Saturday, October 15, 2011

Beans, the magical fruit

I got some crummy news last month: I have gestational diabetes.  Before I got pregnant I'd been working on losing weight to reduce my risk: both of my parents and one of my grandparents are diabetics.  Being over 35 while pregnant is another risk factor, though not one I could change.

While I initially took the diagnosis in stride, the past few weeks have been tough as I learn which foods spike my blood sugar and which don't.  Frustratingly, even whole wheat breads, fruit, and sugar in any form are out.  Forget the sterotype of the pregnant woman chowing down on ice cream: I'm lucky if I get a sugar-free fudgesicle.  On the bright side, I haven't gained a pound in 2 months!

Meat, nuts, cheese, and vegetables are all in.  I feel like I'm on South Beach or Atkins.  I met with a dietician to explore meal options and determine how I can best control my blood sugar levels in order to keep both baby and me in good health for the next 3 months.  I suspect that she learned more from me about sustainable foods than I learned from her about meal plans.  What a waste of a $30 co-pay.

By the way, have I told you it's a boy?  We're not telling his first name until he's here but I can say it is unusual and starts with "K".  He'll have my last name as his middle name, and share Gene's last name.  The baby - we've been calling him "Bean" - is due 2 months from today!  I feel like I've been pregnant forever.

Anyway, as I've been researching various diabetic-friendly foods and recipes I found that many of them contain beans.  Beans are a very healthy choice for people living with diabetes. 

Dried beans are a staple in my pantry but canned beans are a rarity.  The problem this creates is that I either have to make a special trip to the store or remember to soak my beans the night before I plan to use them.  This doesn't work in a spontaneous kitchen!

My solution was to can some dried beans.  I'd been meaning to do this for a while anyway and just had never gotten around to it.  I looked up instructions and found them on one of my favorite canning how-to websites,  I did some kidney beans and some black beans.

A shelf from my canning pantry: pickles, black beans, kidney beans, stocks, & corn
Why can your own beans?
  1. It's shockingly economical.  A one-pound bag of dried beans cost me $1.19 and generated about 4.5 pints of canned beans.  The equivalent amount of generic canned beans costs at least $0.69 per pint, and $1/pint or more for name brands.  In all I canned 18 pints of beans for about $4.
  2. It's stunningly easy.  If you have a pressure canner, this is about the easiest thing you can stuff into a jar and preserve: no peeling, no coring, no dicing, no measuring, and minimal preparation.
  3. It's a time-saver.  I don't have to soak or pre-cook any more beans.  I just pop open a jar and VOILA: ready-to-eat beans. 
  4. The cats don't come running when I open a home-canned jar.  They twirl around my feet incessantly any time they hear the can-opener.
  5. Reduced exposure to bisphenol A.  While there is BPA in the lining of standard Ball canning lids, the food in the jars is not in direct contact with the lids that way it is in a steel can from the manufacturer.  Tattler lids are BPA-free but I've yet to make the transition to them.

In addition to canning the beans today, I made a batch of hummus.  Making my own hummus allows me to control the ingredients, especially the salt.  Here's the recipe I used.  It's simple and you can customize the flavors easily.  Add basil and pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, or roasted bell peppers for variation.

Total cost was about $2.50.  I did use canned beans to make the hummus.  Did you know they are cheaper in the Hispanic foods aisle than in the canned beans aisle?  Go figure.  Dried garbanzo beans are pricey around here: the only ones I can find are either Bob's Red Mill or from the farmers market.


  1. i use dried beans exclusively and although i sometimes presoak (the one hour boiling presoak is my go to), i also cook them in my pressure cooker- depending on the kind of bean, 10-15 minutes under pressure gives you a fully cooked bean for an unsoaked bean and if you presoak, then it can be 4-10 mins under pressure!

  2. I buy dried garbanzo beans in the bulk section at Winco. I also cook my beans in large batches but freeze them instead of canning. I found your blog a few weeks ago and love it. I am a South Sound suburban mom who works but still cans, gardens and bakes... not so common in the 30 something mommy set!

  3. So sorry to hear about the GD. I recently started eating a paleo diet and in my reading a ton of blogs and books on the subject came across this entry from a woman who got rid of her gestational diabetes by eating that way and adopting that lifestyle. Your blog post reminded me of it and I thought I'd share. Worth a look at least?

    Good luck!