Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Do You Use Canned Beans?

Living on an island makes for some expensive grocery bills! I was talking with a visitor at church on Sunday and he said he was shocked to purchase 2 potatoes at the store and pay $2.40! Another person joked: "Well, you have to realize that we only eat every other day and that's how we can afford to live here." (ha, ha!)

One trick I've found to saving money with my food budget is cooking hard beans instead of buying canned beans. I like to cook a large amount of beans and then store them in 1-2 cup portions in the freezer. Some of the benefits of keeping cooked beans on hand are:

  • I can easily toss in a handful of beans to a recipe that might not normally call for beans
  • I'm more inclined to plan my menus with beans instead of meat (great health benefits!)
  • My grocery budget is a lot less costly since dried beans are comparatively inexpensive
  • Using cooked beans instead of canned reduces the indigestible sugars that normally cause gas
  • Storing dried beans keeps you prepared in case of a disaster. Knowing how to cook your beans and include them in your diet is even more important.
  • Our bodies are adjusting to eating more beans. If a natural disaster were to occur and our diet consist of our food storage our bodies won't go into shock eating an increased amount of fiber. 
Just a side note,  this month I received an email from the emergency response system saying the tropical storm season has begun and to be prepared if a hurricane was to hit. Experiencing the tsunami warning a few months ago after the Japan quake and now living in hurricane territory it's not an option to not be prepared for a natural disaster.

There are lots of ways to cook beans. My preference is as follows:
    • rinse and drain the beans
    • place in a slow-cooker (turned off) and fill with water; soak the beans overnight to soften.
    • drain the soaking water and refill at least 2 inches above the bean line
    • turn the slow-cooker on low and cook for another 5-7 hours or until the beans are soft (check the water level throughout this process to make sure it doesn't get too low)
    • drain any excess liquids and let the beans cool
    • divide the beans into 1-2 cup portions, placing them in freezer bags
    • beans defrost fairly quickly or can be added frozen to any soup or stew.

    Here is some additional information that I've gathered from online sources:

    Soak dried beans overnight or at least for five hours. (This isn't necessary for dried peas and lentils.) Discard the water, add fresh water, cook for half hour and discard the water. Rinse beans thoroughly until water runs clear. Cover with fresh water and cook until tender. This method will help prevent "gas," which is caused by complex carbohydrates (raffinose sugars) that are not broken down in digestion. When they ferment in the large intestine, they produce carbon dioxide, hydrogen and a little hydrogen sulfide, that can cause gas.

    If you want to include more beans in your diet, but increase your "comfort zone" with them, you should: 
    Start slowly by eating beans only a couple of times a week at first. This helps your body adjust to digesting them.
    Drink lots of fluids to help the digestive system handle the increased dietary fiber.

    Other helpful hints for cooking beans are to add one tablespoon of oil to beans to keep the foam down while cooking. If your recipe calls for tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar or other acidic foods, add these items after beans are tender. The presence of acid keeps beans from softening. Also, contrary to advice you may have heard, DO NOT use baking soda when cooking beans. It robs them of their nutritional value.

    Soak and rinse beans several times to remove gas-producing sugars, USDA researchers advise. Always change the water before cooking.

    Adding garlic and ginger, dried or fresh, to a cooking pot of beans can reduce the beans' gas-producing properties, according to research in India.

    Beans are full of starch including some that do not digest easily. Digesting this starch can produce gas, giving rise to the rhyme Beans, beans, the musical fruit.... There are several ways to quiet this music so you can enjoy the health benefits of beans.

    Gradually increase the amount of beans you eat, so your digestive system can adjust.

    Soak beans overnight then discard the soaking water. Some, but not all, of the hard-to-digest carbohydrates dissolve into the water and are then poured off.

    This quick method also helps reduce gas: Cover beans with water. Bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes. Let set at least one hour, but preferably four hours. The longer beans soak, the more gas-causing substances are removed.

    Try Beano, a product found in the pharmacy section or on the bean aisle of the grocery store. Its natural enzymes help digest gas-producing carbohydrates.

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