Over the weekend, I decided to make a couple of batches of dried beans to have on hand to make quick meals over the next couple of weeks. My son, Miles, took a break from his summer schedule of playing with his brother and sister to help me out. Miles and I used these Preparing Dried Beans instructions to make our beans. Watch our video below to see us in action.
Since we made two batches of beans, we used two different cooking methods. One was the slow cooker method, which I prefer. First, we sorted through our beans to remove any rocks, dirt, or bad beans (Miles is really good at this). Then we added them to our slow cooker with about 8 cups of water and cooked them on low for 7 hours. Miles and I decided to make our slow cooker beans into refried beans for supper that night, so, once they were cooked, we drained them and mashed them. After supper, I stored the leftover beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator to use in other meals later in the week.
I only have one big slow cooker, so we used the stovetop method for the other batch of beans. After sorting through our beans, we put them in a large pot, covered them with water, and put the lid on. We placed the pot on the stove and brought the water to a boil for two minutes. Then we took the beans off the heat and let them soak for a couple of hours. Soaking the beans makes them easier to digest and helps them cook more quickly. Next, we drained and rinsed the beans, covered them with fresh water and cooked them on medium on the stovetop for two hours. We put these beans into freezer bags and froze them. Now, I can grab a bag of beans out of the freezer to make our two favorite bean recipes anytime – Black Bean Burgers and Vegetable Quesadillas.
Beans are a staple in our house because everyone likes them, they can be used in many different recipes, and they fit into our budget. If you would like to learn more about beans, check out our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Pantry Picks page and click on beans. Enjoy!
This month is all about incorporating more plants into meals. To switch it up at my house, I try to make vegetarian meals at least twice a week. Not only does it help my family save money, but it helps add variety to our meals.
Beans are a great source of protein and they are easy to add to our meals. I love cooking with beans; they taste great and tend to be less expensive than meat. Brynn, our 17-month-old, loves beans and will eat them straight out of the can! My husband on the other hand would prefer beans added to a meal, not eaten as a snack, so I am always on the search for quick, easy bean dishes to try at home. Several Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that highlight beans have become family favorites at our house.
One of our favorite dishes is Lentil Tacos where the filling is smashed lentils cooked in taco seasoning. We add our favorite taco toppings and make Black Bean Salsa on the side to get an even greater variety of beans. Another fan favorite at my house is hummus. For easy meals, we will make the Zucchini Hummus Wraps and add black beans. These wraps are a great way to use up vegetables in your kitchen before they go to waste. With Brynn being a fan of black beans, the Black Bean Burgers are a quick meal that I make when I am running low on groceries and time. I will make several batches and stick them in the freezer to use for lunches or a snack- this girl really loves her beans!
Cooking dry beans saves money and allows you to add flavor while the beans cook. Spend Smart. Eat Smart. has a great resource for how to cook dry beans at home. In my house, we generally use canned for convenience. When cooking with canned beans, look for cans with labels that say, ‘less sodium’ or ‘no salt added’. If I am unable to find those options at the store, I will simply place the beans in a colander and run them under cool water to rinse off extra salt. If you are a fan of hummus but don’t always like the price at the store, you can make your own hummus at home for a fraction of the cost. Add your favorite seasonings and you have the perfect snack or addition to your meal. I hope this blog gives you a few ideas on how to add beans into your weekly meals while saving you a little bit of money on your next grocery bill.
Cheers to swapping out your protein this week!
As I wrote in my last blog on beans, they fit many of my requirements as a mom and dietitian. They are very nutritious, they’re inexpensive, and they work well in dishes my family enjoys. Most of the time I use canned beans. They are very convenient and besides draining and rinsing, require no additional cooking. You can find ‘no salt added’ canned beans, which is great since many of us get more than enough sodium in our diets. And they usually don’t cost any more than the regular kind. If you’d rather not use the ‘no salt added’ kind, rinse the beans to reduce the sodium.
On occasion, I also like to cook dry beans. And some of my family and friends prefer to cook their own beans instead of using the canned versions. Canned beans are an inexpensive source of protein and when buying them dry, they are even less expensive. You might think that cooking dry beans is too much hassle if you haven’t tried it before. It does take time but most of that time you don’t have to stand over them while they cook. When I cook dry beans, I like to use the Slow Cooker Method.
Here are the steps to success:
- Spread 1 pound dried beans on a baking sheet and remove any small stones, dirt or withered beans.
- Put the beans in a strainer and rinse them under running water.
- Add beans and 8 cups of water to a slow cooker, then cook them on low for 6-8 hours until soft.
- Serve right away or freeze the beans in 1 ½ cup portions to use later. One and a half cups is about the amount in 1-15 ounce can of beans. How easy is that?!
This month at Spend Smart. Eat Smart., we have been talking a lot about beans. We love beans because they are packed with nutrition and they are inexpensive. Today I am going to share with you some of my favorite bean recipes from our website. Try one out this week, I am sure you will enjoy it!
Many of these recipes call for canned beans that have been drained and rinsed. You can substitute 1-2 cups cooked, dried beans. It is easy to cook an entire bag of dried beans and then freeze them in one or two cup serving sizes to use when you need them.
There are many benefits to eating beans. They are high in fiber, protein, iron, folate, and potassium. In addition, they are inexpensive so easy on the budget. There’s just one little problem…they can cause intestinal gas. And how embarrassing is that! The good news is there are ways to help reduce the amount of intestinal gas caused by eating beans.
- Add beans to the diet slowly over a period of several weeks. This allows your body to adjust to the added fiber provided by the beans. Once you are eating beans on a regular basis, intestinal gas will be less of problem.
- Chew beans well to help digest them.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help your body handle the extra fiber in beans.
- When preparing dry beans, use the hot (short) soak method of soaking beans. This method reduces many gas-producing substances in beans. Always discard soaking water and rinse beans with fresh water after soaking.
As a dietitian and a mom, beans check all of my boxes. They are very nutritious, they’re inexpensive and they work well in dishes my family enjoys. Keep the tips above in mind and toss some beans in your grocery cart today.
What is it? Have you tried it? What do you think of it?
These are some of the questions I got when I first made edamame for my family. I answered their questions, hoping that they would like this new food. Edamame is green soybeans – it is harvested before the beans harden. I have tried it and I do like it. It turns out that my family likes it too… a lot.
Edamame is a vegetable that is typically found in the frozen foods section at grocery stores around here. I recently bought two 12 ounce bags for $5 (or $2.50 each). This is a little more than I usually spend on frozen vegetables, but there are some added nutritional benefits to eating edamame along with other vegetables. It is a good source of protein, fiber, some B vitamins, iron, and magnesium. This makes it a good partner for vegetables that are good sources of vitamin C, such as peppers, and vitamin A, such as carrots or winter squash.
Edamame can be used in many ways. I have served it as a side dish with a little salt and pepper. It can also be added to any dish you add frozen vegetables to such as soups, stir-fries, or casseroles. I have added it to my children’s favorite, tuna and noodles. A small amount (1/2 to 1 cup) of thawed edamame could be added to any of these SpendSmart.EatSmart recipes to boost the nutrition:
Try some edamame and let us know what you think of it.
I make lots of soup in the winter. It’s easy to do, lasts for several meals, and I can freeze small containers of it to take to work for lunch. Most of the soup I make is broth or vegetable-based without lots of cream or cheese so it is low in calories.
This quick soup is made from garbanzo beans, which are also called chickpeas. All my adult life I have avoided garbanzo beans because I thought they were too starchy but now I like them. Maybe adult tastes change just like kids. Like all legumes these beans are high in protein and fiber and low in fat.
There are two features of this recipe that make it a winner. First, it uses only one pan, and second, it calls for ingredients I keep in stock, except for the zucchini.
Since I don’t want to struggle with the winter weather and fortunate enough to have power, I think I will make some for lunch. Instead of the zucchini I think I will add some frozen peas.
Serves: 8 | Serving Size: 1¼ cups | Per Serving: $.51
- ½ onion (about ½ cup)
- 3 garlic cloves or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 can (14.5 ounce) low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
- 2½ cups water
- 1 can (15.5 ounce) low sodium garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- ¾ cup sliced carrots (about 12-15 baby carrots)
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole-wheat pasta (rotini, shells, etc.)
- 1 small zucchini, sliced (about 1-2 cups sliced)
- Wash, peel, and chop onion. Peel and mince garlic cloves.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and garlic, and cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes.
- Add broth, tomatoes, and water to saucepan. Stir in garbanzo beans, carrots, and seasonings.
- Cook on medium high heat about 5 minutes.
- Stir in pasta and zucchini. Reduce heat to medium low.
- Simmer about 10 minutes or until the pasta is tender.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate.
The last couple of weeks I have been studying the Mediterranean diet in Crete. This diet, which is named for the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean sea, is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, and higher life expectancy. The locals brag that almost everyone in Crete has a relative that is over 100 years old (it seems like the older I get, the more important life expectancy is to me!).
Below are some observations from my days in Crete:
- I want to incorporate more vegetables in different ways into my diet. Especially recipes with the beets, zucchini, and eggplant we have growing in our garden.
- Breakfast in Crete was usually plain yogurt that you could spoon a little honey or jam (which they called spoon sweets) over, whole wheat bread, cheese, and hard boiled eggs. My yogurt and fruit breakfast is pretty similar.
- Seafood has heart –healthy omega 3 fatty acids. We had snails several times in Crete plus sardines and other seafood. I do not think fresh snails will be on my weekly menu, but some kind of seafood will be. This summer will be a great time to experiment with grilled fish.
- We had many vegetarian meals built around beans, whole grains, and vegetables with some great spices. I am growing some oregano, basil, and mint on my deck that should add great flavor to my new recipes.
- The focus of the Mediterranean diet is not on limiting total fat, but rather to discourage saturated fat and hydrogenated fat. I brought two bottles of olive oil home. I probably will never use as much olive oil in recipes as the Greek cooks did, but I will use it more liberally than I have. I will probably be more willing to drizzle oil over fresh tomatoes and cucumbers to make a simple salad. I am also looking for great tasting olives.
- Bread is eaten plain or dipped in olive oil, not eaten with butter or margarine which have saturated fats or trans fats. Most of the bread is whole grain. I will try my bread with olive oil.
- Dessert in Crete is usually fruit or yogurt drizzled with honey.
- Exercise is just part of living in Crete. There are fewer cars, the roads are narrow and the terrain hilly. Walking and bicycles seemed to be the norm for travel in the villages, with travel by bus or metro in the city, which means treks to and from the bus stops. I need to work on incorporating more exercise into my daily routine…like a walk at lunch, parking at the far end of the parking lot, etc.
If you would like to learn more about the Mediterranean Diet check out, Oldways, Health Through Heritage.
Our featured recipe this month is Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Bake. It is a very easy recipe that costs about $.80 a serving. You can use any combination of 4 cups of meat and beans that you have. The recipe also calls for salsa. I use medium, but if you want a little more heat you could use a spicier salsa, add a hot pepper, or add a little hot sauce. Be sure you save a little of the enchilada filling to spread on top of the enchiladas.
When I make this dish, I put the enchiladas in two baking pans. I cook one and I freeze one. Then all you have to do is add fruit and milk. The frozen enchiladas will take about 30 minutes at 350⁰ F to thaw and heat through.
Chicken Safety Tip: Washing raw poultry before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces. This is called cross-contamination. Rinsing or soaking chicken does not destroy bacteria. Any bacteria that might be present on fresh chicken are destroyed only by cooking. Also, make sure you wash the cutting board and knife right after you use them.
Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Bake
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 2 cups)
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 can (15-ounce) low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 cup salsa
- 8 whole wheat tortillas
- Cooking spray
- ½ cup 2%-fat shredded cheddar cheese
- Cut chicken breast into 4-5 chunks. Simmer in a large saucepan with water and chili powder. Cook until internal temperature is 165° F (about 10 minutes).
- Remove chicken from pan. Cut or shred into small chunks and return to pan. Add beans, corn, and salsa to saucepan. Cook until hot, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Spread 1/2 cup of chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam-side down in greased 9×13 pan.
- Spread any leftover chicken mixture over the top of the enchiladas.
- Bake at 375o F for 12-15 minutes.
- Sprinkle cheese on top of the enchiladas during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
- Serve immediately.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about meatless meals on our Facebook page. Choosing to go meatless for a meal or for an entire day is one way to save a little money on your grocery bill. This can be easy at breakfast and lunch, but tends to be a little more difficult at supper time. Even with a husband and a son who like to have meat with their meals, our family enjoys a meatless supper together once or twice each week.
Unfortunately, my post focused only on eggs and nuts as a good source of protein when choosing to go meatless. My family and I love beans as a meatless meal. There are some great bean recipes on the Spend Smart Eat Smart website; each recipe has helpful tips on preparing beans. One of our favorites is Cowboy Caviar. My son likes to eat it plain, but my husband and I spoon it into whole wheat tortillas and top it with some shredded cheese. It also makes a good topping for lettuce salad or a dip for vegetables or tortilla chips.
Besides saving some money on food, meatless meals do have another benefit. They help add variety into a weekly menu. Eating a variety of foods from all the food groups (fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, and grains) helps us make sure that we are getting all the nutrients we need primarily from food.
We also use soy to add protein to meals when we choose to go meatless, but that is a topic for another post…
- 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
- 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
- 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, cooked
- 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
- 3 green onions, sliced
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- Stir together kidney beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chilies, and onions in a large bowl.
- Add lime juice, oil, salt, and pepper; toss gently to combine.
Justine Hoover, MS, RD, LD