Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Musical Fruit

My weekend goal is to make 2 or 3 meals, so we have plenty of quick options during the week.  We typically rotate between these options for lunches and dinners during the week.  As someone who comes from a large family, I do not know how to cook for three.  If I make a soup or stew, it can feed us for weeks.  This works out to our benefit, and we invite over friends for dinners or store the extra in the freezer for later.  Since I am not the best at meal planning, this keeps us eating good foods during the week without the everyday question of what’s for dinner.  I am rarely home in time to make an entire meal while still being able to eat together as a family.  This weekend, I made a delicious healthy chili from Two Peas & Their Pod.  It was the perfect meal for this cold winter weather. 

Since my cancer diagnosis, we have really amped up on our beans.  I add them to so many recipes now and garbanzo beans are a personal favorite.  Although I would say I am a seasoned chef and know my way around the kitchen, cooking with dry beans is a whole new experience for me.  With all the BPA controversy in the canned products today, I try to allow time for dry beans in my recipes whenever possible.  If I need to use the canned versions, I always make sure the label indicates BPA free, and I rinse these puppies well to wash away as much of the salt as I can.  Using dry beans can be a great $$ savings in your wallet, as well.  
This recipe calls for 2-15 oz cans of black beans and 1-15 oz can of kidney beans.  We had some dry beans sitting in our pantry, and since I had the time to soak them overnight, I decided to put them to use.  Both bags were 16 oz bags of dry beans.  Had I bothered to google the proper conversion, I might have seen that a 16 oz bag of dry beans does not come close to equaling a 15 oz can of beans.  Looking back, I really should have realized this, but in the midst of my weekend rush to get things done, it totally slipped my mind to question the difference.  I ended up making the two entire bags of dry beans.  As I was mixing all the ingredients together, I kept thinking, wow this is a lot of beans!  The last time Emily made this, I don’t remember it having so many.  This would be because I added entirely too many (8 cups to be exact) to this recipe.  This was a valuable lesson to learn in my newfound experience with dry beans.  You may find the conversion helpful yourself, so here it is thanks to a blog I came across.  1 - 15oz can of beans equals ½ cup of dry beans, which equals 1 ½ cups of beans after cooking.  I have found that dry beans have a little crunch to them after soaking and cooking for the recommended time.  Personally, I like the crunch, but if you are not used to it, you may want to cook a little longer than what’s recommended.  I also read in Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet book that adding a strip of kombu (sea-weed) can help make the musical fruit easier on your digestion, but I have not given this a try yet.  
When we first cut meat out of our meals, we noticed the hearty feel and satisfaction seemed to be lacking.  Adding beans is a great way to add some heartiness, fiber, and protein to your recipes.  Plus, they are digested slower than meat, and you stay satisfied longer.  Low in sugar, beans keep our insulin levels from spiking and are a great source of energy to fuel our bodies.  
This recipe also calls for quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah).  If you have not tried this fantastic grain, look for it the next time you are shopping.  Quinoa has a mild nutty flavor and can be used to replace rice, couscous, pasta, or thrown into stir fry or soup.  The first time I made it, however, I missed the part about rinsing.  Make sure you rinse out the grains before you put them on the stove to cook, or you many notice a bitter taste.  Quinoa gives you some great added benefits including amino acids, fiber, protein, and iron.  It cooks very similar to rice and is so easy and can be ready in as little as 20 minutes.  I like to add fresh garlic and onion (powder works too) to my quinoa while it is cooking for some additional flavor.  I often make quinoa on the weekends to throw in the fridge.  I pull it out and add veggies for a lunch option or quick dinner.                 

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