Posted by Janet Harriett on Jan.29, 2009
By now, livestock’s environmental impact is old news. Using a 2007 study by the University of Chicago, the Environmental Defense Fund calculated that even one meatless meal a week would have the greenhouse-gas-emission impact of taking 5 million cars off the road. That is without counting the impact to groundwater supplies of the reduced runoff from animal wastes.
Whether you are going for an entirely vegetarian lifestyle or just trying one meatless meal a week, dried beans are an easy, economical, and environmentally friendly choice for protein. You read that right: easy.
Dried beans have a reputation for being complicated and inconvenient, with the soaking and the long cooking times. A crock pot renders dried beans almost effortless.
Just throw the dried beans in a crock pot–a 3 quart pot can easily accommodate 2 pounds of beans–cover with a couple inches of water and cook on high until the beans are tender, without being mushy. For medium sized beans like pintos and garbanzos, this takes about 3 hours. Smaller beans like navy beans or great northern beans will cook a little faster, and limas and butter beans will take longer. Drain the cooking water (save it for the plants!) and you have nutritious beans ready with less than five minutes of actual work time. Start the beans in the crock pot while you fix dinner, and they will be ready to go in the fridge or freezer by bedtime.
You may notice that these directions do not include soaking the beans. While pre-soaking shortens the cooking time, dried beans will cook up just fine without soaking, and with the slow cooker method, the increased cooking time is hardly noticeable. There is some disagreement over whether soaking does or does not remove the gas-causing elements of beans, but increased consumption does eventually blunt that particular effect as your digestive system becomes accustomed to beans. Dried beans are not washed prior to packaging, so you will want to rinse the field dust off them before cooking and double check for debris like the occasional pebble or bit of bean pod.
Cooked up like this, beans can be prepared in large quantities and frozen in portions convenient for your family’s size. Portion out into a zip-top bag or reusable freezer container and freeze up to 6 months, or keep them in the fridge for a healthy snack or salad topper. When you need them, the frozen beans can be thawed in the microwave or on the stovetop, or you can just throw them into a recipe frozen and let them thaw while everything else cooks.
Dried beans are one of the most economical protein sources. A one-pound bag of beans will make about 6 cups of cooked beans, four times what is in a single tin of canned beans, at about half the cost of the equivalent amount of canned beans and far less than the equivalent portion of animal protein. With dried beans, there is no need to worry about bisphenol-A leaching from the can lining or the added sodium of processing.
Dried beans are a greener choice than canned, too. The dried beans go straight into the bag the way they came off the field, without the energy expenditure to can them up in a commercial canning facility. Without the added weight of water and metal cans, dried beans use less fuel per serving to transport and produce less packaging waste: just one plastic bag versus several metal cans.
For a green, easy and cheap dinner nothing beats beans.
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cooled
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp tahini or creamy peanut butter
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Place everything in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth (add water if necessary to achieve a smooth paste). For roasted red pepper hummus, add 2-3 strips chopped roasted red pepper when blending.
Hummus is usually served with pita wedges or raw veggies for dipping. For a change of pace, make an easy sweet hummus dip suitable for dipping fruit slices for dessert by blending 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas with 1 small container (3/4 cup) lemon yogurt.
2 cups cooked pinto beans
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
Dash hot sauce, if desired
4 fajita-sized tortillas or gluten-free flatbread
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded cheddar or pepper-jack cheese
1 tomato, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
Black olive slices and sour cream (optional)
Combine the pinto beans, garlic powder, cumin and hot sauce in a food processor and process until almost smooth (add water if necessary to achieve the consistency). Arrange the tortillas on a baking sheet. Divide the bean mixture among the four tortillas, spreading almost to the edge. Spread a layer of salsa over the beans and sprinkle with cheese. Top with tomato and pepper.
Bake pizzas at 350 degrees until the cheese melts. Cut each tortilla into wedges and garnish each wedge with a dollop of sour cream and some black olive slices.
Makes 4 individual pizzas.
For more recipes like this, please check out the GreenDivaMom.com Recipes section at: http://www.greendivamom.com/category/food/recipes/.
Article By: Janet Harriett
Profile: Janet Harriett, Green Diva Mom's fomer editor, has been a writer and editor for print and online media, specializing in education and environmental issues since 1999. She lives on 2 acres in central Ohio with her husband, a 275-square-foot backyard garden and a home orchard growing 25 varieties of fruit. Janet holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing.
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