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!

It’s a Food Prep Weekend

We have been kind of flying by the seat of our pants, this last few weeks. But now it’s time to get serious and get back to planning and prepping meals ahead of time. With a busy family of six, creating freezer meals that we can pop into the oven or crockpot really helps us stay on top of things. But of course, buying and preparing all of that food ahead of time is quite a commitment!

Last night I was still feeling a bit weak (I’m recovering from a bout of the flu) but I managed to cook a lovely chicken teriyaki dish for supper, and I prepared a second batch to bag up for the freezer. I also chopped all the veggies for a minestrone, which I love to eat in the spring. I chose this recipe for a crockpot copycat of the Olive Garden Minestrone, which I’ve decided to supplement with shredded chicken breast. I chopped all the longer cooking veg last night, but still need to add the broth and diced tomatoes, and fix up separate bags for the zucchini and spinach that are added towards the end of the cooking time. As we don’t usually buy canned beans, I’ll also have to soak and cook the kidney and navy beans the recipe calls for. These can be bagged up and frozen with the chicken, which I also have to cook today.

I haven’t created a full meal plan for the coming weeks, just yet. But I do also want to cook up some Tex Mex chicken. This is usually done as a casserole, but I think I’d prefer to use it as a filling for wheat tortillas. I got the idea from one of the many freezer meals videos I watched on YouTube while I was sick, but sadly I now can’t find the exact video for you. This lady’s recipe included the usual beans, chili peppers and tomatoes, but she also added whole kernel corn and sliced black olives. I love cooking with olives, so I made sure to put them on my shopping list!

I don’t always do it, but this month I am trying to make double batches of most of the meals I’m cooking. Either I cook one and freeze one for later, or I just prepare two freezer meals that can be reheated in the oven or cooked up in the crockpot. This is a huge time saver! I sort of mix up the once a month cooking (OAMC) philosophy, with cooking freezer to crockpot meals that are so trendy right now. We cook on a two-week cycle, though, instead of trying to prep food for the whole month in one shot.

My parents actually gave me some lasagna they had cooked, when they heard I wasn’t feeling well. So that will be our supper tonight. I just have to make some cheesy garlic bread to add to the meal, and throw together a spinach salad similar to the one in the featured image. I don’t have the mandarins on hand this time, but we did buy a cantaloupe yesterday. So I’m thinking I’ll add a few chunks of melon and cucumber to the greens, for a new variation that celebrates the cucurbit family!

 

What are you cooking in your home this weekend? I’d love to hear all about it! Feel free to drop me a comment below….

What Do You Make with 20 Pounds of Turnips?

Root vegetables are just one of the reasons that fall is my absolute favourite season. I love most vegetables but root vegetables like carrots, beets, potatoes, turnips, etc. are I guess sort of comfort foods for me. I grew up eating a whole lotta potatoes, as they are my mother’s favourite. And she made some mean glazed carrots, which she served at least twice a week when I was growing up. But there’s just more to this root vegetable appreciation.

Maybe it’s the fact that I didn’t care for beets until I was in my late 20s, and then I became almost addicted to them. Maybe it’s the pungent taste of turnips and rutabagas, or the fact that I associate many root vegetables with the soups and stews that I have always loved to cook. Whatever it is, I get a little thrill when local farmers start to harvest these tasty roots and tubers. And when large amounts of these foods start to show up even in the grocery store sale flyers, my mind just starts reeling with all the possibilities!

Bulk Sale on Root Vegetables

Root vegetables do tend to be rather inexpensive, but even so the price has been creeping up over the past few years. Our local grocery store is currently running a special on 10-pound bags of carrots, white potatoes, cooking onions, rutabagas and beets. We normally can’t get any of these items in such quantity, so already that’s exciting. But the price is currently 2 bags for $6. So 20 lb of any of these root vegetables will only cost me $6. Now that’s a real steal here these days!

So, I guess I’ll be freezing and pickling some beets in the near future. And probably freezing and drying carrots, putting up caramelized onions and making French onion soup, and maybe even trying my hand at making lacto-fermented turnip kraut! Today I have to start cleaning out my deep freeze and my little kitchen freezer to make room for all of this wonderful bounty, so first thing I have to do is get the stock pot on the stove and make up some broth with all of my saved veggie peels and end bits. And since we have two turkeys in the deep freeze, I guess I’ll defrost one for tomorrow’s supper to clear up more space.

I have some bags of chopped green tomatoes that I’d put aside for baking, so that will have to be done as well. I want to get some muffins made for the kids’ school snacks, brownies for the open house at cadets this week, and of course my green tomato pies need baking up!

Good thing hubby is off tomorrow and can help with the running around! I’m going to need more sugar and flour, and probably oil and eggs too! It’s going to be a very busy weekend, and an even busier week, here in our house!

What would you do with such a large quantity of these root vegetables? Do you have any favourite recipe ideas to share?

 

Image credit: Turnips by thebittenword.com/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)