Go Vegan with JL In the Kitchen Tip: Cook beans in bulk to save time & money

by JL Fields on August 23, 2012

[Originally posted on Elephant Journal and subsequently on my I Eat Plants column.]

When working with new vegans in my coaching practice I’m often asked why a diet of plants is expensive and complicated. My first answer is that it’s not.

But I do understand why some people, new to a vegan diet, might think so—you could spend a small fortune on organic “superfoods,” high-end agave syrup, and the like! For that reason I make a point to focus my clients on the five fabulous vegan food groups: vegetables, fruit, grains, beans/legumes, and nuts and seeds. These fab five make up a balanced and nutritious vegan diet and are easy to find at your local grocer.

In this post I want to talk about beans.

Here are two very simple tips to save time and money:

  1. Skip the canned aisle and buy dry beans.
  2. Cook the beans in bulk.

When I’m lazy, I pick up a simple bag of cheap, dry beans in the ethnic aisle of my local grocer. When I’m planning ahead, I buy a larger amount of dry beans, in the bulk aisle of a Whole Foods or local health market. I spend more money at the time, but I’m saving money due to the quantity and I simply store the beans in an airtight mason jar in my cupboard.

The cost of one 15.5 ounce can of red kidney ranges from 79¢ to $1.20 (USD, in metro New York City) and you get just over one and a half cups of cooked beans.

For one 16 ounce bag of dry red kidney beans? $1.79 and you get nearly 6 cups of cooked beans.

I’m no math whiz but even I can see the cost savings.

Okay, you bought the dry beans. Now what? Cook them in bulk! By investing the time—anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes—in making your beans, you are rewarded with five to 10 minute meals the rest of the week.

Here’s why I offer such a wide range of cooking time. I make dry beans in the pressure cooker or rice cooker and though cooking times vary based on the bean, they’re usually done in under 30 minutes (pressure cooker) or in 60 to 70 minutes (rice cooker). I know, however, that not everyone is as devoted to these two appliances as I, so I did something just for my readers. I made beans—from scratch and on the stove top—for the first time.

Red Kidney Beans for Bulk Cooking

Makes 6 cups cooked beans

Note: When I cook in bulk I only lightly season the beans so that I can focus on the flavor profile later in each individual meal in which I use them.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces dry red kidney beans
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 -6 cups filtered water (approximately)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

  • Place beans in a large bowl, cover with water (at least three to four inches over the beans), and let soak overnight.
  • Rinse and drain the beans (I rinse and drain three times)
  • In a large soup or bean pot, heat the oil on medium-high.
  • Add garlic and sauté until lightly browned.
  • Add onion and continue stirring for a few minutes.
  • Add the rinsed beans, water and bay leaf to the pot. I start with five cups of water and add more, if necessary, during the cooking process.
  • Bring the beans to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until done. (I checked the beans at 60 minutes, added a bit more water, plus the salt, covered and cooked for 20 more minutes.)

I let the beans cool to room temperature on the counter in a bowl that I can cover later with an airtight lid.

Now that your beans are cooked you are ready for quick and simple meals throughout the week.

  • Breakfast Burrito: Reheat beans in a skillet with seasoning of your choice and leafy greens (I love spinach for this). Wrap in a whole grain tortilla and enjoy.
  • Bean Soup: Bring two cups of vegetable broth, one cup of beans and one cup of fresh salsa to a boil in a saucepan. You’ll be eating a hearty and healthy soup in under seven minutes.
  • Hummus & Raw Vegetables: One cup of cold beans plus the juice of half a lime and you have hummus! (Remember, we used oil, garlic and salt when cooking the beans so those ingredients aren’t necessary). Chop up some veggies to dip in the hummus and you’ll be eating a hearty snack or lunch in less than five minutes!

You can also make this quick and easy salad.

Chopped Salad with Cashew Chipotle Dressing

by JL Fields @ JL goes Vegan

Ingredients

For the Salad

  • 3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 cup red kidney beans (cooked or canned), rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 2 pinches salt

For the Dressing

  • 1/3 cup cashews (raw, unsalted)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle (powder)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water

Serve

  • Fresh ground pepper

Instructions

For the Salad
Toss all salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl
For the Dressing
Blend all dressing ingredients in a high-speed blender.
Bring it together
Pour the dressing on the salad, toss, serve with fresh ground pepper

Six cups of cooked beans provides for several meals and snacks over a few days and I almost always have leftovers to freeze (I don’t keep cooked beans in my refrigerator past four days—do it once and the smell will stay with you forever!)

Once you see how easy it is to cook beans from scratch (and how much better they taste!) you’ll be ready to cook up a new batch—and soon you’ll have some beans in rotation, fresh and in the freezer, so that you can actually choose from one, two or even three home-cooked bean dishes for your quick and easy meals throughout the week.

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