bcmom's kitchen

bcmom's kitchen

Friday, January 6, 2012

Beans: Canned or Dry?

Picture of red kidney beans
Image via Wikipedia
Adding beans is an inexpensive and easy way to add protein and fiber to your diet.  Diets rich in beans can lower cholesterol levels, improve diabetics' blood glucose control,reduce risk of many cancers, lower blood pressure, regulate functions of the colon, prevent and cure constipation, as well as reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your bone and prostate health.

If you're not eating beans, you really should be!  I know - I'm one to talk.  My mom cooked beans often when I was growing up, and I really didn't appreciate them or even like them - except in chili.  I did like the cornbread she served with them, though!  It wasn't until I found and tried the recipe for Five Bean Soup that I discovered I really like beans - a lot.

Canned beans make it really easy to add beans to your diet.  I try to always have a few cans of kidney beans and black beans on hand, and you can buy many other varieties of canned beans.  They're really handy to grab and add to any dish where you want to add a little extra protein or fiber - casseroles, soups, pasta, salads, or anything else you can think of.  There are also many tasty recipes you can find that feature or include beans - my Five Bean Soup for one, and the Turkey Barley Chili I just posted. 

canned black beans must drain (after rinsing) ...
Image via Wikipedia
While canned beans are fairly inexpensive, you can save even more by buying dried beans and cooking your own, and you don't get the added salt or sugar that most canned beans have.  I usually cook mine in the crockpot - I wash and sort them sometime during the day, place them in the crockpot with  enough water to cover, and let them sit all day.  Then, before going to bed at night, I turn the crockpot on low and let them cook overnight.  The next morning I have cooked beans!  This works especially well with black beans, because they always seemed to get mushy when I cooked them on the stove.  Yes, probably my fault for not paying close enough attention, but still....

For use in recipes, I've found that 1-1/2 cups beans is approximately equal to one can of beans.  A 1-lb. package of dried beans makes a little more than the equivalent of 3 cans of beans - and usually costs the same or less than one can.  Cover with 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid if you're going to freeze them, and they're almost as handy as those cans of beans in your pantry.  Since the liquid doesn't usually go into your recipe, you can thaw them fairly quickly by putting the frozen beans into a colander and running warm water over them.

So, which is better - canned or dry?  I say both.   How's that for making a decision?  Both canned and dried beans have their place.  Canned beans are ready and waiting whenever you need or want them.  Dried beans require that you plan ahead, but once cooked you can store them in the refrigerator for several days or freeze them in individual containers.  Dried beans are less expensive and don't give you the added salt or sugar you get with the canned beans - why do they put sugar in kidney beans, anyway?  Always be sure to drain and rinse your canned beans before using them to remove most of that added salt.  If you're not already using beans, start by buying some canned beans.  If you've been using canned beans for a while, try buying some dried beans and cooking your own.   I especially like cooking my own beans when I'm making something like chili that requires several cans of beans - why open a bunch of cans when I can cook one package and have all the beans I need?   And save money, too.
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