Dear Timaree: Which vegetable offers the most protein? What about fiber?
Timaree: Easy answer – LEGUMES! These “fruits grown in a pod”, a.k.a. beans, split peas and lentils, offer more fiber and protein than any other vegetable and are the only foods which fit into two categories: vegetables and protein. I am not alone in the quest to get more people eating beans, as newly released national nutrition guidance include specific recommendations to move to a more plant-based diet and regularly consume beans and peas, as they have so much to offer!
Beans and peas truly earn super food status by providing an astonishing array of vitamins (thiamin, folic acid, niacin and Vitamin B6) and minerals (iron, potassium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and zinc), a heart-healthy and bone-protective source of protein, are naturally low in sodium and low in fat, cholesterol free, and high in fiber!
Dry beans are an amazing value, a cinch to prepare, give you complete control over the sodium content of your meals and extras can be frozen for later. You’ll never get bored with legumes because there are so many of them to choose from! Chip Morris of Mohr-Fry Ranches in Lodi has grown up to 54 different heirloom varieties of beans in a single year!
Legumes are celebrated across all cultures and are so versatile that they can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner! While it doesn’t get any easier than tossing beans into breakfast burritos, salads, soups, cooked grains, chili or pasta dishes, you can also make your own dips and spreads.
I spent most Thursday evenings over the past several months at the Downtown Lodi Farmers’ Market, representing Slow Food Lodi and offering samples of, you guessed it, BEANS!!! While many Lodians skeptically perused my little sample cups, with a bit of encouragement to taste, the overwhelming response was, “Wow, that is REALLY good! And, I didn’t think that I was going to like it! Is it hard to make?” Absolutely not! In fact, it doesn’t really get any easier than rinsing beans, pouring them into a crock pot and covering them with 2 inches of water! When your dried beans are fresh, like the heirloom beans grown by Mohr-Fry Ranches (most people didn’t realize these gems were grown right here!), they don’t need to be soaked ahead of time and will cook up perfectly in 4-5 hours on LOW (energy cost: less than 10 cents)!!!
On one Thursday evening, I found myself with very little time before I needed to be on School Street. I had to use what I had on hand, and make it delicious (and tomatoes weren’t even ripe yet!). So, I “whipped” up a bean salad, using Runner Cannellinis that I had cooked in the crock pot the day before. The beans were the star of the show and did a fantastic job holding the flavors that I added! My only regret was that I hadn’t had enough time to get the recipe down on paper to distribute at the table. One gentleman enjoyed the salad so much that he agreed to purchase a bag of beans only if I was willing to send him the recipe via email. I would like to share the recipe with you here, and hope that you enjoy the dish as much as he and I do!
The Nutrition Professor’s Runner Cannellini Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette
3 cups cooked Runner Cannellini beans (1 pound of dry beans makes 6-7 cups of cooked beans)
2 celery ribs, chopped small
1 zucchini or other summer squash, julienned small
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup roasted red and yellow peppers, diced
White Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (regular will work, but will change the color of your salad to a brownish gray)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4-1/2 tsp thyme, dried
2 TBSP veggie broth (in place of oil)
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, whisk together vinaigrette ingredients. Add remaining salad ingredients, including cooked beans, stirring gently but thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside for at least 1 hour. Taste one more time before serving to check for seasoning, adding more vinegar, salt &/or pepper as needed. Refrigerate leftovers and enjoy for several days.
To continue with our journey to gradually adopt more healthful habits, incorporate beans, split peas or lentils at least every other day. You know the old saying, “The more you eat, the better you feel, so lets have beans at EVERY MEAL!” For more bean recipes, visit http://www.theveggietable.com/recipes/beanrecipes.html
Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, does corporate wellness work, as well as professional speaking engagements and teaches hands-on cooking/nutrition classes.