Tag Archives: Bean Bulletin

Beans and Rice

Beans and Tomato Rice

Beans are a pretty versatile ingredient that can help you make filling and nutritious meals that are also a breeze to make. Now, you probably already know this if you’ve tried making our Cajun Red Beans and Rice recipe, but there are very few food pairings better than beans and rice. Indeed, it’s a combination that’s present in a multitude of cuisines from all over the world. It’s a great healthy and hearty meal to fill you up and get you going.

If you’re looking to add a new spin to your beans and rice dishes, we highly recommend trying out this Beans and Tomato Rice recipe. What’s great about this recipe is you can prepare the rice easily and quickly in a rice cooker. It’s best to use small rice cookers for this, as they tend to produce the optimal number of servings. The last thing you want is to waste good food. We’ve listed everything you’ll need below, as well as a quick guide on how to prepare this hearty and flavorful dish!


– 1 cup of uncooked rice, medium grain
– 2 cups of cold water (a good rule of thumb is two cups of water for every cup of uncooked rice)
– 1 15 oz can of whole tomatoes
– 2 tablespoons of olive oil
– 6 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 jalapeno with the seeds removed (you can keep them in if you prefer a little more heat)
– 1 lb of black beans
– 1 teaspoon of chili powder
– 2 teaspoons of ground cumin


– 1/4 cup chopped oregano
– 1/4 cup chopped cilantro


1. Soak beans using your favorite soaking method.
2. Wash the rice thoroughly, twice. Then add washed rice and cold water to rice cooker.
3. Crush the canned tomatoes (if all you have is diced tomatoes then you can add them as is). Set the liquid from the can aside.
4. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, and cilantro (optional) on top of the uncooked rice.
5. Cook the rice according to your rice cooker’s directions.
6. Heat a skillet over medium to high heat and lightly sauté the jalapeno and garlic in the olive oil. Cook until the garlic is brown.
7. Add in the beans, salt, and chili powder. Incorporate the spices with the beans by stirring for around 30 seconds to a minute. You can add in some of the liquid from the canned tomatoes to infuse the beans with more tomato flavor.
8. Once the rice is cooked, mix it with the beans and serve hot.

Written by Nancy Reed for beaninstitute.com

An image depicting a black bean taco salad.

Too Hot to Cook: Black Bean Taco Salad With Lime Vinaigrette

When it’s just too hot to turn on the stove, try this citrusy black bean salad with flavors of the southwest. Serve it with crispy tortilla chips on the side.

For the vinaigrette, combine in a blender until smooth:

  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp chili powder or to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic

For the salad, combine:

  • 8 cups salad greens
  • 2 red peppers, diced
  • 1 cup sliced scallions
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
An image depicting a variety of dry beans.

For Fiber, Nothing Beats Beans

According to studies of eating habits, Americans get too little fiber. Since dietary fiber is linked to better weight control and can lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, eating more fiber-rich foods should be a priority for everyone.

Beans are unmatched in their fiber content. A ½ cup serving provides about 8 grams of fiber, which is just a little less than one-third of what experts recommend for the day. It’s also four times the amount of fiber in ½ cup of brown rice and twice what you get from ½ cup of other fiber superstars like berries. If you’re concerned about fiber, eat more beans. Just one serving every day can ensure that you get plenty of this health-promoting nutrient.

An image depicting Boston Baked Beans

Boston Baked Beans for a Traditional Independence Day

Bostonians were eating slow-baked beans in molasses since Colonial days, but the city didn’t earn its nickname as Beantown until the early 20th century. To encourage attendance at a city-wide reunion known as Old Home Week in 1907, promoters distributed one million stickers (which were a new invention), with an image of two hands clasped above a Boston bean pot. Shortly after that, the slogan “you don’t know beans until you come to Boston” started appearing on postcards.

Today, baked beans show up on most July 4th picnic menus. For a touch of all-American tradition, try this recipe for authentic Boston Baked Beans from The Spruce. For a meatless version, slice vegetarian sausage into the beans in place of bacon.


Bean Eaters Have Better Diets

People who eat more beans have better overall diets, according to research from Sweden. The study found that people who ate beans were more likely to meet the recommended intake of fiber. Fiber protects against chronic disease risk and is also associated with weight control.

In this study, bean eaters had slightly higher calorie intakes but were no heavier than non-bean eaters. People who included beans in meals also consumed more iron, magnesium, and folate, a B-vitamin that is especially important during pregnancy.  

Source: Steib CA, Johansson I, Hefni ME, Witthöft CM. Diet and nutrient status of legume consumers in Sweden: a descriptive cross-sectional study. Nutr J. 2020;19(1):27. Published 2020 Apr 3. 

An image depicting a bean and vegetable salad.

Mediterranean Bean Salad: Cool Cuisine for Hot Summer Evenings

Packed with protein-rich beans, crunchy summer vegetables, and cool, fresh mint, this salad is a one-dish supper for evenings when it’s too hot to cook. Just toss the ingredients together in a large bowl and stir in the dressing. If you don’t have capers on hand, substitute chopped green olives or dill pickles.


  • 3 15-ounce cans of any beans (use several types if you like), drained and rinsed
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup chopped red or sweet onions
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 10 fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped

For the dressing:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
An image depicting a child learning to garden

Kids Learn to Like Beans When They Grow Them in a Garden

Fourth-grade students in Washington State gained a new appreciation for beans when they participated in a “Pulse on Health” curriculum. Part of the program involved planting, caring for, and harvesting beans in a school garden. Compared to kids who didn’t grow beans, the young gardeners knew more about bean nutrition at the end of the program according to a series of survey questions they answered. Not only were they more knowledgeable, but they also had a new appreciation for beans in meals. Nearly a third of them reported that they were eating more beans.

Any type of dry bean makes a fun and educational at-home garden project for school-aged children. Beans can be grown in a small patch in your yard, or in pots on a sunny balcony. Growing beans is a valuable summer project that can also help kids eat better.

Source: Exploring Pulses Through Math, Science, and Nutrition Activities. The Journal of Child Nutrition and Management. Spring, 2016.

Warm Weather Bean and Pasta Salad

As the temperatures rise, fuss-free dishes like this pasta and bean salad are just right for supper on the deck or patio. Make it in the morning to allow the flavors to develop – and so that you don’t need to think about supper until it’s time to eat.


  • 8 ounces rotini pasta, cooked
  • 3 15-ounce cans of any beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ½ cups frozen or canned corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Red pepper flakes to taste (start with ¼ tsp)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, beans, and corn.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together the salad dressing, mayonnaise, and red pepper flakes until well mixed.
    Stir into the pasta salad.
  3. Add salt,  pepper, and additional red pepper to taste.
An image depicting baked beans with garnish

Jazz Up Canned Baked Beans

When you don’t have time to cook from scratch, canned baked beans are a welcome convenience. Give them a little extra pizazz and your own creative homemade twist with any of the following additions.

  • Adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers
  • Sautéed onions and a dash of dry mustard
  • Honey and Dijon mustard
  • Freshly grated ginger
  • Peach preserves
  • Splash of bourbon
  • Miso paste
An image depicting white bean oatmeal topped with fresh fruit

White Bean Oatmeal

If you’re trying to incorporate beans into your diet more often, don’t overlook breakfast options. With their creamy texture and neutral flavor, white beans are a perfect addition to oatmeal and a valuable way to give morning meals a protein boost. This recipe is adapted from The Simple Bean: A Bean Toolkit for Older Adults.


  • 1 cup cooked white beans, rinsed, drained, and mashed
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 ½ tbsp maple syrup or any liquid sweetener
  • Dash of cinnamon


  1. Combine all ingredients in a pot and heat over medium heat until it begins to simmer.
  2. Reduce heat and cook uncovered for about 7 minutes.
  3. Serve with blueberries, chopped walnuts, or any favorite oatmeal toppings.
Family cooking together

Pantry Items to Pair with Beans

If you’re cooking from a well-stocked pantry, you may be eating more beans than ever. To keep meal preparation simple and varied, make sure your pantry is also stocked with these shelf-stable ingredients that enhance bean dishes.
  • Canned tomatoes and tomato sauce: Simmer canned or cooked beans in any type of tomato sauce for a dish packed with nutrition and Mediterranean flavor
  • Frozen vegetables. Add frozen spinach, kale, or collards to beans along with a can of diced tomatoes for a satisfying soup.
  • Onions and garlic: Sautéed in a little oil, onions, and garlic add fast flavor to beans.
  • Aged cheeses. Mix shredded cheese with breadcrumbs as a topping for any baked bean recipe.
  • Don’t forget favorite condiments like soy sauce, hot sauce, canned peppers, salsa, and balsamic vinegar to build fast flavor into a pot of beans.
Red Beans In Wooden Bowl And Spoon

Dry Beans for a Healthy Immune System

Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutrient shortfalls in the world. When people get too little iron, they’re at an increased risk for infection. Dry beans are among the best sources of this mineral and pairing them with vitamin C-rich foods can increase iron absorption dramatically.

Even if you’re limiting trips to the grocery store right now, you may have plenty of vitamin C-rich ingredients on hand. Cook beans with frozen spinach and canned tomatoes to create a satisfying soup that is packed with iron and vitamin C. Simmer baked beans with chunks of canned pineapple for a savory-sweet dish to serve over rice. Keep frozen green or red peppers on hand to sauté with onions and stir into cooked beans for flavor and plenty of vitamin C.

While there is no magic potion or pill that can boost your immunity, a balanced diet that meets nutrient needs can keep the immune system functioning well.

The front page of a new newsletter

All About Beans

The first edition of a new weekly activity newsletter features beans as the hero ingredient for pantry-based, kitchen science, fun food facts, exercises, and step-by-step cooking skills to practice and master. Discover the newsletter here.

An image of black beans and rice

Black Beans and Rice

This black beans and rice recipe couldn’t be easier, and chances are you have all the ingredients on hand. It comes together in about 20 minutes.


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt to taste


  • Sauté the onions and garlic in the oil for about 4 minutes. Add the rice and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add the broth. Bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes until the rice is tender. Stir in spices and the black beans. Cover and cook over low heat until heated through.
An image depicting a woman buying dried beans

Dry Beans in the Emergency Pantry

As consumers across the country shelter in place against the coronavirus, it’s not surprising that packages of dry beans have been flying off grocery store shelves. Dry beans are an essential part of any well-stocked pantry, especially one that feeds families through an emergency.

These foods are among the most economical sources of nutrition. One pound of dry beans provides as much as 1,500 calories and 100 grams of protein for less than $2.00. While canned beans cost a little more, it makes sense to keep a good supply on hand for fast meal preparation.

To keep dry beans fresh for as long as possible, store them away from light and keep them sealed in plastic bags or jars. When properly stored, few foods rival beans as a shelf-stable choice. One study found that canned beans that had been sitting in pantries for as long as 30 years were still acceptable to most people who tasted them, at least for emergency meals. For optimal flavor and nutrition, aim to use canned beans within two to three years and dry beans within a year of purchase. After a year, dry beans can harden and take longer to cook. If you have beans that have been sitting in your pantry for more than a year you can still use them. Adding a pinch of baking soda to the cooking water is one way to speed their preparation and produce softer beans.

An image for the Black Bean Burger recipe

Build Your Own Bean Burger

Create your own delicious, homemade bean burger with whatever ingredients you have on hand.  Switching out spices and other ingredients presents endless options for your creations.


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (plus more for sautéing the burgers)
  • One small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup dry ingredients like panko, breadcrumbs, or quick oats.
  • 1 egg
    • For a vegan recipe, use a flax egg by whisking together 1 tablespoon ground flax seed and 3 tablespoons water. Let sit for 10 minutes until it becomes viscous.
  • Seasoning: Start with 1 teaspoon of curry powder, Mexican seasoning, Italian seasoning, Cajun spice mix, or whatever flavors you want for your burger
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: Hot sauce, soy sauce, curry paste

To make the burgers:

  1. Heat the oil and sauté the onions until just translucent.
    Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
  2. Place the sautéed onions and garlic in a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients except the egg. Pulse until everything is well-mixed (but don’t mix long enough to create a paté)
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Add the egg and give the food processor a few more pulses to combine the egg with the rest of the ingredients.
  5. If the mix is too dry, add a little broth or water. If it’s too wet, mix in more dry ingredients.
  6. Form into patties and sauté until browned on both sides.
An image for the White Bean Colcannon recipe

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day With White Bean Colcannon

Colcannon – sometimes referred to as Irish mashed potatoes – is a comforting and delicious blend of potatoes, cooked kale, onions, milk, and butter. Adding cooked white beans to traditional colcannon turns it into a fiber- and protein-packed meal.


  • 4 russet potatoes peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups chopped kale (or substitute cabbage if you prefer)
  • 1/2  cup minced green onions (green and white parts)
  • 1 cup cooked white beans
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt to taste


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in the pot and sauté the kale and onions until the kale is wilted.
    Add the cooked potatoes, beans, and milk, then mash everything together with a potato masher.  Add salt to taste.
  3. Serve hot with additional butter.
An image depicting the chicken salad chapala recipe!

Beans for National Nutrition Month

National Nutrition Month – March – is a good time to be mindful of building more nutritious meals. Canned beans are a perfect choice, providing a convenient and fast way to add more fiber, protein, potassium, and iron to menus.

There is a plethora of ways to add beans to your favorite meals. You can:

  • Add beans to any salad, turning it into a main meal
  • Stir beans into canned tomato soup
  • Add beans to prepared pasta sauce and enjoy over spaghetti or rice
  • Mix beans into macaroni and cheese
  • Top a baked potato with beans and salsa
  • Add beans to any curry recipe
An image depicting umami-rich ingredients with beans

Add Fast Flavor to Beans with Umami Rich Ingredients

Sometimes referred to as the fifth taste – in addition to sweet, sour, bitter, and salty – the flavor or essence of umami was discovered in Japan around 100 years ago. The word is derived from the Japanese term for “deliciousness.” Small amounts of umami-rich ingredients can go a long way in enhancing the flavor of the simplest dishes.

Adding these foods to bean dishes is an easy way to create a savory meal with just a handful of ingredients. Try incorporating any of the following into cooked or canned beans for a dish that is packed with flavor:

  • Shredded aged cheese
  • Caramelized onions
  • Sun-dried tomatoes rehydrated or packed in oil
  • A few tablespoons of tomato paste
  • Miso broth
  • Sauteed mushrooms
  • Grilled or roasted sweet peppers
An image depicting sprouted black beans

Sprouting Black Beans for Soup

Sprouting beans is a fun way to add a little extra nutrition to menus. Sprouting can make protein more digestible, improve absorption of minerals like zinc and iron, and may increase healthful phytochemicals in beans.

A little caution is warranted, though. Consumed raw, sprouted grains, seeds, and beans are a potential source of foodborne illness. Sprouted beans should always be cooked before consuming. You can use sprouted beans in any bean recipe like black bean soup.

Steps for Sprouting Beans:

  • Rinse 1/2 cup dried black beans, remove any stones or other debris, and place in a clean quart-size jar.
  • Add enough fresh water to fill the jar three-quarters of the way to the top. Cover with a mesh lid or cloth, secured with a rubber band, to allow airflow.
  • Soak for 24 hours at room temperature.
  • Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly. Repeat rinsing and draining 3-4 times per day until sprout tails appear. (Short sprouts are sufficient to see health benefits.)
  • Cook beans with sprouts as you normally would, but be prepared to check tenderness regularly. Sprouted beans may cook in half as much time as non-sprouted beans.
An image depicting beans soaking in water

Hot Soak Method Speeds Bean Preparation

If you forgot to soak your beans the night before you plan to cook them, the hot soak method can come to the rescue. Cover the beans with water, bring to a boil and boil for three minutes. Remove them from the heat and let them soak in the hot water for an hour. Then drain, rinse, add fresh water and cook. It’s okay to let the beans soak longer if you don’t have time to cook them right away but be sure to put them in the refrigerator after they’ve soaked for an hour.

Click here for more information about soaking beans.


An image of buffalo beans with football themed snacks

Buffalo Beans for Super Bowl Sunday

This rich and extra-spicy dip requires just minutes of hands-on preparation. It’s perfect for your Super Bowl Sunday party.


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup hot sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Process the cream cheese and hot sauce in a food processor until combined. Scrape into a bowl and stir in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese and the blue cheese dressing.
  3. Mash the beans slightly and stir into the cheese mixture. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.
  4. Place the dip in a casserole dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Let cool slightly and serve with pita chips or raw vegetables.
    Note: Garnish with green onions if desired.
An image depicting girls playing with beans

Teaching Children About Beans

Helping children become familiar with beans can improve healthy food habits, according to an article published in the School Nutrition Magazine.

Social studies classes offer a fun way to introduce children to the culinary aspects of beans by encouraging them to research traditional global dishes and by having students share their own family traditions using beans. In high school art classes, students can explore beans through botanical drawings. Germinating beans in wet paper towels is an easy science project for young children.

For more on bringing beans into the classroom see the School Nutrition Magazine November 2019 issue.

An image depicting folks exercising

Beans Support Aerobic Exercise

If your New Year resolution includes a commitment to more aerobic exercise, take a tip from the Tarahumaras, a group indigenous to the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains of Mexico. Considered among the most skilled long-distance trail runners in the world, they’ve been the subject of books, magazine articles, and scientific studies. Remarkably, the diet that sustains their extraordinary fitness is built around beans, especially pinto beans. Corn, chili peppers, squash, and greens also play important roles in their menu.

So, before you hit the track or the gym, load up on a healthy bean-based meal like these tostadas.



  • 12 tostada shells (the crisp kind)
  • 2 15-ounce cans refried beans
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • 2 avocados peeled, pitted and chopped, or about 1 cup guacamole
  • 1 cup salsa
  • Optional: 8 ounces grated Monterrey Jack or cheddar cheese


  1. Heat the refried beans in a frying pan over medium heat until hot.
  2. Prepare the tostadas by spreading a large spoonful of beans over each one and then sprinkling on the toppings.
An image for the bean quesadilla recipe

 “Cheese-y” Quesadillas Made with White Beans

White beans stand-in for cheese in these fiber- and nutrient-rich quesadillas – that also happen to be toddler-friendly. This recipe gets its cheese-like flavor from nutritional yeast and miso.

Look for nutritional yeast in the bulk section of supermarkets or substitute a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese. You’ll find miso among the Asian condiments in the store, or you can use 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce instead.

Source:  https://www.delishknowledge.com/cheesy-vegan-quesadilla/

Roasted Pinto Beans for Parties

Crunchy and easy-to-make, roasted pinto beans make a great snack for a New Year’s Eve party. This recipe has a spicy, peppery kick, but you can use any seasonings you like.

And, if you have any leftovers, roasted pinto beans also make a good addition to salads.


  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix together all ingredients.
  3. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until crunchy.
An image for the bean tamale recipe

Bean Tamales for Christmas Eve

Tamales are a Christmas Eve tradition in some parts of Mexico. With a savory dough made from Masa Harina (a type of cornflour) and meat or beans filling, tamales are wrapped in corn husks — sometimes banana leaves — then steamed.

Tamales can be made and cooked ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for several days to reheat for a Christmas Eve supper that is both easy and special.

Use any type of bean you have on hand for this recipe, including canned refried beans to speed up the process.



  • 16 dried corn husks


  •  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can (drained) cooked black, kidney, or pinto beans
  • 1/4 cup water


  • 2 1/2 cups of cornflour Masa Harina
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth


  1. Rinse corn husks, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let them soak for at least two hours.
  2. Sauté the onion in the two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until tender.
    Add the cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, beans, and 1/4 cup of water. Cook for several minutes until the beans are heated through. If using whole beans, partially bend them with an immersion blender or food processor.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the Masa Harina, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the 3/4 cup vegetable oil.
    Heat the broth and add to the mixture. Stir to combine.
  4. Lay a corn husk on a clean work surface with the edges curling up. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the dough on the corn husk. Top with 2 tablespoons of the beans.
    Fold one side of the husk to the center and then the other. Finally, fold the end toward the center of the tamale.
    Continue with the rest of the tamales.
  5. Place a steamer basket in a large pot over about an inch of water. Add the tamales and bring the water to a boil.
    Reduce heat to medium-high and steam until the tamales are firm, about 50 minutes.

Give the Gift of Homemade Bean Soup

Homemade bean soup mix in a jar is a thoughtful gift for a busy hostess or anyone on your holiday list who has little time to cook. The key to making it special is to create different layers of colorful beans in an attractive jar and to provide a seasoning mix that is packed with flavor.


This recipe makes four 1-quart mason jars.

Instructions (Makes 4)

>> You’ll need one pound each of five different beans. Black, navy, pinto, cranberry, and kidney beans are all good choices.

>> For the seasoning mix, stir together:

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons dehydrated onions
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Divide the mixture into four pieces of parchment paper or small plastic bags. To each, add 2 bay leaves and a cube of vegetable bouillon. If using parchment paper, fold it into a packet and seal securely.

>> Layer the beans into four different 1-quart jars, leaving enough space at the top for the seasoning mix before adding the lid.

To make the soup:

  1. Rinse beans then place in a pot and add water to cover by 1 inch.
  2. Do a quick soak of the beans by bringing to a boil, removing from heat and letting them soak in the hot water for an hour.
  3. Drain and rinse the beans. Add them back to the pot with the seasoning mix, one 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes, and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
An image for Red Bean Dip recipe

Curried Red Kidney Bean Dip

This delicious dip is given a boost with kidney beans and curry.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons curry paste or 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt to taste


  1. Sauté onions and garlic in oil until the onions are tender.
  2. Stir in the curry paste, tomato paste, cinnamon, and beans. Cook over moderate heat until heated throughout.
  3. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Remove from heat.
  4. Mash with a potato masher for a chunky dip or use a food processor for a smooth dip.
an image for White Bean Gravy recipe

White Bean Gravy with Sage and Thyme

With less fat and plenty of fiber, white bean gravy is a rich, savory, and nutritious option for your Thanksgiving table.


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1 ½ teaspoons dried)
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (more as needed for consistency)
  • ½ cup white flour
  • 1 15-ounce can navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

White Bean Gravy


  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion until tender.
    -> Add the garlic, thyme. and sage. Saute another two minutes.
  2. While onions are cooking, combine the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Stir the bean puree into the onions and bring to a low boil.
  4. Reduce heat and cook until thickened. Add more vegetable broth if a thinner consistency is desired.
An image for the Cream soup with beans recipe

Give Cream-Style Soups a Protein Boost with Beans

Cream-style soups are a favorite for warm, soothing meals on cold winter nights. The addition of a cup or two of cooked beans can stretch canned or homemade soup into a complete, protein-rich meal in just minutes. Stir a can of drained rinsed white beans into tomato soup. Or try pinto beans added to cream of celery soup.

An image for the Broccoli and Cranberry Bean Salad with Yogurt Dressing recipe

Broccoli and Cranberry Bean Salad with Yogurt Dressing

The flavors of this salad improve when it sits in the refrigerator overnight, making it a perfect vegetarian side dish to prepare in advance for Thanksgiving dinner.

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked cranberry beans (or substitute pinto beans)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 3/4 cup halved grapes
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 5 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch or two of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine all salad ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  2. Stir together the yogurt dressing ingredients.
  3. Pour dressing over the salad.
  4. Refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

Adapted from The Wimpy Vegetarian

An image depicting beans being rinsed

Rinse Beans the Right Way to Reduce Sodium

Draining and rinsing canned beans can reduce their sodium content by more than 40%. But taking just a few extra minutes is key to getting the most benefit. First, drain beans in a colander for two minutes.  Then rinse the beans under cool running water for 10 seconds. Let drain for another two minutes. The reduced-sodium beans are ready to use in any favorite recipe.

Source: https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/011110p62.shtml


An image for the Bean and Tomato Cupcake recipe

Baked Bean and Tomato Cupcakes

Adding beans to baked goods may not make them completely guilt-free, but it’s a fun way to boost fiber intake and even give desserts a little bit of extra protein. This recipe for Baked Bean and Tomato Cupcakes with Tomato Cream Cheese Frosting is one of the more unusual bean-laden sweets we’ve come across but it’s good enough to have won first prize in a Tomato Fest cooking contest according to the website cupcakeproject.com. This makes 12 cupcakes.

For the cupcakes


  • 1/4 cup butter room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 15-oz can pinto beans drained and mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cup cake pan with paper liners.
  2. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and mix well. Mix in mashed beans and vanilla.
  3. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  4. Add dry mixture to wet mixture. Do not over mix.
  5. Stir in diced tomatoes.
  6. Fill cupcake liners ¾ full.
  7. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until cupcakes bounce back when pressed lightly.
For the frosting


  • ¼ cup butter room temperature
  • 8 oz package of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract


  1. Mix butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Add more or less to make it as stiff as you like.
  3. Mix in the tomato paste and vanilla extract.
An image depicting fresh apples

Baked Beans with Apples

October is National Apple Month, and why not take your love for fresh crisp apples beyond pie. Apples lend both tart and sweet aspects to bean dishes. Chop any type of apple and add it to your favorite baked bean recipe or try this easy one-dish baked casserole.


  • 2 15-ounce cans baked beans (vegetarian or with pork)
  • 1 medium granny smith apple, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine all the ingredients and place in a greased casserole dish. Cover and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove cover and bake for 30 minutes or until dish is thick and bubbling.


An image for the Cowboy Caviar Recipe

The Not So Humble Beginnings of Cowboy Caviar

First served at the Houston Country Club on New Year’s Eve in the early 1940s, this bean salad was dubbed “Texas Caviar” in a humorous comparison to true caviar. Today it’s more commonly known as Cowboy Caviar and it’s a popular dish to serve as at picnics and tailgate parties, often with tortilla chips. And the recipe is so forgiving that you can pull this together for a party with whatever you have on hand.

To make Cowboy Caviar, combine one can each of drained black beans, pinto beans, and corn. Add chopped tomatoes, chopped sweet onions and avocado cubes. Dress with oil and vinegar or bottled Italian dressing along with salt and pepper to taste.

An image for the cauliflower recipe

Three-Ingredient Curried Beans with Cauliflower

Dinner really can be both fast and fabulous. Even with just three ingredients, this curry has the complex flavors of a meal cooked from scratch.


  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 1 15-ounce can of red beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 jar curry simmer sauce


  1. Cut the cauliflower into small florets and steam until just tender.
  2. Combine with the beans and curry sauce in a large skillet.
  3. Cover and simmer until heated through.
  4. Serve over basmati rice and enjoy!


Apple Cider

Baked Beans with Apple Cider

Sweet fresh-pressed apple cider is one of the quintessential flavors of fall. This simple recipe for traditional baked beans uses cider to create a traditional Appalachian autumn dish. It calls for navy beans, but many recipes use either pinto or kidney beans.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • ½ cup diced carrots
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 6 cups cooked or canned navy beans, rinsed and with 1 cup liquid reserved (use water if you don’t have enough reserved liquid.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


    1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook over low heat for 20 minutes.
    2. While the onions and carrots are cooking, mix together in a mixing bowl the tomato paste, mustard, and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the vinegar and mix. Slowly add the cider whisking to combine the ingredients.
    3. Add the garlic to the onions and carrots and cook for another two minutes. Add the cider mixture and stir to combine. Add the beans with a cup of their liquid or water.
    4. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 30 to 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.


An image depicting a healthy pregnant woman

Beans for a Healthy Pregnancy

According to the WebMD website, beans are a “must-eat” food for pregnant women. Packed with nutrients, they are especially rich in folate. This B-vitamin is needed for the production of red blood cells and the development of an embryo’s nervous system during the early stages of pregnancy. Even when health providers prescribe a supplement of folic acid (the synthetic form of the vitamin) during pregnancy, it’s important to eat a diet rich in natural folate. And beans are among the best sources. A half-cup serving of pinto beans provides nearly 25% of a pregnant woman’s daily need for folate.


An image for the White Bean Salad recipe

Roasted Greek Beans with Tomatoes

Long periods of religious fasting in Greek culture meant that meat-free meals were often on the menu for more than half the year. In many of those meals, protein-rich beans played a central role. Large white beans paired with tomatoes remains a classic of Greek cuisine. Deceptively simple with its handful of ingredients, this dish is packed with all the best flavors of Mediterranean cooking.


  • 1 pound large white beans, like Great Northerns
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 2 onions thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Soak the beans for at least eight hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Drain and rinse the beans, cover with fresh water and simmer until soft, about 45 minutes.
  4. While the beans are cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic and saute for one minute.
  5. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and parsley and stir to combine.
  6. Drain the beans and add to the tomato mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes.
  7. Serve with feta cheese, warm bread, and a salad for a classic Greek meal.

Rice and Beans are Classic Comfort Food

September is National Rice Month and nothing goes quite so well with rice as beans. According to Consumer Reports, rice with beans is one of the healthiest dishes you can eat. A cup of the classic combo provides 12 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber – even if you choose white rice. And while white rice contains quickly-digested carbs that can cause spikes in blood glucose levels, pairing it with beans slows carbohydrate digestion to a healthier rate.

To make your favorite rice and beans dish even healthier, aim for two-thirds beans and one-third rice instead of the usual half-and-half combination. You’ll get even more protein and fiber that way.

Source: https://www.consumerreports.org/healthy-eating/is-rice-and-beans-good-for-you/


Eat Beans to Protect Against Cancer

Beans are more than protein and fiber. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, beans are a good choice among the foods that fight cancer. For example, the resistant starch in beans escapes digestion in the small intestine. It travels intact to the large intestine where bacteria metabolize it to produce short-chain fatty acids. These compounds are thought to protect colon cells against cancer.

Beans, especially those with deep colors like red and black beans, are also rich in an extensive variety of cancer-fighting antioxidants.




Red Bean Popsicles

Sweet, frosty popsicles made from beans may sound unusual, but they are a favorite treat in many Asian countries. They’re also easy to make at home. The popsicles start with a sweet red bean paste called Anko, commonly available in Asian grocery stores. It’s easy to make your own, though.

To make Anko:

  1. Place 1 ½ cups of cooked or canned small red beans (drained and rinsed) and one cup of sugar in a saucepan.
  2. Add just enough water to cover the beans by one inch.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until most of the water has evaporated.
  4. Spoon the bean mixture into a food processor or blender and blend until just slightly chunky.

To make the popsicles:

  1. Remove half of the blended beans to a bowl.
  2. Add 1 ¼ cup canned coconut milk to the remaining beans in the processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add the bean-coconut milk mixture to the remaining beans in the bowl and mix thoroughly by hand.
  4. Pour into popsicle molds or small paper cups and add popsicle sticks. Freeze overnight.

French-style Beans Start with Mirepoix

Mirepoix (pronounced “meer pwah”) is a deceptively simple way to add rich flavor to any type of beans. A combination of sautéed onions, carrots, and celery, it serves as a foundation for a variety of dishes in French cuisine. Traditional mirepoix uses two parts onion to one part each of carrots and celery, but these measurements don’t have to be exact.

Chop the vegetables finely and then sauté in olive oil or butter over very low heat. Cooking the vegetables slowly brings out their sweetness. Once the vegetables are softened, simply add them to any kind of cooked beans along with salt and pepper and any herbs you wish. Mirepoix freezes well, too, so you can always have it on hand.

Not Just for Pasta: Pesto and Beans

Although it’s used most often with pasta, pesto is perfect with beans for a main dish that is packed with protein, fiber, and the best flavors of Mediterranean cuisine. Stir a few tablespoons of pesto into canned or freshly cooked beans and serve with a tossed salad and crusty bread for a fast summer meal.

This pesto recipe from Bon Appetit used pine nuts, which are traditional in Italian pesto, but you can substitute walnuts if you like.




Beans in Favorite Family Recipes

It’s easy enough to find recipes for any dish you could possibly want in cookbooks, magazines, and on the internet, but nothing beats tried-and-true family favorites. One of our readers sent us this recipe that she’s been making for close to 20 years. She says her family has never tired of it.

Bell Pepper Salad with Cannellini Beans


  • 1 large bell pepper, yellow, orange or red
  • 4 slices precooked bacon
  • 1 can cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup cooked peas
  • 3 tablespoons snipped dill weed
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian salad dressing (optional)


  1. Discard bell pepper stem end, seeds and inner membranes, cut bell pepper into pieces and set aside.
  2. Microwave bacon and break into piece.
  3. Combine peppers, bacon, beans, peas, dill weed, feta cheese, cilantro, salt and pepper to taste in mixing bowl and toss to mix well.  Add Italian salad dressing (optional).

Beans for Iron

Beans are packed with iron and are among the richest sources of this nutrient. You can boost absorption of iron from beans by pairing them with vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, leafy greens, potatoes, and peppers. Here are five ways to ensure that you’re making good use of the iron in beans:

  • Cook beans in tomato sauce
  • Add a bag of fresh or frozen spinach to a pot of bean soup
  • Add chopped red and green pepper to cooked or canned beans and flavor with any salad dressing
  • Add pineapple chunks to baked beans
  • Top a baked potato with cooked black beans and season with spicy salsa

Easy Beans for Summer Picnics

While it’s true that nothing is quite so easy as opening a can of baked beans, it takes just 10 minutes of hands-on preparation to make your own. Try these barbecued beans for your next picnic or cook-out.

Easy Barbecued Beans


  • 2 15-ounce cans pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chili sauce (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a casserole dish and baked covered for one hour.


Kidney Bean Burgers on the Grill

Make room on your backyard grill for heart-healthy veggie burgers made from kidney beans, oats and mushrooms. To cook these outdoors, use a grilling basket or perforated aluminum foil lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.


White Beans with Herbes de Provence

As the Mediterranean heartland of France, Provence is famous for its climate, scenery, culture and lavender fields. With a sweet fragrance and slightly citrusy flavor, this herb figures prominently in the cuisine of the region. It’s an essential ingredient in the mix known as herbes de Provence which is used to make this classic, authentic White Beans Provencal.  This recipe, which also includes potatoes, is a hearty main dish. You can double the amount of beans and leave the potatoes out if you prefer.

Note: This recipe does not include guidelines for how to cook dry beans. If you need instructions, click here for the Four-Step Method or here for Pressure Cooker guidelines.


Healthy Eating is all about Fiber

Carbohydrate-rich foods are essential in healthy diets when you choose them wisely. A group of New Zealand researchers analyzed data from nearly 250 studies to determine which types of carbohydrates affect risk for chronic disease and obesity. They found that people who consumed the most fiber-rich foods had the lowest risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. High fiber intake was also linked to lower body weight. Eating beans is an easy way to pack your diet with health-promoting fiber. A half-cup serving of pinto beans has nearly 8 grams of fiber compared to 2.3 grams in one-half cup of broccoli and 1.6 grams in one-half cup of brown rice.

Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673618318099?via%3Dihub

Bean Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

Hot summer days call for simple suppers with refreshing flavors like lemon and mint. Keep a jar of this homemade dressing in your refrigerator and plenty of canned beans on hand and you’ll always be able to create a fast summer meal in minutes.

Combine a can of rinsed beans with chopped scallions, carrots and celery. You can also add cooked grains like quinoa or barley if you like. Then dress to taste with mint vinaigrette.

For the vinaigrette combine the following ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon sugar

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup chopped fresh mint

1/8 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Beans are Front and Center in Mediterranean Diets

When it comes to Mediterranean-style meals, most people think of vegetables sautéed in olive oil, broiled fish, and maybe a glass of red wine. But protein-rich plant foods like beans figure prominently in Mediterranean cuisine. They may be the main ingredient in soups and stews or play a supporting role in salads and pasta dishes. Try these three approaches to featuring beans in Mediterranean meals:

  • Simmer white beans with fresh tomatoes, garlic, onions, and Italian herbs for a rustic main dish with Sicilian roots.
  • Toss cooked pasta with kidney beans, olive oil and herbs for a quick picnic dish.
  • Open and rinse a can of beans and add to a green salad for a warm weather meal when you don’t feel like cooking. 

Restaurant-style Copycat Black Bean Burgers

With fiber-rich, protein-packed beans as their base, there is a reason that Chili’s iconic black bean burger is listed as the “guiltless” option on their menu. If you’re a fan of these tasty burgers, you can make them at home for a weekend barbecue or fast weeknight supper. This copycat recipe suggests frying the burgers in a small amount of vegetable oil, but you can also place the burgers in a grilling basket and cook them over the grill.


Beans Are Good for Your Mood

Although depression and other mood disorders are complex conditions that often require comprehensive treatment, evidence suggests that food choices can help with symptoms. In the latest study on this topic, researchers from Spain looked at eating habits of people with and without symptoms of depression. The subjects who didn’t have depression were more likely to be regular consumers of beans. Legumes are rich in the amino acid tryptophan and the mineral magnesium, both of which have been linked to improvements in mood and mental well-being.

Read the paper at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/30841895/

Beans in the Garden

Here are five reasons to make space in your vegetable – or flower
– garden for beans this summer.

  • They are easy to grow, making them a foolproof choice for anyone and a fun choice for kids who are new to gardening.
  • They add color and beauty to any vegetable garden. Some, like kidney beans, produce beautiful red flowers. Pinto beans grow in colorful pods.
  • Certain choices, like cranberry beans, add drama to the landscape.
  • You can store the harvest all winter without any additional processing
  • They improve the health of garden soil by adding nitrogen

Ready to grow beans? Here’s a handy how-to guide to get you started.

Snack on Homemade Crunchy Roasted Beans

Roasted beans make a crunchy, healthy inexpensive snack or topping for salad. And they’re easy to make at home. Large, firm types like pinto or kidney beans work best. Drain and rinse a 15-ounce can of beans. Toss them in a bowl with one tablespoon of olive oil and ½ to ¾ teaspoons of favorite spices like chili powder and garlic powder plus a sprinkle of salt. Transfer the beans to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until they are dry and crisp, about 30 minutes.

Keeping Gut Microbes Happy with Resistant Starch

Your intestines are home to some 100 trillion microbes. Most are bacteria and the vast majority live in the colon or large intestine. A thriving colony of bacteria is good for your health since these microbes are linked to lower risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Bacteria feed on certain types of carbohydrates, including the resistant starch found in beans. Resistant starch bypasses digestion in the small intestine and travels intact to the colon where bacteria ferment it for energy. A byproduct of this fermentation is a group of compounds called short-chain fatty acids which may have a host of protective functions. Short chain fatty acids are linked to appetite regulation, improved glucose metabolism and a lower risk for colon cancer. It’s one more way that including beans in meals helps protect against chronic disease.

For more information about how beans nourish a healthy gut, see our Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit handout.

Beans and Asparagus: Flavors of Spring

April is prime asparagus season and this vegetable pairs beautifully with beans in this easy dish.


1 pound fresh asparagus spears, trimmed

¼ teaspoon salt

1 15-ounce can white beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped red bell pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (more to taste)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or basil

Salt and pepper


Bring ½ inch water to a boil in a large skillet. Add the asparagus, cover, and cook for three minutes or until tender. Drain and remove to a platter.

Drain the cooking water from the skillet. Add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper. Cook for three minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional two minutes. Stir in the beans and lemon juice and cook until heated through, about two minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the bean mixture over the asparagus and sprinkle with the fresh herbs.

Lobio, a Healthy Taste of the Caucasus

Lobio is a traditional food of the country of Georgia, in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Made from heart healthy kidney beans and walnuts, it’s served at any meal of the day, including breakfast.  Depending on the amount of liquid you use, lobio can be made as a thick stew or a a paté to spread on bread. This recipe uses canned beans, but you can substitute beans cooked from scratch if you prefer. Click here for the recipe


Beans for Blood Pressure

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was introduced in 1996 and it remains among the most effective approaches to treating blood pressure that has been studied. It’s rich in nutrients that are associated with lower blood pressure like potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber and protein, while restricting sugars and saturated fats.

DASH encourages regular consumption of beans, and that’s not surprising. These foods check all the DASH diet boxes. Beans provide a unique blend of fiber and protein, are packed with potassium and magnesium and many choices even provide some calcium. Eat beans often, along with generous amounts of fruits and vegetables, to create a diet that will keep your blood pressure in check.

Creamy Soups with Pureed Beans

For your next pot of soup, create a rich, creamy texture without all the fat by stirring in a can of pureed white beans. This trick can work with any soup you’d like to add a creamy texture, such as potato, tomato, squash, or lentil. When the soup is done, drain and rinse a can of white beans and blend in a food processor or blender. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and ¼ cup of water to the pureed beans. Stir into the soup and heat through.

Beans with Spring Greens

Early American settlers were firm believers in the value of spring greens to purify the blood, stimulate digestion, improve rheumatism, and cure scurvy. They may have been right about that last benefit since these greens are a good source of vitamin C. After a long winter of preserved foods, wild and cultivated green vegetables were a welcome sign of a more nutritious and varied diet.

These early greens are still a delicious and healthful way to celebrate spring. This recipe for pink beans with spring greens uses a combination of whichever greens are available in your local store right now. https://www.vegkitchen.com/pink-beans-with-spring-greens/

Getting the Most Flavor from Canned Beans

Canned beans are a fast and easy way to create favorite bean dishes. But letting them cook a little bit is the secret to a great-tasting dish according to Cook’s Illustrated Encyclopedia. Stir the beans into sautéed aromatic ingredients like onions and garlic along with whatever spices and herbs you are using. Instead of just heating them up, let them cook for 30 minutes. Allowing beans time to soak up the flavors of other ingredients gives them a homemade flavor.

Wanna know more about cooking with canned beans? Click here to read about draining and rinsing canned beans to reduce sodium.

Beans for American Heart Month

February celebrates Valentine’s Day and healthy hearts. For American Heart Month, pair beans with other heart-healthy foods like olive oil, greens, avocado, nuts, and dark chocolate.

  • Sauté onions and garlic in extra-virgin olive oil until tender. Add cooked beans and dried herbs.
  • Add greens like kale or spinach to any bean soup or stew.
  • Toss cooked beans and chopped walnuts into a green salad.
  • Add a square of dark chocolate to your next batch of bean chili
  • Coarsely mash together white beans and avocados for a sandwich spread


World Pulses Day

World Pulses Day on Feb 10 celebrates pulses (the ancient name for beans) around the globe. As one of the most sustainable, nutritious and affordable foods worldwide, beans figure prominently in nearly all cultures. Celebrate World Pulses Day by adding some quick global flavor to a pot of beans.

  • Pair great northern beans with pasta, garlic, onions and tomatoes in a savory broth for a taste of Italy.
  • Make Mexican tacos or tostadas with refried black beans
  • Kidney beans were first cultivated in Peru, so cook them in a stew with other traditional foods like potatoes, chili peppers, and red onions.
  • Celebrate traditional British bean cuisine by having baked beans on toast for breakfast
  • Puree white beans with berbere, an essential Ethiopian spice that contains chili powder, fenugreek, fenugreek, ginger, garlic, cardamom, and cinnamon.

Super 7-Layer Bean Dip

No game day party is complete without a big platter of 7-Layer Bean Dip. With beans at the base, it’s deceptively healthy, and for busy party planners, it’s a welcome make-ahead dish.

2 15-ounce cans refried beans (black or pinto)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups guacamole
8 ounces low-fat or regular sour cream
¾ cup salsa
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
1 cup sliced black olives
¼ cup sliced green onions
Plenty of tortilla chips for dipping

In a mixing bowl, combine the refried beans with the chili powder, cumin and garlic.
Spread the beans in a single layer in a 9 x 13 pan or on a platter.
Top with a layer of guacamole.
Spread the sour cream evenly over the guacamole.
Spoon dollops of salsa on top.
Sprinkle with cheese, olives and green onion.

If making ahead, cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Serve with tortilla chips.

White Bean Salad with Pomegranate

Some of the best fruits are in season during the coldest part of the year, and January is the month to enjoy pomegranates. Their “seeds,” (which are actually little juice containing sacs called arials) add a punch of flavor to savory bean salads like this one from Bon Appetit magazine. Look for fresh whole pomegranates in the produce section or for packages of pomegranate arials to save time.


Eat More Beans to Lower Your Cholesterol

Researchers from Germany and Austria compiled 66 studies that included more than 3500 people to determine which foods were best for reducing risk of chronic disease. When all the results were tallied, two food groups stood out for reducing cholesterol levels: nuts and beans. Beans were also among the best foods for protecting against a group of ten risk factors that are related to a host of chronic diseases. The researchers suggested that beans are protective because they are packed with soluble fiber and phytochemicals.

Reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30535089

Make Ahead Beans and Greens Quesadillas for Fast Meals

You may not have time to make dinner every night. Set aside an hour to make a big batch of these Make Ahead Beans and Greens Quesadillas adapted from https://www.holleygrainger.com/make-ahead-beans-and-greens-quesadillas/.  This recipe makes 10 quesadillas which can be frozen and reheated for fast meals. Double the recipe if you want to make sure you always have quesadillas on hand.


2 teaspoons oil

2 cups frozen corn, defrosted

1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

3 cups cooked black or pinto beans, or two 15-ounce cans, rinsed and drained

3 cups chopped fresh kale (or 2 cups frozen kale that has been defrosted with water squeezed out)

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

10 corn or flour tortillas



Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add corn, bell pepper and onion. Cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add beans, kale, chili powder, paprika and cumin, and sauté 2 minutes or until kale wilts. Remove from heat and stir in cheese.

Wipe skillet clean with a paper towel. Spoon ½ cup filling on one side of each tortilla and fold in half. Add 2 tortillas to the skillet and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes per side or until browned and crispy and cheese has melted. Repeat until all quesadillas have been cooked.

To freeze, let the quesadillas cool in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once cool, wrap individually in foil and place in a zip lock bag or other airtight container.

To reheat, remove quesadilla from wrapping and heat on medium-low in a warm skillet for about 5 minutes per side or until crispy and center is no longer frozen.

Storing Dried Beans

Dried beans have a long storage life, which means you can always have them on hand. It’s best to use beans within a year of purchase, but that’s only because the longer they sit on the shelf, the longer they take to cook. They are still safe to use, and if you store beans properly, they should be good for several years in your pantry.

To keep dried beans as fresh as possible, store them in food-safe storage containers with tight-fitting lids rather than in the plastic bag you purchased them in. Store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. If beans have been sitting on the shelf for more than a year, adding ¼ teaspoon of baking soda to each pound of beans while you’re cooking them can help make them softer.

Beans for Holiday Gifts

Bean soup mix in a jar makes a perfect hand-crafted (in minutes) hostess gift. Choose a variety of beans and arrange them in layers in a glass jar, alternating layers of different-colored beans. Tuck a packet of herbs or spices on top of the beans and decorate and attach a card with instructions for making the soup. This recipe, adapted from Family Circle magazine uses eight different types of beans with beautiful contrasting colors, and for something a little different, a curry spice mix.


Layer in a jar:

½ cup kidney beans
½ cup cranberry beans*
½ cup pink beans
½ cup black beans
½ cup navy beans
½ cup pinto beans
½ cup small red beans
½ cup great northern beans

*If cranberry beans aren’t available in your area, substitute one of the other varieties of beans in this layer.

Mix together in a small plastic or cellophane bag:

2 teaspoons chicken or vegetable bouillon granules
2 teaspoons dried minced onions
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt


Directions for cooking:

Rinse beans and place in a large pot. Cover with water and soak overnight. Drain beans and return to pot. Add 6 cups water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 1 ½  hours. Add two 14 ½ ounce cans of diced tomatoes and the seasoning mix. Simmer an additional hour or until beans are tender.

Apple Bean Salad

Sweetness and crunch make this salad an appealing way to get kids, or anyone else, to eat more beans. Since it’s fast to make and doesn’t require any cooking, this dish is a good choice for holiday potlucks.

2 medium apples, cored and cut into cubes

¼ cup chopped onion

¼ cup chopped celery

1 15-ounce can kidney or pinto beans, drained

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey or any liquid sweetener

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Combine the apples, onion, celery and beans in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sweetener and mustard. Pour over the apple and bean mixture.

Should You Soak Beans Before Cooking?

Soaking beans has its advantages. It speeds up the cooking time and produces tender cooked beans that are less likely to split during cooking. The advantage to skipping the soaking step, however, is that the longer cooking period produces a rich, savory broth. You can skip the addition of vegetable or chicken broth when you cook your unsoaked beans from scratch, especially to make soup. This recipe for black bean soup from Bon Appetit specifically calls for unsoaked beans to create a soup with the best savory flavor: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/basically-black-bean-soup

Baked Beans for Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving didn’t look anything like what most Americans will serve up this week. There were no white or sweet potatoes, no cranberry sauce, and no pies. But there may have been beans, served up in a stew with vegetables, or maybe baked. Baked beans have their origins among eastern Native American tribes, who buried pots of beans flavored with maple syrup in the ground in an oven made of heated rocks and let them bake for days. It’s likely that they taught the European settlers how to make them. As authentic early American cuisine, baked beans have a place on any holiday table, whether or not they were served at the three-day event that eventually gave rise to our Thanksgiving.

Try this recipe for Maple Baked Beans from the Native Food Blog: http://nativefoodblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/maple-baked-beans.html

Aromatics for Beans

Take your beans to the next level with the addition of aromatic vegetables and herbs. Even if you plan to use beans in a recipe, cooking them with aromatics first means you’ll start with beans that have a rich, robust essence rather than flavor that is flat. Whether you’re cooking the beans in a slow-cooker, pressure cooker, or on the stove, add a whole, quartered onion, a few cloves of garlic, and a sprig or two of fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme or a bay leaf. When the beans are done, fish the vegetables and herbs out; they’ve already done their job in flavoring the beans and their broth. To make it easier, tie the herbs with kitchen string or stuff then into a tea infuser. You can also tie the vegetables and herbs into a cheesecloth bag and then remove everything at once.

Eat Beans to Your Heart’s Content on the New Weight Watchers Plan

Weight Watchers popular point system has long taken the guesswork out of dieting and healthful eating. Every food is assigned a point value where the most nutrient-dense foods receive the fewest points. By choosing foods that fit within their personal points “budget,” participants are encouraged to eat more of the most nutritious foods. The plan has always included a handful of “free” foods, primarily fruits and vegetables, which have no points. Now, in their new FreeStyle program, Weight Watchers has expanded the list of Zero Point foods to include even more healthful choices like dried beans. According to Weight Watchers, beans and other Zero Point foods belong at the center of healthy eating patterns and there is no reason to measure or limit these foods. Even if you aren’t involved with Weight Watchers, you can feel good about eating beans to your heart’s content.

With no reason to limit your beans, check out Weight Watchers’ “A Dozen Things to Do With Canned Beans.


Beans for Halloween

Make room on the buffet table at your Halloween party for healthful (and spooky) beans with graveyard-style layered-bean dip. It’s a fun and easy project to encourage kids to enjoy beans. Use canned refried black beans to create layers of beans, guacamole, salsa, and chopped lettuce in single serving plastic cups. Using flat bread or pizza dough, cut out gravestone-shaped dippers with Halloween cookie cutters or a knife. Brush the dough with oil, bake and use an edible pen (find them in the cake decorating section of the grocery store) to write RIP on the dippers after they are baked. This video gives a quick tutorial on creating this fun and nutritious holiday dish.

Graveyard Taco Cups



Beans are True Superfoods

If any food deserves to be called a superfood, it’s probably beans, according to the latest issue of Consumer Reports. It’s the second time in just a few months that the magazine has highlighted the benefits of eating more beans, including their positive effects on weight and cholesterol. To get the best bean nutrition, Consumer Reports recommends eating a variety of these beans including cranberry, navy, Great Northern, and black beans.

To read the articles in their entirety, visit:





Pair Beans with Cool Weather Vegetables for Autumn-Inspired Dishes

As summer gardens begin to fade, fall brings its own bounty of colorful, nutrient-rich winter squash. A stew of squash, beans and cold-weather greens like kale is a perfect way to welcome the season. Use any type of winter squash you like in this recipe. An American heirloom like Blue Hubbard is especially good.


Sofrito for a Flavorful Bean Base

You’ll always be a step ahead with homemade bean soups and stews if you keep a stash of sofrito in the freezer. This flavorful and traditional Spanish sauce is made from fresh vegetables, most often garlic, onions, peppers, and tomatoes, all sautéed in olive oil. Freeze sofrito in zip lock bags or ice cube trays and then use throughout the winter as a base for bean soups and stews.

Here is an easy recipe for sofrito, although you should feel free to adjust ingredient amounts depending on what you have on hand.

2 pounds tomatoes

2 large onions

2 to 3 red bell peppers

6 cloves garlic

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Coarsely chop the tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic. Pulse in a food processor in batches to finely chop the ingredients. Heat the olive oil over low heat and add the vegetables. Cook over low heat for 30 minutes until thick. Let cool and then freeze for up to six months.

Beans Build Strong Bones with Magnesium

Many Americans fall short of the mineral magnesium in their diets. Getting too little of this nutrient may raise risk for hypertension, diabetes, bone loss and migraine headaches. People who take proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole to inhibit stomach acid production may be at especially high risk for deficiency since these medications may reduce magnesium absorption.

Including beans in diets is one way to give magnesium intake a boost. A half-cup of black beans provides about 3 times the magnesium as 3 ounces of beef or chicken and twice as much magnesium as most vegetables.  It’s one more way in which beans may help protect against heart disease and osteoporosis.

Best Black Bean Soup

Native to the Americas, black beans have been used to make the soup that has long been a staple of the cuisine of southern Mexico and the Caribbean. The beans produce a thick rich broth with its own satisfying flavor which means that traditional recipes usually call for a simple mix of ingredients, usually chopped onions, celery and peppers plus dried spices. The addition of red wine in this recipe from the Seattle Times adds even more depth of flavor.


Beans Plus Vegetables for A Nutrient-Packed Crowd-Pleasing Dip

Bean Bites subscriber Kellie Hewitt shared her blueprint for creating a bean spread that is not only packed with good nutrition, but also easy to prepare and always popular. It’s also a good way to use up garden produce.

To make this dip, blend together in a food processor 1 can of drained, rinsed white beans, 2 cloves of garlic, and one chopped onion. Add a handful or so of fresh spinach and flavor with salt to taste and any favorite fresh herbs. Blend until smooth. Serve on toasted bread with sliced tomatoes or use as a dip for pita wedges or raw vegetables.


Protein-Packed Pesto

Summer gardens and roadside stands are bursting with basil in late summer which means it is pesto season. Pesto on pasta is the tradition, but pesto also makes a delectable dressing for beans. For a protein-rich dish with all the best flavors of summer, sauté a chopped onion in extra-virgin olive oil. Drain and rinse one can of red or white beans and stir into the onions. Stir in your favorite pesto sauce. Serve topped with fresh chopped tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.

Back to School with Beans

Start the school year with beans for good nutrition and a little bit of a lunchbox makeover.

  • Pack a small container of bean dip made with pinto beans and cheese and include dippers like carrot sticks or apple slices.
  • Add any type of beans to a thermos of macaroni and cheese or tomato soup.
  • Make a crunchy bean salad by combining cooked beans with brown rice, chopped apples, nuts, and celery.
  • For younger children, use cookie cutters to make white bean hummus sandwiches in fun shapes. If the bitter flavor of tahini is too strong for young palates, try making it with peanut or almond butter.

Maintaining Good Intestinal Health with Prebiotics in Beans

Maintaining an optimal balance of bacteria in the gut can lower risk for chronic disease and may even affect weight control efforts. You can add directly to your population of good bacteria by eating foods like yogurt that are rich in living microbes called probiotics. Another way to enhance gut health is to eat foods that are rich in prebiotics. These are types of carbohydrate that stimulate growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Cooked dried beans are among the best sources of prebiotics. Preparing beans with garlic and onions, which also provide plenty of these carbohydrates, is a good way to feed beneficial bacteria in your gut and lower your risk for chronic disease.

Guacamole with White Beans

Reduce the fat and pack in a little extra protein by replacing part of the avocado in your favorite guacamole recipe with beans. The mild flavor and creamy texture of white beans like great northern or navy beans make them a good companion to avocados in this classic summer dip.

1 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed

1 ripe avocado

1 teaspoon minced garlic

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lime juice

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon chili powder

Optional: chopped fresh cilantro

Blend all of the ingredients in a food processor to whatever texture you prefer – smooth, or slightly chunky. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with tortilla chips for an appetizer or on top of a baked potato for a light summer meal.


Looking for guac with a little more zip? Have you tried our Guacamole with Pinto Beans yet?

Black Bean Gazpacho for Hot Summer Days

Made from chopped raw vegetables and served chilled, gazpacho is a traditional part of the cuisine of southern Spain. It’s a perfect choice anywhere for those summer evenings when it’s too hot to cook. Although gazpacho is often served as an appetizer, adding protein-rich beans turns this classic summer soup into a meal. Make it a day ahead for the best flavor.

1 ½ to 2 pounds ripe tomatoes

2 slices day-old bread torn into pieces

1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped

½ cup sliced green onions

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons chili powder (or to taste)


2 cups corn kernels

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

Optional: cubes of fresh avocado

Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place them in a food processor with the bread. Pulse to combine. Add the cucumber, garlic, green onions, vinegar, chili powder, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Pulse to form a thick liquid.  With the food processor running, blend in the olive oil.

Pour the soup into a large bowl and stir in the corn and black beans. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Serve garnished with cubes of avocado.

Prevent Chronic Disease with Antioxidant-Rich Beans

Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, compounds that help prevent and repair damaging oxidative stress. Diets that are rich in antioxidants have been linked to lower risk for cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. But while berries and brightly-colored vegetables get most of the attention for their antioxidant content, red beans, like kidney and pinto beans, are the true antioxidant stars. One study found that three of the top five antioxidant-rich foods were beans and that small red beans provide more antioxidant power than either wild or cultivated blueberries. It’s just one more reason why eating beans is a powerful way to reduce your risk for chronic disease.



Beef and Bean Burgers

For backyard barbecues or easy weekend suppers, stretching ground beef with beans is a good way to cut your grocery budget and add a little extra fiber to hamburgers.

Combine 3 cups of any type of lightly mashed beans with one pound of ground beef. Stir in ½ cup chopped onion and a beaten egg. Season with salt and pepper. Form into 8 patties and sauté in a frying pan or cook them on a grill.

3 Bean Macaroni Salad

Give macaroni salad a protein and flavor boost by combining it with 3-bean salad. This hearty salad is a fun addition to picnics and also makes a complete meal by itself.

2 cups cooked elbow macaroni

½ pound fresh green beans, trimmed and halved

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed

1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

½ cup chopped onions

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup Italian salad dressing

Steam the green beans until they are just tender. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, green beans, kidney beans, white beans, red pepper and onions. Stir the mayonnaise and salad dressing together to combine thoroughly. Stir the dressing into the pasta salad. Season with salt and pepper.


Not a fan of macaroni salad? Try this Cranberry Bean Summer Vegetable Salad.


Baking with Beans

With their mild flavor and creamy texture, beans are a natural ingredient in healthier, low-fat desserts. Food scientists in Idaho found that pureed white beans—like Great Northern or navy beans—can replace up to 75% of the butter in cookie recipes. Replacing some of the butter in your favorite cookie recipe with beans can reduce the calories by nearly one-third, and it’s also a smart way to pack a little extra fiber and protein into sweet treats.

Try this recipe from the Idaho State University for Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, made with great northern beans.

Or, see what one home cook did with sugar cookies: https://www.superhealthykids.com/christmas-bean-cookies-with-natural-food-dyes/.

Three Fast Ways to Flavor a Pot of Beans

There is no shortage of bean recipes on the internet and in cookbooks. But when you need to flavor a pot of beans fast, it can be as simple as opening a jar.

  • Stir ¼ cup of black olive tapenade and ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley into a can of drained, rinsed white beans. Serve in a bowl with warm bread.
  • Stir one cup mole sauce (a Mexican sauce made from tomatoes, peppers and chocolate) into a can of drained and rinsed pinto or black beans. Serve on a warm tortilla or over cooked rice.
  • Add ¼ cup of prepared basil pesto to a can of drained, rinsed white beans. Serve on a bed of salad greens.

Beans May Help Protect Against Breast Cancer

The type of breast cancer that is sensitive to the female hormones estrogen and progesterone is an especially aggressive form of the disease and it’s most common in African American and Hispanic women. New research in California suggests that eating beans might be one factor that lowers risk. In particular, Hispanic women who had not been born in the United States were less likely to get this type of breast cancer if they regularly ate beans. One reason might be that these women are more likely to eat a traditional diet where beans play a major role. Hispanic women who were born in the United States eat less fiber in general and especially less fiber from beans, which may raise their risk for a number of cancers.

Click here to read the paper in Cancer Medicine.

Visit our research database for more studies on beans and cancer.



Add Beans to Salads for Healthy Hot Weather Cuisine

Summer is salad season – the time of year when farmers’ markets are bursting with fresh produce and it’s sometimes just too hot to turn on the oven. Beans are a good addition to make salads more filling and to add a little variety. The mild flavor of white beans pairs especially well with greens that have a peppery bite like radicchio and endive. Or toss greens, sliced onions and tomatoes with corn and black beans for a Mexican-style salad. Turning a salad into a main dish is as simple as rinsing a can of beans and tossing them with lettuce and other vegetables. Dress with oil and vinegar or your favorite bottled salad dressing.

Check out our recipe page for salads and other tasty bean dishes. Click the salad tab at the top to filter recipes.

Beans in Buddha Bowls

If you follow popular food accounts on Instagram, you’ve probably seen your fair share of Buddha Bowls. No one knows quite how they came to be called by this name, but they are a popular way of building healthful meals that also have culinary and visual appeal. They also provide a creative way to use leftovers.

Beans are always at home in Buddha bowls, which often emphasize plant proteins. To make a Buddha bowl, arrange servings of grains or potatoes, brightly colored vegetables, and beans around a bowl. Drizzle dressing –those made from nuts or tahini are popular—over everything and dig in.

Photo: Sweet Potato Buddha Bowl with Quinoa and Black Beans from Accidentally Crunchy

Beans in the Low-FODMAP Diet

The low-FODMAP diet is used to reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrates that are either poorly digested or not digested at all. When these undigested carbohydrates are broken down by bacteria in the large intestine, they can cause bloating and gas. People with IBS may be especially sensitive to these effects.

Although beans are a source of FODMAPs, new research suggests that many people with IBS can still include these foods in their diet. Researchers at Monash University, which is where the FODMAP diet was developed, found that canned beans are lower in FODMAPs than beans cooked from scratch. Cooking beans and then straining them and discarding the liquid also reduces FODMAP content. Sprouting beans lowers their FODMAP content as well. By using these food preparation techniques, most people with IBS can include beans in their diet.

Source: Tuck C, Ly E, Bogatyrev A, Costetsou I, Gibson P, Barrett J, Muir J. Fermentable short chain carbohydrate (FODMAP) content of common plant-based foods and processed foods suitable for vegetarian- and vegan-based eating patterns. J Hum Nutr Diet 2018

Grow this Mexican Herb for Traditional Bean Dishes

Homemade refried beans are easy, but the traditional Mexican version calls for the herb epazote, which can be hard to find outside of specialty food markets. If you’re a gardener, one solution is to grow your own. A distant cousin to spinach and Swiss chard, epazote has a distinctly strong odor that makes it a good choice to repel pests in the garden. Both its flavor and aroma mellow with cooking, but even so, a little goes a long way. Add just 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh epazote to a pound of dried beans while they are simmering. Considered a medicinal herb, epazote is also thought to have gas-reducing properties. You can find epazote seeds through online seed catalogs.

Adding Smoky Flavor to Beans

Adding a few drops of liquid smoke to your favorite bean soup is the fastest way to add a smoky flavor to beans. Liquid smoke is a condiment that is created by passing smoke from smoldering wood chips through a condenser and then cooling the vapors to liquefy them. The liquid is filtered to produce a clean, safe product that is packed with the flavors most people associated with smoked meats.

Or try smoked paprika, a Spanish version of the more common sweet Hungarian paprika. It’s made from dried pimiento peppers that have been smoked over an oak fire and then ground into a powder.

A third way to incorporate deep smoky flavors into bean dishes is with the addition of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Try this recipe for Warm Chipotle Black Bean Dip.

Beans and Babies

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lists beans as an appropriate food at age six months. First foods for infants are most often pureed cereals, fruits and vegetables. But once your baby has learned to enjoy a few of these foods, it’s time to introduce higher-protein fare. Beans are a good choice for babies. They are rich in protein, iron, zinc and fiber, and they have a mild flavor.

Cook beans without salt or other seasonings until they are soft enough to mash easily with a fork. You can also puree the beans in a food processor if you prefer. Freeze the mashed or pureed beans in an ice cube tray for baby-size portions. They can be frozen for up to three months.

Beans are the Secret in This Sauce

Let beans be the secret ingredient in your next batch of rich tomato sauce.

Adding beans to tomato sauce is an easy way to create a sauce that is extra thick, and also packed with protein. If you have picky eaters in your family, it’s a good way to sneak health-promoting beans into their diet, too. Choose canned or well-cooked beans and puree them thoroughly in a food processor. Then stir in ¼ to ½ cup of beans for each cup of tomato sauce, depending on how thick you want it to be. Any type of bean works for this.

How to Freeze Beans

Beans cooked from scratch are convenient when you prepare big batches ahead of time to freeze. You can drain the beans first or freeze them right in their liquid. Let cooked beans cool until the liquid is lukewarm.

Freeze in containers with tight-fitting lids leaving a half-inch at the top of the beans to allow for expansion during freezing. Some cooks stir in ½ teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice for each cup of cooked beans to preserve their texture, but this is optional.

Beans can be frozen for up to six months.

Two Ways to Soak Beans to Reduce Gas

While not every recipe calls for soaking beans before cooking them, if beans give you gas, soaking can help. Soaking overnight and then discarding the soaking water leaches out sugars in beans that are responsible for gas production.

But if you don’t have time for a traditional overnight soak, a quick soak is just as beneficial. Rinse the beans and then place them in a pot with three cups of water for each cup of dried beans. Bring to a boil and boil for two to three minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and let stand for one hour. Drain the water, add fresh water and cook.

For everything you ever wanted to know about beans and gas, read Bean, Beans, the Magical Fruit.

Beans in the Blue Zones

Eating beans may help you live longer. That’s one message from research on the “Blue Zones,” which are geographic areas where people tend to live the longest. The three areas at the heart of this research are Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, CA.

People who live in these Blue Zones share a number of lifestyle characteristics. They are less likely to smoke and are more physically active. They enjoy active social lives and close family connections. They also eat beans. Blue Zone researchers recommend eating at least one cup of beans per day, based on 150 dietary surveys of the world’s longest living people. Beans may not absolutely guarantee a long life, but they are an important part of an overall plan to stay healthier.


Beans and Fiber

When it comes to fiber, beans have it all. Not only do they offer nearly twice as much total fiber as whole grains, but they also provide generous amounts of the two different types of fiber you need to stay healthy. Beans are a rich source of insoluble fiber, which is the type that protects the digestive system. They also provide plenty of soluble fiber which helps lower blood cholesterol.

Beans are also rich in a type of starch called resistant starch that helps you feel full longer and improves the way your body uses insulin. Including beans in your diet is the easiest way to ensure that you’re consuming generous amounts of both types of fiber and of resistant starch.

Cook Beans the Fast and Foolproof Way in an Instant Pot

The Instant Pot is a programmable electric pressure cooker and much more. It also functions as a slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, and steamer. It’s custom-made for cooking beans since the Instant Pot includes a number of pre-set smart cooking programs and one of them is dedicated to beans. Just place one pound of rinsed dried beans plus six cups of water in the Instant Pot, add whatever seasonings you like, and choose the function for cooking beans. If you like especially soft beans, you can add an extra 10 minutes of cooking time to the program. If you enjoy exploring the latest kitchen appliances, an Instant Pot provides a fun and foolproof way to cook beans.

Baking with Beans: The Aquafaba Trend

“Aquafaba” comes from the Latin words for water and bean, and that’s exactly what aquafaba is: the liquid in canned beans. Instead of pouring that liquid down the drain, inventive and frugal cooks save it to make a quick substitute for eggs in baked products.

Aquafaba can be used straight from the can to replace eggs in cookies and cakes. Substitute 3 tablespoons of aquafaba for one egg. It can also be whipped into stiff peaks to make meringue or macaroons.

The liquid from any beans can be used to make aquafaba. With canned beans on hand, you’ll always be ready to bake a cake, even when you’ve run out of eggs, or if you’re expecting guests who don’t eat eggs.

Three Meals from One Pound of Beans

A pound of dried navy beans provides six cups of cooked beans, which is plenty for at least three different recipes. Try these ideas for stretching a pound of beans into three dinners.

White Bean Chili: Cook one pound of lean ground beef and ½ cup chopped onion in a skillet until the onion is translucent and the beef is no longer pink. Add a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes, eight ounces of tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon chili powder. Stir in two cups of cooked navy beans. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

Ranch-Style Barbecued Beans: Sauté 1 cup chopped onions, in 2 tablespoons of oil. Add ¼ cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons prepared mustard, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, a 15-ounce can stewed tomatoes. Add 2 cups of cooked navy beans. Simmer, covered for 20 minutes.

Creamy Bean and Tomato Soup: Sauté ½ cup diced onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil until soft. Add 3 cloves garlic, minced and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add two 28-ounce cans of tomatoes, 4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock, and one tablespoon dried basil. Stir in 2 cups cooked navy beans. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender or food processor to blend the soup until it’s smooth.

Beans and Greens: A Match Made in Heaven

If the traditional cuisines from around the Mediterranean Sea are any indication, beans and greens were meant to go together. Pairing these two nutritional powerhouse foods creates one-pot meals that are packed with nutrients like protein, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin A. White beans in particular, like navy Great Northern beans, are a good culinary match for spinach, kale, broccoli rabe and escarole.  It’s inexpensive and easy and lends itself to a range of flavors. Here are three easy ways to create healthy pairings:

Stir-fry beans and greens: Saute minced garlic and chopped onion in olive oil. Add quick-cooking greens like spinach, Swiss chard or bok choy and stir-fry just until slightly tender or wilted. Add canned beans, drained and rinsed, along with seasonings like Italian herbs, fresh parsley or chili pepper flakes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Turn a salad into a meal: Add canned or home-cooked beans to a salad of lettuce or baby spinach or baby kale. Dress with oil and vinegar and garnish with sunflower seeds or chopped olives.

Make homemade soup: Create a fast bean soup using any type of bean cooked in vegetable broth. Add sautéed onions and garlic, and chopped kale, collards or spinach. Simmer until the greens are tender.


Looking for another beans and greens recipe? Try our Sausage and White Bean Soup with Kale and Basil Pesto.


Canned Beans versus Cooked from Scratch: Both Offer Good Nutrition

Cooking beans yourself saves money, but when you’re in a hurry, nothing is quite as easy as canned beans. They’re also good for you. Canned beans offer about the same amount of protein and fiber as their cooked-from-scratch counterparts. Beans from a can are lower in the B-vitamin folate, although they’re still a good source of this nutrient.  If you’re watching your intake of sodium, be sure to rinse canned beans or look for those that are made with less salt. For busy cooks, or those who don’t enjoy cooking, canned beans are always a good choice.

Additional information:



Beyond Hummus: Bean Dips for Parties and Sandwiches

Whether you need something a little different for a party or want a quick protein-packed lunch, any kind of bean can be used to make delicious dips and sandwich spreads.

White Bean Hummus: Substitute cooked or canned navy or Great Northern beans for chickpeas in any hummus recipe.

Black and Butter Bean Spread with Dried Tomatoes: Puree together ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, ¼ cup cilantro, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, one clove garlic, one 15-ounce can black beans and one 15-ounce can butter beans.

White Bean and Avocado Spread: Drain a 15-ounce can of white beans, saving the liquid. Puree together the beans, one large peeled and pitted avocado, 1/2 cup fresh cilantro or parsley. Add bean liquid, a few tablespoons at a time to get the right consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Red Beans and Walnuts: Puree together 1 ½ cups cooked red beans, ½ cup toasted walnuts, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon dried basil and ¼ teaspoon dried parsley (or more to taste). Season with salt and pepper.

Spicy Beans for Cold Winter Days

Turn up the heat on cold winter days by adding a little extra spice to bean dishes. It’s easy to incorporate peppery flavors from all different types of global cuisine and you don’t need a recipe to do so. Just saute onions in vegetable oil until translucent. Add cooked beans and then stir in your favorite spice or spice mixture. Add a little bit at a time, tasting to get the right amount of heat. Try a spice blend like Cajun seasoning, North African harissa, Jamaican Jerk seasoning, Ethiopian Bebere or curry powder. Even a dash of hot pepper sauce like sriracha can give a plain bean dish some lively appeal.

For additional information, see our chart of dry beans mostly commonly consumed around the world.



Homemade Refried Beans are Easy and Versatile

Just because pinto beans are traditional, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy refried beans made with cranberry, pink, black, or even navy beans. When you make your own refried beans from scratch, you get to mix things up a little.

Start with flavor-infused beans by adding a whole onion, cut in half, to the cooking water. When the beans are cooked, remove the onion and reserve a cup of the cooking liquid. For each three cups of cooked beans you’re using, sauté ½ cup of minced onion and 2 medium garlic cloves in 6 tablespoons of butter, vegetable oil or bacon drippings. Stir in the cooked beans and add salt to taste. Mash the beans with a potato masher until they are chunky, adding the reserved cooking liquid, a tablespoon at a time to get the consistency you prefer. If you like, give the beans a little extra zing by stirring in canned chopped jalapeno peppers or chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.

Sweet and Savory: Beans and Fruit are a Match Made in Heaven

Canned, dried or fresh, fruits add subtle sweetness to all types of bean recipes.

Toss cooked navy or Great Northern beans with fresh rosemary and figs sautéed in olive oil. Legend has it that this was a favorite dish of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Create a sweet and spicy salad dish by combining cooked black beans with chunks of fresh mango, diced red onion and minced jalapeno peppers. Toss with a simple oil and vinegar dressing.

Sauté crumbled sage-flavored sausage and chopped apples to liven up canned or homemade baked beans.

Make Sweet Vegetarian Pineapple Baked Beans in the crockpot for effortless homemade flavor.

Stretch Your Food Dollars with Beans

If you’re resolving to eat healthier and save money in the New Year, you should add beans to your menu. According to the Nutrient-Rich Foods Index, beans provide the best nutritional value for the lowest cost of any food. That’s not news to frugal cooks who have known for decades that beans are an economical yet tasty way to stretch soup, stews or even burgers and meatloaf. A one-half cup serving of canned black beans costs just 29 cents based on data from the USDA. If you cook dried beans from scratch, you’ll pay just 12 cents for a half-cup serving. Freeze unseasoned cooked beans in recipe size portions so you’ll always have them on hand for fast, economical meals.


Warm Up Winter Nights with Chocolate Chili

Nothing warms up a cold winter evening like chili, and the best chili recipes call for a few tablespoons of chocolate.

Pairing chocolate with spicy hot peppers is a tradition that goes back some four thousand years. The Mayans of Central America, who are credited with discovering chocolate, didn’t use it as the sweet treat we love today. Instead, they consumed a fiery and bitter drink made from crushed cocoa beans and chili peppers. The treasured beverage was a regular offering at celebrations.

Adding unsweetened chocolate to a pot of bean or beef chili pays homage to the history of these flavors. Stir in one tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder for every pound of meat or two cups of cooked beans in your recipe. You’ll find that this simple addition takes any chili recipe to the next level, giving it extra depth and richness.

Beans Help Protect Blood Glucose Levels

The glycemic index (GI) is a value assigned to a food based on how slowly or quickly it causes blood glucose levels to rise. Foods with a high GI, which includes many refined grains and processed carbs, can quickly dump glucose into the blood, causing levels to spike. Over time, eating too much of these foods may raise risk for diabetes and heart disease. But not all carbohydrates are created equal. The type of carbohydrate in beans is slowly digested, resulting in a more gradual rise in blood glucose levels. This slow and steady influx of glucose into the bloodstream is associated with lower risk for chronic disease and may help with weight loss.

New research from investigators at three universities shows that eating beans can even counter some of the harmful effects of high-GI foods in a meal. The researchers found that adding beans to a meal that contains refined grains affected the overall GI of the whole meal. Eating beans plus white rice (which has a high GI) produced a much smaller glucose response compared to eating the rice alone. The response was smaller right after the meal and also for the following two hours. So the next time you want to enjoy white rice or some other type of refined grain, be sure to also include beans in your meal.

Bean Dishes for Breakfast

Beans may not be common fare for American breakfasts, but they are not the least bit unusual in some parts of the world. Starting the day with beans makes sense. Their combination of protein and fiber gives them staying power, keeping hunger at bay throughout the morning. Here are five ways to include beans in the most important meal of the day.

• Spoon baked beans (your own or from a can) onto toast for a super-easy British-style breakfast.

• Fold black beans into a flour tortilla or an omelet and top with salsa for a Mexican-style breakfast

• Give hash brown potatoes a protein and fiber boost by stirring cooked pinto beans into them.

• Try Gallo Pinto or “Painted Rooster” which is a traditional Nicaraguan breakfast. This red beans and rice dish is often served with scrambled eggs. Make it by sauteeing 1 finely chopped onion and 1 finely chopped sweet pepper plus 2 minced garlic cloves in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add 2 cups of cooked red beans and season with salt and pepper. Serve over hot, cooked rice.

• If you eat breakfast on-the-go, bean muffins offer a healthy alternative to pastry or energy bars. Beans add protein and a pleasant moist texture to breakfast muffins. Try this recipe for White Bean, Banana and Walnut Muffins from the Today Show.

Think Beans for Your Vegetarian Thanksgiving Guests

These days, there is no shortage of options for the vegetarian guests at your Thanksgiving feast. Prepared veggie roasts are easy and increasingly popular. For homemade flavor, a baked stuffed squash creates a festive centerpiece. But for a taste of tradition, consider a dish built around beans. A close cousin to the kidney beans we know today probably appeared at the first Thanksgiving since they were regular fare for Native Americans.

This recipe does double duty since it also includes sweet potatoes. And because you can make it a day or two ahead of time (which actually improves the flavors) it lightens the workload on Thanksgiving Day.


Sweet and Spicy Baked Beans and Sweet Potatoes

1 pound kidney beans, soaked in water to cover for at least four hours and drained
1 quart water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon chipotle powder (or to taste)
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 –inch chunks

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Combine the drained beans and the quart of water and simmer for an hour until the beans are partially cooked.

Saute onion in olive oil until tender. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Stir the onion and garlic into the beans. Add the tomato paste, sugar and chipotle powder. Add salt to taste. Stir in the sweet potatoes. Transfer to a casserole dish and baked for one hour until sweet potatoes are tender.



From Side Dish to Center of Plate: Mashed Potatoes with Protein-rich Beans

Blending cooked white beans into mashed potatoes moves the ultimate comfort food from side dish to center of plate. Creating this protein-rich entrée is simple: just add a cup or so of cooked white beans when you mash the potatoes. Either navy or Great Northern beans work well. You can also try the following recipe which incorporates savory aromatic flavors of onions and garlic with just a few added steps.

1 1/4 cups navy beans, soaked in water to cover for at least four hours
3 cups unsalted vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, quartered
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 pound Yukon gold or Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Drain soaked beans and place in a large saucepan with vegetable broth, onion and crushed garlic cloves. Bring to a gentle boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add salt and simmer another 30 minutes. Add potatoes and continue to simmer until beans and potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the onions and discard.

Drain the beans and potatoes, reserving one cup of the cooking liquid. Transfer the beans and potatoes to a food processor. Add the butter, thyme and ½ cup of the cooking liquid and process until smooth and creamy. Add more cooking liquid to achieve the consistency you prefer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The “Three Sisters” of Native American Cuisine

By the time European settlers arrived in America in the early 1600s, Native Americans had been growing corn, beans and squash for hundreds of years. According to legend, the vegetable trio was known as the “three sisters,” and they played a central role in nutrition and agriculture.

When planted together, the corn provided a structure for the beans to climb. The squash spread over the ground as a living mulch, helping to retain moisture in the soil and prevent weeds. In addition to replenishing the soil with nitrogen, the beans served as an important source of protein in meals.

These three crops aren’t just compatible in the field; they also come together to create inspired and nutrient-rich soups and stews. Flavored with onions and dried herbs, the three sisters offer simple and varied ways to create savory and nutritious fall dishes. This Three Sisters Soup requires less than 10 minutes of hands-on preparation and can be ready in a half-hour.

Three Sisters Soup
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cups frozen white or yellow corn or 1-16 ounce can
1 14-ounce can of kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) or one package of pureed frozen butternut squash
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon mild chili powder
Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer. Add the corn, beans, onions and celery and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin or squash, plus the dried sage and chili powder. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Eat More Beans to Lose Weight

Weight loss is more than just cutting down on your diet. It’s also about eating the right types of food. One of these foods is beans, where incorporating just a single serving can improve your daily diet and weight loss efforts.

Though it isn’t clear how beans help people shed pounds, it is known their content of slowly-digested starches may help you feel full longer. Beans may also affect the way the body metabolizes fats according to research at Colorado State University. These investigators found that feeding beans to rats caused reductions in visceral fat. This is the “deep” fat that accumulates around organs and is associated with a higher risk of chronic disease.

They may not be the whole answer to permanent weight loss, but growing evidence points to benefits of adding beans to your diet if you’re hoping to shed a few pounds.

Black Bean Brownies for a Guilt-free Treat

Beans for dessert? It might seem uncanny but it’s the norm in other parts of the world. Small cakes filled with a paste of red beans and sugar have been part of East Asian cuisine for hundreds of years. Referred to as “mooncakes,” these round pastries are a traditional part of autumn harvest festivals in China.

More recently, western cooks have adopted Eastern traditions to use beans in their sweet dishes. Next time you bake a batch of brownies, opt for black beans instead of flour. The fudgy texture provided by the beans produces a healthy, gluten-free brownie that’s packed with fiber and protein.

You can either use canned black beans for an easy fix or beans you’ve cooked from scratch.

Black Bean Brownies
1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (or 1 ¾ cups cooked beans, rinsed and drained)
3 eggs
3 tablespoons of applesauce or canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8×8 square baking dish.
2. Combine the black beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract, and sugar in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the mixture.
3. Bake until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.


Tips for Introducing Beans to Children

Getting toddlers and preschoolers to try new foods like beans can be a challenge. Kids in this age group aren’t known for their adventurous eating habits, after all. While in some parts of the world, beans are usual and familiar fare at all ages, for American children, they can seem like a foreign food.

But helping young children enjoy new foods is one way to improve their nutrition and establish lifelong healthful eating habits. Try these approaches to introducing beans into your child’s meals:

Keep it Low-Keyed. Offer tiny servings of beans alongside familiar, well-liked foods. For example, place just a tablespoon of beans on the plate with popular foods like macaroni-and-cheese or mashed potatoes.

Be Patient. Don’t force your child to try new foods, but be gently persistent. Research shows that it can take as many as 10 exposures to get a young child to take that first bite. If your child turns up his or her nose at baked beans, offer them again a week later. Keep offering them so that eventually, they won’t look quite so new and unfamiliar.

Be a Role Model. Let children see you enjoying beans, but without making too big a deal about it.

Keep it Easy. Try mashed beans that can be scooped up with crackers. Larger-size beans like Great Northern Beans can be served as finger food.

Make it Fun. Stir grated carrots into pureed beans to make sandwich fillings and then cut the sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters. Or spread the filling on flatbread, roll it up, and slice into pinwheels.

Get Children Involved. Kids are likely to be more enthusiastic about foods they’ve helped prepare. Let them help mash beans for spreads or stir chopped tomatoes into black beans. If your family has a garden, growing beans from seed is a fun and educational activity for young children.


Want learn more? Read 7 Strategies to Raise Children Who Eat Beans.


Potassium-rich Beans for Healthy Bones

Keeping bones strong requires more than calcium and vitamin D. A host of vitamins and minerals are involved in building bones and preventing them from weakening. One of these is the mineral potassium. It’s especially important because studies of American habits suggest that many people don’t consume nearly enough potassium.

Eating more fruits and vegetables is one way to increase potassium intake. Eating more beans can help, too. Beans are unique among good sources of potassium because they also provide plenty of high-quality protein. Not surprisingly, in the Adventist Health Study-2, a large epidemiologic study involving more than 33,000 people, those who ate the most beans and foods made from plant proteins were the least likely to suffer a hip fracture.

The combination of protein and potassium in beans makes them an important part of a diet aimed at protecting bones throughout the lifecycle.

Potassium Content of Selected Beans, Fruits and Vegetables

Food Potassium in milligrams (Daily recommendation is 4700 milligrams)
1 medium banana422
1/2 cup spinach443
1/2 cup pinto beans394
1/2 cup cooked kidney beans379
1/2 cup cranberry beans362
1/2 cup black beans323
1 medium peach285
1/2 cup cooked potato270
1/2 cup cooked broccoli241
1 medium orange237
1/2 cup diced cantaloupe220


Boosting Iron Intake with Beans

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutrient deficiency among Americans. It affects children and young women most often, but anyone can fall short of the RDA for this mineral. When iron intake is too low, the body can’t make enough red blood cells. The result can be fatigue, headaches and dizziness, among other symptoms.

Improving iron status can be as simple as adding a few servings of beans to your diet. Just one-half cup of navy beans, for example, provides more than 10 percent of the daily iron requirement for women.

But while beans are rich in iron, they also contain compounds called phytates that reduce iron absorption.

Phytates are antioxidants and they may have important health benefits. So it’s not bad to consume a diet that’s rich in these compounds. And fortunately, it’s easy to counter their effects on iron absorption. Pairing iron-rich beans with good sources of vitamin C is one simple way to improve iron absorption. Vitamin C severs the bond between iron and phytate, freeing up the iron for absorption. In some studies, simply adding vitamin C rich foods to diets without changing iron content of the meals was enough to improve iron status.

Good sources of vitamin C are peppers, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, tomato sauce, cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges, pineapple, kiwifruit, honeydew melon, and strawberries.

Pairing iron and vitamin C can be as simple as enjoying a serving of steamed broccoli alongside your favorite bean soup. Adding vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables to bean recipes is another easy way to ensure that you’ll absorb as much iron as possible. Here are a few ways to combine vitamin C-rich foods with iron-rich beans:

  • Drain a can of pineapple cubes and add them to canned baked beans
  • Toss cooked black beans with shredded cabbage in your favorite coleslaw recipe
  • Sauté red peppers and onions in olive oil and stir into white navy or Great Northern beans
  • Add any type of cooked beans to a massaged kale salad
  • Bake any type of cooked beans in a savory tomato sauce and serve over rice or pasta

Are You Getting Enough Fiber and Potassium?

There are many reasons why nutrition experts are recommending more plant-based protein. One major reason is that plant-based protein foods like beans also
contain “nutrients of concern” like fiber and potassium, nutrients that most Americans don’t get enough of in their diets.

Adults need 25-38 grams of fiber per day. The average American adult only gets about 16 grams. A single serving of beans can provide one-third of your daily fiber needs. And the average potassium intake of 2,640 milligrams per day falls short of the recommended  4,700 milligrams. Most types of beans are good sources of potassium and excellent sources of fiber.

Black Beans ½ cup, cooked 114 8 8 306
Kidney Beans ½ cup, cooked 112 8 6 358
Navy Beans ½ cup, cooked 127 8 10 354
Pinto Beans ½ cup, cooked 122 8 8 373
Almonds ¼ cup 164 6 4 208
Peanuts ¼ cup 161 7 2 200
Walnuts ¼ cup 190 4 2 125
Hummus ¼ cup 100 5 4 137
Tofu 2 oz. 183 20 3 299

Bean Snacks Are Trending

March 16, 2016, Nutritional Outlook, by Michael Crane

Photo courtesy of Food Should Taste Good

If you ask a group of elementary-school kids to name the magical fruit, it shouldn’t be long before they start shouting “beans!” at you. And while the famed legumes may not be fruits, or, strictly speaking, magical, many snack formulators are also getting excited about beans these days.

Vegetable snack alternatives to potato chips have been around for some time now, including kale, sweet potato, and beetroot chips. But new ingredients like beans are now taking center stage in a slew of new snack launches, according to Innova Market Insights.
“What we have noted more recently is a wider range of vegetables being applied (e.g. beans) for chips, and more development on the flavor/seasoning side,” says Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation for Innova Market Insights.

Take General Mills, which was inspired to add bean chips to its Food Should Taste Good line last June because “beans are one of those unique ingredients that seem to resonate with consumers,” says Stephen Crump, associate marketing manager, Food Should Taste Good. Food Should Taste Good’s bean chips are currently available in pinto and black bean multigrain flavors.

Of course, nutritional value is a key selling point for bean chips, as “beans are one of the few ingredients that can deliver protein and fiber in a snack,” says Vincent James, senior vice president and general manager of snack division, Saffron Road. Saffron Road’s BeanStalks, a crunchy snack product that launched last year, combines pinto beans, cannellini beans, and green peas.

But if tapping into consumer demand for plant protein, fiber, and low-fat alternatives to potato chips isn’t enough for you, bean chip brands are also experimenting with an increasingly diverse range of flavors and designs. BeanStalks, for instance, are now available in sea salt, barbeque, and cheddar flavors.

Another bean chip brand, Beanfields Snacks, announced in late February it would be adding three new flavors to its line of bean and rice chips: jalapeño nacho, white bean with sea salt, and black bean with sea salt. Fashioned more like tortilla chips than potato chips, Beanfields’ new black bean chips were designed to stand out with a darker color, similar to the way blue corn tortilla chips are set apart from yellow corn tortilla chips.

Distribution Challenges

Beanfields’ bean and rice chips are now available in vending machines and gas stations in some cities.

It’s hard to argue with the novelty and nutritional appeal of bean snacks compared to potato or tortilla chips, but the more established snack types still have widespread consumer acceptance in their favor.


One of the biggest challenges facing an alternative vegetable chip brand is “finding shelf space in outlets where the traditional potato chip has ruled for so long,” suggests Innova’s Williams.

Nonetheless, bean snack brands are beginning to make inroads in mainstream distribution channels. Beyond health food stores and natural snack sections of conventional grocery stores, Beanfields’ bean chips are now available in airports, vending machines, convenience stores, and gas stations, especially in New York City and Los Angeles.

Saffron Road’s James also acknowledges that alternative snack brands face distribution challenges. But he says Saffron Road plans to expand distribution of its BeanStalks into convenience stores and corner markets in the next 12–18 months.

Beans may be one of the latest vegetable ingredients to arrive in snacks, but it likely won’t be the last. Innova’s Williams suggests that while many alternative snack ingredients have started out in niche products, the success of kale chips may “have opened doors for other vegetable varieties,” allowing products like bean chips to become popular.

For more information, visit Nutritional Outlook.

Recipes from History: Launch Beans

July 17, 2014, Mentalfloss.com, by Matt Soniak

In April 1981, the NASA crew at the Kennedy Space Center was hard at work preparing for STS-1, the first orbital flight of the space shuttle program. People have to eat, even when they’re making history, so members of the launch crew brought in food from home to share during long hours of pre-flight tests and other preparations.

On the day of the launch, test director Norm Carlson brought in his contribution to the potluck: cornbread and a small crock pot of beans. After a successful lift off, the team celebrated and dug in to the food. Carlson’s beans were a hit and disappeared quickly. For the next shuttle launch later that year, Carlson doubled his recipe and brought in two pots of beans. The larger batch was again eaten in no time. He kept bringing in more and more beans and more and more crock pots for each flight, until it got to be too much keeping up with his hungry team.

“Finally, sensing that it was getting too difficult to bring in enough crock pots to feed everyone, Mr. Carlson switched to an 18-quart cooker, and set up shop on the fourth floor of the LCC [launch control center], just above the firing rooms,” says the KSC website.  “The call ‘Beans are Go!’ came to signal that the shuttle had successfully launched, and it was time to relax and unwind.”

When Carlson retired, his bean-cooking duties were turned over to the center’s food service contractor, which prepared twelve 18-quart cookers for every launch until the shuttle program ended in 2011.

Want to eat like a rocket scientist? Here’s Carlson’s recipe, from Spaceport News, NASA’s newsletter for KSC employees.

“Successful Launch Beans”
Courtesy of Norm Carlson, former NASA Test Director Chief

Put 6 lbs. of dried great northern beans in an 18-quart electric cooker.

Cut 10 lbs. of smoked ham into cubes.

Add ham and ham bones to beans.

Add 1⁄2 shaker of lemon pepper.

Add 3 lbs. chopped onions.

Add 2 stalks chopped celery.

Add 1 tsp. liquid smoke.

Cover with water and cook for at least 8 hours.


“Famous Launch Day Cornbread”

Martha White Self-Rising Corn Muffin Mix

Follow directions on box.

For more information, and a smaller recipe, visit https://insideksc.blogspot.com/2006/08/go-no-go-beans-insideksccom-exclusive.html.

Fast Facts: 10 Simple Ways to Enjoy More Taste with Less Waste

Americans throw away 165 billion pounds of food each year. That’s about 20 pounds of food, per person, per month. Food is the number one thing in America’s landfill and has a big impact on sustainability. The good news is we all can do something to address this important issue. Try these 10 simple tips to enjoy more taste with less waste.

  1. Shop Smart. Always shop your refrigerator before grocery shopping, plan menus based on what you already have, make a shopping list of what you need, avoid impulse buys, and don’t buy too much.
  2. Portion Control. The larger the plate, the more likely we are to fill it. Use smaller serving plates and watch portion sizes. We have a tendency to eat with our eyes instead of eating with our stomachs.
  3. Planned Overs. If you know there are going to be extras at one meal, think about what they can be used for at subsequent meals. Friday night’s rice and beans make the perfect base for Saturday morning’s breakfast bowl.
  4. Date & Label. There’s nothing worse than finding a container of old, forgotten leftovers. Date and label everything that goes in the refrigerator & freezer.
  5. Repurpose Past-Prime Foods. Just because a food is past its peak doesn’t mean it can’t still be delicious. Crusty bread makes great French toast or croutons. Vegetables past their prime are good for soup. Wilting spinach is perfect in eggs. And macerated slightly overripe berries (a little balsamic vinegar and sugar) is absolutely delicious on ice cream or yogurt.
  6. Love Your Leftovers. Don’t be a leftover snob – save and actually eat them! Also, get creative with your leftovers. It doesn’t have to be the same meal twice.
  7. Stay Organized. Avoid clutter in your refrigerator, freezer & pantry. Keep things organized, labeled and remember FIFO – First In, First Out.
  8. Understand Food Dates. Treat “Use By” and “Best By” dates as suggestions rather than hard lines. These are voluntary terms used by food manufacturers to indicate quality, not the shelf life of a product. Learn more about food dates with handy phone apps like Food Keeper.
  9. Store Foods Properly. The shelf life of food is significantly increased with proper storage. Check out these guidelines from Save the Food for how to optimally store almost any food.
  10. Freeze It. If you have foods you can’t eat before they go bad, freeze it. Freezing significantly increases the life of food, and almost all foods can be frozen. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation for proper food freezing guidelines.

For more information on food waste and additional tips, visit www.savethefood.com

Q & A – How Beans Contribute to Sustainable Nutrition

In this month’s Q & A, we chat with  Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RD, FAND, the founder & president of Farmer’s Daughter Consulting, Inc.

Bean Bulletin (BB): Hi Amy, thanks for chatting with us. To start, please tell us about yourself. Where did your interest in food and farming come from, and what do you currently do today?  

Amy Myrdal Miller (AMM): I grew up on a farm in northeast North Dakota, in the Northarvest growing region. As the youngest of five kids—including three brothers who are farmers—I spent a lot of time listening to my family talk about the weather and the business of farming. When I was living on the farm, my dad had a big cow-calf operation. He also grew wheat, barley, and corn for silage for the cattle. Today, with my brothers running the farm, wheat is still the largest crop, but they also grow soybeans, canola, dry beans (pintos and black beans), and sunflowers.

My interest in cooking came from my mom who got me working in the kitchen at an early age. By the time I was 10 years old, I was often in charge of making dinner and supper for the family. I love to cook and bake, and I do a lot of recipe development for clients.

I now run a business called Farmer’s Daughter Consulting. I do nutrition marketing and strategic communications work for a variety of food and agriculture clients. I’ve also been a flavor seeker, but after working at The Culinary Institute of America for seven years, I now focus more than ever on ingredients and techniques that make healthy foods delicious and craveable.

BB: The word sustainability is a big buzzword in food today, but there really isn’t a single definition. As a thought leader in food, nutrition and agriculture, what do you consider to be a sustainable diet?

AMM: I think it’s important to first look at sustainable agriculture, for which there is a definition that came from the 1990 “Farm Bill” (Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990).

Sustainable agriculture is an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends
  • Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.

There are many significant points in this definition, including the fact that sustainable agriculture is about plant and animal production, that it is site-specific, and that the economic viability of a farm is as important as the use of nonrenewable resources. Farmers today are faced daily with making decisions about the best use of their time, money, and natural resources. Sadly though, people who have never visited a farm or talked to a farmer are often the ones most critical of agriculture practices.

When I, as a registered dietitian nutritionist, think about sustainable nutrition, I consider the many factors that play into this. Of course, I think about food and beverage choices, but I also think about culture, socioeconomic status, and cooking skills. Someone who has little money or cooking skills simply can’t make the same food decisions as the person who has more money and training. But thankfully there are many ways to create a healthful, sustainable diet.

BB: Beans receive a lot of attention and praise in the sustainable nutrition conversation. Can you share a little perspective on why beans are an important food for those looking to eat more sustainably?

AMM: Beans are a wonderful example of a very healthful food that can provide sustainable nutrition for anyone, no matter a person’s socioeconomic status. Anyone can open a can of beans, heat them, and enjoy a protein, fiber, and potassium rich food.

If you add a little more time and a few more ingredients, you can turn a humble can of beans into an amazing dish or meal! This time of year, I love to combine canned black beans with corn freshly cut off the cob, diced red pepper, minced cilantro, extra virgin olive oil, a little lime juice, ground cumin, salt, and pepper.  This makes a gorgeous, aromatic salad.

BB: In addition to eating sustainably, we know you’re a big believer that foods also need to taste delicious. What are some tips or ideas to make a sustainable diet also taste awesome?

AMM: There are two ways to create flavor, through the ingredients you choose and the cooking techniques you use. Then there’s the concept of flavor balance, using of five senses of taste–sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami—to create balanced, pleasing flavor. Beans are a food that often becomes more interesting and delicious when a little acid is added. My corn and black bean salad gets its brightness from fresh lime juice. My beef and bean chili gets balanced flavor from the addition of diced tomatoes and red wine vinegar for acid.

When I worked at The Culinary Institute of America the best advice I ever got from a chef was this: If you want your food to taste great, taste your food. As you’re making a dish, taste as you go along to see if it needs a little more salt, a little more acid (from vinegar, tomatoes, citrus juice, etc.). Does it need savory richness? Add some soy sauce? Is it too acidic or too bitter? Add some honey or sugar.

BB: For people looking to eat a more sustainable diet, what are some of the key strategies or daily habits you recommend?

AMM: The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend making half your plate fruits and vegetables. This is the single best piece of advice I can offer. Focus on getting more fruits and vegetables, including beans, into your grocery cart, refrigerator, pantry, and meals.

A sustainable diet is an eating pattern that promotes good health, includes a wide variety of foods from all food groups, fits your lifestyle and budget, and makes you happy.

My sustainable eating pattern changes throughout the year. During the summer, I use much more fresh fruits and vegetables in my cooking. In the winter, I use more canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. While I like cooking with dry beans, I always have canned beans on hand. They are such an awesome convenience food.

I also consider eating at restaurants part of a sustainable diet. I don’t feel like cooking every night. I love going out to eat with my husband to try new foods I may never make at home. I also love the social aspects of eating in restaurants, spending time talking and laughing while enjoying great food and beverages.

BB: Last and most important question, what is your favorite bean dish?

AMM: I love refried pinto beans. I make mine with lots of sautéed onions and garlic, cooked in extra virgin olive oil. I add lime juice and toasted cumin to balance the flavor. I didn’t grow up eating refried beans, but after living in California for most of my adult life, I think they are incredibly appealing and comforting!

Beans & Sustainable Nutrition – 7 Healthy Habits to Build a Balanced Diet

Today’s food conversation goes far beyond nutrition and health issues. More and more people want to know how their food choices affect not only their personal health but also the health of the planet. As the link between healthful eating patterns and environmental sustainability continues to grow, consumers are increasingly hungry for simple strategies to make sustainable, healthy eating part of their routine.

It’s abundantly clear that what we put on our plate has a big impact, so here are 7 simple habits to build a sustainable, balanced diet.

#1: Eat Plant Forward

A plant-forward diet is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses (beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils), nuts, seeds and healthy oils. Make these foods the foundation of your diet, and enjoy more moderate amounts of meat, seafood, or dairy. It does not mean you have to become a vegetarian or vegan; it simply means making plant foods the star and bulk of your daily meal pattern, and using meat products in smaller quantities.

#2: Eat More Beans

You might already know that beans are a nutrition powerhouse, rich in protein, fiber and high in antioxidants. What you may not know is that they also have a very positive environmental story to tell. Bean plants promote soil health. The roots of bean plants contain rhizomes, or nodules that contain bacteria that convert nitrogen (a greenhouse gas) in the air into a form plants can use. Even after the beans are harvested, some of the nitrogen in the bean’s roots stays in the soil. This means the farmer may be able to use less fertilizer on that field the next year. For your personal health and the health of the planet, we should all eat more beans! For strategies to enjoy more beans and make them delicious check out our interview with Amy Myrdal Miller, a registered dietitian and culinary nutrition expert.

#3: Swap Meat for Plant-Based Proteins

Plant-based proteins are a unique group of foods that contain nutrients similar to vegetables but have enough protein per serving to make them comparable to animal-based foods.  Plant-based proteins include beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds. Consuming plant-based proteins is associated with a number of positive health outcomes including a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases. They also have a lower environmental impact than animal-based foods. Eating more plant-based proteins does not mean eliminating meat, but rather looking for opportunities to consume more plant-based proteins and make substitutions when appropriate. If you’re making hamburgers or taco meat, sub half the ground beef with mashed pinto beans. If you’re making chili, reduce the meat and up the beans. Enjoying a sandwich? Try hummus and use half the deli meat. There are countless ways to enjoy more plant-based proteins.

#4: Build Meals with Beans + Grains

Beans and whole grains are both plant-based sources of protein and key components of a healthy diet. Most plant-based proteins are not complete proteins (like animal-based foods) because they lack one or more of the nine essential amino acids the body cannot produce. However, beans and grains are complementary proteins, meaning that one provides the amino acid(s) the other is missing. Therefore, when you eat beans and grains together, it’s a complete protein. There are countless ways to enjoy grains. If you’re looking for a new recipe, try our Brown Rice and Kidney Bean Salad with Roasted Peppers, Apples and Sherry Vinaigrette or a Pinto Bean & Quinoa Burger with Sriracha Mayonnaise.

#5: Practice Meatless Mondays: Meatless Monday is a movement that encourages people to skip meat one day a week. This simple strategy is not only good for you and the world, but it’s also good for your wallet.  A ½ cup serving of pinto beans (cooked from dry form) costs about $0.07 per serving. A 3-ounce serving of ground beef (90% lean) is about $1.14. That means dry beans cost 15 times less! The Bean Institute has over 50 delicious vegetarian recipes – enough to try a unique recipe every Monday this year.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

#6: Look Local and Eat Seasonal: The flavors of seasonal fruits and vegetables are a joy to savor. Eating foods in the season they are harvested not only provides exceptional flavor, but also reduces the number of miles food travels and often makes them more affordable.  What’s great about beans is that they’re always in season. Beans are allowed to dry in their pods before being harvested, so they can safely be stored for years. When you’re shopping at the farmers market or enjoying foods from the garden, think about opportunities to enjoy these fresh, seasonal foods and pair them with always-in-season beans.

#7: Don’t Waste It: Nearly 40% of all food in the U.S. never gets eaten. That’s like buying five bags of groceries and immediately throwing two in the trash. When food ends up in a landfill, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon monoxide.  Every person has a responsibility to reduce food waste. Before you grocery shop, make sure you have a plan. If you’re eating out and have leftovers, bring them home and actually eat them. We all can do our part to reduce food waste.  Looking for more ideas? Check out our 10 Simple Ways to Enjoy More Taste with Less Waste.

7 Strategies to Raise Children Who Eat Beans

Beans are a simply delicious, naturally nutritious food that provides important nutrients for a growing child, including protein, fiber, folate, magnesium, iron, and potassium. Unfortunately, some parents struggle to get their children to eat this highly nutritious food and they often wonder what they can do to encourage children to eat beans.

Researchers and child feeding experts have identified key ways parents can support and develop a positive eating pattern for kids. We’ve taken this great information and simplified it into 7 bean-focused strategies.

Here are 7 Strategies to Raise Children Who Eat Beans

 Strategy #1: Enjoy Regular Family Meals

Make eating together as a family a priority. Research has found many benefits of regular family meals including the development of healthful eating patterns, increased nutrient intake, and decreased the likelihood of being overweight. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends all people ages 2 and older eat between 1 to 3 cups of beans per week. Serving beans regularly at family meals and having young children eat along with the family is a great way to encourage healthful eating for your child, as well as the entire family. The main thing to remember with family meals is to make them frequent, fun and family-centered. For more information about why family meals are important, check out our article about the 10 Big Benefits of Family Meals.

 Strategy #2: Bring Kids in the Kitchen

Involving kids in the process of preparing their food helps them to become familiar with foods, and therefore more likely to accept and enjoy them. Beans are an excellent food to engage with kids in the kitchen. If you choose to use canned beans, a can opener is a great tool to teach kids to use. Rinsing canned beans is another simple task to teach kids. Beans also make a conversation piece in the kitchen. After a can of beans is opened and rinsed, taste a bean with your child. Ask them what they think it tastes like. After adding other ingredients, taste again and ask if the bean tastes the same or different. Ask why. These are not only great ways to get kids familiar with beans but also to better understand the process of cooking and how foods are transformed through different processes and ingredient combinations.

Strategy #3: Serve Family Style Meals + Beans

A key strategy to developing healthy eating habits is to offer a variety of healthy foods on the family dinner table and allow kids to pick what they’d like. Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding (a recognized authority in child feeding strategies) tells us that parents are responsible for the what, where and when, and children are responsible for the whether and how much. If a family meal includes baked chicken, potatoes, baked beans and salad, allow the child to choose however much of any of these foods they would like. If one meal they only eat chicken and salad, and the next it’s only potatoes and baked beans, that’s ok! Continue to serve beans regularly, don’t pressure, and eventually, your child may try them on their own.

Strategy #4: Be the Bean Eater You Want Your Kids to Be!

It’s  hard to tell your child to eat something they never see you eat. At family meals, make sure you are enjoying beans. If you have an aversion to a certain food, especially healthy foods, don’t push that aversion onto your child. Serve healthful food and model what it looks like to enjoy a wide variety of delicious, healthy foods, including beans, to your child.

Strategy #5: Talk About Food Before Nutrition

Experiencing food is much more exciting for children than learning the amount of nutrients in certain food. If you are shopping at the grocery store, have children help pick out certain foods. If you’re shopping for beans, have your child count how many different types of beans they can find in the grocery store. If you have a garden, get them in the garden. Have them help put away groceries. Involve them in the kitchen and teach them to cook. All of these experiences are learning opportunities and have the potential to build self-efficacy and preference for healthy foods.

Strategy #6: Always Serve Beans with a Positive Attitude

After you’ve served a food countless times and your child continually refuses it, you may go into an eating experience with an attitude of frustration and assumption that they will not eat a food. However, research has shown that for some foods, it can take 15-20 exposures before a child learns to accept and like it. Begin each feeding experience with an expectant attitude without exerting force. If eating beans is part of the family meal custom and everyone does it without making a fuss, your child may eventually follow suit.

Strategy #7: Make Delicious Bean Dishes

In our Bean Bulletin interview with Chef Garrett Berdan, he made the excellent point that we can’t expect kids to eat a food just because it’s healthy; it must taste good! If something doesn’t taste good, why should we expect kids to eat it? There are so many ways to make the simply delicious, naturally nutritious bean absolutely craveable! Check out our Bean Bulletin featured recipe: Cheesy Bean Broccoli Pasta and our Bean Institute recipes for hundreds of ideas to make delicious bean dishes the whole family will love.

Why Family Meals Matter: 10 Big BEANefits

A family meal is one of the most lasting and cherished traditions in family life and provides an abundance of benefits to the whole family. There’s a lot of research about the importance of regular family meals and all the wonderful things they provide to both children and parents. Here are 10 key reasons to make family meals a priority:

  1. LANGUAGE SKILLS: Conversations around the family table encourage young people to build their vocabulary and conversation skills. Family meals strengthen the development of a child’s language and literacy.
  2. NOTICE CHANGES: Family meals provide a regular opportunity to monitor changes in a child’s mood or behaviors. It’s also a time to discuss any new activities that might be problematic.
  3. DRUG AND ALCOHOL FREE: Regular family meals are associated with a decreased risk of substance use.
  4. GOOD GRADES: Enjoying family meals are connected with better academic performance.
  5. GOOD EATING HABITS: Families who regularly eat together tend to have better eating habits, including increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other healthy foods, like beans!
  6. HEALTHY WEIGHT: Researchers suggest that regular family meals are associated with a reduced risk of childhood obesity, a major problem in this country.
  7. FAMILY TRADITIONS: Family meals provide a space to maintain, as well as pass down, family traditions from generation to generation.
  8. QUALITY FAMILY TIME: Family meals give a meaningful opportunity for families to spend time together and enjoy one another’s company.
  9. SHARED EXPERIENCE: Enjoying a family meal multiple times a week is an opportunity to create shared experiences. It instills a sense of belonging for everyone in the family.
  10. SECURITY: Regular and consistent family meals provide structure and routine to a child’s day, increasing their sense of security.

For more information about family meals, check out The Big Benefits of Family Meals from the NDSU Extension Service.

Creating Healthy, Delicious Bean Dishes Kids Will Love

Q&A with Garrett Berdan, Chef/Registered Dietitian

“As a chef/RDN I firmly believe that nutritious food must be presented in a way that is appealing and flavorful, or we cannot expect people of any age to enjoy them.”

In this month’s Q&A, we chat with Garrett Berdan, a registered dietitian and chef who’s spent his career developing healthy food menus for kids, as well as a range of other culinary nutrition work. We asked Garrett to share a little about his work, strategies for developing delicious bean-based dishes, and tips for parents to help kids like and eat their beans.

BB (Bean Bulletin): Hi Garrett, thanks so much for chatting with us. First off, can you tell us a little about your background? Why did you become a chef/dietitian, and what do you currently do for work?

Garrett: I grew up in an agriculture family in Wenatchee, Washington, so raising and growing food was part of my everyday life.  My immediate and extended family grew apples, cherries, pears, wheat, and raised beef cattle.  As a kid I really liked baking (especially with our apples), which I realize now was an outlet for both my science and artistic interests.  In high school, I considered a career as a chef until a dietitian at church suggested I look into the opportunities afforded to registered dietitians.  I discovered that dietitians often work in foodservice, which seemed like a good fit for me.  After becoming a dietitian, though, I still couldn’t shake the desire to attend culinary school.  So, I attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, not to become a restaurant chef, but to become a better food professional.

For the past 7 years, I’ve worked as a consultant for school nutrition programs, commodity marketing commissions, and food companies.  I use my combined skill set as a chef/RDN to create delicious recipes and menu concepts that appeal to kids and adults alike.  I also provide hands-on culinary training to school cooks across the US.

BB: That is great and important work. Garrett, you’re not only a chef and dietitian but also a parent. What are some of your go-to strategies to get kids to like and eat healthy foods?

Garrett: My main strategy for getting kids to try new foods is to involve them in the process.  This could be planting seeds, harvesting, cooking, participating in a focus group, or tasting and naming recipes.  When kids are included they feel a sense of ownership and seem to be more motivated to try something.

When I became a parent I was overly confident about raising an adventuresome eater.  I mean I’m a chef and registered dietitian after all—I’ve got this.  To make a long story short, my son is a lot more resistant to trying new foods than I had hoped.   When we cook together, he becomes interested in trying something new about half of the time.  That doesn’t mean he’ll like it, but the fact that he tries it is huge.  I am relieved that he likes many kinds of beans, which are a staple nutrient-rich protein source in his diet.

BB: It’s great to hear your son likes beans! In your experience creating and testing recipes for kids, what do you find are some of the main characteristics/ingredients/qualities that make a dish acceptable and enjoyed by kids?

Garrett: When creating recipes for K-12 meal programs, it’s important to remember the age range and preferences that go along with those ages.  Elementary aged students prefer dishes that are simple, meaning fewer mixed dishes and more finger foods, dip-able items, and items that are easy to eat.  Students at any grade level don’t have a lot of time to eat their lunch.

These same characteristics also apply to middle school and high school ages, but the older students are usually open to more sophisticated flavors and world cuisine.  This could include dishes with a hot chili element, more spices, fresh herbs, and more mixed dishes.  Older students find grab-and-go meals convenient because they are pre-packaged, portable, and can be eaten quickly.

BB: We know beans fall short of the recommended daily intake for children. Why do you think beans are underconsumed and underappreciated by today’s youth?

Garrett: I don’t know why beans fall short of the recommended daily intake in this demographic.  But I do know that now is the time to continue inspiring bean menu concepts for K-12 meal programs.  Today’s students are more familiar with and open to world cuisines, many of which rely on beans for protein.  Beans are also an economical choice for school menus.  I know many schools are looking to offer more vegetarian entrées on a regular basis, and beans are a natural fit.

 BB: Why do you think it’s important for kids to eat their beans?

Garrett: Kids should eat their beans because they like them.  As a chef/RDN I firmly believe that nutritious food must be presented in a way that is appealing and flavorful, or we cannot expect people of any age to enjoy them.  We know that beans are nutritious, fiber-rich sources of plant protein.  Do kids need to know that?  No, not really.  First, kids need to know that beans taste awesome in their many different forms.  Then, oh by the way kids, beans are also a powerful food that will fuel your body.

BB: Such great advice! For parents or caregivers looking for strategies to help their kids eat and ENJOY their beans, what do you recommend?  Any culinary tips or feeding guidelines?

Garrett: My best strategy is to involve kids in preparing beans.  I use both canned beans and dried beans in my home.  My son helps me sort through dried beans before we cook them in the pressure cooker.  He also likes to help season pinto beans for our burritos, tacos, or rice bowls.

BB: A lot of parents or caregivers keep snacks on hand for hungry kids. Do you have any simple ideas for how beans can be utilized as on the go snacks?

Garrett: We love refried beans in our house, so I like to keep some on hand to use as “bean dip” to serve with whole grain corn chips or pita chips.  If we’re on the go, though, I can roll it up into a whole grain tortilla with some cheese for an easy hand-held snack.

Another fun snack that can be made in advance are oven roasted beans.  Cooked, whole beans, like kidney beans, are tossed with a little bit of vegetable oil and seasoned to your preference, then roasted in the oven until crisp outside and tender inside.  We like to use chili powder, ground cumin, or curry powder on our roasted beans.

 BB: Yum – those sound delicious! And the most important question – what’s your favorite bean recipe?

Garrett: This is a tough question, and I’ve always said that I don’t play favorites with food.  Lately, I have enjoyed using gigante beans in either hot or chilled applications.  Their large size and tender texture are a nice alternative to animal protein.  I also really love beans in soup and chili.  Give me any bean soup and any chili recipe and I’m happy.  Finally, I’m a sucker for a slow cooked traditional French cassoulet with white beans.  This meaty dish is decadent, but I feel good about getting some beans with every bite.

To learn more about Chef Garrett and his work, visit http://garrettberdan.com/

Five Facts You May Not Know About Breakfast

  1. Breakfast is a relatively new concept and did not exist in the United States, as we know it today, until the mid to late 1800s. According to Abigail Carroll, a food historian and author of Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal, a morning meal in the 1600s was likely to be leftovers, stewed grains, or cheese and bread. By the mid to early 1700s, meat and fish were often added, and this was a sign of growing prosperity. The breakfast we know today came about as a result of the industrial revolution and more people flocking to live in cities.
  2. James Caleb Jackson invented the first breakfast cereal in 1863. It was called “granula” and required soaking overnight to be chewable.
  3. The word “cereal” comes from the ancient Greek word “cerealia,” a major festival celebrating Ceres, the goddess of agriculture.
  4. February is National Hot Breakfast Month!
  5. Every traditional breakfast around the world is unique. In China, breakfast includes fried dough sticks (or “youtiao”) and warm soymilk. Colombian breakfast is typically arepas, a dense, slightly sweet corn cake that’s served with butter, jam, meat or egg. A traditional English breakfast is a hearty feast including eggs, sausage, bacon, beans, mushrooms, cooked tomatoes and toast. And a Swedish breakfast is typically an open-faced sandwich topped with fish or cold cuts, cheese, mayonnaise, cucumbers and tomatoes.

A Taste of the Savory Breakfast Movement

Q&A with Sanna Delmonico, MS, RDN, CHE

In this month’s Q&A, we chat with Sanna Delmonico, a registered dietitian and nutrition faculty member at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, California. We asked Sanna to share her insights about the savory breakfast movement and how beans can be included in a healthy, delicious breakfast routine.

 BB (Bean Bulletin): Hi Sanna, thanks so much for chatting with us. First off, can you tell us a little about your background? Why did you become a dietitian, and what led to your career at The Culinary Institute of America?

Sanna: Well, I’ve been a dietitian for more than 20 years, and the reason I became a dietitian is kind of a funny one—lactose intolerance. When I started college I was a film major and really just took a nutrition course to fulfill my science credit. When I learned about lactose intolerance, I became totally fascinated by it. Beyond just the condition, it intrigued me from an anthropologic perspective—how cultures and cuisines formed around this ability or inability to digest lactose. It really got me hooked on nutrition science. I decided to major in dietetics and after college, I debated going on to culinary school, but I decided dietitians had better hours than chefs. I went for my masters and have really spent my whole career focused on food —food culture, culinary arts, flavor, and healthy, delicious dietary patterns. Prior to joining the CIA, I worked for 12 years in children’s nutrition, self-publishing a monthly newsletter for parents with recipes and nutrition information. I started teaching nutrition at a junior college and really loved it, so I was so happy to find a position at the CIA. I love students and meeting them at this really important time in their life.

BB: That is a great story! As you’re likely very aware, the savory breakfast movement is continuing to grow in popularity. Why are people looking for more savory options for breakfast?

Sanna: I think it has a lot to do with the fact that most places around the world eat a savory breakfast, and we (the U.S.) are one of the few places that gear toward sweet things at breakfast. In countries like Japan, the Middle East, and China to name a few, it’s not normal to eat a sweet breakfast. There is a growing interest in international cuisine and I think that’s driving the savory breakfast trend.

BB: What are the potential nutrition and health benefits of a savory breakfast?

Sanna: Some of the key opportunities with a savory breakfast are that it’s a great way to eat more vegetables, beans, whole grains, plain yogurt (good for probiotics), and to cut back on added sugar.

BB: What are some culinary strategies to create delicious, savory breakfasts? Also, what items would you recommend people have on hand (pantry, refrigerator, spice cabinet) to create savory, satisfying breakfasts?

Sanna: Bowls have become super popular! All the fast casual restaurants are doing them (think Chipotle), and I think breakfast bowls are a great, simple way to create delicious, savory breakfasts. Also, bowls are a great way to use up leftover ingredients like extra cooked grains, beans, and vegetables. The most important thing is to have the ingredients on hand and prepped so the bowls are easy to create in the morning. Think of ingredients like cooked beans, cooked grains like farro or brown rice, roasted or sautéed vegetables, and savory stuff like tomato sauce and Sriracha.

Also think about breakfast sandwiches, burritos or salads for breakfast. Basically, if you put an egg on something, it’s breakfast!  These are all great ways to enjoy a savory, healthy breakfast, and also easy ways to add beans to a breakfast routine.

For ingredients to keep on hand to create savory breakfasts, I recommend eggs, beans, whole grains, cooked vegetables, good toasting bread, plain yogurt, nuts, herbs like mint and parsley, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and savory sauces.

BB: Those all sound delicious! For those who are still committed to a sweet breakfast, what are some simple swaps or small steps to start creating and enjoying savory breakfasts?

Sanna: The first thing that comes to mind is toast because so many already enjoy sweet toast, so encourage them to think about something savory. Maybe switch from jam to hummus or a bean puree. This is very common in the Middle East. When I was traveling in Spain one of the best things I ate for breakfast was tomato toast. It was toasted bread drizzled with olive oil, grated tomato and coarse salt. This would be really good with a white bean puree.

I also think savory yogurt is really coming into its own. Chobani has come out with a variety of more savory flavors, incorporating herbs and spices. Keeping plain yogurt on hand is great because you can make a sweet or savory parfait, depending on what you have a taste for.

Also, I think savory French toast or bread pudding is quite delicious. A savory bread pudding that uses black beans, cheddar cheese and tomatoes—yum!

BB: That sounds so good. You’ve already shared a few ideas, but how do beans fit into savory breakfasts? Also, why should people think about enjoying beans with their breakfast from a health perspective?

Sanna: I think beans are a perfect addition to the savory breakfast. If you have beans pre-cooked or canned, they are ready to go and become an easy, healthy addition to a breakfast routine.

It’s also important to remember that beans go really great with eggs, so if you’re making scrambled eggs, add beans. Breakfast burrito—add beans. Breakfast bowl —add beans. Combine some cooked brown rice, black beans, a fried egg, tomatoes and salsa, and you have a really delicious, awesome, fast and healthy breakfast!

From a health perspective, I think it’s important that people think about eating beans for breakfast because it’s a key way to meet your recommendation for beans (3 cups per week) and not have to start at noon. Knocking vegetables out early in the morning sets you on a path to success!

 BB: Those are fantastic tips. All right, the final and most important question: What is your favorite breakfast bean recipe?

Sanna: I really love chilaquiles. If you use good thick tortilla chips, tomatillo salsa, fried eggs, and earthy, delicious black beans, it is an amazing combination. Also, if you have all the ingredients made in advance, it’s a super easy recipe, too. Click here to check out Sanna’s Chilaquiles with Black Beans recipe.

BB: Sanna, thank you so much for all these wonderful ideas to enjoy simply delicious, naturally nutritious beans for breakfast!

 Note: The Bean Institute also has a Chilaquiles recipe for schools! Check it out here.

Beans for Breakfast: For Health & Deliciousness

It’s no doubt that breakfast is an important meal. In addition to the simple act of breaking the overnight fast (i.e., “break” – “fast”), and fueling your body and brain with energy, there is ample research to support that eating breakfast is important for overall health. Research studies have shown that eating breakfast can:

  • Protect Your Heart: A 2013 study of male US health professionals found that men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of coronary heart disease than those who ate a morning meal.[1]
  • Lower Risk for Type 2 Diabetes: A 2015 meta-analysis found that skipping breakfast was significantly associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.[2]
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: A 2013 study found that individuals who ate their main meal later in the day had 20% less weight loss and higher insulin resistance than those who ate their calories earlier in the day. [3]

Breakfast is undoubtedly an important meal, but not all breakfasts are created equal. Finding breakfast foods that are convenient and delicious, as well as nutritious, is essential to reap the benefits of breakfast.


Beans are an awesome food to add to your breakfast routine.  They offer an array of important nutrients as well as health benefits. Here are a few reasons to add beans to your morning meal:

  • Beans Provide Key Nutrients: Consuming lots of nutrients at breakfast is a great way to ensure your body gets all the nutrition it needs. For those who are looking to pack a nutrition punch at breakfast, beans are not to be missed. All types of beans are good sources of protein, excellent sources of fiber (both soluble and insoluble), and are naturally fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free. Beans are also excellent sources of copper, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium—nutrients that many Americans don’t get enough of—and most beans are good sources of potassium and a rich source of iron.
  • Beans are a Low Glycemic Index Food: Many health professionals encourage patients, particularly those with diabetes or insulin sensitivity, to look for low glycemic index (GI) foods to control blood sugars and insulin levels. This may be especially important in the morning when some have a tendency to be insulin resistant. The glycemic index (GI) of a food is a ranking on a scale of 0-100, according to the extent to which a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugars (glucose) levels after eating. Low GI foods produce smaller fluctuations in glucose and insulin levels, which may produce long-term health benefits. Beans have a low glycemic index, and therefore produce less fluctuation in blood sugars. In addition, research has also shown that the GI of breakfast may impact cognitive performance. A 2007 study showed that test scores of attention and memory decreased more substantially following a high GI versus low GI breakfast.[4] The researchers concluded that breakfast composition may play a role in cognitive function.
  • Beans Add Plant-Based Protein to Breakfast: Optimal protein intake is a hot topic in the nutrition community. However, total protein intake is not the issue of concern – most Americans get more than enough protein. The goal is ensuring that people eat enough protein at each meal to promote muscle health, as well as a healthy mix of different protein sources. Experts recommend that adults consume approximately 25-30 grams of protein at each meal. Beans provide approximately 8 grams of protein per half-cup serving and this is in the form of plant-based protein, a key recommendation to promote health and sustainability in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Eat a half-cup of beans and 2 eggs – you’re at 20 grams of protein!


Looking to add more beans to your morning? Here are some tips for adding them to breakfast, brunch or a mid-morning snack.

“Make Ahead” Idea: A Breakfast Bean Burrito

Fill a plain or whole grain 10” flour tortilla with ¾ cup canned, drained, and rinsed reduced-sodium black or pinto beans. Add ¼ cup shredded cheese. Roll tightly to form a burrito. Wrap in plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove from plastic wrap and simply microwave the burrito for 45-60 seconds on a microwave safe plate. Unfold tortilla, add 2 tablespoons salsa and re-roll tightly. Wrap in foil to keep it warmer longer, and then grab and go!

Calories: 500, Fiber: 15 g, Protein: 25 g

“5-Minute or Less Breakfast” Idea: Berry Bean Smoothie

Combine 1 cup non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt, 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen), 1 medium banana, ½ cup canned, drained and rinsed reduced-sodium black beans and 2 tablespoons honey in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into two glasses, add straws and then grab and go!

Calories: 315, Fiber: 7g, Protein: 4g

“Morning Bean Snack” Idea: Pinto Bean Hummus with Pita Chips

Combine 1, 15 oz. can of pinto beans (drained and rinsed), 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons water, 1 small garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning in a mini food processor. Process until smooth. Transfer ½ cup servings to four small plastic, covered containers. Keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy.

Calories per serving: 170; Fiber: 7 g; Protein: 7 g

“Leisurely Morning Breakfast/Brunch” Idea: Breakfast Torta

Tortas, traditional Mexican sandwiches, are made with large, oblong, crusty white rolls. The rolls are cut in half and the top half is covered with pureed black beans. The fillings are diverse and can include meats, vegetables, and cheeses. They can be eaten cold or warm as pressed sandwiches (think of Italian Panini). You can make a breakfast torta by cutting your roll in half, spreading the top half with pureed black beans and loading the bottom with scrambled eggs and chorizo, a Mexican sausage. You can also spread the bottom with avocado or guacamole, a fried egg, and a few slices of ripe tomato. The creative interpretations are endless for this craveable Mexican sandwich.

For more breakfast bean recipe ideas, visit www.BeanInstitute.com/recipes/ and check out our interview with registered dietitian Sanna Delmonico to find her favorite recipe for Chilaquiles with Black Beans.

Also, if you’re looking for resources to encourage patients to enjoy more beans at breakfast, check out our downloadable Beans for Breakfast handout.

[1] Cahill, LE, Chiuve, SE, Mekary, RA, Jensen, MK, Flint, AJ, Hu, FB, Rimm, EB. Prospective study of breakfast eating and incident coronary heart disease in a cohort of male US health professionals. Circulation. 2013; 128(4): 337-43.

[2] Bi, H, Gan, Y, Yang, C, Chen, Y, Tong, X, Lu, Z. Breakfast skipping and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Public Health Nutr. 2015; 18(16): 3013-9.

[3] Garaulet, M, Gomez-Abellan, P, Alburquerque-Bejar, JJ, Lee, YC, Ordovas, JM, Scheer, FA. Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. Int J Obes (Lond). 2013; 37(4): 604-11.

[4] Ingwersen, J et al. A low glycaemic index breakfast cereal preferentially prevents children’s cognitive performance from declining throughout the morning. Appetite. 2007; 49(1): 240-4.

Beans: A Key Ingredient to the Mediterranean Diet

Q&A with Kathy McManus, MS, RD, LDN (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston)

BB (Bean Bulletin): Kathy, you’ve spent a large part of your career counseling patients and conducting research focused on reducing chronic diseases and achieving a healthy lifestyle. What drew you to the Mediterranean diet as a recommended dietary pattern for patients?

Kathy: The main thing that drew me to this diet is taste. In order to shift people from a diet approach to a lifestyle approach, we have to appeal to their senses, and the Mediterranean diet has exceptional flavor. I also love this diet because of the availability and familiarity of the ingredients, as well as ease in preparation. It has a great deal of variety, which makes it ideal for people cooking for themselves.

And of course as a dietitian, I am drawn to the wonderful health-promoting attributes of this diet.

BB: Yes, there are many studies that support the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, especially cardiovascular. What emerging area of research do you find particularly interesting? Or is there any research in progress, or on the horizon, that you’re following closely?

Kathy: There is a lot of research ongoing right now to further explore the association with the Mediterranean diet and primary prevention of diabetes, improved cognitive function, certain cancers, depression and a long list of continued benefits in heart health and longevity research.

Some exciting emerging areas of research include the MIND Diet (a hybrid Mediterranean-Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension), which takes two well-proven diets and focuses on the specific foods included in these diets that protect brain health. The foods emphasized include leafy greens (but all vegetables are important), nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine.  A study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia followed 923 participants, 58 to 98 years old, for an average of 4.5 years. They found a reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in those who followed the MIND dietary pattern.

Another recent study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that the Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of a deadly form of breast cancer by nearly 40% in postmenopausal women. The study followed 62,573 Dutch women aged 55 to 69 over two decades, and the results suggest that adherence to the Mediterranean diet could significantly reduce the risk of women getting estrogen-receptor negative (ER-negative) breast cancer.

There is also the ongoing SUN Cohort Study out of Spain that’s examining the connection between the Mediterranean diet and depression.  A 2016 article published in Clinical Psychology Science showed that participants with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet saw a 50% relative risk reduction in depression risk compared to those with the lowest dietary adherence.

And you can just Google “Mediterranean diet research” and find something new every single month. The research for the multitude of benefits for this diet just continues to grow and grow.

BB: That’s exciting that there are continually more and more benefits found from this dietary pattern. Kathy, beans and other legumes are sometimes forgotten when people think of the Mediterranean diet. How do beans fit into this dietary pattern and are they a key component of the diet?

Kathy: Beans are absolutely a part of this diet, and they are a critical component. If you look at the traditional diets in the Mediterranean and diets of the Blue Zones (regions of the world with the highest concentration of centenarians), they all include beans. Beans can fit into practically every meal, snack, and side, and there are lots of ways that beans can be easily and deliciously incorporated.

I think the American palate just needs more education about how these foods can be easily incorporated. It’s more about showing delicious recipes and sharing simple ways for how beans can fit. There are so many choices in the Mediterranean diet, and we must show our patients and clients all of the delicious possibilities.

BB: So true! When you’re counseling patients, what are the main guidelines or key recommendations you share to encourage a Mediterranean diet?

Kathy: I like to start with simple but profound changes. At the base of the pyramid, it really start with eating lots of vegetables and that is sometimes challenging to translate. I really like to take patients where they are at: “Where are you starting today, and how can we build on that continuum so you can start to consume more vegetables?”

I also like to start with making sure they understand what are good fats, and to encourage regularly enjoying good sources, foods like extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds and olives.  Vegetables are really enhanced with extra virgin olive oil, so I like to help patients to discover that using healthy fats is not only good for health, but also adds great flavor.

Seafood is also very important. If they’re not eating fish, I recommend incorporating at least one serving of fish each week, and this can be fresh or canned. Canned tuna and sardines are very convenient, and both are sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

It’s also important to talk about whole grains, and making the switch from refined grains to whole grains.

I also try to begin a conversation about changing the way they think about meat, and this is where beans come in. Beans are a plant-based protein and something I encourage patients to regularly consume. I might recommend cooking a vegetarian meal 1-2 nights a week. This encourages more plant-based foods, and to find alternative sources of protein from something like beans.

Finally, I try to make a push to rethink the traditional refined, high sugar desserts and to enjoy fruit regularly and save desserts for a special treat.

It really boils down to helping them realize that small, simple changes are going to have great benefits, and that they will begin reaping benefits today, tomorrow and the rest of their life with this diet.

BB: That is all excellent advice. What are some ideas you share with patients or clients to incorporate beans into Mediterranean diet based meals?

Kathy: I like to go with user-friendly things and foods that are familiar to most Americans. I may start with a chili, possibly one that has turkey, and then recommend a vegetarian chili that incorporates more beans.

I also encourage that if they’re at a salad bar or making salads at home, use beans. It’s a great way to introduce beans as a plant-based protein.

I also think black bean burgers are delicious and go over quite well with families.

And of course, there are so many side dishes. A white bean marinated in olive oil with dill and cumin is something I love. It’s mild, tender and delicious!

I think it’s really important that we share doable, simple strategies to help people put the Mediterranean diet into action. I think people know and talk about the diet, but it’s sometimes difficult to translate. The more we can share simple tips and recipes, the more we’ll help people begin to follow and experience the benefits.

BB: Absolutely true! Now the final and most important question: what are some of your favorite Mediterranean diet based recipes?

Kathy: I love so many recipes from the Mediterranean! Some recipes I make often are Roasted Moroccan Vegetables (carrots and sweet potatoes) with extra virgin olive oil, cumin and Moroccan spices, with a few pecans added at the end. I also love farro with balsamic flavored mushrooms. In the spring I like to make whole wheat pasta with asparagus and cannellini beans. I’m a fan of red pepper hummus for a satisfying snack. I also make wheat berry pasta with black beans and edamame. And of course, pesto with fettuccini is a staple.

That’s really what I love about the Mediterranean Diet. There are so many ways to incorporate the ingredients and it really is delicious.

BB: Kathy, thank you for this wonderful information and your delicious recommendations.

Enjoy a Delicious, Bean-Filled Mediterranean Diet for Health

The Mediterranean diet receives a lot of positive attention from the nutrition and health community, and for very good reason. This dietary pattern, which is traditional to countries along the Mediterranean Sea, has been associated with remarkable health outcomes, including an increased lifespan, reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, and lower risk of certain cancers, as well as a wide range of other health benefits.

Hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles, including intervention trials and large epidemiological studies, have supported the healthfulness of the Mediterranean diet. When you ask experts about the health benefits of this “diet,” they are quick to tell you that it’s not a diet, but in fact a lifestyle. Instead of a prescriptive way of eating, it’s a recommended pattern that emphasizes certain foods and food groups. The major tenants of the Mediterranean Diet are:

  • It encourages plant-based eating with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans and peas), whole grains, nuts and seeds.
  • It promotes healthy fats. It focuses less on total fat consumption and more on choosing better fats, like olive oil, in place of saturated fats, like butter. The traditional Mediterranean dietary pattern consists of 43% calories from fat, most of it unsaturated.
  • It encourages people to enjoy fish and seafood at least twice a week.
  • Cheese and yogurt are eaten regularly.
  • Eggs and poultry are enjoyed weekly.
  • It emphasizes herbs and spices to add flavor and to decrease salt.
  • It encourages people to limit their consumption of red meat and sweets.
  • It allows you to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, if you choose, and it recognizes the fact that both red and white wines provide health benefits when consumed in moderation.




What sets the Mediterranean diet apart is that it’s not only healthy but also flexible and delicious! These dietary recommendations can easily be adapted to meet specific tastes and needs. Also, using healthy fats, nuts, small amounts of cheese, and herbs and spices adds great flavor and interesting texture to dishes and can transform ingredients from ordinary to extraordinary.

Beyond the foods that are associated with this diet, it encourages people to enjoy the entire process of creating meals, including cooking and eating meals together. It also emphasizes being physically active each day.

Why Do Beans Matter?

Beans are a key component of the Mediterranean diet, but they are sometimes overlooked as one of the dietary contributors to good health. A lot of media attention focuses on other aspects of the Mediterranean diet like red wine or olive oil, but beans are not to be missed. They really are at the cornerstone of this dietary pattern. They have been a major food source in all the traditional food patterns in the Mediterranean, and they pack a unique combination of nutrients that gives them a profile similar to both a protein and vegetable. Further, beans have been identified as a factor in “Blue Zone” regions, areas of the world that researchers have identified as having the highest concentrations of centenarians. In “Blue Zone” areas, they found that the longest-lived people eat a full cup of beans every day!

How to Fit Beans Into Your Mediterranean Eating Pattern

 Incorporating beans into the Mediterranean diet is a no brainer because they are already a key dietary component, plus they are healthful, easy, and delicious. At breakfast, consider sautéing some dark leafy greens with extra-virgin olive oil. Add drained and rinsed canned black beans and top with poached eggs.  You have a delicious breakfast that packs a healthy dose of protein. Delight in a homemade pinto bean hummus with fresh vegetables and whole grain chips for a simple, satisfying snack. Whole grain pasta with fresh, seasonal vegetables and white beans makes an excellent dish that is easy, delicious, and great for entertaining a crowd. Or enjoy a fresh, heart-healthy salad with dark leafy greens, mixed vegetables, your favorite bean, a nice drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. The possibilities are endless and delicious!

Also, remember that the Mediterranean Diet not only encourages eating certain foods, but also taking joy in preparing healthful meals at home. Cooking with dried beans is a simple yet rewarding process. Check out the Traditional Four-Step Method to preparing dried beans, as well as our interview with Dr. Guy Crosby from America’s Test Kitchen to read food science insights for preparing dry beans using the brining method.

Looking for more information and inspiring bean recipes?

Visit Oldways for a wealth of information on the Mediterranean diet and the World Bean Kitchen’s “Bean Cuisine from Mediterranean Masters” to discover delicious recipes that highlight the foods and flavors from this region of the world.


Fast Facts: Things You May Not Know about the Mediterranean Diet and the Region it Calls Home

1. There are 21 countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, but the countries on the northern border (Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and the South of France) are home to the foods and traditions most typically referred to as “Mediterranean” cuisine.
2. The Mediterranean basin covers 28,580 miles of shoreline and connects three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe.
3. Olive trees, producing the fruit used to make olive oil, are native to the Mediterranean region and are one of the oldest known cultivated trees in the world, grown before written language was invented.
4. The climate around the Mediterranean—mild, rainy winters and dry, hot summers—is ideal for producing the wide variety of fruits, vegetables, pulses and wheat that are traditional to the diet.
5. The Mediterranean Sea has been given a variety of different names by different people through history, including “Our Sea,” “Great Sea,” “Western Sea” and “White Sea.” The name Mediterranean Sea comes from the Latin word mediterraneus, meaning “inland” sea.
6. Wine making has been an important part of Mediterranean life for at least 5,000 years, and today Italy, France and Spain lead the world in wine production.

Bean Bulletin Q&A: Mary Lee Chin on Beans in Asian Cuisine

In this month’s Q&A we sat down with Mary Lee Chin, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant with Nutrition Edge Communications. Mary Lee is a national expert and prominent voice in today’s food conversations, and is also the daughter of Chinese American immigrants. Mary Lee has great knowledge and personal interest in Chinese cuisine and culture. She was eager to share her passion for Asian cooking and insights for how beans are used in Asian cuisine.

BB (Bean Bulletin): Mary Lee, you’ve had an impressive career in the world of food and nutrition. Can you tell us a little about what led to your passion for food, flavor, and finding a career in dietetics?

Mary Lee: I am particularly interested in food production and food security, and that’s no surprise because I grew up in a very poor immigrant family. We were very food insecure. When it came time to choose a career, studying food and nutrition was natural. And as I progressed, I became very interested in food security.

My interest in food production and security transitioned from a career in clinical to the communications arena when I became a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Today, most of my work is focused around communicating about important issues in food and agriculture.

I feel very lucky to have found a career in dietetics because it’s a profession of generosity and mentorship. I’ve had so many great mentors and role models throughout my career, and I owe my success to the generosity of other dietitians who helped to shape my profession.

BB: That is wonderful. Consumers today have a great interest, almost hunger, for exotic foods, new flavors, and global cuisine. What do you think is fueling this interest?

Mary Lee: I think because we are a multicultural society we have the opportunity to be exposed to a lot of different foods. More and more people are traveling abroad and they are exposed to great cuisine and want to have it at home. Also, people who stay in this country have a great opportunity to explore cuisines from different areas. It’s much easier to experiment with exotic cuisines today. Even generalist supermarkets are carrying exotic ingredients so people can access exciting flavoring ingredients beyond salt and pepper.  It’s also undeniable that the interest in cooking is fueled by the increasing number of celebrity chefs and television shows dedicated to cooking.

BB: That is so true! Mary Lee, you have personal interest and expertise in Asian cuisine. For those who are unfamiliar, how would you describe Asian cuisine? What are the primary ingredients and flavors? Does it vary country to country in Asia?

Mary Lee: I think one of the major things to remember is that the term “Asian” food is an artificial construct, because there is nothing that really unites the countries of Asia. From language, religion, politics, and food – it’s a huge area with tremendous variation.

If you are exploring Asia from different regions, you’ll find different flavorings and ingredients. In the southwest (countries include India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Burma), they use naan and flat bread and strong flavors like cloves, black pepper, and hot chili peppers. That is the style of Asian cooking where we think of beans being a dominant part of the cuisine.

In Southeast Asia (countries include Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia), they have a lot of very fresh foods and many fresh herbs; more so than you find in other parts of Asia. They also use a lot of stir-frying and steaming for food preparation.

In the northeast (countries include China, Korea, and Japan), they use spices for not only food but also medicinal purposes. They also use noodles a lot in their cooking.

You can see that there’s a lot of variation across the Asian countries, but I would say the two largest commonalities amongst all Asian cuisine is the umami flavor and rice.

In traditional Asian cuisine, MSG is a key component of cuisine. In the 1960s, it went away as a popular ingredient, but the basis of the umami flavor is the glutamate (note: MSG stands for monosodium glutamate). Fermented fish, soy, and bean sauces are all high in glutamate, and that’s what gives the savory taste.

Rice is such a sustainer of life and is so critical to Asia. In my culture, one of the greetings when someone arrives at your home is “Have you had your rice yet?”  Each of the languages across Asia has many different words to say rice (raw rice, cooked rice, fermented rice, etc.). It’s a tremendously important food, and something I still eat a lot in my household.

BB: Beans have a pretty significant history and value in various parts of the world, and you mentioned the significance of rice in Asian culture. Is the same true for beans?

Mary Lee: With regards to Asian cuisine, you really look to India as the dominant area for bean use. They use beans in everything: flours, fillings, sauces, etc. I recently read a book about Indian cooking, and it discussed why you find more beans in that cooking than other cuisines. It’s because a large segment of the population is vegetarian, and of course we know that beans are a good source of protein, as well as fiber and other important nutrients like potassium. It makes sense that they would look to beans to get healthy plant-based protein.

In China, you are more likely to find beans used in sweet desserts than in savory recipes. My husband jokes that you have to be Chinese to like bean desserts. We make a sweet red bean soup with honey and sugar. If you were in the Philippines, this soup would be poured on shaved ice with condensed milk on the top.

BB: For home cooks that are inspired by Asian flavors, what ingredients would you recommend adding to the pantry to be ready to make delicious Asian dishes?

Mary Lee: Obviously soy sauce, but I would guess most Americans already have that in the kitchen. That is the basis. After that I would go into the Asian food aisle at the grocery store or an Asian food market and take a look at the rice wines, sesame oils, the variety of vinegars (rice vinegar, black vinegar). I use Shao Hsing wine in place of sherry wine in recipes. It’s made from fermented glutinous rice and millet. Shao Hsing is a city in eastern China that makes a high quality wine, so it’s called by that name. Other recipes will just call for “rice wine.”

I love experimenting with fermented sauces. They add great complexity to dishes. Asian cooking is all about building flavors – fermented black bean sauce, chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil – they all build layers of flavor that are unique and combine for extraordinary flavor.

Also, take a stroll through the fresh veggie aisle at an Asian food market to find new ingredients. You’ll find so many greens – mint, cilantro, lemon grass, baby bok choy, Chinese broccoli, different squashes and gourds. Instead of buying canned water chestnuts, try buying them fresh! It’s a totally new taste and flavor sensation. 

Probably the best piece of advice I can offer is to be adventurous. Just wander and be open to trying new things.

BB: That is fantastic advice. Last question and the most important, what is your favorite bean dish?

Mary Lee: My favorite bean dish is mooncakes! They are small round cakes traditional to south China that are made with a thin crust filled with a rich filling that’s usually made with red beans, although black beans are also used.  If you go to China in the month surrounding the moon festival (in the fall) you will find beautiful packages of mooncakes that can sell for hundreds of dollars! You can also find them in Chinese bakeries where you can get a good mooncake for a few dollars. They’ve become a status symbol in China, and businesses owners will give them as gifts to their clients or colleagues.

However, I must confess that these are my absolute favorite, but the same is not true for my family. But we all love beans and eat them a lot in our household – chilis, casseroles and hummus. Our youngest son went to Tulane for college in New Orleans, so Red Beans & Rice has become a staple in our household. We make the red beans, use a little hot sausage, and put it over rice. We also make black beans and rice often, and put fresh red tomato salsa on top made with chopped tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. It’s delicious.

Thank you to Mary Lee for sharing her great wisdom in this month’s Bean Bulletin.

Mary Lee is a consultant to the food and beverage industry. Her clients include Ajinomoto, makers of MSG seasoning ingredients.


Beans Around the World

From the red beans and rice of New Orleans to the cassoulets of Southwest France, dry beans are a wonderful staple enjoyed across the globe. Examining the types of beans grown in different parts of the world and tasting the various dishes they create provides a delicious culinary adventure and is a way to understand the traditions and history of a place and the people who live there.

Legumes (which includes beans, peas and lentils) are one of the most ancient human foods. They have been a staple of the diet in many parts of the world since the days of hunter-gatherers, about 12,000 years ago.

We often think of beans as a peasant food, but in times of human history, they have been considered to possess great powers and have been seen as a symbol of high status. Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking says, “As remarkable and as yet unexplained sign of their status in the ancient world is the fact that each of the four major legumes known to Rome lent its name to a prominent Roman family: Fabius comes from fava bean, Lentulus from the lentil, Piso from the pea, and Cicero from the chickpea.”

Today, the United States is the global leader in dry bean production. Each year, U.S. farmers plant from 1.5 to 1.7 million acres of dry edible beans.[1]

Depending on where you live, you will likely find several, if not dozens, of different varieties of dry beans in your local grocery store. There are hundreds of varieties of dry beans and each has its own unique flavor, texture, cooking time and culinary uses. Here are some beans from around the world including their country of origin and characteristics.

Bean Varieties[2]

  • Adzuki: Himalayan native, now grown throughout Asia. Small, nearly round red bean with a thread of white along part of the seam. Slightly sweet and starchy.
  • Anasazi: New World native (present-day junction of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah). It is a white speckled bean with burgundy to rust-brown. Slightly sweet.
  • Appaloosa: New World native. Slightly elongated, curved, one end white and the other end mottled with black and brown. Holds it shape well. Slightly herbaceous and piney in flavor.
  • Black Bean: New World native. Shiny, true black uncooked. Creamy texture when cooked. Flavor has an unusual, faintly sweet note, reminiscent of chocolate.
  • Cannellini/White Kidney Bean: New World (Argentina) native, now much loved and used in Italy. Creamy texture, slightly nutty.
  • Cranberry: New World (Colombia) native. Ivory or tan, beautifully mottled with striations of red, burgundy, even bright pink. A melty, creamy texture, a little nutlike.
  • Great Northern: New World native. A white bean, slightly larger than the navy, meltingly textured.
  • Kidney Bean: New World native. Kidney shaped, shiny dark-red seed coat. Cooks up creamy, with a little sweetness. Mild in flavor.
  • Mung: India/Pakistan native. Small, almost round, green with a small white stripe along part of its seam. Mild and starchy.
  • Navy: New World native. Smaller white bean. Soft but not creamily so. A pleasant neutral flavor.
  • Pinto: New World native. Pink-puff bean mottled with a deeper brown-burgundy. It cooks up plump, creamy, a little sweet, mild.

These bean varieties, and hundreds of others, have been used to create extraordinary dishes that represent a place in the world: locally grown ingredients and traditional flavor that truly give a taste of a place.

Various regions of the world are home to some of the most delicious bean dishes. Travel to Tuscany and try Ribollita, a hearty, broth-based soup similar to minestrone with the addition of stale, day-old bread to thicken the consistency. In Mexico, beans take center stage in Frijoles Refritos (Refried Beans), a classic dish featuring cooked, mashed pinto beans made with pork lard and onion. According to Mexican food authority Diana Kennedy, “mashed and fried beans can appear on a Mexican table three times a day: with breakfast eggs, as the main meat course at midday, and with evening tacos.” Pinto beans are the most commonly eaten bean in northern Mexico, while black beans are more common in southern Mexico.  And in Asian kitchens, you can find Rajmah, red kidney beans cooked with garlic, ginger, tomato sauce, and spices like cumin seed, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and asafoetida powder.

To begin your exploration of beans around the world, you don’t have to travel far. Simply visit The World Bean Kitchen: Passport to Flavor, a website supported by the Northarvest Bean Growers sharing global bean recipes and culinary insights from chefs at the Culinary Institute of America.  Also, be sure to read our interview with Mary Lee Chin for more insights into Beans in Asian Cuisines, and check out our March Fast Facts article to learn about other delicious global dishes.

Happy Cooking and Bean Appetite!

[1] Production Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved March 06, 2017, from http://www.usdrybeans.com/industry/production-facts/  

[2] Dragonwagon, C. (2011). Bean by Bean – A Cookbook. More than 175 Recipes from Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans! New York: Workman Pub. 

Fast Facts: 7 Inspiring Bean Dishes from Across the Globe

Beans are served across the globe and each region has its own varieties and flavor profiles to make them unique and delicious. Here we feature 7 dishes to give you a taste of how beans are enjoyed around the world.

From Egypt: Ful Mudammas

Ful mudammas is beans cooked with onion and tomato and is a popular morning meal in Egypt. Egyptians prepare ful with dry fava beans, but cranberry beans or pink beans work, too. They eat them whole, lightly mashed, or fully mashed, topped with olive oil, melted butter, a hard-boiled egg or a fried egg. According to an Arab saying, ful is “the rich man’s breakfast, the shopkeeper’s lunch, the poor man’s supper.”

From New Orleans: Red Beans and Rice

Every Monday, you can find a pot of red beans and rice cooking in someone’s kitchen in New Orleans. As the main port of the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans was a hub for chilies and spices from the Caribbean and Latin America. These seasonings were used to flavor the local beans and provide the unique flavors for this signature New Orleans dish.

From Peru: Tacu-Tacu

Tacu-tacu is a recipe that originated to use up leftover rice and beans. Leftover rice and seasoned beans are fried in a skillet to make a large patty. It is typically served with Peruvian salsa, but can also be served with leftover meats or a fried egg.

From Spain: Fabada

This traditional, and probably best-known, Spanish bean dish extends far beyond the Asturias region where it originated. Asturian cooks use large dry white beans and include sausages, smoked pork, bacon and paprika.

From Great Britain: Beans on Toast

With the advent of home toasters came countless variations of toppings and accompaniments. In England beans on toast has been a staple in the diet for decades. As a quick snack or light and easy dinner, this comforting and cost-effective meal is a go-to for Brits and friends across the globe.

From West Africa: Cachupa

This is a famous dish from the Cape Verde islands of West Africa. The dish includes corn, beans, cassava, sweet potatoes and meat or fish made into a slow cooked stew. It is often referred to as the country’s national dish.

From India: Rajma

Rajma is the definition of Indian comfort food. Also referred to as kidney bean curry, it is a cooked dish of red kidney beans, garlic, ginger, tomato sauce, and spices like cumin seed, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and asafetida powder. Accompanied with rice, it is a very popular dish across North India.




Put Your Best Fork Forward with Beans!

March is National Nutrition Month® and this year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” Choosing nutrient-rich foods is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, and beans are a key part of a healthy diet. Beans are rich in plant-based protein, fiber and a variety of other nutrients that are essential for health. There are also hundreds of varieties providing unique, versatile flavors. Bonus – they are also a good food for the planet, fixing nitrogen into the soil to reduce greenhouse gases. What’s not to love!

Make National Nutrition Month® as healthy as you can with beans. Here are 5 tips to put your best fork forward with beans every day!

1. Base Meals With Beans & Whole Grains – Building meals around beans and whole grains creates delicious meals that are easy and save you money. One of the best things about beans and grains is that you can make a large batch on a less busy day and it stores well for quick meals throughout the week. Beans and rice is the classic example, but get creative – ancient grains are popular right now and there are many options. Try pairing your favorite bean with quinoa, amaranth or farro. Toss in some roasted vegetables, a few nuts, and a heart-healthy vinaigrette, and you have a complete meal.
2. Beans On Salads – Salads are a great way to get enough vegetables in your diet and beans make a delicious addition. Add ½ cup beans to your favorite salad. Pinto or black beans go great on a taco salad, and white beans make a wonderful addition to Caesar salads. You can also try our “enlightened” Caesar Salad with Cannellini Bean Dressing. This recipe replaces the egg in Caesar dressing with cannellini or white beans. It decreases the calories and increases the potassium and fiber. It also provides a whole extra serving of vegetables!
3. Eat Plant Forward – Plant forward eating is not about giving up foods, but adding more delicious, flavorful plant foods into your everyday diet. Eating a diet filled with plants—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (the family beans belong to), nuts and seeds—is connected with living a longer, healthier life, and it’s a diet that’s good for the planet. Look for opportunities to add more plants to your diet. A simple idea – smoothies! They are a great way to get a wide variety of plant foods, and adding beans to your smoothie increases the protein, fiber and a variety of other key nutrients. Try our Berry Bean Smoothie. One serving provides 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber.
4. Beans for Breakfast – A healthy breakfast is key to an overall healthy diet, and a breakfast that includes beans provides high-quality protein and fiber that keep you nourished and satisfied all morning. An easy way to begin a healthy day is to enjoy a Breakfast Bean Burrito. Fill a whole grain 10” flour tortilla with a scrambled egg, ¾ cup canned, drained and rinsed reduced-sodium black or pinto beans, and ¼ cup shredded cheese. Roll tightly to form a burrito, place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for 45-60 seconds. Top with your favorite salsa and enjoy!
5. Cook At Home – Finally, a fun and easy way to put your best fork forward is to cook more meals at home. According to research from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, people who cook meals at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less. Cooking at home not only provides an opportunity to eat healthier, it’s also a way to put on your creative hat and experiment with new recipes, ingredients and flavors. Did you know beans are eaten all over the world? In collaboration with the Culinary Institute of America, we developed The World Bean Kitchen, your passport to discovering delicious bean cuisines from across the globe.

Cheers to a happy and healthy National Nutrition Month®, and we hope you all will put your best fork forward with beans!

Bean Bulletin Q&A with Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, RD

The Bean Institute recently sat down with Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, RD, professor and extension specialist with North Dakota State University (NDSU). Julie has done extensive research, writing and educating about how and why to regularly enjoy simply delicious, naturally nutritious beans.

BB (Bean Bulletin): Julie, you’ve done a lot of research and projects to promote bean use and consumption. Can you tell us a little about your “bean history”?

Julie: Actually, homemade bean soup was my favorite food as a child, so my history goes back a long way! In my role as a nutrition specialist, I have focused attention on beans and other members of the pulse family for many years because of their fiber, protein and overall excellent nutrition profile. We work with limited-resource families, and we let people know beans are an economical and versatile option on their menus. I also had the opportunity to be part of a five-year project with plant breeders who were working to identify bean varieties higher in natural antioxidants. Being involved from the “ground level” was exciting.

BB: That is exciting. Beans and other pulses are a pretty desirable food right now. Why are consumers looking to add more beans to their diet?

Julie: I think consumers have become aware of the need for foods higher in fiber.  And while beans are a good source of fiber, they also are a source of low-cost protein, so they provide a way to extend our food budget. Beans also “fix nitrogen” into the soil, to make it available to other plants, so they are good for the soil, too.

We did a national survey of 733 dietitians, nutrition educators and other food-related professionals who work directly with consumers. We wanted to learn their and their clients’ perceptions of beans. The professionals were aware of the protein content (98 percent), fiber (97 percent) and low-fat content (94 percent) but less aware of the folate (58 percent) and antioxidant (41 percent) content. Most rated their knowledge and use of beans higher than that of their clients. Based on their feedback, we used this information to create bean education resources for anyone to use.

You can read more about the study here: www.neafcs.org/assets/documents/journal/2016%20jneafcs.pdf

BB: Since you work with Extension, you provide education that helps all people try to live a healthy life. What are some of your key recommendations to make healthy living a priority?

Julie: We focus on simple strategies based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in our outreach to consumers. Key messages such as “fill half your plate with fruits and veggies” seem to resonate better with consumers than more complex messages. Of course, beans count as a vegetable or a protein, so they certainly fit within that message.

I am a strong believer in setting goals, and we often integrate goal-setting activities in our Extension education efforts. We have found significant improvements in healthful living behaviors when children and adults set goals and track their progress related to eating more fruits and vegetables, increasing their physical activity levels, having more family meals and getting enough sleep. Setting goals is the first step to achieving those goals.

BB: March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” What does it look like to put your “best fork forward”? And how does one put their “best fork forward” with beans?

Julie: As we developed and tested bean recipes, my student interns and I became more tuned in to the versatility of beans as menu items, ranging from salads to desserts. My students made the black bean brownie recipe several times, “just to test them”!

In putting your “best fork forward,” I would encourage others to try the various forms of beans available in grocery stores, including dry, canned and frozen. Keep your menus interesting by experimenting with the wide range of available recipes, including international cuisine.

BB: What are your favorite strategies to get more beans in your diet? And do you have any great tips for getting kids to like and eat their beans?

Julie: Being the mother of three, I have found the best strategy for getting my own kids to eat nutritious foods is to invite them into the kitchen to help me cook or to help grow vegetables in our backyard garden. My collaborators and I did a research project with preschoolers and their families a few years ago. We helped the children grow a wide range of beans, including dry edible beans and snap beans, in their preschool gardens. The children helped make simple recipes, such as black bean salsa and bean muffins. We found significant improvements in their willingness to taste foods if they helped grow and prepare them. We also found a significant increase in bean use at home among the families.

BB: Many consumers believe that eating healthy costs a lot. What are some ways consumers can eat well while saving money?

 Julie: Planning menus, shopping with a grocery list and eating at home more often are typical cost-saving strategies. I’d also recommend adding more beans to your grocery cart. Beans cost much less than animal-based protein, so they can help stretch our protein dollar while helping us get fiber and key nutrients in the process. In fact, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we include 3 cups of legumes in our diet every week.

BB: The research related to beans is always growing. What emerging area of bean research do you find most interesting or promising?

Julie: Beans increasingly are being shown to play a role in weight management and preventing and/or managing heart disease and diabetes. Canadian researchers reported that just one-fourth of a cup of beans/pulses per day reduced blood glucose levels by 20 percent. I am keeping my eyes open for new published research on the “MIND” diet. It combines the features of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. It includes beans and studies their role in potentially delaying the onset of dementia.

BB: Finally, we know you’ve developed a lot of bean recipes over the years. Do you have a favorite?

We have an entire cookbook of bean recipes, so choosing one is challenging. I always enjoy salsa, so here is one that combines tropical fruit and beans. See www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/bean-resources-1 for the entire cookbook and teaching materials.

Black Bean and Fruit Salsa

Credit: NDSU Extension Service

Black Bean Fruit Salsa-001
½ c. mango, peeled and cubed
1 c. papaya, peeled and diced
½ c. pineapple, diced
½ c. black beans, canned, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently to coat.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 40 calories, 1.5 g fat, 1 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 1.5 g fiber and 30 mg sodium.

5 Ways to #EatMoreBeans

Regularly consuming beans in any form (canned, dried or frozen) is good for your health and your wealth, and canned beans are a great time-saving ingredient. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend enjoying 3 cups of legumes (including beans) per week, which is about ½ cup per day. To make sure you meet your bean needs, here are 5 simple tips to #EatMoreBeans:

  1. Add drained and rinsed canned black beans to salsa. Serve with whole grain tortilla chips for a satisfying snack.
  2. Mash drained and rinsed canned pinto beans with a little extra-virgin olive oil and Italian seasoning. Mash to desired consistency and serve with whole grain pita chips and vegetables crudité.
  3. If you’re eating out and there’s a salad bar option, get it and be sure to choose beans.
  4. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Remember beans count as a vegetable or protein food.
  5. If you’re cooking up scrambled eggs for breakfast (or any meal), toss in your favorite bean for an extra dose of protein and fiber.

Home Cooking Tips from Chef-Dietitian Cheryl Forberg

For our January 2017 Q&A, we talked with Cheryl Forberg, a James Beard award-winning chef, best-selling author, and the nutritionist for NBC’s The “Biggest Loser” television show. A culinary expert as well as a registered dietitian, she has shared cooking and nutrition tips with the show’s contestants for seventeen seasons.

Cheryl received her culinary education at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. After graduation, she embarked on a European apprenticeship journey that included stints at top French restaurants from Champagne to Strasbourg. She later was chosen for the opening team of Postrio restaurant, Chef Wolfgang Puck’s first venture in Northern California.  She also worked as a private chef for Lucasfilm Ltd. in Northern California.

Forberg went on to earn a degree in nutrition and clinical dietetics from the University of California at Berkeley and to work as a research dietitian at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Forberg has written or contributed to 17 books, including her latest, A Small Guide to Losing Big. She has contributed articles and recipes to numerous culinary and health publications, including Prevention, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Parade, Shape, Fitness, Cooking Light, Health, US News and World Reports and The Washington Post.

Bean Bulletin (BB):  Cheryl, we know many dietitians who later pursued culinary training, but you took a different path, first becoming a chef and later becoming a dietitian. What prompted you to pursue this path?

Cheryl Forberg (CF): When I left the restaurant world to cook exclusively for private families, many of my clients had dietary restrictions, from low sodium to low calorie.  At the time, there were few chefs who knew about nutrition and few dietitians who were also chefs.  I felt I could go further for my clients if I understood the physiology of their eating requirements and requests. I attended the University of California, Berkeley to pursue a nutrition degree and RD credentials.

 BB: When you create recipes for home cooks, what principles or guidelines do you keep in mind? For example, when we create recipes, we always give people the option to use canned beans in place of starting with dry beans knowing that saving time in the kitchen matters to most home cooks. We also promote brining beans as a way to save time when starting with dry beans.

CF: While my time as a private chef was spent cooking for affluent clients with unlimited budgets, my time with “The Biggest Loser” reminded me that most Americans have a very limited budget and not a lot of time to cook.  My mother lives in a small town in Wisconsin and I use her as my tether.  If Mom can’t find or afford a particular ingredient, I usually leave it out of my recipes because I know that most of my readers will be in the same boat.

 BB: In your opinion, how do the acts of shopping for, preparing, and eating home-cooked meals contribute to better health?

CF:  There’s so much work to be done in terms of nutrition education.  If only people understood that a little more time in the kitchen, and a few more dollars spent each week on quality ingredients can equate to more healthy years ahead and lower medical costs. Everybody wins.

 BB: We know you’re an avid home gardener, and that you have some animals on your small farm as well. What advice do you have for people who want to grow more food at home, or eat more fresh, local, seasonal foods?

CF: Nothing tastes better than fresh. Even if you live in an apartment, a few pots of fresh herbs can add a magical finish to a simple home cooked meal—whether it’s a dusting of chopped parsley or a few shredded basil leaves. And if you do have room for a garden, start slowly with a few veggies and try to take local garden courses to learn which fruits and veggies work in your area and whether you have the great fortune to grow winter veggies as well.

BB: We also know you love beans. How often do you cook with them, and do you typically use dry beans, canned beans, or both?

CF: I adore beans. I love them not only because they’re a great source of fiber and protein, but also because they’re so versatile and SO inexpensive.  I usually have at least five different dried beans in my kitchen, and even if I only need a cup or two cooked beans in a recipe, I usually cook a whole pound and keep the rest on hand to add to salads or soups (or to put in the freezer for next time).  But I’m super busy like everyone else so I always keep cans of black, pinto, and garbanzo beans on hand. Hummus is my go-to appetizer for last minute guests, and I love to use different canned beans for that.

BB: What are your favorite bean dishes to cook at home?

 CF: I often experiment with different bean dishes to serve with grilled meat or for meatless meal. I usually add onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, mustard, oregano, chipotle, and smoked salt. Sometimes I add fire-roasted tomatoes and/or bacon.  I also love to add beer while they’re simmering instead of adding water, and I often finish with fresh cilantro and a lime squeeze.   I always have enough for leftovers so that I can top them with poached eggs for breakfast—farm fresh eggs from my chickens!

BB: What’s the best bean dish you’ve ever eaten, and why? Was it something you cooked, or something you ate at a restaurant?

 CF:  I love the bean dishes cooked at home because I know exactly what’s in them and I feel good about that. The best bean dish I recall in a restaurant is Lobhia Aur Khumbi that I ate at an Indian cafe in Berkeley called Ajanta.  Though the dish itself was vegetarian and the primary ingredient was black-eyed peas, which are technically a bean, it was loaded with umami-rich shiitakes and complex curry seasonings. It was memorable and absolutely scrumptious!

BB: Finally, what advice do you have for people who want to cook more at home?

CF: If you’re intimidated or afraid, take a class. It will do wonders for your confidence and give you great ideas. If you can’t take a class, buy a book or two or explore the wealth of great recipes online.  Start simple and get creative as you learn more and build confidence.

BB: Cheryl, thanks for taking the time amidst your very busy schedule to answer our questions. We love talking with bean lovers who also love cooking!

Inspiring People to Cook More at Home

Here at the Bean Institute, we truly believe cooking at home is important for good health, both physical and mental. We love reading cookbooks and magazines, searching for new recipes. We love grocery shopping, especially the leisurely weekend trips where more time can be spent looking for new ingredients. We think dicing onions can be a mindful, stress reducing activity. And we love the thrill we get from heading into the kitchen to try new recipes, ingredients, tools, and techniques. But we recognize that not everyone shares our passion for cooking.

For some, cooking is a chore, too time consuming to be considered enjoyable. For others, cooking is a mystery, something that is too challenging or complex to be understood or undertaken. We want to help change this.

Research Shows People Who Cook More Eat Better

Research published in Appetite in 2013 shows that European adults who enjoy cooking are most likely to cook at home. This is not a shocking finding. We do more of the things we enjoy and less of the activities we don’t. So how can we help people enjoy cooking more?

This research team also found that survey respondents who reported having the most cooking skills also consumed the most vegetables and the least convenience foods. These correlations support the notion that being able to prepare your own food may help people make more healthful food choices.

Chances are, if you’re reading this issue of The Bean Bulletin, you’re already a fan of beans and someone who likes to cook. We’d love to enlist your help in sharing your passion for cooking with beans. But where should we start? Where should we focus our efforts? Here are some simple tips.

Start with Dietary Guidance: What Are We Missing?

When we look at current eating patterns in the United States, we note that intake of vegetables, including beans, and dairy are far below recommended levels. In fact, for both vegetables and dairy, more than 80 percent of the U.S. population don’t meet the recommended intake levels.

Focus on Easy Recipes That Quickly Build Confidence

One of our favorite ways to get people in the kitchen to start building culinary confidence and competence is to start with a super easy recipe like our Buttermilk Banana Bean Smoothie. This recipe features a full serving of dairy and two servings of beans, which as you know, can count as either a vegetable and protein serving.

Teach People Techniques

While we all love new recipes, what most people need is training on culinary techniques that can be used over and over again. We love teaching people how to brine beans as well as the benefits of brining dry beans before cooking with them. Brining dry beans in salted water reduces the cooking time and the likelihood that beans will split or burst. We’ve also noticed a much creamier texture from the brined beans compared to simply soaking in water.

How to Brine Beans
For every cup of dry beans, use 1 ½ tablespoons of salt dissolved in 2 quarts of water. Soak beans in the brining liquid for 8 to 24 hours. Drain brining liquid, and use the beans in your favorite recipe.

Show, Don’t Tell

When it’s possible, show people how to make a new recipe. You can do this via culinary demonstrations or hands-on instructions.  We know of a physician who shows clients how to make smoothies in his office. He attended Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives years ago, and he was so inspired to teach people how to cook that he installed a dorm-size refrigerator and a blender in his office. He now shows his clients how easy it is to make a nutrient packed, delicious smoothie in minutes.

Cooking videos are another great way to show people how to make delicious recipes. We produced five videos in 2016, and we hope you’ll share these with patients, clients, friends, and family members.

Getting Protein at Breakfast with Beans

Getting protein at breakfast is important. In this short video, registered dietitians Amy and Megan will show viewers how to make two quick & easy breakfast recipes – a Berry Black Bean Smoothie and Breakfast Bean Burrito – using canned beans.

Making Quick & Easy Bean Dips

Making bean dips is fast and easy, and there are endless variations. In this short video, registered dietitians Amy and Megan show viewers how to make quick & easy bean dips using canned beans, extra virgin olive oil, and a few aromatics and spices to make creamy bean dips and spreads.

Do you have a success story related to inspiring people to cook more at home? If so, please share it with us. We may feature you in a future issue of The Bean Bulletin.


Tips for Elegant, Stress-free Holiday Entertaining

Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry. We’ve all likely heard this phrase, and while it’s lovely to enjoy all the holiday season has to offer, hosts may find their plates overflowing with to dos, with little time to relax and celebrate the season. However, with a little planning, prioritizing and self-care, the holidays can be enjoyed by one and all.

Here are 7 tips to embrace all the merriment the season has to offer.

  1. Get Organized: During the holiday season, calendars fill very quickly. Keep an appointment book and make sure you’re not overscheduling yourself. Also, as your event is approaching, make sure you have a detailed list of everything that needs to be done, as well as a timeline for when you’re going to do it. There are lots of tasks that can be done days, even weeks, in advance of a holiday party. Keeping organized and on schedule will keep you cool, calm and collected.
  2. Ditch Complicated Dining: While multi-course dining is a treat, the time, fuss and stress that accompanies it typically doesn’t match the reward. If hosting duties don’t allow you to relax and enjoy your company, it takes all the fun (and purpose) of bringing loved ones together. Consider cocktail foods (like our featured recipe: Pork & Pumpkin Empanadas) or one-pot meals instead of the large, sit-down, multi-course dining.
  3. Don’t Overdue Expensive Items: It’s generous and thoughtful to provide guests with luxurious foods, but don’t let it break the bank. Share a couple expensive items and economize on the rest. Fancy flatbreads and spreads are a great way to save money and enhance your holiday feast. Our Garlic & White Bean Bruschetta is a Spanish version on the classic Italian dish. It’s a beautiful hors d’oeuvre that exudes elegance but is simple and inexpensive.
  4. Potluck, Potluck, Potluck: When hosting friends or family, any good guest will typically ask, “What can I bring?” Make your list and be prepared to share suggestions that complete your menu and shorten your to-do list.
  5. Know What’s the Best Use of Your Time: Some foods that are absolutely worth the time and effort to make homemade, and others are just as good store bought. Most guests would rather have a calm, happy host and some prepared food than time-intensive dishes and stressful holiday dining. Take some help from the store and don’t apologize for it. Also, think about other time-intensive tasks on your to-do list. Determine if they are necessary or if there’s someone else who can take them off your list.
  6. Skip the Full Bar: Providing guests a full bar of drinks is very generous, but it’s time consuming and expensive. Instead offer one or two memorable holiday cocktails. There are tons of festive holiday drink recipes available on the Internet, and guests will enjoy trying something unique and special for your holiday gathering.
  7. Eat Well, Exercise & Get Enough Rest: It is essential to practice good self-care throughout the holidays. While it’s temporarily delicious and enjoyable to indulge in all the holiday treats, overdoing it will leave you unhappy and likely more stressed. Even when enjoying holiday parties, enjoy a variety of healthful foods. Focus on foods high in fiber like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans. Also, be sure to take time to make healthy meals, exercise and get enough rest outside of the holiday party shuffle.

 From the Bean Institute, we wish you all a happy, healthy holiday season. Cheers!

Q&A with Chef and Restaurateur, Andrea Baumgardner

“There is a lot of care in food. I think people can feel the love. It isn’t necessarily about how much time you’ve spent, but it’s about how engaged you are.”

Andrea Baumgardner, a Fargo, ND chef and restaurant owner sat down with us to share her tips and ideas for holiday entertaining, and how she incorporate simply delicious, naturally nutritious beans into festive meals. Andrea currently owns and operates BernBaum’s, a unique Fargo lunch counter blending Jewish and Icelandic cuisine.

Bean Bulletin: Can you tell us a little about your background and why you became a chef?

Andrea: I was a French major in college and I spent a year abroad in Europe. I became completely entranced with the food in France. I lived with a normal French family and they had normal French attention food but they really cared.  They made all their own meals – bought eggs from Corsica, produce from the market – it was just a part of the culture and this made sense to me. When I came back I decided to go to chef school.

BB: What’s your holiday entertaining like?

Andrea: Because I catered for so many years, I’ve gotten to a place where I don’t fuss like I used to. I used to spend 3 days cooking and the meal would be over in 30 minutes. You can’t help but feel resentful. Now, I really appreciate the time to be with people. I really like foods that can be room temperature or one-pot meals. It’s more about getting together with the people you love and less about the perfect meal.

BB: How would you describe the perfect holiday party?

Andrea: I think you need to keep the energy up. I’m a big fan of keeping things small and snack-like. There’s nothing that kills the energy of a party faster than making everyone sit down to a big, heavy meal or buffet.  I also think the perfect holiday party needs a festive drink – something fun and delicious.

BB: What tips or ideas can you share to make holiday entertaining more fun and less stressful?

Andrea: When I entertain I like to do a couple expensive items, like a smoked fish, shrimp or crab cakes and then economize a bit on other things. I think a beautiful cheese with fresh vegetables, grapes and dried fruit all goes over well. And these items are a little less expensive but delicious.

I also don’t believe you have to make everything from scratch and there are some really great store bought products that are worth the buy. You have to think about what’s the best use of your time.

Also, I think the best advice is to plan well but don’t sweat it. It’s more about connecting with people and having fun than wowing people with your skills. If something doesn’t turn out right, think about Julia Child and her advise- don’t apologize!

BB: What ideas do you have to give beans the delicious factor?

Andrea: Beans are flavor absorbers, so if you’re cooking dried beans add something to the liquid. At work we’ve been doing a lot with dried chiles, and I think they can add really interesting, smoky, dark notes. Beans need seasoning so salt and acids are important. You also want to think about ingredients that are going to infuse the beans with flavor – vinegar, lemon juice, really good olive oil, sea salt, maybe something spicy like curry. Beans can stand up to a lot so don’t be afraid to give them lots of flavor.

BB: For people having a holiday party with appetizer, do you have any bean recipes to recommend?

Andrea: Beans make an excellent addition to antipasti platters. I also like Italian or Turkish marinated beans spread on a toast or crostini. Mashed beans are always good – any variation on hummus. Also, everyone loves a 7-layer dip with refried beans. You could even rethink the 7 layer dip – maybe a black bean cake with crème fraiche and salsa!

BB: Do you have a favorite bean recipe to entertain with?

 Andrea: I really love beans. They are part of every culture and it’s fun to explore different cultural bean dishes. I have an Indian bean recipe where you soak beans, grind them and add some spinach to make cakes. You serve them with a date sauce. I also love Mexican style cooked beans – a little epizote, salt, garlic and some fat or a bone. Beans also do really well in salads too. I just really love beans.

To learn more about Andrea’s food philosophy, current restaurant and to see more photos of her kitchen, visit Zach Davis Photography’s Artist Study.

Photo credits: Zach Davis Photography | www.zachdavisphotography.com

Did You Know? 10 Facts about U.S. Holiday Traditions

  1. Approximately 25-30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. every year. There are approximately 350 million Christmas trees currently growing on farms and they are grown in all 50 states and Canada.
  2. Each year at Thanksgiving, the President receives a gift of a live turkey. At a White House ceremony, the president “pardons” the National Thanksgiving Turkey, allowing it to live out the rest of its life on a farm.
  3. The largest Easter egg ever made was 25 feet high and weighed over 8,000 pounds. It was made of chocolate and marshmallow and supported by an internal steel frame.
  4. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1924.
  5. U.S. growers produce over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins each year. The top producing states are Illinois, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan. Pumpkins are native to Central America and Mexico but now grow on six continents.
  6. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third Presidents of the United States, both died on July 4, 1826—the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
  7. The first celebrated U.S. Labor Day was Tuesday, September 6, 1882 in New York City. At this celebration, 10,000 workers marched from City Hall to 42nd Street and then met with their families in Wendel’s Elm Park for a picnic, concert, and speeches.
  8. About 4% of all the candy consumed in the United States occurs on a single day – Halloween.
  9. In 1906, “O Holy Night” became the second song to ever be broadcast on the radio.
  10. The top three places to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the United States are New York City, Las Vegas and Disney World.

Giving Thanks for Beans with Constance Brown-Riggs

For this month’s Q&A, we talked with Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN, a certified diabetes educator and author of Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes, a guide that helps African-Americans with diabetes learn how to prepare and enjoy traditional ethnic fare from the American South and the Caribbean, and The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes, which takes a body/mind/spirit approach to daily self-care. A past spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Constance is also frequently quoted as a featured expert in national magazines such as Essence, Real Health, Diabetic Cooking, and in newspapers across the country.

 Bean Bulletin: Connie, you’ve focused much of your work on helping people with diabetes take pride in their food culture. How do beans fit into the food cultures of the Africa, the American South, the Caribbean and West Indies?

 CBR: Beans have been a staple of traditional diets of the African diaspora for thousands of years. In fact, traditional heritage diets were plant-based with very small amounts of meat used as flavoring.

 BB: There are so many nutrition and health benefits of beans. What do you tell your patients and readers with diabetes about the role of beans in the diet?

 CBR: Beans of all types are packed with protein and fiber, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels. Fiber-rich foods like beans slow the conversion of sugar or starch into glucose. The result is more stable blood sugar after meals.

 BB: We’re rather obsessed with the nutrition benefits of beans, including their potassium content and low glycemic index. And we know you’re concerned about rates of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes among African Americans living in the U.S. We also know many patients with diabetes think they need to avoid beans because “they’re too starchy.” What do you tell your patients and clients about the role of beans in healthful diets for people with diabetes?

 CBR: Research shows that a diet rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Beans are a good source of potassium and should be included in the diet. It’s so important that I clear up any confusion regarding beans starch content. I help my patients understand that starch is a type of carbohydrate. Ultimately it is the glycemic index of a food and total amount of carbohydrate in a meal or snack that matters. Foods like beans, that are high in fiber have a low glycemic index. If they balance starchy food and fiber in the meals for an ideal number of carbs, they can and should enjoy beans!

 BB: We’re approaching the New Year, a time when many of us think about weight loss. Do you have advice for our readers who counsel patients about the role of beans in weight loss diets?

 CBR: Absolutely! When it comes to weight loss, eating beans gives your patients more for less. Because beans are packed with fiber and protein they provide satiety—a greater sense of fullness after a meal. And beans are naturally low in fat providing fewer calories per serving compared to a serving of animal protein.

 BB: We know beans are a part of traditional diets in many parts of the world. We also know many people who move to the U.S. acclimate to our eating habits and lose touch with their food traditions that are often more healthful than the typical American diet. How can we as nutrition and health educators help our patients embrace their food cultures and traditional foods?

 CBR: Culture and heritage can be unique motivators for positive lifestyle change. It’s important for nutrition and health educators to increase their knowledge of their patients’ cultural foods and eating patterns, and then engage in conversations with patients regarding their family’s heritage and food traditions. Often the response is one of nostalgia as the patient recalls how their family used to eat…how the food was grown and prepared. Connecting that experience with the health benefits of the traditional way of eating is a strong motivator for them to reclaim their food traditions.

 BB: This issue of the Bean Bulletin is focused on gratitude and giving thanks. When you think about beans, what makes you thankful?

 CBR: I’m thankful that I have a high-quality source of plant-based protein that I can feel good about recommending to my patients. I’m thankful beans are affordable, versatile, and they taste good, too! I’m also thankful for the variety of beans throughout the regions of the African diaspora—from black beans in the Caribbean to pinto beans in Central and South America.

 BB: Finally, what are some of your favorite bean recipes? Do you have a favorite bean, or do you cook with and develop recipes for many types of beans?

 CBR: My husband who is from Louisiana—where red beans are very popular—is the cook in our home. Canned and dry red kidney beans are always in our pantry. Red kidney beans and rice, accompanied by a piece of warm corn bread, is one of my favorite meals. However, growing up, lima beans and black eyed peas where the staples in our diet.

 BB: Connie, thanks for sharing your insights and expertise with us. We are exceedingly grateful for your time and willingness to contribute to this issue!

Eight Great Reasons Beans are a Blessing

As holiday season kicks into gear, we wanted to give you eight reasons to be joyful for beans!

Beans are simply delicious, versatile ingredient.

dark-red-kidney-beansBeans are an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be incorporated into any meal. They work well in both sweet and savory applications. Beans can be prepared very simply and served as a delicious side dish, or they can be added to more complex dishes to boost protein, fiber, and flavor. One of our favorite ways to enjoy simply delicious beans this time of year is to sauté cooked or canned beans with olive oil, onion, sage, salt and pepper. This simple side dish pairs well with roast turkey.

Beans are naturally nutritious.

Beans are a nutrient-rich food. All types of beans—including black, cranberry, great northern, dark red kidney, light red kidney, white kidney, navy, pink, pinto, and small red—are good sources of protein, excellent sources of fiber, and naturally fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free. Many types of beans are also good sources of potassium.

 Beans promote healthy blood pressure.

Beans are one of the foods highlighted in the DASH diet. DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Created by researchers, the DASH diet was designed to see if a healthful eating pattern could work as well as medication for controlling blood pressure. Researchers were surprised to learn that this diet is more powerful than medication! Additional research suggests the DASH diet may also reduce risk of certain cancers, stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. The DASH diet recommends eating beans most days of the week. This dietary patterns also highlights fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy.

 Beans are a sustainable crop.

Beans are part of the legume family. The roots of legume plants have nodules on them that house good bacteria that can convert nitrogen in the air into a form that plants can use, thereby reducing the need for natural or synthetic fertilizer. The nitrogen-rich soil from legumes makes other crops like wheat, planted in the same field in subsequent years, even more productive.

Beans are a gluten-free food.

People who need to avoid gluten for medical reasons or people who choose to avoid gluten for other reasons can enjoy beans. They are a gluten-free food that can enhance protein and fiber intake. Beans are also a good source of iron and an excellent source of folate, nutrients of concern for people who follow gluten-free diets.

Beans are a prebiotic food.

Beans provide non-digestible carbohydrates called oligosaccharides that provide food for the good bacteria in our gut, which may enhance health in many ways. Emerging research is exploring relationships between the gut microbiome and immunity. What we eat may be as important as what we feed our gut in terms of enhancing health and increasing longevity.

Beans are a low glycemic food.

The carbohydrates in beans come in many forms, including starch, non-starch polysaccharides, resistant starch, and oligosaccharides. The digestible carbohydrate fractions are broken down slowly in our bodies. Consuming low glycemic foods like beans may provide significant benefits when it comes to weight management and blood glucose management, especially if low glycemic foods take the place of higher glycemic foods.

Beans are an affordable source of plant-based protein.

Beans are one of the lowest-cost per serving protein foods. A ½ cup serving of cooked dry beans costs a mere $0.14 per serving. Compare that to a serving of lean ground beef at $1.32. If a family of four substitutes dry beans for lean ground beef twice a week for a year, they could save about $490!

These are a just a few of the reasons we give thanks for simply delicious, naturally nutritious beans. Let us know why you give thanks for beans via Instagram, Facebook, X, or email.


What Creates Healthy, Productive Bean Plants?

Walk into your local supermarket and you’ll discover dozens of different canned and dry beans, as well as hundreds of food products that contain beans. Beans are a healthful, important food. They are economical and packed with filling nutrients, and they are good for the environment. It’s wonderful to have a consistent supply of this simply delicious, naturally nutritious food, and we have farmers to thank for this!

Farmers work diligently and make countless decisions to ensure that healthful, high quality beans end up on our plates. If you know anything about agriculture (or have a garden), you understand that every crop is different and has unique needs. Here are 6 key considerations farmers make to create healthy, productive bean plants.

  1. Class & Variety

There are many bean classes and varieties available, and a farmer decides what to plant depending on their growing region (i.e. soil type and climate), yield (i.e. growth potential) and markets (i.e. places to sell). In the Northarvest growing region of North Dakota and Minnesota, which is North America’s largest supplier of dry beans, farmers raise 10 classes of dry-edible beans including black, cranberry, Great Northern, navy, pink, pinto, light red kidney, dark red kidney, white kidney and small red. Within each class there are many varieties of bean seeds a farmer can choose. The growing season in Northarvest features long, warm summer days and temperate nights, ideal to maximize bean quality and quantity.

  1. Soil

Dry beans grow best on well-drained soil because they are susceptible to moisture issues, including fungal diseases. Farmers plant dry beans on soils that have good drainage, as well as the right nutrients and hydrogen level (pH). Farmers test their soil for nutrients and pH levels to make sure it is optimal for the type of dry bean they wish to grow, and they will make adjustments if necessary.

  1. Rotation

Crop rotation is essential to producing healthy plants and reducing disease. Different crops take out and put back different nutrients in soil, so it is important to not grow the same crop on the same soil year after year. Dry-edible beans are nitrogen-fixating crops, meaning they put nitrogen back into the soil. Many farmers use beans as an important part of their crop rotation because nitrogen is an essential nutrient for growing healthy, productive plants. Nitrogen fixation is unique attribute of beans and other legumes.

  1. Planting

When beans are planted depends on what region of the country they are growing. Beans don’t tolerate cold weather and they a take about 100 days to mature, so a farmer’s goal is to plant beans when the fear of frost has passed and to harvest before the fall frost. In Northarvest country, this means planting in mid to late May and harvesting in early September.

  1. Pest Management

Farmers work diligently to manage anything that will reduce the healthfulness of their bean plants. A bean plant’s potential enemies include weeds, insects and diseases. Farmers utilize a number of techniques to manage these pests, including crop rotation (as previously mentioned), tillage, row spacing, and certain pesticides and herbicides (if necessary). There are also certain varieties that have been developed to resist pests. These varieties are very helpful to grow healthy, high-quality beans with less input.

  1. Harvest

Unlike green beans that are harvested immatureone-girl-in-bean-field-portrait, dry-edible beans are left to dry in their pod. They are harvested when they have lost a significant amount of their moisture but not too much because they don’t want the shells to shatter. Farmers will test their beans for moisture levels (goal is about 18% moisture) and also look for pods that are yellow and brown. Farmers will either swath (cut the plant) or directly harvest the bean with a combine. Allowing beans to dry before harvest allows beans to be minimally processed, require no refrigeration or freezing, and to be shipped all over the world.

Want to learn more about bean production in Northarvest country? Check out our October Bean Bulletin interviews with Mark and Leann, two dry-edible bean farmers in Northarvest country.

Meet Our Growers – Q & A with Two Northarvest Bean Growers

In this month’s Q &A we chatted with two bean growers in Northarvest country to learn about their farms, why they love BEAN a farmer, and how they grow the simply delicious, naturally nutritious beans we all love.

Mark Dombeck is a farmer/rancher in west central Minnesota, where the majority of kidney beans are grown in the United States. He raises kidney beans, corn, alfalfa and dairy cows along with his two sons and son-in-law. Mark has been farming for 40 years.

Leann Shafer is a farmer/rancher in central North Dakota. She grew up on a farm/ranch in western North Dakota, and is currently farming alongside her husband, sons and father-in-law. They are a fifth-generation farm/ranch and raise pinto beans, corn, soybeans, and oats. They also have a commercial Angus cow-calf operation and feedlot.

 BB: Why did you become a farmer?

MARK: Like many people who farm, I was raised on a farm and it is what I’ve been doing my whole life. But I decided to become a farmer because I like caring for crops and watching things grow. I also really enjoy caring for animals. Some people have gardens and pets; I just have a really big garden and lots of pets!  Also, we know the world’s population is growing and we are going to need more food to feed the world. I like to know I’m doing my part.

LEANN: I became a farmer because it is what I grew up doing. I was raised on a fourth generation family farm/ranch in western North Dakota. After I married my husband we moved back to his family farm in central North Dakota and have been farming and ranching there ever since. We have three children, two of which are currently farming with us [see photo], along with my father-in-law.

BB: What’s the day-to-day life of being a farmer?

MARK: The day-to-day life of farming is pretty much sun up to sun down.  The clock doesn’t mean much and the day of the week doesn’t mean anything. The biggest indicator of what you’re going to do is weather related. You have to be willing to change your plans at the last minute. And even though we’re not “actively farming” in the winter, we’re still busy planning, budgeting and getting ready for next season.

LEANN: Since our operation has both crops and cattle, we find something to do all seasons of the year. Spring is the hopeful season. We look forward to putting seed in the ground and calving. Summer is the tending season. We’re busy spraying for weeds, making hay, checking pastures, and watching the crops grow. Fall is harvest season. Depending on the spring, harvest can start in July with oats, August for pinto beans, September for soybeans and October for corn. We wean calves in August/September and put them in the feedlot and put the cows back out on pasture until corn harvest is complete, then bring them home to graze the corn fields before winter sets in. During the winter we feed cows, work in the shop, plan for spring and get ready to do it again next year.

BB: For people who know nothing about growing beans, can you tell me a little about growing and harvesting? How do you know when beans are ready to harvest?

MARK: Growing kidney beans is a lot like growing any other garden vegetable. They don’t tolerate much cold weather so we usually plant around Memorial Day and harvest around Labor Day. We harvest in the dry form so that they can be processed and shipped all over the world. Because they are harvested like this, they don’t need any further refrigeration or processing.

LEANN: We grow pinto beans, which are a legume crop. They are sensitive to frost, so they can’t be planted too early. They don’t like “wet feet” so we put them on fields with good drainage or lighter soil type. We know the beans are ready for harvest when the pods get dry and brittle and the beans harden. You can shell out the beans and take a moisture test. Less than 16% moisture is considered dry and ready for the processing plant.

BB: Many consumers are interested in growing healthy food for a healthy planet. What practices do you use on your farm to grow food in a sustainable way that protects the environment and promotes soil health?

MARK: Like many other industries, the digital world is definitely shaping our business. We use a technique called grid soil sampling where we take a soil sample from small sections of our land. Based on the lab analysis of this sample, we know exactly what the soil needs. That way, when we plant seeds and apply fertilizer, we apply the proper amount and not extra. After the plants are growing we do a leaf tissue analysis. This allows us to see if the plant has the right amount of nutrients or if it needs anything. That way if we need to add or change something, we can. Our animals’ diets are also lab-test and science based. Everything we do is science based, whether it’s food for our plants or food for our animals.

LEANN: Farmers are constantly looking to become more efficient and productive, which in turn means healthier soils. Edible beans are legumes, which fix nitrogen into the soil. By planting edible beans in our crop rotation, we are able to reduce the amount of fertilizer needed for next year’s crop. We also use minimal till farming which reduces wind and water erosion and promotes a healthy soil biomass.

BB: As a farmer, what do you wish people knew more about what you do?

mark-dombeckMARK: I wish more people understood what a family farm is, and that we are a family farm. We really understand and care about every single thing that happens on our farm. Everything we do we do in a sustainable manner because we want to make sure it will be here for future generations. I am leaving the soil and animals in better condition for the next generation because if you don’t do it that way, it just won’t work.

LEANN: I think farming is one of the most important jobs a person can do. We are very fortunate to have such a safe, abundant, affordable food supply in this country. Our philosophy is that if you take care of the land, the land will take care of you. We work hard to do a good job and be productive, and we’re also looking to the future when the land will be passed on to the next generation of farmers. The food we raise is the food we feed our own families, so it is safe. We are faced with many challenges throughout the year and each day is different. Mother Nature plays a huge role in our success each year, as well as the markets.  You have no control over either one. Sometimes you work all year long and don’t get a paycheck. But we love the land and the lifestyle so we always try again next year.

BB: Finally, the most important question, what’s your favorite bean? And what’s your favorite bean dish?

MARK: I’m a little prejudice because I grow kidney beans, so I have to say kidney beans are my favorite. And my favorite dish would be chili, with an extra amount of kidney beans in it. I also like my kidney beans in soups and salads.

LEANN: I like all types of beans, but black beans have become my favorite. They’re so versatile – you can add them to salads, entrees and soups. My favorite bean dish is Calico Beans. It’s a baked bean dish with navy, pinto, kidney, and lima beans, ground beef and bacon.


Fast Bean Farming Facts

Want to impress your friends with your bean farming knowledge? Here are 5 key farming facts to share with friends and family:

1. Beans are members of the legume family, which includes beans, lentils, peas, peanuts and soybeans. These plants contribute to soil health through nitrogen fixation, a process where atmospheric nitrogen is converted into a form of nitrogen plants can use.
2. Each acre of land in the U.S. planted to beans will produce 1,500 to 2,800 pounds of beans, depending on location, weather and soil conditions.
3. In 2015, U.S. farmers in 19 states produced more than 2.97 billion pounds of dry beans. The top five beans producing states were North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Idaho.
4. In 2015, the top five types of beans produced in the U.S. were pinto beans (32%), black beans (19%), navy beans (15%), kidney beans (7%) and small red beans (4%).
5. American farmers grow approximately twice as many pinto beans as any other beans.

Q&A with A Renowned Chef, Cookbook Author, and Restaurateur

In this month’s Q&A we feature Chef Joyce Goldstein. For twelve years she was chef/owner of the ground-breaking Mediterranean Restaurant, SQUARE ONE, in San Francisco, which received numerous prestigious industry awards for food, wine and service. Prior to SQUARE ONE, Joyce was chef of the Cafe at Chez Panisse for three years. She was also Visiting Executive Chef of the Wine Spectator Restaurant at The Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley.

Joyce was voted San Francisco magazine’s Chef of the Year in 1992 and received the James Beard Award for Best Chef in California for 1993, and the lifetime achievement award from Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, of which she is a Founding Board Member.

Joyce is a prolific cookbook author, cooking teacher, and lecturer. Her cookbook titles include The Mediterranean Kitchen, Back to Square One, winner of both the Julia Child and James Beard Awards for Best General Cookbook of 1992, and Kitchen Conversations, an IACP book award nominee in 1997. She is the author of Antipasti, Italian Slow and Savory (IACP and James Beard award nominee), Solo Suppers, Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen, Sephardic Flavors: Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean, Enoteca: Simple, Delicious Food from Italian Wine Bars, Saffron Shores: Jewish Cooking of the Southern Mediterranean, Mediterranean Fresh, and Tapas. Her most recent books include The New Mediterranean Jewish Table and Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years that Changed our Culinary Consciousness.

BB: You’ve published many cookbooks on Mediterranean cuisine. Are beans a part of all Mediterranean cuisines, or are some parts of the Mediterranean more likely to use beans in their cuisines?

JG: Beans are popular throughout the Mediterranean. White beans (i.e., white kidney beans, a.k.a. cannellini beans) are popular in Italy. Gigantes (large white butter beans) are used in Greek cuisine. Garbanzo beans are very popular in many regions.

BB: You’ve talked extensively about the tradition of cooking beans with greens in the Mediterranean. What are some of your favorite beans and greens dishes?

JG: This list is long! But here are some of my favorites:

  • Greek Sopa de Avikas (White Bean Soup)
  • Italian Pasta with Shrimp, White Beans, Greens, and Toasted Breadcrumbs
  • Italian Stew of White Beans, Greens and Tomatoes from Livorno (Tuscany)
  • Italian Minestrone with Pasta, Cannellini Beans, and Swiss Chard
  • Spanish Sopa de Garvansos y espinacas (Garbanzo and Spinach Soup)

BB: What process do you use when you cook with dry beans at home? Do you do a slow soak, a quick soak, a hot soak, a brine?

JG: I soak overnight, rinse, cover with fresh water, and cook slowly.

BB: What advice do you have for home cooks who want to cook with dry beans more often at home?

JG: Soaking the beans overnight makes them easier to cook. If you forget to soak overnight, then you can use a “hot soak” method. Boil the beans for a minute or two, let rest for an hour, drain and then cook as if you had soaked them overnight. But be sure to cook them over low heat so they don’t explode.  Add salt the last 15 or 20 minutes. You can store cooked beans in their cooking liquid in the refrigerator for a few days.

BB: When you think about putting together the perfect pantry for Mediterranean cooking, what ingredients do you always have on hand?

JG: Olive oil, onions, garlic, lemons, spices and herbs, canned tomatoes, dried beans, rice, farro, and pasta.

BB: What pantry ingredients are essential when you’re cooking with dry beans?

JG: Onions, garlic, bay leaves, sometimes carrots.

BB:  What was the most popular bean dish on your menu at SQUARE ONE and why do you think it resonated so well with your customers?

JG: Brazilian Feijoada, which is made with black beans, pork, rice, and greens.  Everyone loved it. But it’s not Mediterranean. It was festive; we only served it on weekends, as a “party dish” to share among family and friends.

BB: What’s the best bean dish you’ve ever eaten in a restaurant?

JG: Ah…a fabada Asturiana in Spain, a stew made with large white beans and sausage. It’s so comforting. And so delicious!



Cooking with Dry Beans: Food Science Insights and Strategies from Dr. Guy Crosby

Editor’s Note: Dr. Guy Crosby of America’s Test Kitchen will be speaking with Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND at the 2016 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) on Sunday, October 15 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. in a session titled “Delicious Plant-Based Dietary Guidance: Food Science and Culinary Strategy.” Amy interviewed Dr. Crosby for this article that provides insights into research from America’s Test Kitchen work on cooking with dry beans.

Guy Crosby, PhD, CFS, is the science editor for America’s Test Kitchen, publisher of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines. He is co-author of The Science of Good Cooking, published by America’s Test kitchen. Guy is also an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health where he teaches a course on food science and technology.

AMY: In your book The Science of Good Cooking, you provide information on cooking with dry beans, advice that reduces cooking time and improves texture. This advice is based on extensive research conducted by you and your colleagues at America’s Test Kitchen. Why were you interested in doing research and sharing information on cooking with dry beans?

GUY: Beans are a very healthy food, rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, and a form of starch called resistant starch, which is proven to be very beneficial for gut health. I have been involved with research on resistant starch for almost 20 years so dry beans are a food of great interest to me. Beans contain the highest level of resistant starch. Dry beans are also very inexpensive and readily available, especially for people with limited incomes. Dry beans last a very long time because of their low water content; they are not susceptible to attack by bacteria, mold and fungi. Thus, dry beans offer a source of healthy food that is cheap, readily available, and can be stored for years without food safety problems.

AMY: I was intrigued to read in The Science of Good Cooking that instead of soaking dry beans prior to cooking, you recommend brining the beans. This is advice I’d never seen before. Many sources recommend not putting salt in the soaking or cooking water, saying that doing so will cause the beans to not fully soften. Can you explain the brining process and how brining reduces cooking time and improves texture?

GUY: The slow step in cooking dry beans is absorption of water into the beans to turn them soft, as well as gelatinize of the starch that must be cooked in order to be digestible. Water can only be absorbed into the beans through a tiny opening called the micropyle, so the process is quite slow. Soaking beans in water for many hours reduces cooking time. However, in a pot of beans some beans may cook faster than others. This can lead to some beans bursting their skins, while other beans may not be cooked enough to be soft and creamy inside.

Brining beans involves the same process as soaking in plain water except the brine contains a low concentration of salt (sodium chloride). During brining the sodium ions slowly exchange with calcium ions that are part of a very large molecule called pectin. Pectin strengthens the cell walls in the beans, and calcium strengthens pectin. So natural pectin can produce skins on the outside of dry beans that are difficult to soften and expand, and can eventually burst when the inside of the beans become over-cooked. Exchanging sodium for calcium ions during brining weakens the pectin so the skins become more flexible and can expand without bursting as the interiors to cook to a soft creamy interior.

Thus, brining accomplishes two things: Brining provides water to soften the beans and reduce cooking time, while simultaneously producing beans that do not burst while cooking to the desired soft, creamy texture. Surprisingly, during brining very little salt is absorbed by the beans. Laboratory tests have shown that beans brined for many hours absorb only 52 milligrams of sodium per 3 ounces of brined beans.

AMY: This is fascinating research. I’m especially pleased to hear that brined beans absorb so little sodium.

You also recommend cooking beans in an alkaline cooking environment. What do you mean by “alkaline environment” and what tips do you have for home cooks related to this advice?

GUY: An alkaline environment for cooking dry beans is created by adding a tiny amount of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to the cooking water. An alkaline environment means the water has a pH slightly above neutral pH, which is pH 7. The addition of baking soda to the cooking water does two things: It adds sodium ions that weaken the pectin as explained above, and more importantly, an alkaline environment causes the pectin molecules to break down into smaller molecules that greatly weakens the pectin causing the beans to soften much more rapidly. Beans cooked with a tiny amount of baking soda (about one teaspoon per cup of dry beans) added to the cooking water cook in about half the time as beans cooked without.

AMY: The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we eat 1 ½ cups of legumes (beans and peas) each week (at the 2,000 calorie level), but few Americans are reaching this goal. What other advice do you have for home cooks who want to cook more often with dry beans to enhance their family’s legume intake?

cook-with-beans-v3-small-for-webGUY: Since dry beans can take more attention to cook just right, it turns out that baking beans in the oven provides much more control compared with cooking on the stovetop. Beans cooked in the oven are exposed to more consistent milder heat producing beans that are more consistently cooked with creamy soft interiors and tender intact skins. Also, since beans physically absorb water as they soak and cook, adding water-soluble flavoring ingredients to the water (or brine) increases the flavor of the beans. Thus crushed garlic, onion, thyme, mustard, rosemary, sugar, molasses, and bay leaves added to the soaking and/or cooking water will add flavor to beans.

AMY: This is wonderful advice. In fact, we love this so much we’re including a wonderful Classic Baked Beans recipe as our Recipe of the Month for September. It’s a comforting supper dish for cooler fall nights. Speaking of cooking beans on cool fall nights, when you cook beans at home what equipment do you use?

GUY: For beans that require a long time to cook (i.e., larger dry beans like Great Northern, kidney, or navy) I cook the beans in the oven in a heavy Dutch oven. The heavy Dutch oven absorbs and distributes heat slowly and evenly and results in evenly cooked beans.

AMY:  We know Americans, on average, eat 21% of meals away from home, many of them in restaurants. What’s the best bean dish you’ve ever eaten in a restaurant?

GUY: I would have to say roasted chicken or lamb (and sometimes roasted whole fish) served on top of seasoned cannellini beans. The seasoning complements the meat, such as rosemary with lamb or sage with chicken. The beans offer a flavorful, healthy alternative to pasta or rice, especially when cooked with extra virgin olive oil. When I see one of these on the menu I usually order.

AMY: Well now you’re got me craving Grilled Shrimp with Rosemary White Beans. Now I know what I’ll make for dinner tonight! What are your favorite bean recipes to make at home?

GUY: I have a number of favorite bean dishes such as new England-style baked beans (both navy and kidney style beans), baked cannellini beans to accompany meat, and a number of soups with cannellini beans, sausage and kale, as well as black bean soup, and Tuscan bean stew.  I love cooking dry beans and really can’t boil it down to a single recipe. They’re all great!

AMY: Guy, thanks for these amazing insights. We appreciate respect for science and your love of beans!

Fast Facts: Beans in Schools

• Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) must offer at least ½ cup of beans and peas (legumes) per week as part of the Vegetable requirement.

• Beans can also be counted as a meat-alternate (MA) in the National School Lunch Program.

• A ¼ cup of beans counts as 1 oz. for the Meat/Meat-Alternate meal component.

• Beans can be counted as a vegetable or meat-alternate in a single meal but not both!

• The term “beans and peas (legumes)” refers to beans, peas, and other legumes that are harvested in the dry form including black, Great Northern, kidney, navy, pink, pinto, and small red beans as well as black-eye peas, chickpeas, lentils, mature lima beans, split peas, and mature soybeans.

• The USDA Food Buying Guide for Schools includes a wide variety of beans in both the dry and canned form, including black, Great northern, kidney, navy, pink, pinto and small red beans as well as refried beans and baked beans.

• Beans are naturally rich in dietary fiber.

• Beans are naturally fat, cholesterol, and sodium free!

• Draining and rinsing canned beans can remove up to 40% of the added sodium.

New Ideas for Serving Beans in Schools

A Q & A with Two School Nutrition Leaders

We had some wonderful conversations with school nutrition professionals at the School Nutrition Association Annual Nutrition Conference this past July in San Antonio about how beans are used in schools. Our short conversations on the exhibit hall floor led us to ask a few more in-depth questions with two leaders in school nutrition, Donna Martin and Lisa Feldman.

HEADSHOT - Donna MartinDonna Martin, EdS, RDN, LD, SNS, FAND, is the director of the School Nutrition Program for Burke County Board of Education in Waynesboro, Georgia. Her school nutrition program serves breakfast, lunch, after-school snacks, and supper to 4,500 students in five schools. Donna is a member of the School Nutrition Association Foundation’s board of directors and the 2016-2017 president-elect of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Alabama – Birmingham and an education specialist degree from Augusta State University.

HEADSHOT - Lisa FeldmanLisa Feldman, CRC, is the director of Culinary Services for the Sodexo Culinary Solutions Center and a certified research chef. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Lisa joined Sodexo in 2001 where she has served in a variety of culinary development and training roles. For many years she led culinary development for their K-12 programs. She is a member of The Culinary Institute of America Healthy Kids Collaborative, a membership-based initiative that brings together school nutrition leaders who want to bring more chef-driven, speed scratch foods to our nation’s schools.


BB: What types of beans are most commonly served in your schools?

DM: Our students are used to eating beans at home so we have pretty good success with offering beans in our schools.  We offer a black bean and corn salad that is new and has gotten pretty popular.  We offer refried beans on taco days, and we do red beans and rice with link turkey sausage.  We have a taco soup recipe that is one of our students’ favorites that has pinto and kidney beans in it.  Our kids really like baked beans, too! 

LF: We operate in schools across the country. We use a great variety of beans, including refried, black, kidney, pinto, navy, and Great Northern. We take advantage of any beans offered through the USDA Foods program.

BB: What opportunities do you see for serving a greater variety of beans and bean-containing dishes in your schools?

DM: Because of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, we have to offer dried peas, beans and legumes at least weekly so we are always looking for new bean recipes to incorporate into our menus. 

LF:  I see a huge opportunity for using beans not only as a vegetable but also as a cost-effective protein substitute for animal protein.  I think we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to fully creditable entrees that are plant forward where beans are the featured protein.  I also see an opportunity for more global dishes in schools that are representative of students’ cultural backgrounds and heritage.

BB: How are beans used in salad bar programs in your schools? 

DM: We don’t do salad bars.  We do packaged salads and currently do not put any beans in those packaged salads.

LF: They are used both drained/rinsed unseasoned and in bean-based salads and salsas.

BB: What differences do you see among bean acceptance for K-5 students compared to middle and high school students? 

DM: High school kids revert back to thinking all food is gross.  They eat it in elementary school and middle school, but then when they get to high school it somehow becomes “gross.”

LF: For K-5 kids, dishes need to be less complex and not so spicy.  I think there is more of a texture issue with whole beans.  The smaller kids love refried beans, black bean spread, and hummus.  The older kids are more likely to eat dishes with intact beans.

BB: What bean dishes do you wish you could serve in your schools?

DM: I wish the kids liked three bean salad and black bean soup, but right now those types of menu items are not popular.

LF:  I want our students to eat dishes that are globally inspired.  I know the kids will eat them, but it’s tough to get through the “adult menu hurdle” and get these dishes on the menu.  We recently created a killer recipe for Pozole. I’m interested to see how many menus it ends up on.

 Editor’s Note: Pozole is a traditional stew from Mexico. While there are endless variations, the classic recipe contains pork, chiles, onions, hominy, and spices. Pozole is typically topped with shredded cabbage, diced radishes, and diced avocado.

BB: Lisa, as a chef, are beans an ingredient you use because you have to (e.g., because of school lunch program regulations) or are they an ingredient you are inspired to use?

LF: I love to use beans because they are delicious, create interesting texture, and are inexpensive.  I don’t use them because I have to.  I use them because they are a blank canvas.

BB: What advice do you have for product developers interested in developing new products for schools that contain beans? 

DM: We would love to have an item we could put in a bag lunch that kids would eat and would count as a bean and legume serving. Or something we could use in summer feeding that would count as a bean serving.

LF: I’d like to see more product developers exploring using beans as a protein component versus a vegetable component.  You will end up with a very affordable product that will not be a hard sell for school districts. 

BB: Do you see any opportunities for using beans in school breakfast programs? 

DM: I think beans would be a tough sell in breakfast programs unless you do a Mexican-style burrito type product.  We do almost all grab-and-go breakfast and not many items that you need a fork for.  So, you would have to incorporate it into a wrap of some sort.

LF: Beans definitely work with Latin-inspired breakfast dishes, which are universally popular in all grade levels.




Smart Strategies for Promoting Beans in Schools

If you’re following the latest food trends, you’re likely aware that beans get a lot of positive buzz, and rightfully so.  Beans are a nutrition powerhouse, an affordable source of protein, and an incredibly versatile ingredient.

At the Bean Institute we’ve had the fortune to travel across the country and meet many outstanding school nutrition professionals who’ve shared their strategies for getting kids to like and eat beans. We’ve consolidated their brilliant ideas and are sharing them with you.

Spice Up Beans on the Salad Bar

Many districts utilize the salad bar to serve beans to students. This works as a great offering place, but schools find more success when they enhance their salad bar beans. Draining and rinsing beans and placing on the salad bar is easy, but adding a few ingredients like herbs and spices or a simple vinaigrette can take beans from bland to grand. Our zesty Black & White Bean Salad is an easy recipe that is gaining popularity around the country.

 What’s in a Name?black-bean-spinach-burritos-21

Did you know the name a food is given can make a big difference in how much students will serve themselves and eat? According to research from The Smarter School Lunchroom Movement, when a menu item called a Bean Burrito was changed to the Big Bad Bean Burrito consumption increased by more than 40 percent. Consumption could have been higher, but they sold out in the second of three lunch periods! Take a few moments to examine the names you give your menu items; if they need some help, consider asking students to recommend new, more appealing names.

 The Power of Presentation

We’ve all heard the phrase, “We eat with our eyes, but with the success of social media websites like Pinterest and Instagram, students expect beauty from all of their food choices. Schools are finding styling success by presenting beans in disposable plastic serving cups with colorful garnishes, or by layering bean salads by individual ingredient in plastic cups with domed lids. These presentation steps take time and money, but they make the final dish feel a little more special—and more likely to be selected and eaten.

Customization is King

Young people are accustomed to the “Have It Your Way” restaurant world. By providing this type of experience in schools, you can encourage students to exert more control over their food choices. Build-Your-Own Burrito Bars are a great way to provide customized food experiences. And what do all burritos need? Beans! Schools that have provided both a pinto and black bean option at their burrito bar have reported the most success in getting kids to take beans. One district told us recently they put a small sign between the two beans containers that says “Two Beans Are Better Than One.” That small sign is having a major impact on motivating students to put both black and pinto beans in their burritos.

Send Home Recipe Ideas

Kids eat what they like and like what they know. And kids get to know a food by seeing and eating it over and over again. Schools are an important place to expose young people to delicious bean recipes regularly, but we know kids also need to taste beans at home. You can provide beans recipes for parents in school newsletters or on your district’s website. Providing simple, delicious bean recipes is a great way to encourage continued bean consumption at home. You can access the volume recipe for White Bean Turkey Chili and the home version at BeanInstitute.com.

Editor’s Note: Yes, you have our permission to share bean recipes from The Bean Institute website with your student and their parents.