Spillin' the Beans

by | Apr. 26, 2010


Beans belong to a group of foods referred to as "legumes." This food group includes peas, lentils, and peanuts in addition to the beans with which most of us are familiar. Next to cereal grains, the legume family contributes the most substantially towards feeding the people of the world. The high protein content of beans is necessary when meat is hard to come by, which is what makes legumes a wonderful addition to your food storage pantry! Beans are also high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and contain important vitamins and minerals like foliate, calcium, iron and potassium.

There are many different varieties of legumes, and each variety is used in different ways!

Lentils Lentils are a quick cooking legume commonly found in soups, stews, and salads. They have a meat-like texture and are high in protein and fiber, yet low in fat!

Pinto Beans Pinto Beans are popular in Tex-Mex cooking and are used for refried beans in tacos and burritos. They are nutrient rich and provide a flavorful side dish often paired with spicy rice. These naturally dehydrated beans are sometimes specially prepared with salt and sometimes other ingredients and sold as refried beans.

Black Beans Black Beans are known for their meat-like texture and versatility. They are a Latin American staple that have a mild flavor and are commonly used in salads and paired with rice as a side dish. This bean has recently become more popular with many Fresh Mex, Baja-Mexico-inspired restaurants. Due to its meat-like texture and dark color, it is often used as a red meat substitute.

Small Red Beans Small Red Beans have a hearty flavor and a rich texture. They are often used in bean casseroles or served with rice and Cajun seasonings.

Kidney Beans Kidney Beans are the bean most often used in chili recipes. This variety is also very hearty in texture and accents other flavors well.

Split Green Peas Split Green Peas are known for their flavorful use in "split green pea soup." Their fresh flavor and color make them perfect for adding color and variety to your home storage.

Small White Navy Beans Small White Navy Beans are excellent for use in soups and stews. Bean with Bacon soup is one of the most popular recipes for White Navy Beans.

Soybeans Soy Beans are extremely versatile and used worldwide in making soymilk, textured vegetable protein (a meat substitute), and tofu. This bean takes flavor very well and has a wonderful texture.

Peanuts Peanuts are in the legume family and are considered by many people to be a comfort food and family favorite. Most commonly used to make peanut butter, it is used in recipes and as a simple sandwich filling. Though their high fat content makes them hard to store, you can store peanut butter and peanut butter powder.

Garbanzo Beans Garbanzo Beans (or Chick Peas) are often used in salads and as a base for making hummus. Though similar in use to other beans, they are not as commonly used for home storage.

Beans are also used to thicken gravies and add richness to soups and stews. Bean flour can be used in place of wheat flour in many recipes. Bean flour is delicious in dips, spreads, and can be used as a fat replacement when cooked and mashed into the consistency of shortening!

Dry beans should be parboiled or soaked overnight before cooking. Many dry bean varieties can be stored up to thirty years if packaged correctly. Once cooked, beans can be stored safely at least five days in the refrigerator, or up to one year if frozen. Over time, beans may require a longer soak and extended cooking times to achieve a softer texture.

This is just a small sampling of the many things you can do with beans! The recipes and possibilities are nearly endless with this versatile and healthy food storage basic. Hopefully you are an official "bean counter" and are ready to store and use more this wonderful food!

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