Q: I would like to start using more legumes in my diet. Can you tell me how to prepare them?
A: Good for you. More and more people are beginning to choose legumes -- dried beans, peas, and lentils. They are one of the best food bargains today. Legumes can be the base for low-cost, hearty, tasty and very nutritious foods. They are excellent sources of dietary fiber and protein, along with starch, minerals and the B vitamins.
In fact, did you know that peanuts are a legume and not a true nut? While peanuts do contain oil, most legumes are low in fat and have no cholesterol. Thus, beans can help prevent certain chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease and colon cancer, and help control blood sugar in people with diabetes.
Here are the preparation methods for using legumes:
Sorting and washing
Beans generally need to be rinsed before soaking and cooking to remove dirt and broken bean bits. Carefully inspect and remove any debris, especially if legumes have been purchased in bulk from a bin.
1. Quick Soak -- Place washed and picked beans in a saucepan and cover with 2 inches of fresh water. Bring to a boil for two minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand for one hour.
2. Overnight (preferred method) -- Let beans soak overnight in plenty of water, using 3 to 4 times as much water as beans. Another suggestion is to bring beans to a boil for 2 minutes and then set to soak overnight. If possible, drain soaking water during the process and replace with fresh water.
Beans that do not need soaking are lentils, split peas, and black-eyed peas.
- Slow Cooker -- Excellent for cooking beans. Place beans in boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Then place beans in slow cooker, adding 6 cups water per pound of beans. Cook on low for 12 hours.
- Pressure Cooker -- Fill the pressure cooker no more than 1/3 full with liquid and beans. Cook at 10 pounds pressure for the required time, or about 20 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool naturally.
- Microwave Cooking -- Do not use the microwave for cooking dry legumes. Microwave cooking does not allow for slow simmering needed to soften and rehydrate beans. Use the microwave only for reheating cooked beans and bean mixtures.
Q: Do you have any appetizer recipes using legumes?
A: Here are a few that you may want to try this holiday season. Enjoy.
1-1/4 cups dry black-eyed peas (8 ounce)
1 cup diced green bell pepper
3/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped and seeded jalapeno chiles (optional)
3/4 cup low-calorie Italian salad dressing
Place the beans in a large pot with 3 cups water; bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 to 50 minutes or until beans are just barely tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Mix beans with remaining ingredients. Chill. Serve over lettuce or as a dip with tortilla chips. Serves 8 to 10.
Nutrition Information (per serving): 108 calories; 5 grams protein; 17 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fat; 5 grams fiber; 161 milligrams sodium.
Mango -- Black Bean Salsa
2 mangoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup cooked black beans, or canned beans, rinsed and drained
2 green onions, finely sliced
1 tablespoon serrano pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let sit for 30 minutes before serving.
Black-Eyed Pea Pate
2 (3 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 (16 ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained
1/2 medium onion, halved
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup medium picante sauce
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
Red, yellow, and green pepper pieces
Position knife blade in food processor bowl; add first 7 ingredients. Process 1 minute or until smooth. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small saucepan; let stand 1 minute. Cook over low heat, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Add gelatin mixture to pea mixture; process 30 seconds.
Spoon into an oiled 9-inch round cake pan; cover and chill until firm. Unmold and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with pepper pieces or crackers. Makes about 4 1/2 cups.