Cooking From Cans Can Be Nutritious, Delicious, And Easy

Cooking From Cans Can Be Nutritious, Delicious, And Easy

I never foresaw myself endorsing food from a can, but sometimes—when chosen wisely—canned food can serve as a healthy, quick alternative to doing things the long way.

Getting Comfortable With Canned Beans

Although I’m obsessed with fresh and local produce, I do enjoy experimenting with beans. But, soaking them myself takes entirely too much time. Being an evolved woman, I recently decided to compromise and become comfortable with canned beans.

Here are a few tidbits I learned along the way:

1. Canning Captures Freshness

According to a study conducted by the University of Illinois Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, canned fruits and veggies provide as many vitamins and as much dietary fiber as their fresh and frozen counterparts. Fresh vegetables begin to lose nutritional value when picked. Canning not only arrests nutritional loss, but in some cases also enhances the nutritional value of foods.

2. Shed The Sodium

Remember to rinse canned goods like beans, since additional sodium is hidden in the liquid. Some recipes I’ve read have suggested using the liquid as an ingredient. I say, be smart; canned beans contain about 15% of the sodium you should be consuming each day! After rinsing, strain well.

3. Pick Them Carefully

Inspect the label for added sodium and preservatives. Also pay attention to the physical can. Avoid buying cans that are dented; stay away from any can with a bulging top.

4. Keep Them Moving

Canned goods don’t last forever.  Look for “best by” dates when you purchase your goods and practice FIFO (first in, first out) by physically rotating the cans on your shelves.

5. Store Goods Safely

Store leftover product in the refrigerator in a plastic container, bowl, or Ziploc bag, rather than the original can.

My Experiment In Canned Cooking: Bean Ragout

I set out to make a bean ragout. The actual prep time was minimal…it was the picking and the cleaning of the herbs that took the lion’s share. If you have kids, put them to work picking the cilantro, instructing them only to omit the thick stems.

Bean Ragout

Serves about 8 – 10

1 large onion, chopped
3-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 2 jalapeños, seeded & minced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted then ground
1 can crushed tomato
1 can hominy, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can white beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
3 oz Spanish (cured) chorizo, diced- totally optional
Lots of cilantro and parsley, chopped

Sautee the onion over medium heat in a large pot (6 to 10 quarts) until the onion is translucent. Add garlic and peppers, stir, and let cook about 2 minutes. Sprinkle on the cumin and stir. Cook for another minute. Add the hominy and the crushed tomatoes. Let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Add all of the beans. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.

Top with lots of herbs (I like to stir in diced chorizo). You can mix tofu into the beans or serve with brown rice. Leftovers can be served as a bed for poached eggs—the options are endless. If you freeze portions in pint containers (small Chinese to-go containers), you can heat in a pot with a liberal ½ cup of water over a low flame. To thaw, put the frozen container under trickling warm water for a few minutes. Take off the top of the container and pop out the solid block of ragout. It’s dinner in under 30 minutes!

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