Tag Archives: Interview

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!

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/

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: 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.

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.


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.

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!

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

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!

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.


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!

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.