Full of beans
// Leanne Kriz

During the time that I was a vegetarian, I stumbled through life eating whatever wasn’t meat and doing my best to stay healthy. I knew beans were supposed to be a good source of protein, so I added them to my diet and hoped for the best. It wasn’t until about a year ago, while I was at my parent’s house perusing their plethora of cookbooks and food-related bathroom reading materials, that I found Full of Beans. I cracked it open and to my surprise, I learned some amazing facts that my former vegetarian self really could have taken advantage of. I call it my bean bible.

Simply because you are a meat-eater does not mean that alternative sources of protein, such as beans, should not be a healthy part of your diet. Since I first discovered that book, I’ve learned a lot of intriguing and useful information about beans. As a consequence, I began to feel increasingly confident eating them and knowing that I am getting all the nutrients my body needs.

Not only that, but as I did more research, I learned that proteins that come from plants are way more healthy than meat proteins, because they contain much less fat. A six-ounce broiled porterhouse steak can contain up to 60 percent of your daily intake of saturated fats, whereas a one-cup serving of lentils contains less than a tenth of that, according to the The Nutrition Source by the Harvard School of Public Health.

The most valuable thing I learned from my bean bible was how to pair my beans to make a full protein. As many people know, beans do not contain all the essential amino acids to comprise a full protein. They must be eaten with complimentary proteins that contain the other amino acids. Luckily, a lot of the foods people already tend to eat with beans are, in fact, complimentary. For example, beans and rice, beans and cheese (Mexican food), beans and pasta, and many more.

Here are some more of the complimentary pairings for beans:

Grain protein
Rice, rye, corn, wheat, and pasta

Seed and nut protein
Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, cashews

Other proteins
Milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs

Beans are also incredibly cheap compared to their meat counterparts. Dried beans are even less expensive than canned beans, and they taste almost the same, but they require a little more work.

What you need to do is wash the beans thoroughly, and then soak them. You can soak them in cold water for 7–10 hours; or bring them to a boil, turn off the heat, and let them soak for one hour. Then rinse them, and they are ready to be cooked. Cooking depends on the type of bean, how old they are, and many other factors. Your best bet is to read your package of beans; it should give you an appropriate cooking time.

The book also offered several tips to reduce flatulence. One way to do this is to thoroughly rinse your beans, as many of the gas-producing elements of beans accumulate in the water that your dried beans are soaking in. It is advised to rinse them after soaking and after cooking. Also, rinse your canned beans! According to Full of Beans, apparently this can reduce flatulence up to 80 per cent. Additionally, if you love beans and eat them all the time, your body will become more accustomed to them and you won’t have so many problems. Cool beans, eh?

The recipe this week is Bacon Bean Burgers with Mango Guacamole – take out the bacon and you’ve got your vegetarian option. The reason I chose this recipe is because, as a vegetarian, sometimes you just want a delicious burger to chow down on, and those frozen patties just don’t cut it all the time. A lot of those store-bought veggie patties are dry and, frankly, pretty gnarly. This recipe is also a wonderful, healthy choice that makes up a full protein and is a cheap way to get your burger fix.

I recommend you garnish it with something saucy, because bean burgers are naturally less fatty and less moist than regular burgers. I chose guacamole, although salsa, hummus, and aioli are great alternative options. A really good bun makes a burger that much better, so head down to your local bakery or gourmet food store to find some of those – if you only have time to head to the grocery store, I recommend Kaiser rolls.

Whether you are a vegetarian or an omnivore, beans can help you expand your variety of food choices, lower the cost of your dinners, keep things healthy, and at the same time rest easy knowing that a great source of protein can be found outside of meat and poultry.

Bacon Bean Burgers with Mango Guacamole
1/2 cup mayo
2 cans black beans
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
1/2 - 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped very fine
1 egg
1/4 cup cilantro
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
Package of bacon

Step 1: Sauté onions in a pan.

Step 2: Rinse one can of beans and place in blender. Add the sautéed onions and the rest of the ingredients except the walnuts. Blend until smooth. Add an additional 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs if the mixture is really wet. It should be quite sticky but still firm.

Step 3: Place the blended mixture in another bowl. Rinse the other can of beans and add it and the walnuts to the mix. Stir it up with your hands.

Step 4: Take the mixture and form it into patties that are about the size of your palm.

Step 5: Put about 1 tablespoon of oil into a pan on low-medium heat and fry the patties for about 7–10 minutes on low heat so that they have a chance to cook properly. I recommend that you don’t flip them often, because they do start to crumble. I just flip them once, checking on them every few minutes.

Step 6: Preheat your buns, load them up with all your favourite toppings, and add your bacon. Use your best guacamole recipe; I added mango instead of tomato to mine to switch things up – yum!

Leanne comes from a long line of food lovers, and has been cooking since she was eight years old. She has spent many years creating the perfect chocolate chip cookie. In spite of all of her food experimentation, to this day her favourite meal is still a delicious bowl of popcorn.

//Leanne Kriz, columnist
//Author photograph

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