My last two blog posts have been about vegetables—or rather, the absence of vegetables in kids’ diets and how that’s REALLY OKAY. If your child turns up his nose at the green stuff, don’t sweat it. Many other plant foods will be more appealing to kids. We’ve talked about fruit and we’ve talked about nuts. Now, let’s turn the spotlight on my favorite plant protein….beans!
If your children aren’t eating meat, you might worry about whether they are getting enough protein. Beans (legumes) are not only high in protein, but also in healthy fats, fiber, and carbohydrates, making them a great energy food for adults and children. They are rich sources of potassium, calcium, iron, and several B-vitamins. Studies show that beans lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
What To Do With Beans
Many people avoid beans because they just don’t know what to do with them. Are you one of them? Here’s some ideas, many of them kid-friendly:
- Toss beans and diced veggies (such as celery, shallots, and red peppers) with vinaigrette for a bean salad.
- Blend cooked beans with tomatoes, onions, and your favorite seasonings to create a yummy bean soup.
- Top a green salad with 1/3 cup of your favorite bean.
- Puree beans with a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove, salt, and your favorite seasonings. Voila! A fast dip or sandwich spread.
- Add beans to eggs. Top with avocado and salsa!
- Add 1/4 cup pureed beans to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, or cake recipe. You’ll be surprised at how moist and springy baked goods are when baked with beans.
If you’re new to cooking with beans, try these tips:
- Wash and soak dried beans for 8-12 hours before cooking.
- After soaking, rinse, fill a pot with fresh water, bring to a boil, then skim off the foam.
- To aid digestion, add kombu, bay leaf, cumin, anise, or fennel to the water.
- Cover and simmer for the suggested time.
- Remember: only add salt at the end of cooking (about 10 minutes before the beans are done) or it will interfere with the cooking process.
- For speedier prep, boil dried beans for 5 minutes, then soak for 2-4 hours.
- Does this still sound too complicated? Go ahead and use canned beans instead. (Some people find them even easier to digest!). Be sure to avoid canned beans with added salt or preservatives and rinse thoroughly once removed from the can. Always opt for BPA-free cans.
Easy Lemony Hummus for Kids
Many children like hummus for dipping carrots, cucumbers, and other raw veggies. If you have never made your own hummus, you’re in for a treat: it is WAY tastier than the store bought variety. In Asian healing traditions, the garbanzo bean is beneficial to the pancreas, stomach, and heart (it’s even shaped somewhat like a heart): it contains more iron than other legumes and is also a good source of unsaturated fats.
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking Time: 0 minutes
Yield: 3 cups
- 2 cups canned chickpeas, or 1 cup of dried chickpeas that have been soaked, then cooked
- 1-3 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup or more spring water (use chickpea water)
- Place all ingredients in a blender or food mill and purée until creamy. It is easier to do it in several smaller batches.
- Add more garlic, tahini or lemon juice to taste.
- Serve with pita bread, crackers or crudités.
- Use as a spread for healthy sandwiches and add sprouts, lettuce, tomato or any other fresh vegetables.
- Add fresh parsley to the blender for a lighter flavor.
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