Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fiber, Beans and a Recipe for Roasted Vegetable Rice & Bean Salad

We know, we know.  We talk a lot about fiber.  

Why?  Because fiber is just so good for you!  Over and over again, studies show diets high in dietary fiber help you to maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease.  Research has even shown that increasing fiber intake improves our mood!

Roasted Vegetable Rice & Bean Salad, Recipe Below
Both children and adults need 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day, depending upon age and gender.  However, most people get much less fiber than that!  You can increase the fiber in your diet by following a Mediterranean-style diet, one rich in whole grains, beans and legumes, and fruits and vegetables.

Beans happen to be a particularly great source of fiber, with about 15 grams of fiber per half-cup serving!  Recently, I've had a lot of people asking me how to cook with beans.  Here are a few thoughts.  

Canned beans and cooked dried beans are equally good, although I think home-cooked beans taste better.  It depends on how much time you have.  Canned beans are a great convenience food.  Just rinse them before using in your favorite recipe.  Aside from the taste, cooking dried beans can save you money.  Soaking beans before cooking helps the beans cook faster.   If you have time, soak them, either with an overnight soak or using the quick soak method.  If you don’t have time, skip the soaking, and cook the beans longer.  Fresher beans need less soaking time than beans that have been on the shelf for a while.

Overnight Soak
Rinse the beans and place them in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain and then re-cover with water to cook.

Quick Soak
Rinse the beans and place them in a large pot with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 1 hour.  Drain and then re-cover with water to cook.

Place the drained, soaked beans in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 to 2 hours.  Wait until beans are tender before you add salt or acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, vinegar or molasses, as these will make the beans tough.

Here are some ideas of how to eat more beans at breakfast, lunch dinner and for snacks:

At breakfast...

-      Breakfast burrito with whole wheat tortilla, scrambled eggs, beans, leftover veggies (any kind) and salsa.  You could also leave out the egg and still have a good source of protein.
-      Breakfast bowl with stewed beans (homemade would be best here), topped with a poached or fried egg, salsa and a sprinkle of cheese. 

At lunch and dinner...

-       Bean soups.  There are so many to try!  Look at and for some great bean soup recipes.  Some of my favorite combinations are kale, chicken sausage and white bean; black beans and stewed tomatoes; and tomato, swiss chard and chickpea soup. Or McKenzie's Game Day Chili.
-       Bean and grain salads.  Combine beans and whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, barley) with roasted vegetables and drizzle with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
-       Bean and corn salad.  Combine beans with fresh or frozen corn, halved cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, diced feta and toss with lemon or lime juice and extra virgin olive oil.
-       Bean wraps.  Make a wrap with a whole grain tortilla filled with a bean spread, spinach, shredded carrots and avocado.
-       Bean tacos.  Corn tortillas filled with the beans of your choice and topped with salsa, cheese or other taco toppings.  Serve with cabbage salad.
-       Bean burritos.  Stuff a whole wheat burrito with beans, brown rice, and vegetables.  Roll, top with cheese and put in 350 degree oven until the cheese melts.
-       Bean enchiladas.  
-       Bean bowls.  Fill a bowl with braised beans (either homemade or canned), a whole grain (like brown rice), braised greens (like kale), and top with an egg and either pesto or a romesco sauce.  Good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

For snacks...

-       Make your own high fiber bean dip using whatever canned beans you have on hand—chickpeas, black beans, white beans, etc.  Then dip with veggies, whole grain crackers or pita chips.
-       Crispy oven-roasted chickpeas.  Rinse canned chickpeas and dry well.  Toss with olive oil and desired spices.  Place on a baking sheet and roast in 400 degree oven until browned and crispy, about 30 minutes.

Roasted Vegetable Rice & Bean Salad

Makes about 10 – 12 servings

4 cups cooked brown and wild rice blend
2 cans cannelini beans (or any beans you like), rinsed and drained
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, roasted*
1 large summer squash, sliced ¼” thick, roasted*
2 large zucchini, sliced ¼” thick, roasted*
1 red onion, sliced and roasted*
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 – 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Seas salt, to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Toss and let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving, to allow flavors to blend.

*To roast tomatoes and vegetables:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Toss vegetables in extra virgin olive oil (about 1 – 2 tablespoons) and sea salt.  Place in single layer on baking sheet.  Roast for about 20 – 25 minutes or until browned and caramelized.  Let cool.  Do not roast tomatoes and vegetables in the same pan, as the juice from the tomatoes will prevent the vegetables from browning.

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