Beans, the Magical Fruit

We live in a primarily vegetarian household, which often puts protein on my mind. Humans need complex carbohydrates to live well, but a certain lesser amount of quality protein is vital for tissue growth, immune system support, and hormone synthesis required for the body's countless chemical reactions. There are several ways to include plenty of protein in the diet without meat products, but my favorite by far is with beans. Beans eaten with about twice as much grain is an appropriate and delicious way to ensure you're getting a complete protein easiest for the body to use.

Combining grain and beans with varied seasonal vegetables and fruits provides a high-fiber, nutrient-dense diet linked with much improved digestive, cardiovascular, and immune system health. There is one caveat with increased bean consumption when moving from a diet with a majority of refined and processed foods to a diet consisting of whole foods, including beans: flatulence! When a body has become used to a lack of fiber, as in most western diets, it can have a healing reaction when high-fiber foods are introduced. My recommendation is to start small, increasing your consumption gradually, making sure to soak beans overnight and to include the seaweed kombu in small amounts to increase the digestibility of your non-pressure-cooked bean meal!

I am now very happy to share my three very favorite bean and grain meals! These meals are almost always accompanied in our home by several condiments the value of which cannot be underestimated in my opinion. These include: Ume Plum Vinegar, a salty delight; Jalapeño Vinegar, a mild spicy vinegar that I make by pouring apple cider vinegar over a jar of jalapeños and let sit for as long as it takes to get a little hot, then decant into a separate jar: an added benefit to this process is the preservation of the jalapenos which I pick out to use in two of the following recipes; Nutritional Yeast containing b-complex vitamins that tastes a little like popcorn or butter; Dulce flakes, a slightly salty seaweed packed with protein, and lastly hormone- and antibiotic-free (often found only as organic) sour cream. It just kinda blends the flavors sweetly.

On to the food! My southern influence shines through in my love of cornbread, tex-mex, and creole-style flavors. Oh, and butter! To best enjoy these meals, be sure to soak beans overnight to reduce gas and cooking time and simmer with a chopped up piece of kombu.

Black-Eyed Peas and Corn Bread

-Preheat oven to 350 for the corn bread and start on peas.

-In a medium sized pot, put peas on to heat and cover with water. Bring to a gentle boil, skim the surface foam and reduce to a simmer with lid on.

Chop or dice:

1 onion

several cloves of garlic

1 jalapeño

2-3 stalks of celery

2-3 carrots (optional)

½-1 bell pepper (optional)

1 6-in piece of kombu in pieces

-Add carrot, celery, and kombu to pot with peas.

-In olive or unrefined sesame oil, sauté onions until translucent, add garlic, jalapeño, and bell pepper if desired and cook until onions begin to brown. Add all to pea pot.

-Spices can be included at this point, but not much is required. I often add cayenne made from chipotle peppers, but wait until peas are almost done to add salt and pepper. Black-eyed peas are done in about 20 minutes, but can stand 5 or 10 more to blend flavors.


All right! Now for the corn bread.

-Place 6 TBS of butter in a deep baking pan or cast-iron skillet and stick it in the oven until it melts.

In a bowl, combine:

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup unbleached or whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

a pinch of cinnamon

In another, combine:

¼ C maple syrup (sugar may be substituted, just add to dry ingredients)

1 C milk, yogurt or water

1 or 2 beaten eggs

-When butter is melted, remove pan from oven. Combine wet and dry ingredients, stir well, and then add the melted butter. Stir until pretty well incorporated and dump the whole thing back into the baking pan or skillet, which should be pretty well lubricated from the melted butter.

-Bake 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the edges pull away from the sides of the pan.

Red Beans and Rice

-Prepare rice by bringing to a boil twice as much water as rice, then add rice, allow to return to a boil, then reduce the heat as low as possible on your stove. Will be done when you smell the rice – a cup of brown rice will cook in about 40 minutes, a cup of white will be ready in about 20 minutes. To be sure, remove lid close to time and gently tilt pot forward – if there is still water in the pot, cover and allow to cook until water is completely absorbed.

-While rice cooks, add red beans to pot and cover with water. Allow to come to a gentle boil, skim surface foam, cover with lid and reduce to a simmer.

Similar to black-eyed peas, chop or dice:

1 onion

several cloves of garlic

1-2 carrots

2-3 stalks of celery

1-2 bell peppers

1 jalapeño (optional)

1 6-in piece kombu

-Just like with black-eyed peas, saute onions in olive or unrefined sesame oil until translucent, add garlic, bell peppers, and jalapeño and cook until onion begins to brown, then add to pot with beans. Add carrots, kombu and celery. Spice with about ½ tsp dried oregano. Stir occasionally – usually done shortly after brown rice has finished if started before the beans.

-Be sure to taste test beans to make sure they're cooked through. Add salt to taste. This is definitely a meal that tastes best with sour cream!

Black Beans and Quinoa

-Add black beans to pot and cover with water. Bring to a gentle boil, skim surface foam, reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid. Allow black beans to cook for a half-hour or so before continuing. They generally take longer than most other beans.

As with most beans, chop or dice:

1 onion

several cloves of garlic

1-2 carrots

2-3 stalks of celery

1 6-in piece of kombu

-Saute onions until translucent, then add garlic and cook until onion begins to brown. Add this to bean pot along with carrots, celery and kombu. Spice with roughly ½ tsp oregano, ½ tsp cumin seed and ½ tsp coriander seed. Ready when beans are cooked through, make sure to taste test several to make sure.

-As beans finish, bring to a boil twice as much water as quinoa, add quinoa, cover with a lid and reduce heat to a simmer. Should be finished in about 15 or 20 minutes.

I especially like this last one as it has a sort of pineapple flavor that I find inexplicable and incredibly delightful. The best part about beans is their ability to absorb the flavors of surrounding vegetables and spices. It's hard to mess them up, and they are always hearty and filling. Just make sure they're cooked, or you'll pay for it at the table and in your gut!

With love,