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How to Cook Beans

Beans are one of the staples of my diet. I just find that when I eat a small amount (about 1/2 cup) every day, everything goes better in my body. They provide fiber for digestion, balance blood sugar, provide protein, and are healthy in many other ways.

I cook a pot of beans every week. I rotate types so I don't get bored: garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, canellini beans, adzuki beans…each one is delicious in it's own way. I'm learning how to prepare each one in ways that are traditional and creative.

I recommend that you NOT buy canned beans, with the exception of Eden Foods brand, which uses cans with BPA-free linings. You don't want to get a dose of BPA with your beans, which disrupts your endocrine system.

Preparing your own beans at home is simple and rewarding, and they taste much better than canned beans. Though it takes time, you can do it in three easy steps.

1. Soak your beans overnight. Just put them to soak after dinner or before you go to bed. Six to twelve hours is fine.

I use 2 cups dry beans. That makes enough for one person to eat about 1/2 cup cooked beans every day for a week. But you can use any amount of beans you want.

Soaking your beans before cooking greatly improves digestibility.

Be sure to use pure, filtered water for soaking, so the beans do not absorb water pollutants.

Put the beans in a large bowl and cover them with several inches of water. After you do this a few times, you will begin to understand how much water is needed. I have, in the past, not used enough water, and the water was completely absorbed in the morning. Use plenty of water.

This is what the beans look like in the morning when you wake up. They are plump and about twice the size.

2. Rinse your beans thoroughly.

I just pour them from the bowl into a colander, then spray fresh water over them to rinse off all the soaking water. This removes the elements that cause gas.

These are my bean pots. Obviously I use them because they have that beautiful patina that develops on natural materials as they are used. These pots are made with natural hand-thrown unglazed terracotta clay. I tried cooking beans in pots made from various materials, and found that each material produced a different flavor in the beans. These pots gave the flavor that was most to my liking. They are from Miriam's Earthen Cookware.. The terracotta clay is composed of minerals such as calcium, magnesium potassium, and others that are essential to our bodies. The clay comes from deep underground and is tested to be free of heavy metals.
 
3. Put the beans in the pot and cover them with cold pure water. Put your finger in the pot, touching the beans with your fingertip. The water should come up to your knuckle.
 
Put the pot of beans into a cold oven and turn the temperature to 300 degrees F.
 
Then let them bake for about six hours. You can also let them bake overnight. A couple more hours is fine.
 
When the beans are done, they look like this.
 
Let them sit on top of the stove and cool for several hours until all the heat has dissipated.
 
Then remove the beans from the pot with a slotted spoon or spider and put them in a glass jar.
 
Store them in the refrigerator.
 
They last up to a week in my refrigerator.

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Pumpkin Pie for Everyone

I say this pumpkin pie is for everyone because the ingredients are so simple, practically everyone can eat it. There’s no crust (though you could add one if you want) so there are no grains, and there is no sweetener of any kind (though it tastes remarkably sweet!). And it’s so delicious you won’t miss the usually-soggy crust or the sugar. It’s my favorite pumpkin pie ever!

A thoroughly satisfying dessert for any day of autumn or winter!

I have made this with pumpkin and butternut squash and carnival squash (my favorite) they tasted almost exactly the same (except the carnival squash had more flaor and was sweeter. I think you could use any winter squash. And I’m also going to try sweet potatoes, and see how that works.

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How to Roast A Pumpkin . . . And Other Winter Squashes

First I want to tell you about pumpkins.

I used to make anything “pumpkin” with pumpkin, which is a winter squash. And then one day I was watching a cooking show on television and it was suggested that one make pumpkin pie with kabocha squash instead because they had more flavor than pumpkin squash. So I immediately went and bought a kabocha squash and made a pumpkin pie, and was very disappointed. I didn’t like the flavor at all.

But that got me thinking. Maybe there was a winter squash that was better than pumpkin for pumpkin recipes, and after trying many I found one: carnival squash. It’s denser than pumpkin, creamier in texture, and sweeter.

You can learn more about winter squash at About.com Local Foods: Winter Squash & Pumpkins. They have a whole list of winter squashes with links to individual pages for each one. No carnival squash, alas, but I have it at my local natural food store.

Carnival squash is now my winter squash of choice for all those pumpkin recipes.

If you want to use pumpkin pumpkin, choose a smaller “pie” pumpkin rather than a large pumpkin like you would carve for a jack-lantern. The smaller pumpkins have better texture and flavor.

Now, if you are going to make a pumpkin recipe, you’ll need to roast the pumpkin and process the meat, in order to get a pumpkin puree that is like what you would get out of a can. Please don’t buy canned pumpkin! Roasting your own is so easy and tastes so much better and there’s no BPA from the can lining, which can disrupt your whole endocrine system.

How To Roast a Pumpkin or Other Winter Squash

First you need to cut the pumpkin open.

For that, you need tools. Ideally a good cleaver and a rubber mallet. If you don’t have one in your kitchen, go down to your local home improvement store and buy one, because you can use it for all kinds of things around the kitchen. They are about $5.00. If you don’t have a cleaver, this might be a good time to buy one of those too, as you will use it often.

If you have these tools the job is easy. Just sit the squash on it’s bottom so it’s stable, position the sharp edge of the knife on the top point, and whack the knife with the mallet. The squash will crack open. You’ll probably need to continue to whack the knife on the ends as it is stuck in the squash until the squash cracks completely into two pieces. If you want quarters, do the same again.

If you don’t have a cleaver and mallet, use the biggest knife you have. Position the sharp side of the knife on the point of the squash and put a folded kitchen towel over the knife to protect your hand. Hit the knife hard with your hand or a heavy object. You’ll be able to open it, but if you want to make winter squash frequently, as I do, you’ll go buy a mallet and cleaver.

Then you want to scoop out the seeds. Again, easy.

I find roasting to be the best way to cook winter squash because it concentrates the flavor and you can easily scoop it out of the cooked shell, rather than trying to peel off the tough skin.

Once you’ve cut the squash in two, place the pieces cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper. I always add a little water to make steam in the oven. Not much, maybe 1/2 a cup.

Bake the squash at 350 degrees F for an hour or more. Let it get good and soft. Don’t rush it. You’ll know it’s done when your tray looks like this:

When the pieces are cool enough to touch, scrape the squash out of the shell with a soup spoon.

Then puree the squash meat in a food processor and you are ready to make any delicious recipe that calls for pumpkin puree. I like to just keep this puree on hand during the season because there are so many sweet and savory dishes to make with it.

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Most Canned Foods Are Tainted With BPA—Even Organic

One of the reasons I am doing this food blog is because most canned foods are lined with a resin that contains bis-phenol-A (BPA), which easily migrates into the food we eat. 

The important thing to know about BPA is that while it can easily disrupt your endocrine system, it doesn’t stay in your body very long. If you have BPA in your body, you can easily lessen levels by eliminating your exposure. And if you eat canned food—even organic—cutting out those canned foods is a great place to start.

I used to think that commercial foods canned in glass didn’t contain BPA because the food wasn’t in cans. Until I talked to a woman at a farmer’s market one day about her “fresh” pasta sauce and found out it was made with only the finest Italian canned tomatoes.

Is BPA really in the food? A study done in 2010 found that BPA was detected in 92% of canned foods tested.

Canned food companies claim that BPA is safe and necessary to protect food from metal corrosion and bacterial contamination. But hundreds of scientific studies show health effects from even low exposures to BPA, including cancer, abnormal behavior, diabetes, heart disease, infertility, developmental and reproductie harm, obesity, and early puberty.

This excellent study gives detailed information on health effects of BPA, where it is found in canned foods, and how much expsoure to BPA you can actually get from eating canned foods over the course of a day. Remember too, many restaurants and take-out places use a lot of canned foods–perhaps even more than you would use at home.

The solution is to make your own meals at home from fresh organic ingredients. And that’s why I’m doing this blog, to help you make delicious meals at home that you and your family will love, that are free of toxic chemicals.

No Silver Lining: An Investigation into Bisphenol A in Canned Foods

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