: small and round, can be green, yellow or white, good for pureeing in soups and sauces.

• Garbanzo beans (chick peas): small, round and beige, good in cold salads, pureed as a dip (hummus) or mashed and baked into patties (falafel).

• Edamame (fresh soy beans): available fresh and frozen, fresh soy beans are becoming very popular, pale green and resembling the bean found in string bean pods, edamame can be eaten cold as a snack or tossed into salads or soups.

By Nancy Berkoff, MEd, RD.

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