By Anne J. Lamberton DrPH MPH RD
What would I do without beans in my diet? They are such a staple for me, that I have a hard time imagining life without them. By beans, I mean legumes: a class of vegetables that includes split peas, lentils, black-northern and pinto beans. Legumes are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. They are typically low in fat, high in protein and soluble as well as insoluble fiber, high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. Legumes can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and contains cholesterol.
Many grocery stores stock a wide variety of legumes, both dried and canned. Canned legumes – (like black, pinto, and kidney beans, etc) are very easy to use, but are usually high in sodium. Be sure to rinse the canned beans to remove most of the added sodium.
Dried beans, with exception of split peas, black-eyed peas and lentils, require soaking before they can be cooked. Soaking can be done slowly: by covering the legumes with plenty of room temperature water and leaving them soak overnight. Or one can use a “quick soak” method” bring 10 cups of water to a boil in large stockpot and add 1 lb. of legumes. Return to a boil and boil for 2 or 3 minutes. Turn the heat source off and let the beans soak for about an hour. After soaking, rinse the beans and then cook them according to recipe directions. Because of the fact that it’s not necessary to soak lentils, it’s my absolute favorite legume. Lentils can be used in many different ways, in soups, stews, and salads. I will share my favorite lentil soup recipe here.
Part 1: 1 cup dry lentils, 5 cups of water, 1/2-1 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp oregano, 1/8 tsp thyme
Part 2: 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped carrots, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 2-3 TBSP olive oil
Part 3: 1 can of finely chopped tomatoes (you can use the ones with jalapeños for some added heat), 1 6 oz. can low sodium V8 juice.
Bring part 1 to a boil in a large kettle and simmer for 15 min.
Slowly sauté part 2 in a covered skillet for about the same time.
Add part 2 to part 1. Add part 3. Simmer for about 30 min. on low.
Serves 4. This soup is even better the next day and it freezes well. Thus you can double or triple the recipe, eat some, put some in the fridge for the next day, and freeze the rest. Enjoy!