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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Dry Bean Cooking Guide

Dry beans are cheap, nutritious, and tasty. Cooking them does take some planning ahead. Consult this guide to know how to cook all kinds of dry beans.

Overnight soak: Beans need to soak in lots of water for at least 8 hours BEFORE you can cook them. You can soak them up to 24 hours, and it is usually easiest to put them in water the day before you want to use them. Make sure there is plenty of water covering the beans by 5 or 6 inches – they will absorb a lot of water.

Drain and rinse: Drain the soaked beans from the soaking water and quickly rinse them. Do not reuse the soaking water.

Cooking the beans:

STOVETOP METHOD – Place the soaked beans in a large pot and add water to cover by 4-5 inches. If you want, you can add half an onion and pieces of carrot or celery for extra flavor, but you don’t need to. Bring the beans and water to a boil. There will be a lot of foam on the top of the water – skim it off with a spoon and throw it away. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until beans are tender, usually 1.5 to 2.5 hours. The amount of time will depend on the type of beans you used and how long you soaked them.

SLOW COOKER METHOD – Place the soaked beans in a slow cooked and add water to cover by 4-5 inches. If you want, you can add half an onion and pieces of carrot or celery for extra flavor, but you don’t need to. Cook on low until beans are tender, about 5-7 hours. The amount of time will depend on the type of beans you used and how long you soaked them. You can also cook beans from dry (without soaking first) in a slow cooker, but they will take longer to cook and may cause more bean-related gas problems than soaked beans.

When are they done? The longer you cook beans, the softer they get. How soft you want them will depend on how you plan to use them. If you’re putting them into a soup where they will slow-cook again, you might want them less tender. If you’re going into a salad, they should be very tender. If you plan to puree or mash them, you may want to cook them a very long time, until they are beginning to burst.

Salt and storage: Once the beans are cooked to the texture you want, turn off the heat. Add a bit of salt to the cooking water. Taste it (be careful, it’s hot) – it should be flavorful, but not taste too salty. Less salt is better than too much, since you can always add more, but you can’t take any out.

At this point, your cooked beans in liquid can be treated just like canned beans from the store and used in recipes that call for canned beans. You can use them right away, or store them in the refrigerator, submerged in cooking liquid, for up to 1 week.

Cooking liquid: The liquid that the beans cooked in isn’t trash. You can use it in soups, or anywhere else where you might otherwise you chicken broth or when you want to add some extra flavor. For example, you can cook rice in bean liquid for a flavorful side dish.

Green Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Cilantro

Community meeting training session dinner, 3/26/12, 2/6/13

Remember the roasted sweet potatoes from last meeting’s dinner? This time, they’re in smaller pieces in a salad, but the technique to cook them is exactly the same. As for the lettuce, you can use any variety, including lettuce you grow in your own garden. When you use head lettuce from the store or lettuce from your garden, remember to wash it in plenty of cold water to get any dirt off.

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Whole Grain Guide

Whole grains (including brown rice, wheat berries, barley, and more) are grains that have some or all of their outer layers (husk, germ, etc) intact, as opposed to refined grains, which have these layers removed. Whole grains have a hearty, nutty flavor and are very healthy – they have more fiber than refined white grains, so your body processes them more slowly. This prevents blood sugar spikes and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Whole grains also have more nutrients than refined grains, since these nutrients are in the outer layers of the grain that gets taken away to make refined grains. Whole grains do take longer to cook, so plan ahead. You can work new grains into your meals by mixing them with more familiar ones and eating them with favorite dishes.

Information adapted from the Food Network

Grain What is it? Water* Ratio Cooking Instructions
Barley, hulled Chewy grain, high nutritional value. Serve like rice or add to soups. 3 parts water to 1 part barley Bring water and 1 pinch salt per cup barley to a boil. Add barley, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover pot. Simmer 40-50 minutes.
Barley, pearled More of the outer layers are removed than for hulled barley, allowing it to cook faster. Only slightly less nutritious than hulled barley 3 parts water to 1 part barley Bring water and 1 pinch salt per cup barley to a boil. Add barley, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover pot. Simmer 30 minutes.
Brown rice Rice that still has the outer layers of the kernel, containing many nutrients that are destroyed in white rice. 2 parts water to 1 part brown rice Bring water and 1 pinch salt per cup brown rice to a boil. Add rice, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover pot. Simmer 40-50 minutes. Let stand with heat off 10 minutes before serving.
Corn grits/ polenta Whole corn kernels, ground 3.5 parts water to 1 part corn grits Bring water and 1 pinch salt per cup grits to a boil. Add grits, whisking to prevent clumps. Reduce heat to a low boil and cook, stirring frequently, for 30-50 minutes, depending on how coarse the grind
Farro Grain related to wheat. The kernels are chewy, with a nutty flavor. Good in soups, salads, and pilafs. Plenty of water Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add farro, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about 25 minutes, until grains are tender.
Quinoa (KEEN-wa) High-protein seed native to South America. Especially good in pilafs. Check package to see if it’s pre-rinsed – if not, rinse it to remove a bitter outer coating. 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa Place quinoa, water, and 1 pinch salt per cup quinoa in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, until grains are tender and little spirals are separating off. Let stand 5 minutes off heat, covered before serving.
Spelt Grain related to wheat and very similar to farro. The kernels are firmer than farro and chewy, with a nutty flavor. Good in soups, salads, and pilafs. Plenty of water Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add spelt, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about 50 minutes, until grains are tender.
Wheat berries Whole kernels of wheat.  The kernels are chewy, with a nutty flavor. Good in soups, salads, and pilafs. Plenty of water Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add wheat berries, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about 50 minutes, until grains are tender but still a bit chewy.
Wild Rice Actually a grass, not a grain, but nutritionally similar and cooked similarly. Different types are available. 3 parts water to 1 part wild rice Bring water and 1 pinch salt per cup wild rice to a boil. Add wild, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover pot. Simmer 35-65 minutes (depending on variety), until tender.

*You can also cook any of these grains in chicken or vegetable stock for more flavor.

Mixed Rices and Barley

Community meeting training session dinner, 3/26/12 – Served with southwest chicken and bean stew

If you’re trying to work new whole grains into your diet, try mixing them with more familiar ones. This recipe combines white rice, brown rice, and barley.

  • ½ cup dry brown rice
  • ½ cup dry hulled barley (not pearled)
  • 1 cup dry white rice
  • 4 ½ cups water, divided
  • 2 large pinches salt

In a small saucepan, bring 2 ½ cups water and one pinch salt to a boil. When boiling, add brown rice and barley. Let the water come back to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover pot and allow to simmer 45-50 minutes.

When the brown rice and barley has 25 minutes remaining, bring the remaining 2 cups water and one pinch salt to a boil in a separate small saucepan. Add the white rice. Let the water come back to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover pot and allow to simmer 20 minutes.

When each pot is done, turn off heat and allow to stand, covered, for 5-10 minutes. Then, fluff each with a fork and combine the two pots, fluffing rices and barley together.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Rice Pudding

Committee meeting working lunch, 3/22/12

Rice pudding is a cheap and simple dessert, plus, it’s a good way to use up leftover rice. Using brown rice is a great way to work whole grains into your diet.

  • 2 cups cooked rice, white or brown, any variety (leftovers is ideal)
  • 3 cups milk
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon cloves
  • ½ cup raisins, optional

Combine all ingredients except raisins (if using) in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the pudding is thickened and much of the milk has been absorbed into the rice, about 30 minutes.

Serve warm, room temperature, or cool. Top with raisins, if desired.

Yield: 6 servings