...wallet ! What did you think we were going to say?
Ahh....beans. We love them! Well, actually Economia Nia loves them, Frugal Freddie simply likes them. But, whether you love them, like them, or don't really eat them, one thing is sure...they are cheap ! Not sort of cheap, but really cheap ! So cheap in fact, that it doesn't even matter if they are on sale - how can anyone not love that!
So, how many of you out there eat beans on a regular basis (and by regular we mean at least every other day)? Come on, you in the back...don't be shy. Well, we know why you may be reluctant to fess up. For some reason (okay, for a very good reason), eating beans is often equated with...farting ! (note to readers: Economia Nia really wanted to put in a polite euphemism, but Frugal Freddie beat me to the keyboard). Well, polite or not, it's true that bean eating can lead to gas leaking, in some more than others. But, you want to know a secret? Despite what that little children's song says, the more you eat...the LESS you fart ! That's right, your meat-eating, processed-food-loving body actually gets used to digesting wholesome, healthy beans ! It's miraculous !
Now there are products out there that claim to help you digest beans and eliminate their noxious side effects. We've actually never tried them, but some bean-eating friends say that they do work. Check out the website for Beano...it's a riot (particularly the link to the "University of gas").
Gas aside, you really can't beat the benefits of eating beans. They are cheap (so cheap), healthy (so healthy!), delicious (really delicious....like really, really delicious), and they look pretty in glass jars (so pretty).
There are basically two ways to purchase beans at the market: in cans and in bags. For a long time we were can buyers, mainly because of the convenience. Recently however we have turned to the dried variety. They are tastier and a much better value for your buck (which is not really that important since the cans are pretty cheap too), but they are also healthier, since canned beans tend to be loaded in sodium and sometimes other preservatives. Plus, we are trying to move away from cans for a couple of other reasons. The first is environmental (it takes a lot more energy to produce and recycle a can than it does to produce and recycle a small plastic or paper bag). Second, we're just not sure what they line those cans with. Maybe nothing worrisome, but we seem to remember reading "something" about "something bad" being used to line cans. So, better safe than sorry.
Using dried beans is really not all that inconvenient. It takes time to soak them and then cook the beans, but it's not like you have to do anything during the soaking and cooking time. Soaking can be done overnight and cooking can be a breeze with the right recipe and the right method (think slow cooker or pressure cooker).
If you would like to become proficient in bean soaking methodology, then there are a plethora of resources available on-line and in most vegetarian cookbooks which describe in detail how long to soak every kind of bean imaginable. We're going to go ahead and assume that you're too busy for that (heck, you're already wasting enough of your time reading this blog), so here are a few simple rules.
1. Most beans can be soaked overnight (about 8 hours).
2. Some beans (namely lentils...which actually may not be officially classified as beans...but who cares), require little to no soaking (we tend to soak them for about 30 minutes, but it's probably not necessary).
3. If you want to increase your chances of not passing gas all night after eating your beans, do not cook them in the same water in which they soaked.
4. Beans should not be soaked or cooked in salted water. This will toughen the bean...add salt after they are cooked.
5. Cook the beans until they are tender...the bigger the bean, the longer the cooking time.
Below you'll find a link which actually lists the recommended soaking and cooking times for some popular beans.
So, beans ! They're healthy, cheap, delicious and kinder to your body and to the environment than eating meat is. But there's more! Dried beans can be used as weights for blind baking pie crusts. They can be used to fill home-made maracas, for arts and crafts and to replace game tokens that invariably get lost. You can also sprout beans by placing them in a humid environment. Try doing any of that with a steak.