Friday, August 22, 2008

Grains, Beans And Has Beans Or Is It Have Beans?

If you are thinking preparedness you should be thinking grains and beans, and winter and soups. Or else you should be thinking what a tremendous bonus grains and beans can be to your budget. With the economy playing games that might be a good way to be thinking.

However, are you thinking, what in the world can Barbara be thinking? Its still summer. It’s still time to play. It’s still time to shop and vacation. Why is Barbara thinking about grains and beans? With all of this thinking going on there must be an answer somewhere.

And of course there is. Once again there is a different slant to your preparedness program that perhaps you haven’t thought of - yet. Now is the time to be planning ahead, even for a short term of cold weather and winter, let alone a long-term pantry program.

Start paying attention to the grains and beans available in your supermarkets. Even more importantly start thinking about the variety of beans and grains that you use. Or is it a lack of variety that you deal with? Do you fall into the habit of only one bean, one recipe and perhaps rice and three recipes.

In Preparedness Principles I talk about the Bare Bones Basics and how critical the concept is of understanding what variety can do for your preparedness pantry by enabling you to have better nutrition and taste with just a few more grains and beans than you have been used to using.

In today’s blog I am including a few ideas to expand your recipe potential as well as your inventory. The reason that you need to think about grains and beans now is that harvest is coming and sales will be taking place between now and the end of October. Once the holiday season hits with the onslaught of impulse sales and “an other than food focus” the prices may change, and even the availability may change.

Increase your awareness of varieties that are available in grocery stores and the alternative supermarkets. For those “new to you” grains and beans that look inviting buy only a small amounts to try first.

One way to expand the varieties you use is to consider the ways that you have used rice. Begin now to think of all of the other grains as alternatives or additions. If you are used to cooking with just minute or instant rice, may I suggest that you start now cooking regular rice more often. It only takes twenty to thirty minutes to cook and by the time the rest of the meal is prepared the rice is ready. Then in favorite recipes start converting some of the regular rice to brown rice, barley, or other kinds of rice such as Jasmine, Basmati or Arborio. (I am absolutely converted to Jasmine and Basmati rice. They are wonderful.) Consider using part whole wheat or cracked wheat along with your rice.

Try making your own rice medley by combining a number of rices in equal proportions and then add a small amount of wild rice to the mix. Keep the combination in a container in your pantry for easy use. A wonderful oven pilaf is 1 ½ to 2 cups of your “combination of rices” placed in an oiled or sprayed 9x12 pan or casserole dish. Then pour 3 to 4 cups of chicken broth over the rice. Stir to make sure the rice is distributed evenly. Add the spices that you like such as salt and pepper, garlic salt, or season all. Place in the oven at 350˚ and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Stir occasionally as the rice absorbs the broth. Bake until the rice is done, even if that means adding more liquid, a little at a time. You can bake it covered with aluminum foil until the last 15 or 20 minutes. Remove the foil to crisp the top layer.

Beans have many uses besides just soup. They can be cracked and added to casseroles. They can be soaked and cooked in advance and then added to skillet dishes or salads. They can be pureed and added to breads for variety and more nutrition. Grains and beans can be combined in casseroles or skillet dishes.

Please note, if you are attempting to work with soybeans for the first time be aware that they almost never cook to a soft bean. They will always have a crunch.

Start now to look at your favorite recipes and see how they can be tweaked by adding a different bean or grain or two, or more.

Start now to add to your inventory of grains and beans as summer salads fade and seasons begin to change, so that it is not a “has bean,” but have beans in your house.

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