Cooking with dried beans and a meal prep day at 24 Carrot Diet (Graphic made in Canva using a public domain image by Pixabay user vicki4net)

Meal Prep Day and Why We Use Dried Beans to Cook Up Our Favourite Foods

Or, Of Chopping Zucchini and Cooking Beans

It’s the spring equinox today, and I’m still battling this cold/flu bug. Right now I’m coughing a lot, and it’s not really productive. So it’s a very annoying cough. It makes it really tough to work on food preparation, or anything else for that matter. So I’m delegating most of the work to my junior cooks, the Katydid and MamaOzzy.

I have MamaOzzy cooking beans and chicken breast for our crockpot minestrone, and the Katydid has been chopping zucchini, mincing garlic, and will soon be tasked with preparing fresh spinach for the soup as well. We’ll have lots of spinach stems to put in our soup bag, for the next time we make broth.

Why Use Dried Legumes Instead of Canned?

Using canned beans may be convenient, but it’s more expensive than cooking from dried. Next time you are in your local grocery store, check the price of a can of commercially prepared chickpeas, kidney, or Romano beans against a package of the same kind of dry beans. Keep in mind that the beans will swell when soaked and cooked. So a single pound of dried beans will yield about the same amount as four or more of those cans!

Not only are you saving money when you choose dry beans over canned, you are also saving space in your pantry. Buying dried beans is also more environmentally friendly. When beans are shipped at long distances, the canned ones weigh more and take up more space, so more fuel is used in their transport. Choosing dry beans, especially if you bring your own containers and buy from the bulk section, means less packaging too. (And often, the selection of dried legumes in your supermarket bulk section or bulk food store will be far superior to what comes in cans. Check it out!)

When it comes to shelf life, dry beans pretty much last forever as long as you keep them in a well-sealed container. But for best results when you cook them, you should only buy what you can use within a year. That’s about how long you should be keeping canned beans. So no major difference there.

Dry beans are more versatile than canned, and you will find that some types of legumes (e.g. split peas) are not available canned – unless you want to buy pea soup (But I have to tell you, homemade pea soup is so much tastier and it’s more filling than anything you’ll find in a can!) I love to make up dry bean mixes for my soups and stews. Our local Overwaitea store also has a really nice selection of dry beans and other legumes, including a number of mixes for making bean and pea soups, and even chili.

Are canned beans less nutritious than dried? Conservative sources will say not really and when it comes to macronutrients like calories, protein, carbohydrates or fats, that’s probably true. But if you compare amounts of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, you might just find that the difference is significant enough to make you choose home-cooked dry beans over commercially prepared canned beans. This is especially true of the sodium content, which can be significantly higher for the canned beans. And if you are buying a more processed product like refried beans, you’ll have to watch out for added fats and sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS, or “glucose-fructose” in Canada.) And of course, we can’t forget the fact that processed foods are still regularly packaged in cans lined with bisphenol A (BPA) – even in Canada.

Cooking and Freezing Dried Beans

It’s fairly simple to adapt a recipe that calls for canned beans. If your recipe calls for a 15-ounce can of beans, you can use about 1/2 cup of dried beans instead. In the case of most beans, they absorb enough water during cooking to triple their volume. So one cup dried will yield about 3 cups once cooked. A 15-oz can holds about 1-1/2 cups of beans.

If you’re planning to freeze beans so you can add them to soups, stews or chili, the good people of The Kitchn recommend cooking your beans on the lowest possible heat. So try to soak overnight, and allow for a long cook time on the day you are going to prepare them for freezing. We rushed ours way too much today, and they split. They’ll still taste good, but they aren’t going to look pretty in the soup. Let the beans cool before ladling them into

(Note: Let the beans cool before ladling them into freezer-safe container such as canning jars, airtight plastic or ceramic containers, or freezer bags. Covering the beans with their cooking liquid helps to preserve them better. If you package your cooked beans in liquid, allow 1/2″ of headspace. When it comes time to thaw the beans, let them defrost in the fridge for about a day or soak the container in cool water to speed up the process. Legumes that have been frozen without liquid can be added to a recipe without defrosting, though you may find that the taste or texture are not as good if you cook them this way.)

We got a late start on our cooking today, but the soup is almost ready now. So I’m going to get this posted and get ready to eat! What are you eating tonight?

Why We Prefer to Cook with Dried Beans (Graphic made in Canva using a public domain image by Pixabay user vicki4net)
Learn why we prefer to cook with dry legumes and how to convert your own recipes
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Graphic made in Canva using a public domain image by Pixabay user vicki4net

 

Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter
Featured image made in Canva using a public domain graphic by Pixabay user vicki4net

This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

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5 thoughts on “Meal Prep Day and Why We Use Dried Beans to Cook Up Our Favourite Foods”

  1. I’ve used my frozen beans, so it’s time to make more. Thanks for spelling out those measurements. They pretty well confirm my estimate.

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    1. LOL, I put that in as much for my own use as anything! I always forget when I’m converting recipes, and find myself having to look it up again…

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    1. I love to hear about young people – especially young men – learning to cook. It’s such an important life skill and a source of pleasure too. My three girls all help with the cooking, and we are also slowly teaching their (autistic) brother to prepare his own food too.

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