First of all, if you’re new to the Baby Steps series, you can find out what it’s all about here (and welcome!).

Secondly, if you didn’t catch it yesterday, make sure you check out the “Say No to Kraft Dinner” recipe carnival. The purpose of this carnival was to help you complete last week’s Baby Step, creating your own list of 5-10 healthy and fast meals to fall back on when you just don’t have much time or energy for cooking!

This week’s baby step is

To learn how to prepare dry beans, rather than using canned, and to try doing it once in the next week (you could incorporate a bean meal into your menu plan for added motivation, if you want)!

Why this step is important:

For a few reasons… one of the main ones being that they are just cheaper! In my frugality, I cannot bring myself to buy canned what I can easily prepare myself.

I purchase large bags of organic dried beans at around $4.50-7.00 per 5 lb bag. I can’t even easily guesstimate just how many cans of beans that would equal, but I am thinking certainly at least 20 (it’s probably far more than that). If one can costs around $1 (and I know this widely varies depending where you live), then that’s a 65-75% savings (not to mention getting them organic instead)!

A second good reason is that you may have heard that BPA not only leaches into the plastic used for water battles, baby bottles, sippy cups, etc. but it also leaches through the linings in metals cans (I hope to post on this more soon). So, the less canned foods you can use, the better!

I can’t actually find any information stating definitively that dry beans have more nutritional value than canned, but they certainly seem to be fresher. Some canned beans may have preservatives in them, so with dry you always know what you are getting. Most canned beans also have salt in them, and it is just regular, iodized table salt, which is not preferable (natural sea salt is), so that is yet another reason to give dry beans a thumbs up.

And gosh, beans are just so good for you– high in fiber, nutrients, protein… I’m sure you’ve heard it before!

How to get started with it:

Honestly, there’s very little to it. Here’s how I cook my own beans:

  1. Get out a medium sized pot with a lid. Add your dried beans to the pot (keep in mind that they basically triple when cooked- see links below for dry to cooked ratios).
  2. Add
    enough warm water so that it is several inches higher than the dried beans
    (if doesn’t matter if you add too much water, so err on the side of too
    much). Add 1 Tbsp acidic medium (whey, lemon juice, kefir, yogurt, buttermilk, apple cider vinegar) per cup of dried beans (see note below for more on this). Then, you can go to bed!
  3. The next day (I often do mine in
    the morning, while cooking, serving and cleaning up breakfast- just make sure that they have a solid 10-12 hours to soak, or even longer),
    continue by pouring out the soaking water, adding fresh water (again, several inches above the beans) and turning the burner on to high.
  4. Bring the water to a boil,
    skim off any foam that rises to the top, and then turn it to low and
    allow the beans to simmer (covered) until tender, usually about one
    hour (large beans will take longer, small ones take less time- see cooking guides below).
  5. Drain the water, and rinse the beans under cool water, and set
    aside until later.

Step 2 mentions the use of an acidic medium in the soaking water. This is necessary for these types of beans: black beans, lentils, chickpeas and fava beans.

For dried and split peas, add a pinch of baking soda instead. And for kidney, pinto, black-eyed peas and all other brown and white peas (ie. cannellini, etc.) plain, warm water is sufficient.

(These instructions are coming from a combination of Nourishing Traditions and this Weston Price site article)

Now, you can use your beans immediately in soups, casseroles, salads, pastas, spreads and dips, etc. or if you’ve made too many, you can put them in a container and freeze them. I have often done this and the results are just fine (in my opinion). They will also keep for about a week in the fridge, which gives you an option for a quick meal.

Online Resources:

Great page on cooking methods for beans, peas and lentils, including tips on specific types of beans

Ten reasons soaking dried beans can change your life

Guide to how many dried beans to use in order to yield a certain amount of cooked beans, as well as some time guidelines for specific beans

Putting the Polish on Those Humble Beans

Bean Recipes (just a very few recipes to get you going if you don’t often use beans):

Bean recipes from Real Simple (I can’t guarantee all the recipes are healthy, but this will give you some inspiration in using your beans, anyways!)

Chili and Cornbread

Quinoa and Black Beans

Chicken Enchiladas

Black Bean and Avacado Salad

Beezie’s Black Bean Soup

Does anyone have any Baby Steps victories to share with us? How are things going for you? What changes have you been making? We’d all love to hear and be encouraged!