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Beans, beans, wonderful beans: preparing your favorite legume

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Beans are a wonderfully versatile food. From yummy hummus, to a great burrito filling, to satisfying additions to soups and salads, beans are a very filling and tasty addition to many meals. The question arises, however, as to the proper way to prepare them. If you are using canned beans, the job of preparation (but not seasoning) is done for you.  However, it is much more cost effective to use dried beans. One bag of dried beans makes the amount of about 4 cans of beans and the dried beans will cost you one fourth less! Some people- no doubt- simply rinse and cook, due to time constraints or perhaps not realizing there is more to it.  However there are proper steps to take in preparing beans.

Making sure your beans are clean
Not many things can spoil a good bean dish better than a little unexpected, unplanned grit in the recipe! You will need to sort through your beans. You can go ahead and pour your beans in a colander and sort through them there before you rinse, or you can pour them out a little at a time on a cookie sheet or a light colored plate. When you sort through them, what you are looking for is small stones, small balls of dirt, bad discolored shriveled beans, etc. Once you feel confident you have only nice beans left, place beans in the colander and run under fresh water. Use your hands to move them around, making sure each bean is thoroughly rinsed. Now, your beans are ready to be soaked or cooked. Read on for the benefits of soaking.

Soaking beans to reduce phytic acid
The pros to soaking are:  more even cooking and less gastrointestinal upset.  To remove the most anti-nutrients from your beans, soak in warm water for 18 hours, changing the water at least once if you have time. If you want to soak your beans quickly, boil them for a few minutes, then let sit for an hour. Change the water and cook as usual.

Digestion help
If you have a hard time digesting beans, you  may need to boil the beans and change the water several times. This will remove many of the complex sugars that cause gas. Also, it will be beneficial for you to cook the beans until they are very soft. Skimming the foam from the water may help as well.  Chewing well eases tummy troubles, as does eating mashed beans such as refried beans and hummus. Some herbs that  you can add to your beans to help you with digestion are ginger, epazote (Mexican tea), parsley, and coriander. The Japanese add Kombu, an edible seaweed (kelp) to aid in digestion. Meat tenderizer that contains papaya or bromelain may help as well.

More beany tips

Refrain from adding anything acidic, such as tomato sauce or tomatoes to your bean dish until it is fully cooked. If you add it before beans are done cooking, the beans will remain hard.
Also, a touch of baking soda will help your beans retain their color, but they won’t be as soft as they would be if you didn’t use it. In that case you may want to weigh one thing against another- aesthetics versus potential digestion upset.

Hopefully, you are a little more bean savvy than you were before. Now, go enjoy a good homemade pot of beans!


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