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Air travelers might want to consider staying away from beans and other gas-making foods the day before taking off. The increase in the volume of all gases while in flight, aggravated by close quarters and fastened seat belts, can cause enough discomfort on their own.
Now that you've had a good chortle, beans are truly remarkable. They are nutritional powerhouses. Excellent sources of protein, fiber, iron, several B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium, they can be considered lowfat. A half cup serving of cooked beans contains a mere half a gram of fat plus, it counts as both a serving of protein and a serving of veg-etables in the Food Pyramid. Beans are also the biggest food bargain you'll find in the grocery store. One pound of dried beans costs anywhere from 69¢ to $1.49. Usual servings are half a cup and one pound of beans will yield 5–6 cups of cooked beans, enough to feed 6 to 12 people. The protein in beans doesn't contain all nine essential amino acids (the exception is soybeans which do), but if you serve rice with the beans, you'll be serving a complete, nutri-tious meal.
Try a variety of beans – they all don't taste alike. Beans also freeze well so cook a double batch and freeze the rest for a day when you simply don't have time to cook. If you're the kind of person who plans ahead, soaking the beans over-night in 6 cups of water will reduce the cooking time by about a third. If you're like me, digging through the freezer for dinner ideas at 4:00PM, non-soaked beans will be ready to serve in about 2 1/2 hours. Pick over the dry beans and discard any pebbles or soil. Cover with water, discarding any floaters. Drain in a colander and rinse well.
Place all ingredients except the meat in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are tender. If the beans need thickening, remove some, mash and return to the pot. Stir in diced ham or sausage and salt (some cooks insist that adding salt before the beans are tender toughens them) to taste. Serve over steamed rice.
Designer Beans – add any or all of the following:
1 stalk celery, chopped; 1/4 bell pepper, chopped, 1 Tbsp. parsley, minced; 1 tsp. dried rosemary or thyme, crumbled
Thank goodness the days when Uncle Ben's Converted Rice and Rice-a-Roni were your only rice choices, are almost over! There are many varieties, but there are three basic rice types. Long grain which is the one served in Chinese restaurants; Calrose or short grain served in Japanese and Korean restaurants; and glutinous or "sweet" rice which is mostly used for desserts and usually found only in Asian markets. Cooking perfect fluffy rice isn't an exact science – trial and error will soon teach you how much water to use.
Basic Steamed Rice: Allow 1/3 to 1/2 cup raw rice per person. Rinse rice a few times in cold water. Add 1 1/2 cups (2 cups for brown rice) water for every cup of rice. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until water is absorbed. (If the rice isn't tender to the bite, add 1/4 cup of water at a time.) Reduce heat to low and allow to steam for 15 minutes.
Don't pass up the split peas! They contain no fat and a half cup provides 11 grams of healthy fiber and 11 grams of protein. For a satisfying lunch on a cold day, serve steaming soup with a simple green salad and hot, crusty bread. The secret in this recipe is the potato which gives the soup a smooth, velvety texture.
Green or Yellow Split Pea Soup
Place all ingredients in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Season with salt and pepper. Blend in small batches in a food blender if you like a smooth soup. Garnish with minced ham, chives, parsley or garlic croutons.
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