Black Beans

The common black bean is thought to have originated in southern Mexico and Central America over 7,000 years ago. Black beans are part of the traditional Latin diet of beans, corn and squash.

Black beans are a member of the legume family. Legumes include all types of beans and are high in protein. However, the protein in legumes is called incomplete, meaning it does not contain all 9 amino acids found in proteins. When eating legumes, it is always good to eat them with grain proteins, such as corn. The grain proteins provide the missing amino acids and make the proteins complete.

Need to lower your cholesterol? Eat beans! They are fat-free and rich in fiber. A University of Kentucky study shows that a cup of cooked beans a day lowers blood cholesterol levels by an average of 10 percent. Other research shows that regular servings can improve the ratio of good to bad cholesterol by 17 percent. In addition, beans are a great source of iron, magnesium, and zinc. And they taste good too!

Age to introduce: 8-10 months (cooked and pureed)

Toddler Treat: Quesadilla

Quesadillas are the Latin version of the good ‘ol grilled cheese sandwich. They are easy to make and can be made in quantity and stored in the freezer. They are really quick to defrost in a toaster oven or the microwave, which makes them perfect for busy families on the go.

Ingredients (makes 1 quesadilla):

  • 2 Tbsp. black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 Tbsp. yellow corn kernals
  • ¼ cup shredded cheese (colby, cheddar, jack or a mixture)
  • 2 8-10 inch flour tortillas
  • Cooking oil or spray

Sprinkle cheese, beans, corn and tomatoes over one of the flour tortillas. Leave a ½ inch edge all the way around the tortilla empty. Place the other tortilla on top of the cheese mixture, making a sandwich. Brush the top of the tortilla lightly with cooking oil. Place the tortilla sandwich with the oiled side down in a non- stick fry pan over medium heat. Brush the top of the tortilla lightly with oil. Using a spatula, turn the tortilla over when it is golden brown (about 2 minutes). Brown the other side (about 2 minutes). Remove from pan, and slice in pieces like a pie.

Can be made in quantity. Wrap indivudally in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 6 months.

Black Beans For The Family

At the market: Black beans can be purchased dried or canned. Dried beans are less convenient. They need to soak overnight and simmer for a long period. Canned black beans are already cooked and ready to use. Buy canned black beans that are low in salt.

Preparation: Place canned black beans in a colander or strainer and rinse in cold water for one minute. This will remove much of the salt used in canning.

Here are a few easy ideas to add black beans in your meals:

  • Replace half the meat with black beans in any chili, taco meat, or lasagna recipe.
  • Mexican Pizza: Spread a ready to bake pizza crust with salsa and top with black beans, red or green peppers, and corn. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar or jack cheese. Bake until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.
  • Mango and black bean salsa – 1 mango skin removed and cut into small cubes, 1 can black beans drained and rinsed, and ¼ cup chopped cilantro. Tossed with the juice of one lime. Serve with tortilla chips for an appetizer, on top of grilled salmon, tuna, chicken or flank steak as a main dish, or stuffed in a pita pocket for lunch. You can substitute pineapple for mango in this recipe.
  • Quick side salad: One cup of black beans rinsed, One cup of frozen corn, thawed, and one cup of plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped. Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, salt and pepper. Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour of over salad. Toss and serve.
  • Simple side dish: Saute equal amounts of onions, corn, zucchini, and black beans in olive oil for 5-6 minutes over medium heat. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and sprinkle lightly with chili powder.
  • Add black beans to chicken or vegetable soup recipe. Or make this easy black bean soup.

Recipe: Black Bean Soup

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans (16 oz each) Mexican style tomatoes with mild green chilies (do not drain)
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 oz) chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Garnishes: Try any or all of these: Thinly sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, cubed avocado, sour cream.

In a medium-size saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, until the onion is tender. In a blender or food processor, combine the onions, tomatoes and the beans. Process until smooth (this can be done in 2 batches, if necessary). In the medium saucepan, combine the bean mixture, broth, and cumin. Cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve the soup hot, topping each bowl with any or all of the garnishes. Serves 4-6.