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“It was a singular experience that long acquaintance which I cultivated with beans, what with planting, and hoeing, and harvesting, and threshing, and picking over and selling them, — the last was the hardest of all. I might add eating, for I did taste. I was determined to know beans.”

-Thoreau Walden- The Bean Field

Like the famous poet, Henry David Thoreau, I too have become determined to know beans. They are considered one of the top super foods;  they have a low fat content and are high in protein, fiber, iron, folic acid, and potassium. A one cup serving of cooked beans can provide an average of 15 grams of protein! Their high fiber content, which keeps you fuller longer, is also a powerful tool in weight loss and weight maintenance. Besides all their nutritional benefits, beans are extremely versatile and incredibly inexpensive. I have personally taken to buying them in bulk from stores like Whole Foods, saving major bucks. Who doesn’t like nutritious food that is easy on the wallet?

Fact: Peanuts are not nuts, but are actually a legume and part of the bean family.

I feel that as Americans we have under appreciated the culinary potential of the bean, whereas in other countries they are an indispensable staple. Chickpeas are extensively used in the Mediterranean and Middle East, white beans are featured in French and Italian cuisine, and black beans are the foundation of many Latin American dishes.

Let’s not forget our friend Jack and his magic beans!!

Fact: The Roman lawyer and statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero is named after the chickpea. The name Cicero comes from the Latin cicer= chickpea.

Chickpeas, also know by their Spanish equivalent: garbanzo, are perhaps my favorite. I currently have no problem incorporating these into my diet every week, mainly because I whip them into hummus. Hummus is a versatile spread that can be used in a variety of ways; it gets bonus points for being a complete protein due to the chickpea and tahini (sesame paste) combination. Check out my super easy hummus recipe.

Fact: In Nicaragua, newlyweds are given a bowl of beans for good luck.

In the spirit of bean adventures I decided to make an easy bean soup using ingredients that were already in my fridge and pantry. The soup yields a lot of food for very little cash, a major bonus for those of us on a budget!!

I had an untouched jar of black eyed peas along with some cranberry colored Adzuki beans I’ve been meaning to cook. I figured I could combine the two and create a colorful soup. I added some basics: roma tomatoes, celery, carrots, garlic, and onion. Two hours later I had a giant pot of hearty soup. I love how the white peas took on a delicate lavender coloring from the red of the Adzuki beans: very pretty!

Recipe: Two-Cent Soup

1 cup Adzuki Beans

1/2 cup Black Eyed Peas

2 celery stalks- chopped

1 cup diced carrots

3 Roma tomatoes, diced

1/2 red onion- chopped

2 cloves of garlic

32 oz of chicken or vegetable stock (you can also substitute the stock with 32 oz of water plus 2 tbs of chicken or vegetable bouillon)

2 Bay Leaves

1 tbs olive oil

1/2 tbs cumin

1/2 tbs cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

1. Over medium heat, drizzle olive oil into large pot. Throw in celery, carrots, tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Sauté vegetables for 3 minutes or until tender.

2. Add your choice of stock, beans, bay leaves and spices. Bring pot to a boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover.

3. Cook for two hours or until beans are tender.

4. Add a little kick and serve with a dallop of sour cream, or sprinkle a bit of your favorite cheese (Queso Fresco and Feta are two of my faves!).

**Also, check out this awesome series from the New York Times. They feature some pretty cool bean recipes!

How do you like your beans?

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