Recipes: Legume Time!

by admin on September 7, 2010

Beans have been called “nature’s perfect food” by many a nutrition expert because they are high in complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber and low in fat.  Because they are a plant protein, they are naturally cholesterol free (unlike animal protein sources), and a great main course option for vegetarians.  They are also high in iron and folic acid, two essential nutrients than can be hard to come by in the Standard American Diet or, as I like to call it, SAD.  And, in tough economic times, I must add that they are CHEAP.  I really can’t think of any other food that can fill you up and deliver proper nutrition for so little money.

Of course what makes beans so filling is the high fiber content and that is also what can make beans a nemesis for some sensitive digestive systems.  As for that little “issue” some people have with beans, there are a few ways to work around this: 1) eat smaller portions and introduce them slowly to the system; 2) add digestion-easing spices and condiments to bean dishes; 3) cook your own beans from scratch so that you can ensure longer soaking and cooking times, both of which will make them more digestible.
Here are a couple ideas for adding legumes to your daily diet as well as two recipes for excellent bean dishes that work well as a side dish or main dish.
Add beans to your salad or substitute beans for the meat.  Here are a few of my favorite “salad hold the lettuce” combos:
1) Chick peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow peppers (think about veggies that go well with hummus), sunflower seeds, a sprinkle of good grated parmesan cheese.
2) Black beans, yellow peppers, avocado, grape tomatoes, grilled chicken (optional).
3) Edamame, shrimp, steamed asparagus and/or broccoli, cherry tomatoes.
Tip: throw all the ingredients into a tupperware container. Drizzle the juice of 1/2 lemon and/or 1tsp apple cider vinegar and 2 tsp of olive or flax oil onto the contents.  Cover and shake. Add a little pepper and sea salt if you wish. Eat out of container if you are on the go or dump into a nicer dish if eating at home. This “shaking” method allows you to cover all of the contents with about half the amount of dressing you might normally use.

Recipe: Curried Lentils:  I have been obsessed with these ever since my brother-in-law made them for me almost two years ago. My husband started making them and I have finally mastered it on my own. This recipe serves 2-4 depending on whether you are eating it as a main or side dish. One of my favorite meals is pan roasted salmon or seared tuna over sauteed spinach and curried lentils.

Lentils don’t have to be soaked but I still recommend it to cut down on cooking time.  Soak 1 cup of green or brown lentils for about an hour.  Drain and set aside. Sautee chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil over medium heat (always put onions on a few minutes before garlic).  Add a healthy amount of cumin and/or curry powder (just cumin is also fine). Add a bay leaf or two (optional).  Add the lentils.  Add 2-3 cups water or vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the lentils are tender, which can take 10-20 minutes depending on soak time.

This is a great dish because cumin and bay leaf are digestion-promoting spices and should ease the digestion of the lentils.  According you can also just throw all this in a pot and simmer for 40 minutes but I haven’t tried it that way.

Recipe: Chickpea Croquettes
I had absolutely nothing to do with the conception of this recipe so I cannot take any credit, but they are to-die-for. This recipe from the gorgeous vegetarian recipes blog Fresh 365 is adapted from Vegetarian Times.  I am pasting it for ease, but I recommend visiting the site because the blogger is also a photographer and just looking at this site will make you crave vegetables.

Chickpea Croquettes

1 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c hot water
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 t ground cumin
1 1/2 t salt
15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained well
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 habanero or jalapeno, minced (optional)
3 garlic cloves , minced
2 T chopped cilantro leaves
3 T olive oil
In a large bowl, add flour, water, lemon juice, cumin and salt. Stir until well combined. Add in chickpeas, scallions, pepper, habanero, garlic and cilantro. Stir well.
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil, over medium heat. With your hands, form the chickpea mixture into 8 patties, about 1/2“ thick (the patties may be quite wet, but will stay together when cooked). Place 4 patties in the pan, and cook 4-5 minutes, until the bottoms begin to brown. With a spatula, flip patties, and cook 4-5 minutes on the other side, until that side begins to brown. Transfer to a plate, or cook for an additional minute on each side, until desired doneness. Repeat with the remaining 4 patties. Serve with sour cream, salsa, or chopped avocado.
These are terrific as a main dish served with a chopped romaine or spinach salad.  Try making your salad dressing with lemon juice, herbs, a touch of olive oil, garlic and non-fat Greek yogurt for a really healthy meal option.  I hope you enjoy these ideas for adding beans to your daily diet.

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