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dried beansLegumes are a type of vegetable that includes beans, peas and lentils. Legumes are one of the most versatile and nutritious foods, low in fat, they contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. Legumes also contain beneficial fats, and are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber. A wonderful source of protein, legumes can be a healthy substitute for meat, which is much higher in fat and cholesterol. Legumes are often chosen by vegetarians to replace the protein they miss by removing meat from their diets.

Aside from all the health benefits that beans offer, they are extremely budget friendly. A one pound bag of beans is usually less than $1.50 and can make several meals, depending on the number of servings you are planning.

Beans can be stored in the bags they are packaged in. However, if you open the bag, or if the bag is punctured, it's better to store the beans in a glass or plastic container with a tight fitting lid. Moisture is the enemy, and air carries moisture. Do not keep dried beans in the refrigerator, a dark cabinet is best.

Sorting & Rinsing
When you get a bag of beans from the grocery store, they are dirty and may contain tiny rocks and pebbles that passed through the sorting machines with the beans. Be sure to pick through your beans before rinsing. Beans are not washed as part of the packaging process as water would not only rehydrate the beans, but can cause mold or spoilage. While rinsing the beans is an important step, you do not want to rinse them until you are ready to use them. It's actually not necessary to rinse them prior to soaking as you will drain the soak water and rinse them afterward, however rinsing before the soak is certainly an option.

There are several ways to prepare beans for use in your recipes. Whichever method you choose, be sure the soak water is at room temperature.  Hot water can cause the beans to sour, and cold water slows rehydration and the beans will take longer to cook.

Slow soak: Place 1 pound of dried beans into a stock pot and cover with 10 cups water. Cover the pan and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse thoroughly before adding to your recipe.

Quick soak: Place 10 cups of water into a stock pot and bring to a boil. When water is boiling, Add 1 pound of dried beans, bring back to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes. cover and let them sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Canned and Frozen Beans
If you prefer the convenience, you can purchase most varieties of beans in canned form. Frozen beans vary in their availability depending on what part of the country you live in. While frozen black eyed peas might be widely available in some southern states, you may be hard pressed to find them in the midwest. Check with your grocer to see what type of canned and frozen beans are available in your area.

Be sure to check out all of our bean recipes! Here's a sampling for you:

Amish Bean Soup
Black Bean Soup
Crock Pot Beans
Hunter's Beans
Old Fashioned Baked Beans
Three Bean Casserole
7 Bean Salad

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