For the Love of Beans

Lets talk about the power house of nutrition that is the humble Bean. If you are looking for a main dish or a side that brings a lot to the plate, consider the bean. Beans provide tons of fiber, protein and micro nutrients. Lets look at Black beans and Red Beans for example:

1 Cup Black Beans Contains:

116% of your Daily Value of Fiber              29g
78% of your daily Value of Protein           39g
78% of your Daily Value of Potassium
73% of your Daily Value of Magnesium
29% of your Daily Value of Calcium
25% of your Daily Value of Vitamin B-6

1 Cup Kidney/Red Beans Contains:

184% of your Daily Value of Fiber             46g
86%  of your Daily Value of Protein         43g
83%  of your Daily Value of Iron
73% of your Daily Value of Potassium
64% of your Daily Value of Magnesium 
35%  of your Daily Value of Vitamin B-6
26%  of your Daily Value of Calcium

Now that is a compelling reason to add black beans or red beans to your meal. If I have one  criticism of beans it would only be that beans are high in carbohydrates, which means if you are watching your carbs or if you are on a Diabetes Carb Control Diet, 1 cup is not a realistic serving size for you. For you the serving would be 1/3 to 1/4 of a cup. But even at those smaller servings beans still give your plate a lot of Macro and Micro nutrients you need in your diet.

Beans are also very affordable! Right now sitting on the shelves of your super market are both canned and dried beans. Canned beans are so convenient, no soaking, no long hours on the stove, just pop ’em out, rinse and pour into your recipes. You can even get canned beans for $1 a can some times, but often they cost closer to $2 a can. Now that is cheap for a food with such a high amount of protein. Dried beans are even cheaper!!!! The only problem is they require more time to make.  Instead of soaking and simmering on the stove all day, I use my slow cooker. Its so nice to spend 5 minutes doing the prep work, setting the slow cooker, and just walking away.

How to cook Dried Beans in a Slow Cooker

1) Start buy buying your beans in bulk. The Black Beans I used were $0.99/ pound and Red Beans were $1.09/ pound.

2) Now we need to weigh our beans. Get out your kitchen scale and weigh out 1 pound of beans.

3) I like to pour the beans into a 1/4 sheet pan and then carefully look through them. This batch did not have any rocks, but it did have a small piece of plastic I removed. It is not uncommon to find small rocks in your beans, be thorough.

4) Rinse the beans under cool water.

5) Place the Beans in the slow cooker and cover with 6 cups of cold water, add the lid, set on high, and cook for 4-6 hours. I find my slow cooker takes closer to 4 hours than 6. Check the beans buy pressing them gently against the side of the crock with a spoon. They should have give when pressed and be the textured they are when you get them in a can.

6) Rinse the beans again until the water runs clear, similar to when you open a can of beans.

7) Cool the beans, then portions the beans into freezer bags, then freeze flat for easy storage.

I cooked a double batch of black and red beans Sunday. I like to mix the two beans so that they are ready and portioned for when I make Chili. You can add seasoning to the beans, a bay leaf, or even salt while they are cooking. I find that salt makes the beans tough when you add it to the beans before they are fully cooked. I also like to wait to add flavors, this way I can use the beans in many preparations without fear they will add a flavor or taste that do not blend well in the final dish. Why do I do this instead of buying canned beans? For the savings!

My 2 pound batch of Red and Black beans costs $2.08 for nine – 12 oz portions of beans. Even if I got those cans for $1 each, that would cost  $9.00. A savings of 77%. That is 13.5 cups of beans or 553.5 g or protein for $2.08.


Basil Parsley Pesto

I love Pesto, on everything. I use it on meat, poultry, vegetables, sandwiches, and of course pasta! Traditionally Pesto has basil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Here is a great Basic Pesto Recipe that I have made dozens of time, and I highly recommend it for traditional Pesto.

I love the taste of Basil but I also want to incorporate more parsley into my diet because it is a great source of Vitamins K, and has Vitamins and Minerals like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, the Antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin. It is important to get a variety of fruits, vegetables, and even herbs to ensure you are getting all those lovely Micro Nutrients that keep your skin looking good, heart pumping, and immune system working at its best!

You can even make changes like substituting walnuts for pine nuts. Walnuts are full of fiber, magnesium, protein, and omega 3 fatty acids. They are also a little easier to find, and cheaper than pine nuts. The flavors of both nuts work well for pesto, but walnuts bring a slightly stronger flavor than pine nuts.

Basil Parsley Pesto
1/2    Cup Pine Nuts
3-4   Cloves Garlic
2        Cups Fresh Basil, packed
1        Cup Fresh Basil, packed
1/2    Cup Parmesan, grated
1/2    Cup Olive Oil
1/2    tsp Salt
1/2    tsp Pepper

1) In the bowl of your food processor, combine Pine Nuts, Garlic, Basil, Parsley, Parmesan Cheese, Salt and Pepper.

2) Pulse until the ingredients look like a crumbly paste.

3) While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil creating an emulsion similar to that of a thick salad dressing.

4) Portion into 1/2 cup or 1/4 portions and freeze for longer shelf life or refrigerate for 5 days.

Recipe yields 1 1/4 cups of pesto.


The Struggle is Real!

pancakesHave you ever woke up in the morning feeling great? Maybe a little tired, but after a stretch you get out of bed and start your day feeling well. You get dressed, grab a quick breakfast item from the freezer, pop it in the microwave, and run out the door. At work your coworkers ask if you want to go to lunch with them and you say “of course, I’m good with where ever you all want to eat.” When you get to the restaurant you look over the menu interested in all most everything on the menu. You make a choice from the many options that make you mouth water.

After lunch you head back to your office energized from your meal and excited to finish the last half of the work day and head home. Maybe even plan to go out to dinner with your special someone?

Does this sound familiar, like it could easily be your life? If so that is wonderful! You truly do not know how luck you are.

For many others including myself the day looks quite different… Your alarm goes off but it doesn’t matter, you were not asleep. You had spent most of the night vomiting, writhing in pain, and soaked in sweat. Maybe even battling your 5th trip to the bathroom because no matter how many over the counter pills you have taken the diarrhea hasn’t stopped and you just hope you can stop shitting yourself long enough to shower and get to work. You can’t call in sick AGAIN. You manage to shower and get dressed and you look in the fridge for breakfast even though you are not sure you can keep it down. Your eyes look over the eggs, milk and…. you sigh not knowing if you can eat any of these breakfast staples. Will they make me sick like yesterday or will I be fine like the many days before that? You grab a banana and heave your body in the car with what little energy you have.

You get to work looking like you are nursing a hangover from a “fun” night. Lunch rolls around and your coworkers walk by smiling as they head out to lunch. They stopped inviting you long ago. Every time you would ask, “Where are we eating? Do you think they will have something that fits with my very limited diet?”

Say you did end up going to lunch with them. You would have to furiously look over the menu online before arriving to the restaurant – hopeful after you realize you can eat one of the restaurants salads. After interrogating the waiter you think to yourself “will the kitchen actually take my allergy or intolerance seriously or will they put croutons on my salad and then removed them when the ticket says no croutons thinking to themselves “no harm send the salad out.” Will the waiter even convey to the kitchen that you need the cooks to change their gloves to prevent cross contamination?” You sink into your chair telling yourself that if you do get sick at least half the day is over and you will be able to go home in a few hours. On the way home you carefully think out the dinner plan and even make a little extra so you can have something the next day you know won’t make you sick… or will it? Do you even know for sure what it is that causes you to feel like you are dying everyday?

Maybe you have figured out how to avoid most foods that cause you to be ill, that is great! Now you have to plan out every day of your life and social interactions that revolve around food. Do you feel overwhelmed? I did.

The latter person is precisely the person I wish to help with this blog. The nutrition information and interventions I hope will be helpful to both the sick and the well, but I know some people are far more desperate and in need of help than others. I know I was. I can’t say nutrition is a cure all for everything, but it is a good place to start. Work with your physician and a dietitian to help you formulate a plan that makes your life less like the second person’s and more like the first person’s. Those people are out there, they wake up most days feeling great, and you can too.