Friday, January 6, 2012

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit...

... if you soak them, you won't toot. Yep, it's true. I was recently asked by a friend why I bother to soak my beans overnight before I cook them and I realized there are actually tons of reasons why:
  • Soaking beans minimizes gas because soaking them helps remove the complex sugars from the bean's outer layer that is indigestible to us. 
  • Soaking beans in hot water (I just used water I boiled in the kettle) also reduces their levels of phytic acid which helps with nutrient absorption by about 50%. This can't be achieved as well if you just try to cook them. (Sprouting before cooking is also a great way to increase nutrient absorption.)
  • Soaking beans minimizes the time you need to cook them so a) you will preserve the most nutrients from doing so (think more vitamins, minerals, etc.); and b) you'll save energy by not having to keep the burners/oven as long!
Word of caution: RINSE your beans after you've soaked them! Don't use the old water to cook them because it contains all the stuff you're trying to get rid of. That's usually why the water is thicker or darker... kinda gross, I know.

Useful, yes? Anyway, what do you do once you've soaked your beans? Well, I'm not sure about you but I decided to try my hand at my very own vegan chili & cornbread. I know that doesn't seem very innovate but when you are raised in a Chinese/French culinary household, things like "chili" or "cornbread" seem positively exotic. This is also all part of my whole goal to diversify my culinary skills. I was really pleased with the results!

Vegan Chili
1-2 T of olive oil
2 medium carrots, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
10-20 button mushrooms, sliced
1 can of tomato paste
1 T sweetener (agave, maple syrup, honey)
2 tomatoes, diced
3 C of soaked beans*
1 to 1 1/2 C of water or veggie broth
salt, to taste
chili powder, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1/2 chipotle pepper, chopped (optional)

* For colour, I used red kidney beans, black turtle beans, and great northern white beans

1. In a pot, use olive oil to fry onions and carrots until the onions are translucent.
2. Add in everything else and allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes. Pour in the water slowly to make sure there isn't too much and it becomes soupy (do note that the water levels will decrease as the chili simmers). You may also have to slowly add water in as you let it simmer.
3. Serve with your favourite cornbread and enjoy!
(I would have liked to add a can of corn to this recipe but couldn't find any... next time!)

Here's the cornbread recipe I used, I wasn't super impressed with it, but it's a good basic recipe:

Vegan Cornbread

1 3/4 C of cornmeal
1 1/4 C of spelt
1/3 C of olive oil (or any oil)
2 C milk substitute
2 tsp of apple cider vinegar
2 T of maple syrup
2 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of salt

(image source)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper or oil it.
3. In a bowl, whisk together "milk" and vinegar and let sit.
4. In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients.
5. Add the oil and maple syrup to the milk mixture, and whisk until bubbly.
6. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until well combined (don't overdo it!).
7. Pour batter into pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean! 

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