Monday, June 05, 2006

The Great Debate: bulk beans versus canned

So, I got home from work tonight and was in the "I'm so hungry I could eat my hand" mood. Familiar with this one? Well, I needed something fast and tasty for dinner, and not soy, since I had soy yogurt with breakfast today and a tofu scramble at about 2:00 this afternoon. (Call it "second lunch." We were at the beach all morning, and all I had for lunch was a peanut butter sandwich, some watermelon, and some canteloupe.) The only leftovers I have right now are tofu-based, so those were out . . . I decided to make a big, green salad and drain and rinse some cannellini beans for the top. Side of guac and chips, and I'm feeling much better now. :)

As I'm eating, I think, "boy, canned beans sure are nice."

See, I haven't bought canned beans in ages. I appreciate them for their convenience -- cooking beans from scratch takes a lot of planning and a lot of time, and sometimes I just don't have the time to do that. This is why I've made the decision to call for canned beans in my cookbook. I realize it's not the best thing, but I figure, I'm attempting to market my cookbook to a wide variety of people -- not just those who cook healthfully already. I think I'd scare off newbies if I told them they had to cook their own beans. (It does take some practice, I've found.) I also figure, foodies who use my cookbook will choose to cook their own beans anyway, so everybody wins, right?

I don't like canned beans because they are mushier and less flavorful than ones I cook myself, and because some brands are very high in sodium (although the brand I buy had no added salt. Awesome!) Also, they are more processed than bulk beans, so they cause more overall waste (although the packaging is fully recyclable.)

Bulk beans taste great and are super eco-friendly, but they are also a hassle. I know you can freeze cooked beans, which I haven't tried doing yet, but since I have such a small fridge and freezer, that's not terribly practical for me right now.


I guess I haven't made up my mind about canned versus bulk beans yet. Any thoughts?


Eat Peace Please said...

Canned is more convienent. I do like your thoughts about foodies cooking their own anyway and other people (or super-hungry people) can have easy canned beans. I prefer fresh for a lot, but I get put into the "eating the hand" situation quite often, and I do appreciate having canned beans. But beans is the only thing I like canned.

funwithyourfood said...

canned or bulk dried beans?
For me, the convience factor runs HIGH in my household. So I usually used canned, I only have time to use dried on the weekends when I have more time.

Can I make a suggestion for the cookbook? Do you think it would be possible to show directions for both canned and dried beans? That way people can decide which way they prefer their beans.. Not sure how it would work but think it may be worth a shot! : )


Anonymous said...

Hi - I have to admit, I used canned far more than I need to. A little more organization, and I could do the pressure cooker method. Plus, it would be easier than loading my bike up with cans!

I didn't realized you could freeze the beans. I should try that!

I think you made the right decision with your cookbook. The foodies will always make their own and figure out how much equals a can.

Catherine Weber said...

Now I don't feel so bad . . . !

Leslie, the only canned goods I buy on a regular basis are no-salt added diced tomatoes, quartered artichoke hearts, coconut milk, and beans. Oh, and sometimes baby cocktail corns and water chestnuts for stir-fry.

Teddy, I thought about including directions for cooking dried beans, but I figured, those people who'd want to cook their own beans already know how, and those that don't, probably don't care to learn right now. (I will include equivalents, though -- i.e., one can is equal to about 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans.)

Megan, I wish I had a pressure cooker . . . ! And a bigger freezer. Then I wouldn't need canned beans ever! (Oh, and freezing the beans -- I think if you freeze them loose on a parchment-lined cookie sheet then transfer them to a ziploc bag or container or something, they work just like frozen veggies -- scoop out just what you need, thaw, and serve.)

Anonymous said...

WOW - so you (sometimes) cook your own beans without a pressure cooker. That must take for-ever!!! I have a pressure cooker, but it's a cheepy, and aluminum, which is another reason I don't use it very often. Maybe I'll ask for one for my birthday. Long ago I told Paul he could never buy be kitchen utensils as gifts cause I didn't like what that can I turn back time and get out of it now!

I love that idea about freezing the beans on a cookie sheet. I am totally going to try that - thanks!

Anonymous said...

i think you should include too how to cook th dry beans couse maybe some newbies will like to learn, just my opinion. about frozen beans:

we here eat lots of eat, i found that freezing eat change a litle the texture of them. not so bad, also i found that if you freeze it without liquid they become very dry,
well that was my experience, so i normally freeze them in enought liquid(vegan broth, water, sauce) that cover them.
have a good day!

MeloMeals said...

I freeze beans all the time, I just measure them out in 1.5 cup and 3 cup portions and freeze them with some of the cooking liquid. Works great!

Are you going to have a section of cooking tips in your cookbook? If so, you could write how to cook beans from scratch there. Crockpots are GREAT for cooking beans too.

Catherine Weber said...

Megan, I actually use a crock pot most of the time, which takes even longer, but at least then I don't have to be home! Like I said, it takes LOTS of planning. :)

Johanna, thanks for the tips! The next time I have to cook beans, I'll definitely try freezing some -- maybe some dry, some in liquid, just to experiment. :)

Anonymous said...

Cooking beans from scratch is really easy to do and I think you should definately include either directions on how to do it or at the very least put a paragraph in there about how easy it is to do. It would be a disservice (uh is that a word) to people trying to learn about the vegan lifestyle NOT to tell them. Buying beans in bulk is so much better for the environment (yeah I know that cans are recyclable, but if you can do without using them you should. It takes gas to haul those things around for recycling and chemicals to process them). It's definately WAY cheaper. And it really isn't time consuming at all. Make a big batch at a time, and after cooling, measure them into freezer bags (which can be cleaned and dried to re-use!) in 1.5 or 3 cup increments since that is what recipes usually call for. Those tiny bags hardly take up any room in the fridge at all.
I cook my beans in a crock pot. It is by far the easiest method for me. Just soak the beans overnight in the fridge and in the morning rinse them and put them in the pot on high with water to cover by a few inches. Throw in a few cloves of crushed garlic and a bay leaf if you want some flavor. They are usually done in about 6-8 hours.
P.S. I am excited to see your new cookbook!
P.P.S. What kind of stuff do you keep in your tiny freezer? :)

Crystal said...

I have never ventured into the world of dry beans, but making large quantities and freezing them is very appealing. Thanks to everyone for the good followup too. I wish I could add insight into this topic. Great post!


Crystal said...

Wow Ryan, you posted exactly what I wanted to say. I copied the crockpot method and we'll use it sometime. (did you see that you posted at 12:29 - how sweet, not that you planned it or anything).

Thanks for bringing up the topic Catherine!


Catherine Weber said...

Caroline, my tiny freezer is currently loaded with homemade pancake and muffin mixes, frozen veggies, frozen fruits, soy ice cream, a few containers of soups and other leftovers, ground flaxseed, active dry yeast, and a couple other things I'm forgetting. No room for ice cube trays!

Also, I thought I'd add, my cookbook is not specifically vegan, although it is completely vegetarian and nearly all of the recipes have a vegan option.