Many people would like to be vegetarian but aren’t sure how to get enough protein in their diet. It’s actually very easy to eat enough protein; the two secrets are to first of all, lay off the junk food(yes, there is vegetarian junk food!) because high fat and/or high sugar foods are filling – too filling – and then there’s no appetite for the protein foods, and second, eat sufficient high protein foods at meals and you won’t be so hungry later on that you’re tempted to eat high fat or high sugar foods!
Legumes are the cheapest and most nutrient rich food group to supply protein, with smaller quantities of seeds and nuts and milk products, balanced with whole grains. There are so many kinds of beans, with varied flavors and uses a person could eat a different kind of bean almost every day of the month. Here are some to think about:
Split peas, green gram or mung, garbanzos, brown lentils, red lentils also called masur dahl, black or turtle beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, fava beans, pink beans – to name just some of those easily available.
Here are a couple of recipes for using beans, but since I rarely measure, except for pastries, I’m giving some ideas with general proportions and ingredients. Exact measurements really depend on how large a preparation is being made. Bean soups are easy to freeze and easily keep a few weeks in the freezer, so it’ simple to make a large pot of bean soup and freeze a few containers for later on. Here are a few tips for cooking beans to make them digestible and tasty:
- Wash well, and then soak 12 hours or even 24, for very hard beans like pintos, kidney beans and black beans. Discard water and rinse again.
- Cook in a pressure cooker for about half an hour – the timing really depends on the type of pressure cooker, the cooker manual may give directions, or you can experiment and see how long it takes to cook them properly. In my cooker, for instance, it takes 25 minute to cook soaked garbanzos well, but 45 minutes to cook pinto beans.
If cooking without a pressure cooker, choose a large heavy pot and bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes leaving lid off. Then turn heat down to a low simmer with lid on and check often to see if you need more water. I love using a pressure cooker as it saves time, energy and I don’t have to worry about burning them. Pintos, black beans and garbanzos take longer, kidney and navy beans are intermediate, brown and red lentils cook quickly and no need to soak or pressure cook. Some beans like red lentils and split peas cannot be cooked in a pressure cooker as they foam up, but since they cook quickly there is no need for the pressure cooker.
- When beans are soft with no hard parts, they are done. Best to add any salt the last part of cooking. I often make large pots of beans and freeze some in plastic containers for later use, they freeze well.