Beans beans good for the heart

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This blog came up in my Twitter feed and it immediately caught my attention.  The writer, Russ Parsons, reports that we do not have to soak dried beans before we cook them!! What?! Duh? This is new information to me.  In the interest of convenience, I buy canned beans.  I don’t have time to soak beans over night, change the water, soak some more, change the water, boil the beans, change the water….

This blog is telling me that I don’t have to do all of that.  I can simply add dried beans to a pot of water and boil for 1 hour and 15 minutes and voila they are done!  But, with 3 boys, a husband and  working full time I still don’t have time to boil my beans for that long before I add them to my recipe.

My BFF, Robin, is a dietitian living in Salmon Arm BC. She just got a pressure cooker primarily for cooking dried beans.  Robin was visiting her brother in Brazil last year and his girlfriend prepared many bean dishes.  Robin learned that Brazilians use pressure cookers to facilitate the preparation of traditional bean based meals, like black bean soup.  Take a look at the Brazilian healthy eating food guide for some inspiration.

Healthy diets include a lot of plant based foods such as fruits and vegetables; grains like oats, millet, bulgur; and legumes like kidney beans, pinto beans, lentils and split peas.  Plant based foods are sometimes not so convenient and they do need preparation.  However, the benefits are worth the trouble.  Plant based foods are low in calories, high in essential vitamins and minerals and contain fiber which helps to regulate blood sugar.  One unfortunate side effect to eating beans is flatulence.  The good news is, the gut does acclimatize to legume intake and eventually the flatulence will diminish.

I regularly make burritos with pinto beans that I heat with sautéed onions and tomatoes.  I have never cooked this recipe using dried, then cooked beans, but Robin promises the flavor is worth it. She is probably right because I also make a delicious dal recipe with sautéed onions, turmeric, curry, tomatoes, dried red lentils and water.  This recipe cooks very quickly and does not require soaking the lentils.  Red lentils cook fast as opposed to green lentils which take much longer.

If you have any legume recipes to share, please leave them in the comment section.  Do you use a pressure cooker to prepare beans?  Let us know in the comments section too!

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Faux Chocolate Chip Blondies

I am tired of baking with sugar sugar sugar and white flour which is like sugar.  I found a dessert recipe with chickpeas and peanut butter and I modified it and made it for the family.  They were so-so about it but I think it is because of the peanut butter taste. Kids these days just don’t like good ol’ PB. It’s actually kind of sad.

Chick peas are a protein-carbohydrate food and they add the perfect moisture to these faux blondies. You can reduce or omit the chocolate chips altogether for a healthier version.

Nothing like home baked goodness instead of boxed processed junk. (D the Intern made these to bring to work and they were happily devoured!)

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Faux and Flourless 

Chocolate Chip Blondies

1 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 can of chick peas (drained and rinsed)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place all ingredients except chocolate chips into a food processor and blend until very smooth.
Put in chocolate chips and pulse a few times until mixed in.
Pour batter into an 8”x8” greased pan.
Bake for 30 minutes. 


Note: The blondies in these photos were marbled by melting the chocolate chips in a double boiler first and later stirred in. This proved more difficult than expected because the chickpea mixture is very thick. The melted chocolate didn’t marble that nicely. Either way, it ended up being delicious!

Try it and let us know how it turns out and if you liked it!

 

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Crazy Confusing Carbohydrates

The world of nutrition has been rocked by some recent studies.  In the past, the belief was that dietary fats were primarily responsible for heart disease and obesity.  The food industry responded by cutting fat in all their processed products.  Fat was replaced by sugars.

North Americans kept getting bigger and the problem with heart disease was getting worse.  People became fat phobic and shunned anything they perceived to be high in fat including healthy fats found in nuts and seeds, olive oils and even avocados.

It should come as no surprise that current research indicates that dietary sugar is problematic.  It seems that highly refined carbohydrates are worse for your heart than saturated fats.

Consequently, the term carbohydrate is horribly confusing for most people.  I ask all of my patients to define it for me.  90% will say bread, pastas, rice and cereal.  They are not wrong. However, those foods are considered simple carbohydrates because they are made from refined white flour.  Complex carbohydrates are not highly processed and have a low glycemic index value.  These foods include: legumes, brown rice, whole grain bread and whole wheat pasta.

To make matters even more confusing there are carbohydrates in fruits, vegetables and even milk.  However, the fiber in the fruit and vegetables and the protein in the milk are good for you.  These combinations are beneficial.

Consider foods such as pastries, cookies, Danish, muffins, crackers, chocolate bars, candy, cake, pies and you’ve got a list of foods made with added sugar and some of them with refined white based flour.  These foods are addictive and can lead to weight gain and health issues like heart disease and diabetes.

If you reduce your intake of sugar containing foods and sugar containing beverages like regular soda (and even diet soda) and juice then you can significantly improve your diet.

Replace white pasta with whole wheat and white rice with brown rice.  Use only whole grain breads and rolls when making sandwiches or toast.  Experiment with legumes in recipes.  Try making a lentil vegetable soup or a chickpea salad.  Instead of making mashed potatoes with white potatoes, use sweet potatoes as a substitute.  Consider baking with whole wheat flour and cutting down on the amount of sugar in the recipe.  Try using unsweetened applesauce in place of sugar.  Instead of juice, try homemade smoothies made from frozen fruit of your choice and milk or yogurt.

Friday Finds: Chickpeas at Toby’s

I was at Grandma Toby's tonight for supper with the kids and Richard when I realized she didn't make anything for me to eat.  She usually makes chicken on Fridays accompanied by soup, salad, knishes and a vegetable.  Being of the vegetarian persuasion I am not into chicken and wasn't in the mood for hard boiled protein, I mean eggs.  

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I was desperately looking through her pantry for something edible when I came across a can of my favorite legume, garbanzo beans better known as chick peas.   I also a found a bottle of olive oil that GT said was over a year old. Blech.  I proceeded to make a vinaigrette with fresh canola oil (I know for a fact she bought it in April) white vinegar, lemon juice and sugar.  I chopped up some shallots, carrots and red peppers.  I tossed everything together and voila, something out of nothing!  I served it over a bed of greens and was completely satisfied. I really was in need of something healthy since I have been eating cake since Wednesday.

The truth is, it is just too easy to eat junkt in situations like this but with a little effort you can always find something healthy to make in a pinch.  Keep your pantry and freezer well stocked. Make sure you replace your oils every 3 months so they stay fresh.  Oil, vinegar or lemon juice and a dash of sugar always work if you need a basic dressing.

This week's Friday Find really was a find!  Otherwise, I would have been stuck without a protein and ended up hungry.  Knishes just don't cut it for supper.

Friday Finds: Loblaws Blue Menu Bulgur and Quinoa with Chickpeas

Here is the first post in a series entitled Friday Finds.  I will post interesting foods I find around town.  If you've been reading my blogs you know I encourage home cooked meals as much as possible to achieve healthy eating. Realistically speaking though, even for me, I need to take some short cuts sometimes. 

During the course of the Olympics, there was a commercial being aired by Galen Weston promoting some new President's Choice Blue Menu items.  Intrigued I deceided to try some of them.  

IMG_9545The one I am sharing with you is Bulgur with Quinoa and Chickpeas. Quinoa is a grain but it is also a complete protein. Therefore, you can get away with smaller portions of animal based protein like chicken or fish when served with quinoa. Additionally, chickpeas are also a source of protein so you really don't need to load up on chicken, fish or meat with this product. I served it with homemade skinless boneless roasted chicken and carrots. I thought it was outstanding. It was very tasty and aromatic.   

When buying prepared foods always take a look at nutrition label on the back of the package. It would be difficult to briefly describe how food labeling works. However, here are a couple of quick things to pay attention to.  First, check the portion size. IMG_9553
The nutrition information for this product is for 1/4 of the package. If you plan on eating more than that then you'll have do the calculations for the larger portion. Second, check the fat amount in grams. A rule of thumb would be 5 grams of fat per portion (3 grams or less for saturated fat and NO trans fat). Third, check for sodium. Ideally you do not want any sodium but that is not realistic for a packaged food. Look for about 200 mg or less of sodium which is about 8% of the daily value (total amount of sodium for the day). This product has 18%, not ideal but better than most prepared foods. Finally, check the fiber content on the label.  Look for something with at least 5 grams per serving which this product has. There are many other aspects to consider when reading a food label but the ones mentioned should give you a quick idea if the food is worth buying. 

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Because this product is higher in protein than most side dishes why not double the portion and add an extra 1/2 cup of chickpeas and make it into a vegetarian meal? Throw in 1 cup of frozen cooked vegetables and you should feel pretty satisfied.  If you have tried or will try this product let us know what you think!