Beans are an amazing underutilized healthy eating staple. Why do I think they’re often forgotten when meal plans are being made? Because by themselves beans can be a little bit boring. Who wants to sit down and eat a plain bowl of black beans? As much as I love them, I still need some rice and spice to transform them into a tasty meal. You can do so much more than that with these nutritional powerhouses. Ready to learn some new and unusual ways to eat beans?

Facts first: beans are a great source of protein and fiber. Beans are economical and quite easy to keep on hand. You can keep canned varieties in the cabinet for easy protein boosts to soup or a salad. You can also make large batches of beans in the crock pot and store in the freezer.

Visiting the bulk bin and making your own beans can make your grocery budget go a little father. One pound of dried beans can typically be purchased for about the same price as one can. One can cooked beans usually equals one and a half cups.  A pound of dried beans will yield about 4 to 5 cups cooked beans.

I found the instructions on how to cook the beans on the Iowa State University web site for their Food Science and Nutrition Dept. Here is the process for the “tootless” crock pot beans:

  1. In a large pot, heat 10 cups of water to boiling.
  2. Add cleaned dry bean, boil 2-3 minutes (blanch).
  3. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 4-16 hours (soak).
  4. Drain, discard soak water, rinse beans with fresh, cold water.
  5. Pour beans into crock pot, cover with fresh water and cook on low setting for 8-12 hours.

Now that you know how to cook some basic beans, let’s talk about some new and unusual ways to eat beans.

Let’s start with breakfast. Have you ever tried a chickpea scramble? My Southwest Chickpea Scramble will give you more protein than two eggs plus 15 grams of fiber. This power combo, along with the fat in the avocado, will keep you feeling full and energetic all morning long! Find the recipe here and watch this video for a demonstration.

Of course I am big fan of brinner aka breakfast for dinner. This is going to sound weird but have you ever had biscuits and gravy on a salad? What about VEGAN biscuits and gravy on a salad? The Button Up White Bean Gravy from the Protein Ninja cookbook by Terry Hope Romero is delicious with just biscuits but I was skeptical of the idea of trying it on a salad. Trust me, the combination of savory and creamy gravy with the mixed greens, apples, celery and vinegar-based dressing is out of this world! Find the Protein Ninja cookbook at your local library or order here from Amazon. (Since you’ve got a copy of Protein Ninja, you might as well make some Black Bean Hemp Brownies too. Just remember, the extra sugar makes them a treat, not a habit.)

Another delicious but unusual way to eat beans is beanballs! I’ve tried several beanball recipes over the years but my favorite is from Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook. You use white beans with wheat germ to create these delightful and versatile beanballs. Pair them with your favorite sauce and you’ve got dinner with endless options. You can serve over regular spaghetti and see if anyone notices the difference. I like mine over spaghetti squash while Bri enjoys them in a sub roll with Parmesan cheese.

If you really want to go bean crazy, you might try these beanballs on bean pasta!  These days you’ll find a host of gluten free pasta options along side traditional varieties.  Many of these are bean based. My favorite is Banza, which is made from chickpeas. Their delicious pasta is perfect way to boost the protein of any pasta based dish. It has a very similar texture and color to the pasta you’re used and a mild flavor.

I’ve also a found a new grab and go product that has a new and unusual way to eat beans. Worthy Blend Bowls look like pudding but are chocked full of protein from pureed beans and give you three full servings of fruits and vegetables. I’ve been recommending them to everyone and most of my clients who have tried them love them! It’s a great dairy free alternative to a cup of yogurt for lunch or breakfast. So far I can only find them at Mama Jean’s on E. Sunshine so stop in today and try one of the three delicious flavors.

While I’m all about these fun new and unusual ways to eat beans, I also have nothing against a good pot of baked beans or re-fried beans on my tacos. Just make sure to skip the ham or lard for your vegetarian friends!

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