Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Meet Whole Foods: Black Beans!

Today's whole food is:

Black Beans!

What are Black Beans? 
Black Beans or Black Turtle Beans are small beans that are black in color and especially popular in Latin american dishes. They have a rich, meaty flavor and hold their shape well during cooking.

How do I use them?
Dry black beans should be cleaned and sorted before using, picking out any small pebbles, split and withered beans and any other foreign matter. Black beans can then be cooked in the pressure cooker or on the stove top.

To shorten the cooking time, black beans can be presoaked using a couple of different methods. Place the beans in a sauce pan with 3 cups of water for every cup of beans. Then place the pan in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. For the quick soak method, place the pan on the stovetop and boil for two minutes. Remove from the heat, put a lid on and let stand for two hours. After soaking, drain the soaking liquid and rinse the beans.

Stove Top
To cook black beans on the stove top just add 3 parts water to 1 part black beans in a saucepan.  Bring the beans to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, partially covering the pot. Then cook for about 2-3 hours (un-soaked) or 1.5 hours (pre-soaked). The time may need to be adjusted a bit depending on how old the beans are and how soft you want them.

Pressure Cooker
To cook black beans in a pressure cooker (either electric or stove top) just add 3 parts water to 1 part black beans in the pressure cooker.  Heat to high pressure and then cook for 45 - 50 minutes (un-soaked) or 10-15 minutes (pre-soaked). The time may need to be adjusted a bit depending on how old the beans are and how soft you want them. Then naturally release the pressure.

Whole black beans can be used to make soups, salsas, refried beans, salads, or even desserts. They work great as a meat substitute or extender. Black beans can also be ground into flour and put into breads or used to thicken gravies, sauces, or soups.

Where can I buy them?
Black beans are easy to find in most grocery stores. The dry beans can be bought in prepackaged containers or in bulk bins. Most grocery stores also sell canned (already cooked) black beans, which are convenient for fast meals. Some canned beans, however, have added salt or other additives so be sure to read the labels.

How healthy are they?
Black Beans are high in fiber, protein, and folic acid. Along with these they also contain lots of important vitamins and minerals that our body needs. Black beans have been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels, aiding in cardiovascular health and decreasing risks of heart disease. Black beans because of their high fiber and protein help to steady digestive processes. Black beans help regulate blood sugar, benefiting in type 2 diabetes prevention and regulation. Black beans also help decrease the risk of different kinds of cancer. As you can see, black beans are wonderfully nutritious for the body!

Got a recipe?
This week and next, I'll be sharing some more of my favorite recipes using black beans. If you have a favorite black bean recipe, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail!

Recipes with Black Beans:
Black Bean Taco Filling
Black Bean Corn Salsa
Chicken Taco Soup
Mexican Black Beans
Mexican Black Bean Taco Salad


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