Rinse canned beans to lower sodium. When preparing dried beans, peas and lentils, sort them carefully. Spread them on a white towel, so you can easily see dirt or damaged legumes. Then rinse them under cold water. Lentils and split peas cook quickly, but beans with tougher skins, such as black beans and garbanzos, require soaking to reduce their cooking times. Here are three ways to prepare your beans:
- Traditional soak: Cover beans with cold water. Soak for six hours to overnight. Drain and cook in fresh water or stock.
- Quick soak: Cover beans with cold water and boil for two minutes. Turn off heat and leave them in the pot to soak for two hours. Drain and cook in fresh water or stock.
- No soak: Place the beans and enough water to cover them in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cover the pot loosely. Continue to cook, stirring gently until the beans are tender, which may take up to two hours.
More: Tomato Bean Soup
More Than Baked
Aim for three cups of beans per week, according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Think the usual three-bean salad and black bean soup, but also get creative with new recipes and ways to use this dietary staple. Here are some ideas.
- Add black beans to a tomato-basil sauce and serve over whole-wheat pasta.
- Make meatless three-bean chili with black beans, kidney beans and pintos.
- Thicken chili or a favorite soup with a can of mashed cannelloni beans. No one will know they're there.
- Mix lentils into your meatloaf to use less ground meat.
- Toss rinsed, canned beans into your mixed green salad.
- Add garbanzos to tuna salad (season with fresh dill).
- Toss canned black beans and corn with jarred salsa. Enjoy as a side dish or a sauce over grilled chicken or fish.
- Top nachos with kidney beans.
- Liven up a sandwich with hummus instead of mayonnaise.
- Add kidney beans to store-bought or homemade pasta salads.
- Boost the fiber and protein of vegetable soups with any canned bean.
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Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator for Hampton Roads Center for Clinical Research in Norfolk, Virginia.