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Stretching Food Stamps and Making Do with Magic Beans


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Published on: Thursday, January 09, 2014

By B. Morrison, Special to The Sentinel

 

Opinion: Think Again

My life on welfare had its ups and downs, just like anybody else's. Coming from a middle-class family, I felt like Jack climbing the beanstalk that had magically sprouted outside his window, not sure what awaited me at the top, what dangers, what treasures.

I found a lot of generous people who helped me in many ways. I worked hard to help myself, making clothes for the kids, planting a garden, starting a babysitting coop. But my secret weapon for stretching food stamps was the lowly bean. They are cheap and have lots of protein and fiber.

Cooking dried beans takes a little planning, but is easy. I often cook a big batch on the weekend and freeze them in meal-size containers for later.

Rinse 1 c beans and discard any pebbles or debris. Soak the beans in 3 c water until they double or triple in size, about six hours. To reduce soaking time, start with boiling water, sprinkle the beans in, and then turn off the heat.

Drain and rinse the beans. Add fresh water to cover the beans plus an inch or two. Do not add salt at this time because it slows the cooking process. Sometimes I toss in a whole peeled onion and a stalk of celery for extra flavor. Bring to a boil and them simmer for about an hour, skimming off and discarding any foam that forms. Add 1 t salt after about 45 minutes. Different varieties of beans may take more or less times, so check them. Make sure they don't burn; add more water if necessary.

There are many different kinds of beans: pinto beans, pink beans, kidney beans, black beans, great northern beans, garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), and adzuki beans. Note that lentils and split peas do not need to be soaked and cook in about 30 minutes.

Pinto beans are best for chili. Just add a chopped onion, a 16-oz can of tomatoes, 1T chili powder, and a little red pepper. Adjust the seasonings to taste. If you want to include meat, such as ground beef or ground turkey, brown it separately with the onion before adding the tomatoes, cooked beans and spices. Beans are a great way to make a little bit of meat go a long way.

For more information about the nutritional value of beans, check out http://www.americanbean.org/healthy-beans-health-nutrition-beans-a-nutritional-power-house/. There are some easy bean recipes here: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/eat-right/fun-family-recipes.htm

 

B. Morrison is the author of a memoir, Innocent: Confessions of a Welfare Mother. For more information, visit http://www.bmorrison.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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