Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Joy of (Pressure) Cooking

I felt that before posting a lot of recipes, which I do plan to do, I ought to address the subject of how to cook dry beans, in case readers were unfamiliar. Beans are a huge part of the average plant-based diet and provide much of the protein. If you're currently on an omniverous diet wherein your typical dinner consists of a meat, a starch, and a vegetable, in many instances you can simply swap out the meat for a bean and have a high-protein, much lower fat (and higher vitamin, mineral, and fiber) meal. When beans are combined with a grain or grain-based food such as rice, pasta or bread, the two foods work together to become a complete protein with the same amino acids as animal foods.

If beans are to be a staple of your diet, I strongly recommend you learn to make them yourself rather than buy canned. Canned foods tend to be ridden with salt and preservatives, and it is MUCH MUCH CHEAPER to make your own beans (ridiculously cheaper-- like $2 worth of dry beans yields enough cooked for about 5 meals.)

If you can manage to buy a pressure cooker, the process of making the beans will be greatly expedited. If you cannot obtain one, the process of bean-making detailed below is essentially the same only the cooking time is much longer. (I have read that cooking by the method below reduces bean-related flatulence but since this was never a problem of mine to begin with I make no guarantees.)

How To Cook Dry Beans
Step One: Soak in cold water overnight.
Step Two: Drain.
Step Three: Recover the beans with water in your pressure cooker or pot, add salt if you want.
Step Four A (Pressure Cooking): Bring pressure cooker to a boil, which you will know has happened because the little knob on the top of the cooker will start rattling, then turn heat down til the knob is not rattling violently and allow to cook for between 13-20 minutes. (Many pressure cookers come with a manual which recommends the time for different beans-- I usually do 13 min for a small, soft bean like black beans and closer to 20 for a stubborn bean like garbanzos.)
Step Four B (regular pot): Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cook until soft (unfortunately with a normal pot this can take up to an hour, which is why I suggest the pressure cooker.)
Step Five: Turn off heat. If using a pressure cooker you MUST wait at least 20 min before removing the lid or you can get burned by the steam.
See how easy? :)

I strongly suggest making a large batch of beans and then freezing them in smaller batches so you do not have to do the preparation more than once a month. Once they are defrosted they can be eaten as in, for example in a salad, or cooked up with spices and veggies in a plethora of meals. You will not believe how quick and easy vegan cooking is with your beans all ready to go, and how much your grocery bill will drop if homemade dry beans are a central part of your diet!

P. S. The pressure cooker is also fabulous for cooking potatoes, which are stubbornly slow to cook in a normal pot. However, potatoes are a starch which does NOT create a complementary protein. No reason not to eat them anyway!

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