A lot of us don’t cook much any more. Yet it’s one of the best ways to control your calorie intake and know what’s going into your body. If you are one of these inexperienced or out of practice cooks you are in luck. We are planning to start offering some tips on how to make some easy, healthy recipes.
First up in this series are tips on cooking Rice and Beans, which are not only very nutritious and satisfying but also very economical. We’ve compiled some strategies to make sure you get the most nutritional value out of cooking Rice and Beans while avoiding high fat levels in many traditional recipes.
For good health, vegetarian beans and rice is the way to go
Forget about cooking with ham hocks or even with chicken stock. There’s too much sodium and saturated fat in those traditional recipes. You can also forget about cooking refried beans!
Instead, focus on getting some good quality ingredients together.
We’ll start with the beans
It’s good to have some of these things on hand when making beans (see list below). You don’t have to have all of them but these are good things to select from when cooking:
Food Ingredients You Can Add to Bean Recipes
- whole ginger root
- greens, like collards, mustard greens, kale (can be frozen)
- raw fresh organic spinach
- white onions, spring onions or scallions
- raw, uncooked asparagus (Cut the stalks into 1 to 1 1/2 in. lengths on the bias)
- baby bok choy
- diced peppers
- diced tomatoes
Spices and Other Items Which Are Good For Bean Recipes
- ground tumeric
- curry powder
- chili pepper
- ground dried mustard
- ground black pepper
- dried bay leaves or dried avocado leaves
- (optional) frozen bean mixture from last recipe
- olive oil or grapeseed oil
- apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar
Cooking Utensils and Gadgets
- stockpot or French oven (pot) with a heavy bottom that will not burn when you sauté onions
- optional pressure cooker (an advanced topic we covered in a recipe for Caramelized Carrot Soup.)
- slotted spoon (useful to serve beans and for tasting them as you cook)
- Ziplock type bags (for storing leftovers in the freezer)
- electric rice cooker
Think about the Life-Cycle of your Cooking
If you are somewhat new to cooking, one of the things that might not occur to you right away is how to plan to cook, reheat and freeze your meals. For example, you generally won’t cook beans for just one meal (unless you expect to feed a huge group). You will cook enough to have leftovers, which you will eat in the coming days or, if you freeze your beans, you’ll enjoy eating a second or third time at some point in the future.
Soaking is Beneficial
Just about all beans cook quicker and taste better if you soak them the night before. Eight hours is plenty of time. But don’t forget about them in the morning. If you leave them on the counter in a hot kitchen they will start to ferment. If you notice this happening, drain off the liquid and put them in the fridge until you have time to start cooking them— but try to do it later in the same day or next morning.
Soaking not only speeds up the bean cooking process, it can also reduce the amount of annoying gas that gives beans their reputation for causing flatulence!
Tip: Neither Split Peas nor Lentils (nor the variation of Lentils known as Dall which are used in Indian cooking) need to be soaked beforehand; you can just start cooking them right away.
How Many Beans Should You Cook at One Time?
Two cups is actually a lot of beans. But that’s good amount to start with, because you’ll have leftovers. When you get beans out of the bag, pour them into your stock pot and fill with enough water to cover the beans. Anything that floats might be dirt or leaves or dead insects — which is something to discard at this step. Wash the beans again in fresh water and then drain. Then refill the water (consider using filtered water when cooking) to so there is at least 2 inches of water above the level of the beans. As you gain experience, you might see the need to add more water when soaking certain types of beans.
Choosing Which Beans to Cook
Stock up on a variety of beans and experiment. We recommend three types of beans for beginning cooks:
Black Beans: These have have a rich taste, great for cooler weather. (Forget the sour creme topping by trying yogurt instead or skipping entirely)
Mayocopa Beans: These are mild and won’t overpower the rest of the food on your plate. A good choice for a side dish.
Butterbeans, plain or speckled: These large beans (also known as lima beans if you are a Yankee) are seasonal. They can be very filling.
Here is our general recipe for cooking all types of beans:
|Basic Cooking Technique for Low Calorie Beans|
|Heat a tablespoon or two of grapeseed oil (cheapest from Costco) in your heavy duty stockpot. When it shimmers, add diced or thin sliced rings of onions and sauté for about five minutes. Don’t burn it. Add some chopped garlic at the last minute, which will tend to make it burn on the bottom so stir quickly.Get ready with some water.
Once the garlic starts to get too brown too fast, douse it with a cup of water before it burns.Turn the heat down to medium low.Now add your beans.Add enough water to just cover the beans. (As we add more ingredients, you may need to top up the water)Now cut off a portion of raw ginger root (about the size of your thumb) and remove the skin. Slicing the skin off with a knife may be more efficient than using a peeler. It doesn’t have to be exact. Add to the pot.Add 8 to 12 dried twelve bay leaves or avocado leaves.Optional: Add some previously cooked beans. If you made a batch of beans earlier and saved a small portion with the liquid in the freezer, get that out now and drop it into the pot. It will defrost as you cook your beans and it will add richness to your sauce.Add a quarter teaspoon (more if you like it) of ground dried mustard.Do you want an Indian style curry taste? This would be good option with mayacopa beans, yellow lentils (dall) or butterbeans. If so, add a 1/2 teaspoon of ground tumeric and 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder.
If you don’t want to go in the curry flavor direction, add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and some ground pepper. You can add a tiny pinch of ground chili pepper as well.
Now make sure there is enough water to just cover the beans and the heat is just high enough for it to simmer. Your beans should be done in 35 to 90 minutes.
As you experiment with each type of bean you can write down how long they took to cook so you’ll know what works for you next time.
But wait! We’re not done adding ingredients… Here is where the fun begins!
You can mix and match different vegetables to add to your beans as they are cooking on the stove. Often you can just take a look at what you already have in the kitchen. It’s a good way to use leftovers.
Here are some good combinations:
- spinach and kale leaves and asparagus
- diced tomatoes and okra plus onions, green bell peppers and celery (aka the cajun trinity)
- onions, leeks and scallions
- onions and baby bok choy and leeks
Just add these items into the stock pot about halfway through the cooking process. For more delicate items that cook quickly, you can add them closer to the end. Don’t forget to top up the water if you add a lot of new things to the stockpot. You can partially cover the stockpot as you cook.
Tips for cleaning the Leeks
Washing leeks is important. As they grow they will naturally capture a little bit of dirt in the layers. Here’s how to clean them properly. Cut off the bottom edge off of the root off (the part with the little root hairs). Then cut your leek at the other end as well where the leaves start to grow away from the central stalk. Now you have just the central stalk remaining. Cut this stalk in half lengthwise. Use a sharp knife and be careful! Now carefully chop off the stalk every inch or to make sections of leeks. Drop all the leek pieces into a bowl of water and let the dirt that’s accumulated as the leek was growing settle to the bottom. You can grab the floating leek slices with your hands to remove them. Try not to disturb the dirt gathering at the bottom of the bowl. You might want to rinse them once more in a different pot then drain. Now add them to your beans on the stove.
What about the Rice?
White rice Is the classic processed food that you want to avoid. Without getting too technical or exact, we can think of white rice as being the polished inside of the rice grain. It lacks the natural outer portion, which is very nutritious. Without this outer layer of rice grain, white rice will be converted into energy by your digestive system far too quickly, giving you a ‘sugar high’ spike.
So stick to brown rice.
But which kind?
Be adventurous. Try different kinds of mixed wild rice and brown rice. Learn what you like. Just try to avoid rice packaged in a box with other seasonings included. These will be too salty and unnecessarily expensive.
You can also try more exotic imported rices from Asia, including ‘black rice’. Ranch 99 in the Spring Branch neighborhood has many varieties to choose from. That’s also an excellent place to pick up a high-quality electric rice cooker at a reasonable price.
Cooking the Rice
Once you’ve tried using an electric rice cooker, you may not want to go back to cooking in a pan. It generally comes out perfect each time.
Once you have the beans simmering, you’ll have time to measure the rice and water combination according to the instructions that came with the rice cooker.
Keep in mind that cooking brown rice can sometimes take nearly twice as long as white rice. And generally you’ll find the cooking instructions ask you to add a wee bit more water when cooking brown rice.
Tip: Don’t lose the little measuring cup that comes with the rice cooker unit! You’ll need to use that to measure your rice. It’s not equivalent to a standard measuring cup.
Enjoy your Rice and Beans
As you cook the beans, you can taste test to determine when they are done. Use a slotted spoon to fish out some beans and try them.
After you get some experience, you can make rice and beans without looking at a recipe at all. It’s a nice relaxing routine that allows you to try different variations.
After serving the beans and rice, you can let the stockpot cool off and put it into the fridge. Or transfer it to a smaller container. Since this is a vegetarian meal, you don’t have to worry as much about food safety issues, which would be a greater concern with chicken soup, for example. Just avoid putting hot food into plastic containers, which can cause the plastic material to break down and possibly leach into your food. That could be risky. Use glass storage containers or wait for it to cool to room temperature.
If you have more beans left over than you need, wait til they are completely cool and ladle them into some plastic freezer bags or containers than can go in the freezer. (Again wait for them to cool to room temperature. Hot food in plastic bags is not a good combination.) Don’t forget to label the type of beans and the date. Keep one small bag reserved for adding to your next batch of beans if you like.
Rice can be kept in the rice cooker for up to about 10 or 12 hours as long as there is no meat protein added. Be sure to store it in a sealed container in the fridge to avoid it drying out.
Enjoy and be sure to let us know what you think!