Beans, beans

At the start of each  new year, I promise myself that I will eat a wide variety of healthful foods on a daily basis and work to avoid cravings for sweet and salty foods. I do pretty well the first couple weeks of January, but as I move into the third week, my resolve begins to wane.

This year, I’ve taken affirmative action that will help me stay on track. I turned to some health-conscious people I know to get their suggestions on some basic foods I can keep on hand along with creative ways to prepare them that will be flavorful and keep me satisfied, happy and healthy — I call it the “Good Life” track.

I first met Kelly Jo Zellmann, RD, LD when she volunteered to be my assistant during a cooking class I was teaching several years ago. As soon as I saw Kelly Jo’s bright smile and the sparkle in her eyes, I knew she would be an amazing person to work with in the kitchen.

Registered Dietitian, Kelly Jo Zellmann, was happy to share her knowledge about nutritious foods with me and with all who read this blog.

What is one food you recommend people add to their menus for a healthy 2012?

Hmm…Beans!  I actually didn’t have to think too long on this as beans popped into my head right away.  Even though there are so many healthy foods to choose from, beans are at the top of the list.  Any kind of bean is good and the list to choose from is plentiful ~ black beans (one of my personal favorites), garbanzo (also known as chickpea), kidney, chili, cannellini , pinto, soy, navy, green, edamame, lima , black eyed peas, and refried beans.  And, there are many more!  According to a recent survey that identified top food trends for 2012, a key theme is that Americans will be eating more locally grown, unprocessed foods, along with increasing fruit and vegetable intake.  Both of these contain fiber, a key nutrient often lacking in many people’s diets.  Beans, whether canned or dried, are a great option to meet these trends.

Other than the fact that they can keep us trendy in 2012, why are you so jazzed on beans, Kelly?

Versatility, variety, economical, and availability (no matter what the season) are a few reasons that come to mind.  More importantly, though, beans pack a powerful punch when it comes to nutrition.  If there is a magical food (which there really isn’t) beans are as close to it as you can get!  With the new USDA “ChooseMyPlate” recommendations to fill half your plate with produce, beans are a great food because they are a vegetable and if you already have plenty of colors on your plate, they can also count as a protein source, too!

Beans can be particularly helpful in lowering cholesterol levels, aiding in weight loss, stabilizing blood sugar levels in diabetes, as well as decreasing risk of colon cancer.  Beans offer healthy amounts of several nutrients including; niacin, thiamine, B6 vitamin, complex carbohydrates, fiber, which helps slow absorption and increases satiety (feeling of fullness).  Beans are also a good source of potassium, folate, iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium, and are naturally low in fat.  In addition to all of that, beans also provide a great source of protein and can be a wonderful alternative to meat.  For every ½-cup serving there are six to seven grams of protein, which meets at least 10% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein, yet costs about 20 cents per serving.

Although most beans are fairly high in carbohydrate content, they are also high in fiber.  A half-cup serving of cooked dried beans provides about 7 grams of fiber, which meets ~25-30% of the Daily Value of dietary fiber.  If you have diabetes, for example, and are counting carbohydrates, if a serving has >5 grams fiber, you can subtract “half” the fiber content from the total carbohydrates.  For example, if you have a 1 cup serving of beans with 14 grams of fiber, you can subtract 7 from the total carbohydrates.  But, don’t let the numbers get you confused, the bottom line is beans are beneficial, so just eat them!

Canned or dried?

Canned beans are fast and easy to use.  But, you can also use dried beans for any recipe that calls for canned.  The trick to using dried beans is you need to plan ahead and soak the beans.  For greatest economy, cook up a whole bunch at one time and freeze in quantities similar to the can sizes you use.  (1 cup dried beans = about 3 cups cooked beans, 14 oz can beans = about 1½ cups drained beans).

Bean tip from Kelly Jo:

About the only drawback to eating beans is that they can often result in passing gas.  Remember the old saying:  Beans, Beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you ____?!?  Well, that saying is partly true and false.  Beans are not a fruit but a vegetable, and they do often result in flatulence due to the high amount of oligosaccharides (sugar) present in beans.  A good tip to remember is whenever you are increasing the amount of fiber in your diet, go slow and always drink plenty of water.

Do you have some favorite ways you incorporate beans into the meals you prepare for your family?

There are so many ways to add beans to your diet.  First think about foods or meals you already enjoy.   If tacos are on the list, for example, try adding black beans to them for a change.  Another idea is to sautée edamame, combine with cooked chicken or grouse, and add some corn to make a tasty salad.  You can also add almost any kind of bean to a number of soups.  Experiment to find out what kind of beans you like best, and then have fun throwing them in to some of your favorite dishes.

Please share some information about yourself that will give us a glimpse of who you are.

I am a full-time, working mom of three boys – ages 7, 5, and 1½ and have been married to my husband for eleven years.  I can relate to the struggles of getting a good meal on the table and sitting down to eat together as a family.  Some days it’s a quick dinner thrown together at the last minute, but that’s reality.   A key to making this happen is having all your favorite ingredients on hand so that you can do this in a pinch.

Currently I work part time at the Leech Lake Diabetes Clinic in Cass Lake and Neilson Place – WoodsEdge Senior Living in Bemidji.  I also do independent nutrition consulting for individuals, corporations, and groups.  I am a licensed provider for Real Living Nutrition’s Balance program, an online weight management program ( and a Registered Dietitian for   I am looking forward to making 2012 a great year of exploring new foods and yet more ways to incorporate beans into our diet and wish the same for you!

Happy and Healthy 2012!

Kelly Jo Zellmann, RD, LD *

Kelly Jo shared a recipe she uses for vegetarian chili. I did a little tweaking and came up with a meatless chili that is loaded with a variety of beans, deep, spicy flavor and good-for-you peppers. That recipe is in my newspaper column this week. Click here to get to that recipe.

After visiting with Kelly Jo Zellmann about beans, I remembered a black bean burger I made about five years ago. I found the recipe that is very quick and easy to prepare.

As I’ve been seeking out health-conscious people, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with some who have chosen a vegan lifestyle (eating no animal products). I learned a trick from them that I tried out in the burgers. Apparently, a tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water serves as a satisfactory replacement for an egg in cooking and in baking. Since my Black Bean Burgers incorporate 2 eggs into the mix, I experimented with the flax and water combination. The texture of the burgers became mushy inside, which was not as appealing to me as the nice firm texture that results when eggs are used. So, it’s up to you. I didn’t mind it, really. If you are a vegan, I think you’ll be quite satisfied.

Beans, beans — you’ll get plenty of them in these burgers.

Black Bean Burgers

  • 3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked quick oats
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (or to taste)
  • 1 or 2 dashes hot pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • oil for frying
  • 8 hamburger buns

Coarsely mash beans in a large bowl. A pastry blender or potato masher works well for this job. Add oats, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, hot pepper sauce, salt and eggs. Mix well.

Shape mixture into 8 patties. Stir together flour and cornmeal in shallow bowl. Dredge patties in dry mixture. In a large skillet, pour just enough oil to cover bottom of the pan. Place pan on medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add patties and cook about 5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Serve on buns. Makes 8 servings.

Some favorite toppings:

Lettuce, arugula, smoked cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, sliced tomato, sour cream, roasted red pepper, salsa.

Tips from the cook:

  • Mix and shape the patties early in the day and keep in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
  • Uncooked Black Bean Burgers freeze well. I wrap each  individually in plastic wrap, then slide them into a freezer-strength zip-top bag. I do thaw them before cooking.
  • Freeze leftover cooked burgers. To serve, heat in microwave on low power, turning burger over once.
  • Update: I’ve been reading through “The Vegan Table,” by Colleen Patrick- Goudreau and came upon her recipe for Matzoh Ball Soup where she uses “flax eggs” to mix into matzoh balls for soup. This is her method for making the “flax eggs:” To make a substitute for one egg, whip 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds with 2 tablespoons water in a food processor for 2 to 3 minutes, until a very thick, creamy, almost yogurt-like consistency develops. I’ll give these Black Bean Burgers one more try with “flax eggs.” Obviously, I used too much water when I made the substitute eggs in my first try.



5 thoughts on “Beans, beans

  1. Pingback: Black Bean Burgers and Recipe Roundup | The Heavy Table - Minneapolis-St. Paul and Upper Midwest Food Magazine and Blog

  2. These look delicious and I’m going to try them soon. I’m also going to start buying dried black beans instead of canned … the savings seem obvious to me, and I’m starting to incorporate them into a lot of recipes. Thanks!

  3. Sue, I lost the link to your site, and really missed it. I finally discovered it yesterday and bookmarked it. I’m happy to be back. I see I have a lot of catching up to do. I always love your recipes and stories.

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