Cooking with Pulses: Easy, Cheap, Nutritious & Delicious!
2016 has been dubbed the Year of the Pulses (Thank goodness they’re finally getting some credit!)
Although I wasn’t always a big of a fan of lentils and beans, I have now grown to cherish their flavourful versatility, amazing affordability and dense nutrient profiles. As a child, my parents used to double-duty force-feed me a bean stew that was NOT my favourite. Truth be told, I may never eat that same stew again, but I definitely found my happy place with beans once I experimented on my own and discovered their delicious potential 😉
I have put together some cooking tips and tricks for you to use with your family, and also have a recipe booklet to share. Read along!
What’s so special about Pulses?
Pulses fall under the “Legumes” umbrella and specifically refer to dried beans, peas, and chickpeas.
They are PACKED with nutritious qualities:
- HIGH in protein: Pulses are a great plant-based protein that can be enjoyed on its own or used as a substitute for typical meat entrees such as beef tacos. Pulses are considered an incomplete protein. This means they do not contain all the essential amino acids in adequate amounts. By pairing pulses with a grain, such as rice or wheat berries, compliments the protein and makes it a complete protein. A complete protein contains all the essential amino acids in adequate amounts.
- HIGH in fibre: We can all use a little more fibre in our diets. Legumes “bind” with cholesterol in the blood and may prevent it from building up. Try freezing white or black beans and adding them to smoothies for a creamy fibre-rich treat.
- HIGH in antioxidants: Antioxidants help fight all those disease-causing reactions in the body.
- HIGH in vitamins and minerals: Pulses are high in specific vitamins and minerals that can be paired with another food to aid in their absorption and utilization by the body. For example, the iron content in legumes can be paired with vitamin C to be better absorbed. On the other hand, calcium would inhibit the absorption of iron. So pairing pulses with tomatoes works wonders, while cooking with cream may reduce the iron content.
Please note that eating pulses in large quantities may not be appropriate for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Kidney Disease. Make sure to check with your dietitian if you have any concerns, or call 8-1-1 if you are a BC resident to speak with a dietitian over the phone (free of charge).
Cooking Tips & Tricks
Cooking pulses may seem like a pain, especially when considering the time required to cook dried beans, or the dreaded and uncomfortable flatulence that comes with eating beans (yes, I said it!), or even that pulses may taste relatively bland in flavour. Now that we got those out of the way, I’ll go through them one by one to show you the tips and tricks I use to deal with these issues.
Allow me to make my case with dried beans:
- SAVE MONEY: You get 4 times more out of a standard 1lb bag of dried beans than a standard 15 oz can. However, if you use canned beans it’s still cheaper than purchasing meats.
- SAVE TIME:
- Cook ahead of time using a crockpot, and add 1 tsp of baking soda to help with the cooking process and the breaking down of the starch.
- Cook for about 3 hours, or until slightly al dente (undercooked).
- Freeze in ziplock bags (flat). When you need to use them, simply defrost in the fridge or put them straight into your stew to finish cooking.
- REDUCE FLATULENCE:
You knew it was coming, the toot talk. Trust me, there are solutions to the common fear of gas.
- If cooking from dried, pre-soak beans overnight, or at least for 4 hours, and use fresh water to cook them
- Add Kombu when cooking them from scratch – Kombu is a dried seaweed that helps with improving the digestibility of pulses
- If using canned beans, scoop out the foam and rinse thoroughly
- If all else fails, try taking Beano, an anti-gas pill
It’s important to remember that your gut bacteria will adjust to the properties of pulses the more you eat them, and you’re likely to experience less flatulence with time. For this reason, increase your legume consumption slowly so that your gut bacteria has time to adjust.
Easy and Delicious Recipes
Although legumes can be naturally bland, this actually makes them SO versatile in the kitchen. They will take on the flavour of any sauce, stew or curry and will add bulk, protein and fibre to your meal. So what are you waiting for?