Black Bean Chipotle Bisque

Chipotle Bleack Bean Soup

It’s soup and sweater time! This soup, like one of my favorite sweaters, is warm, dark, and comforting —with a little sass. In this version, I added some coconut milk to make it even creamier and cozier. Rich in protein and fiber, it tastes like an indulgence, but it’s not. Bring on the cold. I’m ready.

The chipotle pepper really sets this recipe apart from other bean soups, providing a hint of heat and smokiness. The dried peppers can be found in the ethnic section of most larger grocery stores. You can create your own chipotle powder by simply grinding the dried peppers in a spice or coffee grinder. But, remove the seeds first if you want more smokiness than heat.

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Culinary School: Beans, Beans, Beans!


We’re all about beans right now! The legume family has over 15,000 species including beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts. Rich in fiber and protein and low on the glycemic index, beans are excellent for blood sugar and weight management and are a budget-friendly protein source. Further, their somewhat neutral flavor makes them a versatile kitchen staple. So, while beans are a key player in my kitchen, I was excited to expand my bean know-how.

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Quinoa & Black Bean Confetti Salad

Quinoa Black Bean SaladIt’s not easy to love a minimum wage job at a mall. But, I loved my part-time job at Pasta & Co. In the 80’s, fresh pasta was a retail novelty. While Pasta & Co was one of Seattle’s first retailers to offer fresh pasta, it was their specialty sauces and prepared foods which captured my imagination. The owner, Marcella Rosene put a creative twist on everything in that store, from selecting unique and defining recipe ingredients, such as black sesame oil to her beautifully hand scripted product labels. In her stores, something as simple as croutons were memorable. Pasta & Co. The Cookbook, the first cookbook I ever bought myself, is still with me today, dog-eared and splattered. The book is now out of print. But, I noticed a few new copies available on Amazon for $215! Continue reading

Digestion-Friendly Cooked Beans

How to Cook dried BeansRich in fiber and protein, beans are an excellent dietary choice for blood sugar and weight management. In fact, beans provide what is known in the research world as a “second meal effect”. This means that consuming beans with a meal will lower the blood sugar response to not only that meal, but the next meal as well [1]. It’s bean magic! And at around 25 cents per cup, dried beans are one of the least expensive protein options.

5 Tips for Improving Bean Digestion
Beans and your stomach do not get along? While this is common, it is easily resolved for most people with a few tips to neutralize the offending compounds.

  1. Kombu. Add a strip of kombu to the soaking and/or cooking water.

What is Kombu?
Kombu is a sea vegetable which contains the enzyme alpha-galactosidase. This enzyme breaks down the oligosaccharides in beans. In my opinion, adding the kombu does not affect the flavor or texture of the beans at all, except for making them easier to digest. However, the kombu does add vitamins, minerals and trace minerals to any dish it is cooked with. I don’t cook beans without it. The kombu can be used in either the soaking or cooking stage or both. If used for both soaking and cooking, it will likely start to fall to pieces by the time the beans are cooked, which may be undesirable for certain dishes. Here I used a strip of Royal kombu, also known as sweet kombu. Kombu is available at Fairway, Whole Foods and most health food stores.

What are oligosaccharides?
These complex carbohydrates are what give beans a bad name. Without alpha-galactosidase in our digestive tracts, these oligosaccharides reach the lower intestine largely intact, and in the presence of anaerobic bacteria ferment and produce carbon dioxide and methane gases [1]. You know the rest of the story. However, oligosaccharides are fuel for the healthy bacteria in our large intestines, such as Bifidobacteria or Lactobaccilli. Since these bacteria are helpful to our health, this loss of oligosaccharides may not be desirable from an intestinal health standpoint [2]. So, if eating beans does not cause you any intestinal discomfort, it may not make sense to intentionally reduce the oligosaccharide concentration.

2.  Use Warm, Filtered Water. Using warm water helps extract the oligosaccharides from the beans, releasing them into the water. Ideally, use filtered water, or at least avoid hard water. Hard water as well as acidic ingredients slow the cooking process. So, add ingredients such as tomatoes or vinegar only after the beans have become tender.

3.  Time. Take your time with the pre-soak. Beans do not require soaking, but it reduces the cooking time and reduces digestion issues. An overnight soak is generally adequate. But, some people will enjoy their cooked beans much more if the beans are first soaked from 1 to 2 days.

4. Change the water. Change the water every eight hours when soaking (if soaking for an extended period). Always change the water before cooking the beans.

5. Season smart. Season your cooked beans. Cloves, cinnamon and garlic are the most gas reducing, as will uncooked turmeric, pepper and ginger, although to a lesser extent.

Option #1: Pre-Soak the Dried Beans

  1. Rinse dry beans, removing any pebbles, cracked or shriveled beans.
  2. Place the beans in a saucepan large enough to hold them after they have cooked. They will expand to 2-3 times their dried volume.
  3. Add warm water to cover.
  4. Let soak for at least 8 hours or several days. Or, you can quick-soak the beans, which is much faster, but does not help improve digestion.

Option #2: Quick-Soak the Dried Beans

  1. Rinse dry beans, removing any pebbles, cracked or shriveled beans.
  2. Place the beans in a saucepan large enough to hold them after they have cooked. They will expand to 2-3 times their dried volume.
  3. Add warm water to cover and bring to a boil.
  4. Turn off the heat and let the beans soak for 2 hours.

Cooking Dried Beans for Easier DigestionBeans ready to cookCooking the Dried Beans

  1. Drain water from the pan, rinse the beans and refill with the same amount of water or more.
  2. Add to the water 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, at least 1 clove of peeled garlic per cup of dried beans, a bay leaf, and a kombu strip, if using. (Skip the garlic and bay leaf if using the cooked beans for baked goods.)
  3. Cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar. Bring the beans to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a low boil for their entire cooking time. If the water level drops below the beans, add more liquid.
  4. After 45 minutes of cooking, add up to one tablespoon salt per cup of dried beans.
  5. When the beans have a creamy texture and a few skins split, the beans are done cooking. This will take at least 1 hour for most beans. Some varieties of beans may take much longer. Check for doneness at least every thirty minutes after the first hour.
  6. When the beans are done cooking, remove the kombu strip from the pot.
  7. Drain the beans well and rinse in cold water.
  8. Cooked beans can be refrigerated for at least four days and frozen for up to a year.

Adapted from Pasta & Co. ‘The Cookbook’

Health Benefits of Beans
Why You Should Eat More Beans

How to Cook and Store Dried Beans
Other Ideas for Using Kombu from ‘The Kitchn’