Beans, also known as legumes are an excellent plant-based protein source. Beans are seeds (or fruit if you are consuming the whole pod) found in the cuisines of most traditional cultures. The grounding and strengthening properties of beans make them a great endurance food. In particular, they strengthen the kidneys and adrenal glands, thus promoting physical growth and development. Funny enough, they even look like our kidneys! In Traditional Chinese Medicine the color of the bean indicates the organ it most benefits. For example, red beans such as adzuki beans and kidney beans target the heart while green beans such as mung beans and split peas focus on the liver.
Beans range from 17 to 25 percent protein and are great for building body mass. They are a good source of fiber, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and several B vitamins. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in Canada, bean eaters weigh less, consume more nutrients and have lower blood pressure and slimmer middles than their non-bean eating counterparts.
Beans have a reputation for causing digestive distress, but this is usually because they have been undercooked or improperly prepared. Remember, beans are seeds that are waiting to be germinated! There are enzyme inhibitors in the seed coat that keep the seed dormant and prevent it from germinating until the conditions are right. If your beans aren’t pre-soaked in water, you won’t be able to fully assimilate the nutrients of the bean. Most beans should be soaked for 24 hours in warm, filtered water with a pinch of baking soda. You will need to change the soaking water at least once. Drain and rinse your beans well and then place intoa pot and cover with two inches of water. To further reduce gas, add spices like bay leaf, oregano, fennel or cumin, or the sea vegetable, kombu, when cooking. My friend Monica Corrado created a fabulous resource – her Grain & Bean Chart.
Here’s a list of beans to try:
aduki or adzuki
black eyed peas
Not a bean eater, but trying to figure out where to begin with them? One of my favorite winter bean recipes is Myra Kornfeld’s Spicy Baked Beans. It’s great comfort food with a healthy twist!
Also, during the summer months, I frequently make the following yummy bean salad. It’s super easy, tasty and easy to personalize according to your taste buds.
Italian Bean Salad
- 2 cups dried cannellini beans (I also have made this with aduki beans)
- 1 onion – diced
- 1 spring onion – diced
- 1 chili – finely chopped
- several garlic cloves (to your liking) chopped or pressed
- ½ cup of finely chopped herbs of your choice (see note)
- 1 tsp sea salt (may need a bit more)
- 1 part red wine vinegar
- 3 parts olive oil
- 2 TBSP raw apple cider vinegar
- 2 inch strip of kombu seaweed
1. Soak 2 cups of aduki beans in warm water with a pinch of baking soda for 24 hours.
2. Rinse and drain beans and place in a pot with a 2 inch strip of kombu seaweed. Cover with a half inch to inch of water and bring to a boil. Once the water begins to boil, turn down the temperature a bit and begin to skim the “scum” off the top of the water. Cook until tender and the water is evaporated.
3. Cool beans and then mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt and dress with olive oil and vinegar to taste!
Note: Instead of fresh herbs, you can also use Herbs de Provence or Italian Seasoning.
Feel free to share your favorite bean recipes here!
I love gardening, but sometimes your best intentions can go awry. Last fall, I planted greens in my cold frame, but then I kind of…sort of…very much…completely forgot about them over the Holidays. Needless to say, the only drought survivors were a row of mache and a mess of chickweed. Knowing that chickweed (Stellaria media) is chock full of nutrients such as B6, B12, C, D, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, sodium, copper, and silica, I knew that I had to do something with it. So I made a few nutrient recipes that I will share with you today!
Sauteed Chickweed & Cabbage
- 3 TBSP olive oil
- 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- tsp cayenne pepper
- 6 garlic cloves
- several handfuls of chickweed, chopped
- 2 cups cabbage, chopped
- dash of sea salt and pepper
- 1 tsp of cumin seeds
I sautéed the cabbage and chickweed in a little water for about 10 minutes or until tender and then added the rest of the ingredients and mixed. Joe prepared a side of venison to go along with our “wild” evening, and it was pretty darn tasty except that the chickweed was a little chewy. I should have removed the stems or used “younger” chickweed. Live and learn! The beauty of this dish is that you can use a variety of seasoning combinations. Think about how you like to prepare spinach and substitute chickweed. “Wildman” Steve Brill uses cumin, chiles, Brewer’s yeast and ground cloves in his “Chickweed Delight” recipe. I’ll have to try that next!
My next chickweed experiment this week was delicious! It was inspired by “Wildman” Steve Brill’s Chickweed Bean Spread.
- 2 cups soaked and cooked aduki beans
- 2 TBSP coconut vinegar
- 4 TBSP olive oil
- 2 tsp dried tarragon
- 2 tsp Lydia’s Organic Seasoning (a must have for your pantry!)
- 2 shallots
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup chickweed leaves
- small handful of chives
- ¼ cup of red miso
- juice of 1 lime
- sea salt and pepper to taste
I added the lime juice, miso, olive oil, shallot, garlic and seasonings to the food processor and pulsed for a bit. Then I added the aduki beans and processed for a minute or two. After the mixture became smooth, I added the chickweed and chives. Voila!
Unfortunately, according to my Facebook Friends, the picture of the pâté looks more like poop; however, I thought that was appropriate since chickweed is full of fiber which is helpful to elimination. 🙂
This morning, while writing this post, I sipped on fresh chickweed tea. While it tasted refreshing on its own, I added a lavender-lemon-mint tea for some extra kick. Just pour boiling water over a ¼ to ½ cup chickweed, cover and let steep for about 15 minutes. Because it’s so nutrient rich, this would be a wonderful concoction to accompany and detoxification program. In particular, it supports the kidneys. You could add other herbs and drink hot or pour over some ice for a truly refreshing beverage.
Last month I had nine eager young chefs in my kitchen. We gathered to chat about how the health of the soils relates to the nutrient value in the plants that we eat. Bottom Line? Healthy soils = healthy people. After tracing ingredients in our favorite foods back to the soil and discussing the plant parts that we eat, the students headed to the food prep area to practice their knife skills. They learned proper techniques for chopping veggies such as carrots, cucumbers, peppers and onions. These ingredients were combined to create a tasty lentil salad that we shared together on the patio during a beautiful crisp autumn day.
Parents often ask me how to get their kids to eat healthy and my response is to get them involved in a part of the process. For some, it’s growing fresh veggies and fruits. For others kids, its’s creating simple dishes using fun kitchen tools. In my experience working with youth, I have found that they are more likely to eat fresh fruits and veggies if they are involved in the entire process, from seed to plate. I wanted to share some of my tips for getting kids involved!
Give them a space in a kitchen cupboard to keep smaller, kid-friendly pots, pans, cutting board, a salad spinner and their other favorite kitchen utensils.
Give them a small shelf or drawer in the refrigerator with ingredients to make their own snacks. Some healthy snacks that your kids might store in the refrigerator include: cut veggies, grape tomatoes, fruit, nut butters, hummus, yoghurt dip, cottage cheese, black bean bean dip and hard-boiled eggs.
Purchase an inexpensive child’s apron or chef’s hat at your local craft store and let your child decorate it with fabric markers, appliques and puffy paint.
Provide a sturdy stool so that your child can reach the counter and sink. The object of the game is to make them as comfortable as possible. I find that these Kikkerland foldable stools from Bed, Bath and Beyond work very well and they come in fun colors!
If your child is old enough and mature enough to handle the responsibility of a knife, have them help cut fruits and veggies. If you never learned proper knife techniques and safety, consider taking a knife skills class and sharing that information with your child. Also, sign your child up for a cooking class that emphasizes knife skills and safety. This is the first think I teach in my cooking classes. Remember, a dull knife is a dangerous knife. I find it silly to give children tools (this goes for gardening tools, too) that aren’t sturdy or effective because they aren’t safe and it simply frustrates them and turns them off to cooking and gardening. With my kids cooking classes, I use Kuhn Rikon’s 3-inch Mini Prep Knife and Cuisinart’s 5-inch Santoku Knife.
Have them help with the following tasks, especially if they are not old enough to use a knife:
- Measure ingredients.
- Set the table and light candles with assistance from an adult or older sibling.
- Let them choose dinner music.
- Have them make special place mats or place cards for family members and guests.
- Encourage them to help with cleanup.
- Break out the salad spinner and let them wash the lettuce. Kids also enjoy making salad dressing!
During the summer, give them a container in which to grow greens or a few easy herbs such as basil, chives, oregano or parsley (arugula is a great one that can be used as an herb or as a green for salad, sandwiches and pasta).
Get them started in composting indoors or outdoors as it encourages healthier snacks and foods without packaging! Indoor worm composting is a huge hit with kids.
If you have space, create a small veggie and herb garden with your child.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. I’ll be sharing more recipes and tips for cooking with kids in the coming months. In the meantime, enjoy making this lentil salad with your kids!
Source: adapted from The Daily Bean by Suzanne Caciola White
- 4 cups of fresh watercress or spinach
- 4 cups cooked lentils (pre-soak)
- 1 cup chopped yellow pepper
- 1 cup chopped green pepper
- 1 cup chopped red pepper
- 1 cup chopped orange pepper
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes (could use more)
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup olive oil
- 4 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 splashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 TBSP honey
Combine the beans, peppers, lentils, red onion, celery, cherry tomatoes and ¾ of the greens and toss lightly with the dressing.
To make the dressing, whisk together all ingredients and pour over the salad.
Serve on a bed of the leftover greens.