Why I’ve Made the Switch from Canned to Dried

{Skip the foreplay and head straight to the Spinach & White Bean Salad Recipe}

Processed foods get a bad rep, and rightly so. They can be nutritional crap nicely packaged into a bag, box, or can–but not always. Most foods are processed.  Processing isn’t black and white.  There is a processing spectrum from minimally processed to unrecognizable with a long ingredient list.  It goes from pre-washed, bagged spinach to that “strawberry” Poptart.  Today, processing is necessary for the preservation, safe storage, and transportation of food.  It is unrealistic for people to solely eat food from scratch especially given that the average American only spends 33 minutes a day doing food preparation and cleanup.

When you hear people speaking negatively about processed foods they mean the ones up there on the spectrum with the Poptarts, where any nutritional value has been completely diminished. But what about those foods in the middle of the spectrum?  When does the processing cross over from being helpful to just plain unhealthy?

Spinach & White Bean Salad
Spinach & White Bean Salad

The UN has said that this is the year of pulses.  Pulses are nutritious, inexpensive, and good for the environment.  But, these dry legumes require time-intensive cooking.  It’s easy. SO EASY to do, and is almost all inactive cooking, but forethought is required to make pulses part of your meal.  Pressure cookers cut the time down considerably, but the beans still need a least a few hours of soaking before they can be cooked.

Canned beans, on the other hand, just require a quick rinse and, unopened, they keep for an incredibly long time at that ready-to-eat stage.  TIP: Canned beans once opened can last up to 2 days in the fridge and should be kept in a non-metallic container. Dried beans also last a long time, but once they’re cooked, in that ready-to-eat form, they only last 4-5 days in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer. Still, not bad.  TIP: before you freeze cooked beans, cover them with water to prevent freezer burn.

Canned beans are more expensive than dried beans. At Walmart, a 15.5 oz can of great northern beans is $0.72 ($0.05/oz). Note: this is even kind of low, sometimes they will be closer to $1.o0.  A 2 lb bag bag of great northern beans is $2.84 ($0.09/oz).  But, here’s the kicker:  That can of beans contains 1.75 cups of cooked beans.  That bag of dried beans makes 12 cups of cooked beans.  12 CUPS! So, the canned beans cost $0.21 per 1/2 cup serving and the dried beans cost $0.12 per 1/2 cup serving. Worth pointing out that either way, beans are cheap for the nutrition they provide.

Nutritionally, canning can sometimes actually enhance various nutrients.  For example, canned tomatoes have more lycopene than fresh tomatoes. And fruits and vegetables that are frozen at peak freshness are able to keep their nutritional profile and can be eaten all year round.

Dried beans, however, are nutritionally superior to canned beans for one big reason: sodium.  You cook dried beans and therefore you have full control over how much sodium you add.  Canned Great Northern beans, for example, have 485 mg sodium in a 1/2 cup serving.  The low sodium version has 140 mg sodium…much better but still 140% times more than dried beans. You’ll see below in the comparison between dried great northern beans and (low sodium) canned great northern beans that the dried contain less carbohydrates and protein than the canned…consequently they contain a lower amount of calories.  When you look at the percentage of calories these macronutrients contribute, however, it is about the same. The take away: Canned beans are still a nutritional powerhouse.So, if the ready-to-eat convenience of canning makes you more likely to eat them, then I’m all for it.  Please do purchase the low sodium version and rinse them to get off some that starchy liquid and excess sodium.  This will also help minimize the tooting that beans are infamous for catalyzing.

So, why have I switched to dried beans?
1. Cheaper
2. Slightly more nutritious
3. Still easy to make

Beans from a can do not compare to the taste of dried beans.  Not kidding you.  I didn’t want to believe it, but it’s true.  TRY IT!

How do you cook dried beans you ask??  Here are the bean cooking basics:
  1. Sort through the dry beans for any pebbles or beans that are shriveled.
  2. Soak the beans in water for at least 8 hours or overnight.  You can speed this soaking part up by boiling the beans for 2-3 minutes.  Then remove from heat, cover and let soak for 2 hours. Either method requires about 10 cups of water per pound (~2 cups) of dried beans.
  3. Drain the soaking water and rinse the beans with fresh water.  Then cover with more fresh water and simmer for 1-2 hours until the beans are tender.  The beans should be covered by water throughout the entire cooking time. Drain and add to whatever recipe you’re making. TIP: Don’t add salt or any kind of acidic food (tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar, wine, etc) until the end of the beans’ cooking time.  Salt toughens the skin and acids can keep the beans from ever getting tender. 

I like to soak my beans the overnight the night before I want to have them for dinner.  In the morning I rinse them and then put them into the crockpot on low or medium (sometimes I add a bay leaf or two) and let them cook while I do my day.  When I get back, they are ready for dinner.

Now, that you’ve got your beans cooked, why not put them into this quick recipe?? Bonus with this one: because the spinach is wilted it is a great way to use up a lot of spinach if it is beginning to go bad.

Spinach & White Bean Salad Recipe

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: super simple
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Salad:Spinach & White Bean Salad
-1 or 2 tablespoons vegetable or chicken broth/stock
-1 10 oz bag pre-washed spinach (or more!)
-2 cups cooked white beans
-1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
-1/4 cup (a handful) fresh basil leaves, chopped into ribbons 

-1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
-1 overflowing tablespoon lemon juice
-1/8 cup olive oil
-salt & pepper to taste

1. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together and set aside.  You will likely have more dressing than you will use.
2. In a skillet over medium heat add enough broth to cover the bottom of the skillet. Add the spinach and allow it to wilt and the broth to reduce.
3. When there is room in the pan add in the beans and cook for just a minute more to allow more of the broth to reduce and the beans to warm.
4. Remove from the heat and add halved tomatoes, and basil.
5.  Add the dressing a little at a time, tossing the salad between additions.  The salad will already have moisture so add the dressing a little at a time, tossing the salad between additions.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!



Super bowl….of soup!!!

{skip the foreplay and head straight to the roasted butternut squash soup recipe}

As we all prepare for this upcoming Sunday evening with Tom Brady, I want to encourage you to think about serving this truly SUPER BOWL of soup during the game! Delicious sunshine in a bowl, this soup only has 1 gram of saturated fat and less than 200 calories per serving**, but that’s not the only reason why it’s perfect for the game:

IMG_2345Vitamin A

Why it’s important: Eyesight (particularly night vision), immune function, gene expression, fetal development, red blood cell production

How much we need per day* (males/females): 900 µg/700 µg

Amount in a serving of this soup**: 1052 µg

(Some other good sources: Sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, cantaloupe, spinach, kale, collard greens)

bottom line: you’ll still be able to see Tom–even if the lights go out

Vitamin C

Why it’s important: Wound healing, resistance to infection, antioxidant

How much we need per day* (males/females): 90 mg/75 mg

Amount in a serving of this soup**: 35 mg

(Some other good sources: Citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis, tomatoes, sweet red peppers, broccoli)

bottom line: you can offer Tom a bowl if he gets scraped up during the game



Why it’s important: Oxygen transport, infection resistance, DNA synthesis

How much we need per day* (males/females): 8 mg/18mg***

Amount in a serving of this soup**: 2 mg

(Some other good sources: Oysters, beef, lentils, tofu, chicken, kidney beans, potatoes with skin)

Eating vitamin C with iron helps increase the bioavailability of iron, or how well the body is able to actually use the iron that is taken in. Oh, and look at that; this SUPER BOWL of soup has both!

bottom line: Tom is hot.  Iron will help you catch your breath.


Why it’s important: Nerve impulse transmission & muscle contractions, energy production, DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis

How much we need per day* (males/females): 420 mg/320 mg

Amount in a serving of this soup**: 59 mg

(Some other good sources: Brown rice, spinach, almonds, lima beans, peanuts, swiss chard)

bottom line: you need your heart to be able to contract when it drops every time Tom is on the field

Here’s to hoping the Patriots are on offense most of the game! Happy Super Bowl everyone!


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

  • Servings: 5 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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roughly 24 oz prepackaged butternut squash cubes or a 1.5-2 lb whole squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced (~1 clove)
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small apple, peeled and chopped OR 1/3 cup applesauce
2-3 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons ground ginger
32 fl oz box chicken or vegetable stock (~4 cups)
salt & pepper to taste

1. Roast the Squash:
–Preheat oven to 400°F.
–Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

If you bought a whole butternut squash:
a. Wash squash.
b. Cut squash in half and remove seeds and stringy bits (you can save the seeds to roast later if you’d like or just toss)
c. On the inside, flesh side of each half of squash, drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Rub olive oil and s&p into the squash a little, making sure the oil covers all of the squash.
d. Place on baking sheet inside/flesh side down and place in the oven to roast for 30-40 minutes or until the squash is soft. (you can put the squash in before the oven is preheated)
e.  Allow the squash to cool until you can touch it and scoop the flesh out of the squash and into your soup pot and mix.

If you used pre-packaged squash:
a. Place on prepared baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper and mix, so all sides of the squash cubes are coated.
b. Roast for 30 minutes or until the squash cubes are soft and slightly browned. (you don’t have to wait until your oven is preheated to start roasting)
c. Add roasted squash to your soup pot and mix.

2. While the squash is roasting, chop the rest of the ingredients.  Add the olive oil to large soup pot and heat on medium-high.  Add garlic, onion, carrots, and if using apple (not applesauce) add apple.  Cook until the onion is translucent.
3. Add chicken stock, thyme, and applesauce if you used that instead of the apple.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, continuing to cook until carrots are soft and your squash is roasted.
4. Once squash is roasted and mixed with the rest of the soup, use either an immersion blender to blend the soup right there in the pot, or divide the soup into batches and use a blender.
5. TASTE!  Add salt and pepper as you’d like…I ended up adding probably a teaspoon or so of each.
6. Garnish with toasted almonds and extra fresh thyme.  Enjoy!

*These amounts are the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). This is the average daily dietary intake amount of a particular nutrient recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine (in 2001) to ensure adequate stores of the nutrient for proper body function in a healthy person. (see a full RDA chart here)
**Recipe nutrition facts from USDA (www.SuperTracker.usda.gov).
***18 mg for pre-menopausal women is recommended and 8 mg for post-menopausal women is recommended.

Source: Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute (http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/)

Morning Muffins

{skip the foreplay and head straight to the recipe}

My roommate is crazy.  Now, when I say crazy, I really just mean completely different from myself.  My approach to morning time is to sleep to the absolute last possible minute and not talk until a sufficient amount of time has passed and coffee has been drunk.  My roommate, however, is the definition of a morning person.  She is out of the door by 5am to go workout before work.  She doesn’t get up at 5, she leaves at 5.  Her alarm is set in the 4’s of the morning.  THE 4’S! On the reg.  THE 4’S! The sun isn’t up yet, but she is.  And she LOVES it.  I believe her to be insane and think she should probably talk to someone.
Banana Morning Muffins Now, understandably, my roommate likes to eat on the go or have a breakfast packed so she doesn’t have to come back home in between the gym and going to work.  Her go-to for a packed breakfast was overnight oats.  Lately, though, she has been complaining of being tired of oatmeal.  Here is something I understand and for which I have a solution.  I am the queen of quick and on-the-go breakfasts.  Why take the time to make and eat breakfast at the kitchen table every morning when that time could be spent still sleeping??  So this one is for you, my crazy, morning-loving roommate.  Added bonus?  These muffins are vegan, gluten free, ridiculously healthy, and, of course, DELICIOUS!

Banana Morning Muffins Recipe

  • Servings: 12 muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 tablespoon chia seeds
3 tablespoons water
3 super ripe bananas (I’m talking brown bananas with yellow spots kind of ripe!)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauceIMG_2274
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups oat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4+ 2 tablespoons cup chopped toasted nuts of your choice (divided)
3 tablespoons oats (make sure they are gluten free oats if that is of concern)
1 tsp honey

1. In a small bowl whisk together the chia seed and water to create a binding gel (this will serve to replace eggs in this recipe).  Whisk vigorously for a minute before putting the bowl in the fridge.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with liners, parchment paper, or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
3. Sift together oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and 1/4 cup of toasted nuts.
4. In a separate bowl, peel and mash the banana.  Then beat using an electric mixer or your strong arm and a fork until the banana releases its sugars and is a liquid-ish mush.  Mix in applesauce and vanilla extract.
5. Take the chia and water gel mixture out of the refrigerator and whisk for another minute before adding to the banana mixture.
6.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the banana mixture, mixing in between additions.
7. Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins with a 1/4 cup measure.
8.  In a new bowl mix together the rest of the toasted nuts, oats, and honey to make a crumble.  Top each muffin with the crumble mixture.
9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until they become golden brown and pull away from the edge of the muffin tin.  A knife/toothpick will come out almost clean when inserted. To avoid mushy-bottomed muffin remove from the muffin tins to cool.  Enjoy!  They’re particularly tasty with some nut butter!

Inspired by Auntie Fee: LPT Salad

{skip the foreplay and head straight to the recipe}

My friend and I spent this afternoon watching Auntie Fee’s cooking videos on YouTube.  If you haven’t seen Auntie Fee in action, take a look:

She was recently featured in a segment on Jimmy Kimmel as well.   Auntie Fee swears (repeatedly) that parsley will make anything taste good, which got me thinking that maybe I should make something with parsley for dinner. The result is this Lentil Parsley Tomato Salad.

Now, forget Auntie Fee’s parsley and let’s just chat about how great lentils are for a second:  Considered a legume (think peas, beans, some nuts), lentils give you a lot of bang for your buck.  Just a 1/4 cup (uncooked) of lentils packs 8 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, and 9 grams of fiber into less than 100 kcals AND will cost only about $0.10!  Tender and with a slightly nutty flavor, lentils will absorb most any flavor you want to pair them with making them perfect for salads, soups, mashed into dips, or used as an alternative to rice or potatoes.  Alone, lentils can be kind of bland, but cook in chicken stock–or I like to add some wine–season with salt and pepper, and you’ve got yourself a great sidekick to any meal!

I used green lentils but you could use brown.  I wouldn’t use red lentils, though, because they tend to get mushy when they’re cooked.  Make sure you sift through the lentils to ensure that there aren’t any small pebbles and you want to wash the lentils to remove excess grit.  Like with rice, you use a 1:2 lentil to liquid ratio to boil the lentils.  Which type of liquid you use to cook the lentils is really flexible, but using a chicken or vegetable stock in addition to water really helps to add some flavor.  I used a combination of chicken stock, red wine, and water to cook my lentils tonight.

The process of cooking lentils is the same as rice: bring to boil and then reduce to medium heat and let cook for 35-40 minutes.  While the lentils are cooking, chop parsley (use fresh, the cost will balance out because the lentils are cheap and it’ll taste so much better), a red onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, and tomatoes (I just sliced cherry tomatoes in half).  Quickly rinse the black eyed peas and white northern beans to remove all of the gross can juice (also cheap items btw).  Add everything to a large bowl (to save some dishes, go ahead and mix everything in the serving bowl).  Then just add in the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and the lentils when they are done cooking.  When they’re done, the lentils will be soft but will still hold their shape, and almost all of the liquid will be gone.  Just drain and discard any excess liquid.

This made a lot of salad because I just used a full can or bag of everything, but it will last for a while in the fridge and I bet it will only get tastier as it sits with the dressing.  It can be served hot or cold.  Maybe Auntie Fee has a future in the food show business after all if she’s inspiring dishes like this!

LPT Salad

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 lb bag of green or brown lentils, sorted and washed
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup red wine
4 1/2 cups water
1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed throughly
1 can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed throughly
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 small-medium red onion, diced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced (or more)
1/2 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper (again, more or less to taste)
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
3 Tbs olive oil

1. Add lentils, water, chicken/vegetable stock, and wine to a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until the lentils are soft but still hold their shape and almost all of the liquid has been absorbed.  This will take about 35-40 minutes.
2. While the lentils cook, combine the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl.
3. Add the cooked lentils (draining and discarding any remaining liquid), and mix.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  The salad can be served hot or cold.  Enjoy!