Whether you’re looking to lose weight, boost health, or reduce your grocery bill, beans might really be the “magical fruit.”
With a low glycemic index, beans can help you feel full longer. They contain chemicals that help reduce risk of heart disease (phytochemicals) and cancer (isoflavones and phytosterols) and lower LDL cholesterol (soluble fiber). Plus, a pound of dried beans costs somewhere around $2 — and that’s on the high end. So give meat a night or two off and serve dinners where the protein-rich bean is the star of the show. Here are seven ideas from our archive to help you get started:
Large Values in Low Food Cost
Originally published in The Country Gentleman, December 7, 1912
There are no vegetables that furnish so much real food value at so low a cost as beans. They can take the place of meat on your table to a very large extent.
Many people think them indigestible. This is true of the outer skin, which may be easily removed, however, by pouring the washed beans into a kettle of boiling water, using a teaspoonful of baking soda to every quart of water and boiling them rapidly for 10 minutes. At the end of this time nearly all of the skins will be floating on the top. Pour the water and skins off, rinse the beans in clear, cold water and they are ready for cooking. Very little of the property of the soda is retained by the beans, and a person of normal health will digest them easily. They furnish more work for the digestive organs, however, than most other kinds of food, so if one’s digestion is in an impaired state beans should be avoided.
Mexican-Style Red Beans
Many kinds of beans are grown, but the varieties best known in this country are the small white navy bean and the Lima bean. Mexicans use the red and black beans more than any others. Their methods of cooking them are very unlike those generally used in the United States. They make some extremely palatable bean dishes and we should learn their methods, for it would lend a variety to our menus.
The most common way the red bean is prepared by our Southern neighbors is to take three or four slices of bacon cut into very small pieces and fried a golden brown. The grease and bacon are left in the frying pan to which are added four onions of medium size, sliced, and half a pepper, from which the seeds have been removed. Cook these slowly with the pan covered. Add to this mixture 2 cupfuls of dried red beans, which have been thoroughly washed and soaked in cold water at least six hours. Add 5 cupfuls of water, cover the pot closely, and simmer gently for 3 hours. Strain 1 can of tomatoes and add this to the beans together with sufficient salt to season, 1 bay leaf, and 2 or 3 peppercorns. Cook slowly for another hour. The beans should then be thoroughly softened.
Mushroom and Bean Stew
Another Mexican bean dish is prepared by slicing together three medium-sized onions and three green sweet peppers. Place in a stew pan 2 tablespoonfuls of butter and the sliced onions and peppers, turning them frequently until a very delicate brown. Pour into them 2 cupfuls of the red beans which have been thoroughly washed and soaked, 4 cupfuls of boiling water, cover the kettle and cook slowly for 3 or 4 hours. When the beans are tender, add 2 tablespoonfuls of ketchup, and 1 pint of small fresh mushrooms which have been peeled, or a can of mushrooms after they have been rinsed in cold water. These should cook about 20 minutes, according to the variety of the mushrooms. The fresh ones are by all odds the best, and should always be used in preference to the canned varieties. This is an excellent dish and may be served as the staple food for any one meal.
Ham and Navy Bean Soup
Bean soups are very wholesome and easily prepared and make a dish of which children are very fond. Wash 2 cupfuls of white navy beans thoroughly and soak in cold water for several hours. Place them in a kettle with a ham bone, 1 small onion sliced, 1 bead of garlic, 3 stalks of celery cut fine, and 3 leaves of parsley. Cover this all with cold water and simmer gently in a closed kettle until the beans mash easily between the fingers. Turn into a colander or sieve and mash everything possible through. This leaves practically nothing but the skins of the beans, which should be thrown away in any event, and the waste from the other vegetables. This puree should be put back into the kettle and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, and sufficient boiling water added to make enough to serve five people liberally. The flavor of ham is especially good combined with beans. It is well to serve with this with squares of bread which have been toasted through and through in the oven. These are called croutons.
Creamed Navy Bean Soup
Another soup made of beans is especially good. Wash thoroughly and soak for several hours 2 cupfuls of white navy beans. Place these in a pan with 5 cupfuls of boiling water and 2 level teaspoonfuls of salt. When these are thoroughly cooked put them through a sieve. Return to the fire and add 1 quart of milk and bring just to the boiling point. Cream together 1 tablespoonful of flour and 1 tablespoonful of butter. Add these to the kettle and then put it over a gentle fire for 10 or 15 minutes. Add more salt if it is needed, together with 1/8 of a teaspoonful of paprika. When you take it from the fire and have placed it in the soup plates add to each a tiny bit of chopped parsley.
Layered Red Bean Loaf
A very good way to serve beans cold is to make them into a loaf. For this use the red variety. Take 3 cupfuls of beans, and, after they have been properly washed and soaked, cook slowly until they are tender. Put through a sieve. You should now have a puree which is practically free from water. To this add 1 cupful of stale breadcrumbs, grated, 2 tablespoonfuls of scraped onion, 1/2 green pepper chopped very fine, 3 tablespoonfuls of melted butter, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Have a greased baking dish ready. Place in the dish a layer of the seasoned puree and over it a layer of hard-boiled eggs sliced, over these sprinkle salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoonful of cheese. Alternate these layers, having the last of the puree. When the dish is filled, pour over it hald a cupful of sweet cream and bake in the oven for 15 or 20 minutes. This should be a good rich brown on the top and when it is thoroughly done it will pull away from the sides of the pan. Leave it in the pan until it is cold and then you can turn it out on a platter and serve.
Beef and Navy Bean Casserole
Beans make an excellent food cooked in the casserole. In fact they seem especially adapted for it. For one good recipe take 1/2 pound of beef cut into small pieces and browned thoroughly in beef suet. This should be done if possible in an iron kettle or skillet. Remove from the fire and add 2 onions sliced and 2 carrots chopped fine. The heat in the kettle and its contents should be sufficient to brown the two vegetables very delicately. Pour the meat, fat, and vegetables into a baking dish. Into it turn also 2 cupfuls of navy beans which have been thoroughly washed and soaked, 1/2 can of strained tomatoes and 4 cupfuls of water. Remove the seeds and white partitions from 2 green sweet peppers and chop fine. Add these to the baking dish, cover and bake slowly for 3 or 4 hours. Half an hour before ready to serve, take off the cover and increase the heat of the oven. This time should be sufficient, if the heat of the oven has been properly managed, to cook all the ingredients very thoroughly and make the dish palatable and digestible.
Boston’s Famous Beans
It would hardly do not to give you the recipe for the famous Boston baked beans. Wash a quart of white beans and soak them over night. The skins may be removed if necessary. Place the beans in a bean-pot, together with 1/2 pound of salt pork that has been thoroughly washed, the rind scraped and deeply scored. Season with 4 tablespoonfuls of New Orleans molasses, 1 medium-sized onion chopped fine, 3 level teaspoonfuls of salt, 1 level teaspoonful of dry mustard, and a 1/2 teaspoonful of paprika. Stir these all together with the beans and add 3 quarts of hot water. Bake in an oven of moderate heat for not less than 6 hours, eight hours being better. An hour before taking from the oven, remove the cover from the pot so that the beans may brown.
In the days when brick ovens were used the beans were baked many hours, 18 or 20 hours being the usual time. The methods of cooking have changed, however, and the housewife who now uses alcohol and oil for fuel would not feel that she could afford to cook any dish that length of time. If your house is heated by either a furnace or a base burner you have a very fair substitute for the brick oven in the ash pan of either one. Great care must be used in covering the bean-pot so that no ashes can reach the contents. If you wish to hasten the cooking of the beans and save the long baking, the beans and the pork should be boiled gently for 2 hours before being prepared for the oven.
Cuppa joe, java, or “just give it to me and don’t talk” — whatever you call it, if you’re one of the millions of coffee drinkers worldwide, you know just how delightful a good cup of coffee can be. Many people think that making the perfect cup of coffee at home isn’t possible without a professional setup, but in this day and age, that isn’t as true as it used to be. If you stick to a few simple rules, you’ll be able to enjoy a superb mug of magic bean juice every time.
What is coffee, anyway?
The coffee beans that we see at the store are actually the roasted seeds from inside the fruit of a plant that is grown in many parts of Africa, South America, and Asia. There are a few different varieties of this coffee plant, which is why there are different types of coffee that you can buy at the store, each with their own unique differences in flavor. The two most common varieties are robusta, which is often the foundation for commercial coffee blends, and arabica, which is a bit more expensive and has a slightly sweeter, less bitter flavor.
After the berries are harvested, the flesh is removed and the beans are dried. The beans (at this point called green beans) are roasted and ground to make the coffee that we know and love. For serious coffee connoisseurs, even the methods used to roast and grind the coffee matters!
Finding the perfect roast
There are three basic types of coffee roasts: light, medium, and dark. Different people prefer roasts for different reasons. Typically, dark roasts have a bolder, slightly sweeter flavor, while the light roasts tend to be a bit more acidic and aromatic (not to mention being very slightly higher in caffeine, typically). The important thing is to find a roast that tastes good to you.
After you determine which roast you prefer in general, try out a few different variations to fine tune what you like best. Most local coffee shops will be happy to help you find the right roast and style to fit your taste. A knowledgeable barista is like a good sommelier when it comes to finding a brew that suits your tastes.
Beans and grinders
The first step to brewing the perfect cup of coffee at home is to buy whole beans. Grinding up coffee beans releases oils. These oils can be lost if the coffee grounds are stored too long, yet they’re an important part of what makes a good cup of coffee. The oils add a whole new layer of flavor and complexity to the drink.
Buying whole beans means that you have to grind them before brewing. As any coffee aficionado will tell you, a good grinder is perhaps the most important part making good coffee. Having a consistent particle size makes a real difference in how coffee tastes, so you’ll probably want to play with your grinder to see what tastes best to you. Certain brewing methods also require a finer or coarser grind, so having a grinder that allows you to adjust this is also important to final quality.
There are two basic types of grinders, burr and blade. Blade grinders are the cheapest and most common, consisting of a spinning blade that chops the beans. Unfortunately, blade grinders are notorious for having inconsistent grind coarseness. Unless you’re on a tight budget, avoid blade grinders for your coffee.
Burr grinders, usually more expensive than their blade counterparts, work by passing the beans through one or more sets of sharp grinding wheels to ensure a consistent particle size. A good burr grinder is an essential tool for any home barista. No matter which grinder you use, always grind your coffee immediately before brewing it to ensure that the grinds don’t dry out.
There are many different ways to brew your coffee, each with its own set of pros and cons. The most popular are pour-over, press pot, vacuum pot, and auto-drip.
- Pour-over: The pour-over style consists of a container with a hole in the bottom that holds a coffee filter over a cup or carafe. You simply place your grinds in the filter and pour the hot water slowly and evenly over all of the grinds.
- Press pot: The press pot (commonly called French press) method is another easy way to make a good cup of coffee. You do so by placing coarsely ground beans into the pot, then adding hot water. After waiting a few minutes (depending on taste), you press a filter/plunger down to separate the grounds. There’s a newer variation of this called the AeroPress, which works the same way but yields something more like espresso straight out of the press.
- Vacuum pot: Perhaps one of the coolest ways to brew your coffee, a vacuum pot works by placing ground coffee and water into two separate chambers. The water is then heated and, as it begins to boil, it’s sucked up into the chamber with the grinds. Turning off the heat brings the coffee (and not the grinds) back into the lower chamber. It’s impressive to watch and makes a great cup of coffee.
- Auto-drip: An auto-drip is a coffee maker that attempts to automate the pour-over method mentioned above. Most home coffee makers work this way. While it is definitely the most convenient method, it doesn’t necessarily brew the best cup of coffee possible due to less-than-ideal water temperature and poor grind saturation.
No matter which method you choose, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Typically, you want to use 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 ounces of water. Also, the quality of water you use makes a big difference in how the coffee tastes. If you have poor quality tap water, you may want to purchase a faucet filter or filtering pitcher, or maybe even consider getting bottled water service.
The temperature of the water can also make a big difference, as water that is too hot or too cool brews coffee differently. Ideally, the water should be just below boiling (around 200 degrees Fahrenheit). If you’re using a press pot or pour-over brewing method, the easiest way to make sure you have the ideal water temperature is to bring a kettle to a boil and then remove it from the heat briefly before pouring it evenly over your grounds, making sure to get all of them wet.
Ready… set… joe!
As you can see, making great coffee at home is surprisingly easy. Just remember:
- Buy whole beans.
- Use a burr grinder.
- Avoid auto-drip coffee makers.
- Watch your coffee-grounds-to-water ratio.
- Use good quality water at the proper temperature.
Pour yourself a cup, doctor it up how you like it best, and enjoy!
This story originally appeared on Tecca. More from Tecca:
Gardeners, don’t get in too big a rush to get your green bean seeds in the ground. Most of us think of green beans as the prototypical North American vegetable, but actually the snap beans we eat today had their origins in the tropics of south and central America. That’s why they need to be planted late, when the soil is plenty warm, in order to germinate properly. If planted too early they may rot in the ground.
Before Calvin Keeney, “Father of the Stringless Bean,” developed snap beans for Burpee Company in 1889, most green beans were stringy, requiring lots of cooking to be edible. Keeney came up with Burpee’s Stringless Green Pod, which was popular until 1925 when Tendergreen came along. In 1962 Bush Blue Lake arrived as one of the greatest breakthroughs in snap beans. Blue Lake started out in California as a canning bean, but by the 1950s, Oregon researchers released new strains that were dark green, round, firm, straight, and stringless. Even with new varieties, many still find Blue Lake the best.
Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans were developed in 1877 from the Old Homestead, variety introduced in 1864. Although they are considered snap beans, they do become stringy if not picked in a timely manner.
Bush Vs. Pole
Gardeners now have a large variety of bush type and pole type beans to choose from. Bush beans develop more quickly and provide a more abundant harvest (50 or so beans per plant). They are easier to plant because they don’t require a structure to grow on. However, because they grow only two feet high, harvesting them can be hard on your back. Bush beans produce their crop all at once, so they must be planted at intervals to keep beans flowing through the summer. Unless you are feeding the whole neighborhood, don’t go overboard with planting bush beans.
Pole beans develop more slowly than bush beans. The weekly harvest is smaller but extends for a couple of months. Because they grow to 10 or 15 feet if allowed to, you don’t have to bend over to pick them, but you may need a ladder. Requiring less room, pole beans are suitable for small garden spaces and for small families. Green bean aficionados say pole beans are tastier as well, with a more nutty, bean-like flavor.
How to Plant
Sow bush beans 1 inch deep, about 1 to 2 inches apart in rows 2 to 2 ½ feet apart. Beans need room so that air can circulate and dry the plants of moisture that can lead to fungus. Be sure to keep soil moist after planting. Then thin to 3 to 4 inches apart when several inches high.
Sow pole beans in mounds 3 feet apart. Place a stake in the center of the mound and surround with three or four seeds planted 1 inch deep around the pole. Keep the soil moist and expect to see sprouts within a week.
Fertilize beans with 10-20-10 fertilizer at time of planting and add fertilize throughout the growing season.
Green beans are surprisingly nutritious. A half-cup serving of boiled green beans provides about 13 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K and 10 percent of vitamin C. Also, about 8 percent of vitamin A and dietary fiber. Green beans even provide omega-3 fatty acids, about 2.5 percent of the daily requirement in a half-cup serving, in addition to manganese, potassium, folate, tryptophan, iron, copper, vitamins B1, B2, and B3, calcium, phosphorus, and protein.
My dog let me down. Or so it seemed. I know that man’s best friend is above reproach. And I may have just made a false accusation. But let me tell you exactly what happened.
A few hundred yards behind our property in northwestern Michigan, there’s the start of an alluring trail. Its floor is coated with pine needles. Mixed deciduous and pine woods stand on either side. This trail is one of hundreds of old logging roads and newer snowmobile paths that wind through untold miles of forest. My dog —Beans by name—and I walk the trail frequently. Normally, we saunter along this one trail for half a mile, then turn right on another trail for about a mile. By this amount of time spent, Beans has sniffed at ferns and other flora and has ducked into the woods alongside the trail several times to follow the scent of a deer track or investigate some cause known only to him—as beagles do.
Beans is a vigorous 30-pound black and white dog with a brown head. He is quite handsome and very intelligent (taking after his adoptive “father”). He can shake hands. He can jump through a hoop. And he loves classical music, which quickly puts him to sleep.
He not only understands what we tell him, but he also often makes sounds as if he were trying to speak back. Am I being buffaloed by my love for him? Maybe so.
On this particular fateful day, we started our walk before 9 a.m. Narrow patches of sunlight shone through the trees and lit the trail.
I always walk Beans on a leash, which can stretch to 20 feet and rewind. Without the leash, Beans would take off to chase a deer or squirrel. Beans’ piercing full-throated bark-of-the-chase bashes the normal silence surrounding us.
On this day, we took a different route, which led us to a different and unfamiliar trail. Beans sniffed and darted back and forth. I was sure this trail would lead us to one that eventually came back to our amiliar path. But, no. We seemed to be far off course. The first hint of concern sneaked into my mind.
I had no compass. One would have been useless anyway. I could see the sun still only part way toward high noon. So, believing that the sun still rises in the East, I knew that if we kept finding trails that took us in an easterly direction, we could eventually reach Detroit —240 miles away. On second thought, trying to head toward Lake Michigan, to our west, must not have been more than several miles away.
But no trail we took seemed to have a consistent direction. And we saw not a soul on any trail. Meanwhile, Beans seemed utterly unconcerned. The sniffing and investigating was going well for him.
Finally, after more than two hours, I suddenly realized that Beans probably knew the way home. So I said: “Beans, go home. Beans, take me home.” We started down another trail with Beans pulling ahead on his leash. But this trail merely led to an intersection of trails.
“Take me home, Beans,” I urged. He turned left down a new trail. After 15 or 20 minutes, it became apparent we were getting nowhere.
“Pull me home, Beans,” I was pleading by this time—picturing the rest of the day and the night in the forest, without food or drink. Maybe lost permanently. We had walked about 10 miles. And these old legs were getting sore. Beans didn’t seem to mind. But he has twice as many legs as I do.
Finally, the trail we stumbled down led beside a field, and in the distance I spotted a highway with cars zipping by. We trudged through a field of grasses and swampy ground, and slowly scrambled up an embankment to the road.
I decided to walk left. Because it was near noon, I had no idea in what direction we were headed. Soon we came to a crossroad. The name was familiar. Lady Luck suggested I should turn left. We did and shortly came to a house.
I knocked on the door and explained my predicament to an elderly lady. She chuckled and said she would go and get someone to help me.
As I plunked down wearily on a porch chair, I saw out of the corner of my eye a good friend from church climbing up the hill from the house next door. Here was Sid Snyder coming to the rescue. He laughed as I told him of our travails on the trails. Then he drove us home.
I said earlier that Beans had let me down. I also said that he understands what we tell him. But that doesn’t mean he always obeys.
Since our adventure, I concluded that Beans probably knew all along how to get home. He was just having too much fun exploring new trails.