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Saturday, January 25, 2014

How to Cook and Freeze Big Batches of Beans for Frugal Dinners & Avoid BPA Lined Cans



I have a confession. I'm a bit of a lazy cook. Sometimes I love just being able to pull something out of the freezer and whip up dinner. But I don't like to buy a lot of canned foods, which can be expensive, or have unhealthy ingredients, preservatives, and potentially dangerous linings, like BPAs (which I explain a little more in detail below). 

 So it's super convenient to have big batches of staples, like beans, chickpeas, lentils, and brown rice in the freezer that I can just pull out, defrost, and pop into quick, healthy, naturally gluten free recipes.

Once in awhile when the freezer gets a little bare, I plan ahead (like with my Gluten Free Meal Plans) and cook up several different types of beans and chickpeas and freeze them in batches. It's really, really simple and proper preparation can really reduce the likelihood of ... ahem... unpleasant gastrointestinal distress.


First, a note on why I *try* to avoid canned food. I'm not perfect, sometimes it can't be helped. I'm allergic to most fresh fruit and can only have it cooked. Sometimes it's hard to can everything myself and end up buying canned fruit. But I do try to look for BPA cans when possible.


Why to avoid BPA lined cans


I get into this in more detail in my new book, Living with Oral Allergy Syndrome: A Gluten and Meat-Free Cookbook for Wheat, Soy, Nut, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Allergies but here's the basic rundown. Many cans, bottles, and food containers are lined with something known as bisphenol A (BPA). BPA has been linked to higher levels of allergies and asthma, and while it has been banned from baby bottles in many countries, it is still found in many common food containers.[1]  

Furthermore, a draft report from January 2014 from the European Food Safety Authority has "identified likely adverse effects on the liver and kidney and effects on the mammary gland as being linked to exposure to the chemical," although they say the risk affects are low. [2]  Well low risk or not, I'm not inclined to mess around with the stuff! That said, there are regulations on how high BPA levels can get in food containers, and so far the studies seem to suggest that it's safe in low levels for adults (it freaks me out, though, that they ban it in baby bottles but not for adults!)

 It's hard to find a list of BPA-free brands, but I did come across this blog that lists several brands' responses to request re: their BPA status. While it may be outdated by now, it's unlikely the brands that are BPA free would put BPA back into their cans. Eden Organics does advertise that they are BPA free, while others have made the transition but don't yet advertise, as there may still be BPA lined cans on the store shelves thanks to long expiration dates.

If in doubt, you can always email or call the company and ask! The more people that do, the more likely companies are to listen. 

Anyway, on to the beans!! 


How to Cook Beans


This applies to most types of common beans and legumes, such as black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cannelini beans, etc. Softer legumes such as lentils don't need this, unless you want to sprout them, in which case, soak and sprout away!  

Ingredients 

2 cups dried beans, organic is ideal (will make about 6-7 cups cooked beans), or the equivalent of 4-5 15oz cans of beans
2 bay leaves (optional)
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (optional)
2 tsp salt (optional)

Directions

1. In a fine mesh colander, rinse beans 3-4 times to clean. Pick out any discoloured beans or stones. 

2. Cover beans with water, with an extra inch or two to cover. Soak overnight, or 6-10 hrs. Alternatively, you can also soak your legumes and beans overnight, then sprout them for a day or two, then cook them.

3. Drain beans. Old school recipes will tell you to keep the soaking water, but some contend this contributes to that gassy feeling we're trying to avoid here, so let's just do away with the water. 

4. In a large pot, cover beans with enough water to cover, plus an inch. Add bay leaves if using. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and simmer beans 45minutes - 1 hr, until soft, adding water if needed to prevent burning.  During the first several minutes of cooking, a foam will develop on top of the water. Skim this off with a spoon. This is part of what contributes to intestinal distress!  Once the foam has stopped bubbling up, cover with a lid and continue to simmer until soft.

During the last 15 minutes or so of cooking, add the apple cider vinegar. This is said to release enzymes and help prevent gassy reactions. Is this true? I don't know if there's science behind it, but it does seem to help. 

5. Once the beans are soft, drain any remaining water (if you like, keep the bean water and add it to soup stock, or drink it with a bit of salt!), toss with salt if using and cool beans to room temp. 



How to Freeze Beans in Batches


Once the beans are cooled, I measure them out into old yogurt or glass containers, label them, and freeze them. I usually scoop them with this in mind:

Approximately 1.5 cups equals one 15oz can of beans

So I use small containers for beans I use in small batches of 1 can, say, and larger containers that equal 2 cans. 





To Reheat Frozen Beans


* In a previous post on How to Freeze Brown Rice in Big Batches someone noted that my plastic containers are bad for reheating in. To clarify, I agree, although in a quick scan I can't actually find conclusive evidence that definitively says so. When I can, I use glass containers (i.e. Mason jars) with freezer safe lids. You can see them in the left corner of the above photo.

Sometimes I use old yogurt containers, but I don't reheat my food in them. To defrost food, I take it out of the freezer, run some warm water over the container for about 5 seconds and wiggle the container until the food pops out in a big chunk. 

Then I transfer the bean chunk into a glass bowl and either defrost overnight in the fridge, reheat in the microwave for a few minutes, or transfer into a pot, add a bit of water, and reheat over medium heat until defrosted and ready for use. 

So for the cost of 2 cups of dried beans (about $2 for organic ones) I get the equivalent of 4-5 cans of beans (about $12 for organic beans)

To make this even more of a time saver, I do 2-3 types of beans at once, and save even more on electricity! 


What to do with those beans?


I don't have a lot of bean recipes on the blog, although I hope to change that. Two of my favorites, though, are:

Vegetable Scrap Stew: Cannelini Beans and Swiss Chard Stem Stew
Gluten Free Beet Hummus (Tahini Free)



What's your favorite bean recipe?



References
1. Hsu, Nai-Yun, et al. "Feeding bottles usage and the prevalence of childhood allergy and asthma," Clinical and Developmental Immunology, (2012); Midoro-Horiuti, Terumi, Ruby Tiwari, Cheryl S. Watson, and Randall M. Goldblum. "Maternal bisphenol a exposure promotes the development of experimental asthma in mouse pups," Environmental health perspectives, 118, no. 2 (2010): 273.
 
2. http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/bisphenol.htm



This post was shared on the following great link parties: Waste Not Want Not WednesdayMusings of a Housewife, Fat Tuesday, Healthy Happy Green Party, Gluten Free Wednesdays, The Hearth and Soul Hop,
 

3 comments:

  1. Have you tried cooking beans in a slow-cooker? We just got one and have made some bean dishes that started with dry beans and turned out well, so I think eventually we'll start cooking plain beans in the slow-cooker and freezing them instead of using canned beans. We don't have a lot of time for cooking, so until now the only dry beans we've been using are lentils, which cook quickly.

    Some of my favorite bean recipes:
    Mexican Pizza (You could use a GF cornbread recipe for the crust.)
    Garlic Kale Sweet Potato Soup (with cannellini beans; I've also made it with pintos)
    Vegetable yum with garbanzos or other mild beans
    American Beanwich

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Becca, thanks for sharing your links! They looks awesome :)

      I only recently got a slow cooker and have been slowly collecting recipes to try. Indeed, most of the meat-free slow cooker recipes I've found are bean based, so I'll have to start experimenting.

      Delete
  2. Hi Danielle,
    I am a huge fan of dried beans--and a big avoider of canned beans--so I love your suggestions for cooking, freezing and defrosting my favorite staple. What a terrific timesaver! Thank you so much for sharing these valuable tips with us at the Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Blog Hop! I really appreciate it!
    All the best, Deb

    ReplyDelete

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