Tag Archives: beans

My Version of Costa Rican Casado

27 Sep

Last week, my neighbor gave me a plaintain. I don’t eat bananas anymore because of the high carbohydrate content. So this solitary plantain sat on my kitchen counter turning slowly from green to yellow to yellow speckled with black spots. To throw or not to throw? I always feel guilty when I throw food away. This goes back to the time I was growing up and reprimanded by my mum for not finishing my meals – ‘Think of all the starving children in the world’, she would say. Although I now know that I won’t be saving any starving children if I leave food on my plate, I do however, make an effort not to waste any food, cooked or uncooked. Hence my decision to use up the plantain!

I was introduced to plantains while in Costa Rica and discovered their national dish casado. Casado means marriage in Spanish and this one-plate dish is a ‘marriage’ of various ingredients. It consists of rice, beans, a small salad (seemed to be always made with iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber slices), a meat (one or more types) and is accompanied by plantains, tortillas and sometimes, other small dishes. No big culinary know-how required to produce it but I liked it. Since going low carb, I haven’t made casado at all because it is loaded with carbs – rice, beans, plantains, tortillas!! But what else should I do with this plaintain? I googled and couldn’t find any other easy way to use up the plantain other than to sauté it. Ok, then …

To try to reduce the carbohydrate content of the dish a little, I decided to make the rice with cauliflower rice. And instead of serving the beans on the side which would mean that you would eat more beans, I decided to put it into the ‘rice’, just like in gallo pinto. Gallo pinto, if you speak Spanish, has nothing to do with yellow roosters nor is it a dish made with chicken. It is white rice mixed with black beans and flavored with onions, coriander and Salsa Lizano. Some people add chopped bell peppers. It is awesome. Salsa Lizano is hard to come by in Europe and the closest sauce I had to it was HP Steak sauce. I also did not have any bell peppers – I like to add red and/or green for colour. Anyway, so I made this pseudo gallo pinto and served it with grilled chicken breast, sautéed plantains and a small salad. It was delicious and I got rid of my plantain! Of course, with the plantain and beans, this meal was not very low carb but let’s say it was carb-reduced.

Costa Rican Casado - carb-reduced version

There is really no recipe to share here except for the rice bit. Instead of chicken, you could serve it with pork, beef, fish – grilled would be nice. Although Costa Ricans do not eat casado with tofu, there is no reason why you can’t replace the meat with tofu or even a seitan schnitzel. Then add a healthy portion of salad with a simple dressing. No need for plantains although they do add some nice colour to the photo above, don’t they?

Carb-reduced Gallo Pinto (serves 2)

250 gr cauliflower, riced

1/3 can black beans

1 small onion, chopped

a handful of coriander, chopped, plus a few sprigs for garnishing

1/2 small bell pepper, any colour or mixed, cubed finely (optional)

Salsa Lizano, HP Sauce or Steak Sauce

Place the riced cauliflower in a glass dish and microwave on high for 4 minutes.

Sauté the onions (and peppers, if using)  in a pan with some olive oil till glazed and lightly golden (and peppers are cooked). Add the beans. Sauté for 2 minutes more till warmed through. Add the cauliflower rice and chopped coriander. Mix well and season with the sauce. I used about 1 tablespoon but you can increase the amount to your liking. Dish out and garnish with fresh coriander.

¡Buen provecho!

Nutritional Info per serving of Gallo Pinto

Total calories – 99.6 kcal; Fat – 0.4 gr; Total Carbs – 22.9 gr (dietary fibre – 7.4 gr, therefore net carbs – 15.5 gr); Protein – 5.8 gr

Print this recipe – Carb-reduced Gallo Pinto


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Legumes, pulses, beans or lentils – aren’t they all carbs?

9 Mar

Beans, beans, beans – I’m suddenly full of beans! No, I hope I’m not going crazy. Why then, the sudden interest?

It all started last week when I found a cake recipe containing white beans. Curious, I started surfing for more recipes and found that there are cake recipes using all kinds of beans.  Cooking with beans is nothing new to me. Prior to this, I had been using beans in my cooking – chili con carne, chili sin carne, cassoulet, feijoada, gallo pinto, red bean soup, to name a few – but soemtimes, I found that my blood sugar readings were high after the meal. I rationalized that this was because beans are high in carbohydrates and if a dish is made up primarily of one ingredient, it goes without saying that you would be eating a lot of that particular ingredient in one serving. So except for soya bean-based products (soya beans are funnily, low in carbohydrates but high in fat), I have been avoiding bean dishes. You’ll later see that I was too quick in throwing beans out of my diet.

Baking with beans is however, something new to me. After seeing the nutritional information for one muffin made with white beans on the Healthy Indulgences Blogspot, I was intrigued and decided to try one of the recipes. I now realise that if you bake a cake, you only eat a slice or a muffin and since your intake  is much less, there are less carbohydrates to convert to glucose and hence, the better post-priandal glucose values. I’ve tested this out and am very happy with the results! Yay, I can eat beans again.

So let’s take a closer look at the BEAN.

Beans fall into the class of vegetables called Legumes or Pulses. Legumes have been part of the human diet for a long time. Evidence that these have been eaten as early as 5000 years ago have been found in settlements in many parts of the world. Today, legumes still form a part of our diet, enjoyed by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

There are over 1000 types of legumes out there. Dried legumes are broken down into three categories – beans, peas and lentils.  Beans are favoured in western cooking – white canellini beans, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), black beans and pinto beans. The Chinese use soya beans a lot and turn them into all sorts of delicacies and products ranging from silken bean curd, soya bean curd dessert, soya bean milk, fermented bean paste, tofu and so on. Indians cook up some great dishes with lentils, called dhal in Indian. Have you heard of moong dhal, chana dhal, urad dhal or tuvar dhal used to make vadas, sambhars and likes.

Legumes are low in calories, low in fat, contain no cholesterol, low in sodium, high in complex carbohydrates and provide our body with protein and dietary fibre.  The dietary fibre contained in beans is released into the bloodstream slowly and keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time.The Idaho Bean Commission website says that “about 75% of the fiber is insoluble which may reduce the risk of colon cancer. The remaining 25% of the fiber is soluble fiber which may reduce blood cholesterol. Studies have confirmed that beans are effective hypochoesterolemic agents when added to the diet. Consumption of beans produces a moderate increase in blood glucose and insulin levels which may be helpful in the metabolic control of diabetes. … The slower release of glucose and the increased satiety from beans may also enhance the effectiveness of weight-reducing diets.”

Let’s go back to the carbohydrates mentioned above – the complex carbohydrates. The main goal of any diabetic is to try not to increase blood sugar too much.That is why we try to avoid eating foods containing sugars and carbohydrates and are following a low carb diet. I’ve recently learnt that there are good and bad carbohydrates. The good carbohydrates are digested more slowly, causing blood sugar to increase slowly over a longer period of time. These foods have a lower  glycemic index. Good carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates, also called starchy foods. This carbohydrate is called complex because it is made up of chains of three or more single sugar molecules linked together. The bad carbohydrates are the simple carbohydrates containing singular sugar molecules and these are found in sugar, white bread, sodas and sweets. I can testify to that – when I eat white bread, rice or stuff loaded with sugar, these foods cause spikes in my blood sugar and are really difficult for me to control with insulin. So contrary to popular belief, not all carbohydrates are bad! Well, the complex carbohydrates still aren’t good in large amounts but if you are going to eat carbohydrates, then choose those of the complex carbohydrate variety, like beans and try not to eat too much at one go.

And now back to the beans – besides all the positive points mentioned above, there are a host more. Let’s not forget the vitamins and minerals they contain, among them folacin (also known as folate or folic acid), thiamin, some B vitamins, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, calcium, and zinc! Wow!

This may sound too good to be true but wait a minute, you say – beans cause flatulence and I can’t have that. Yes, beans do cause flatulence. Beans contain a type of sugar molecule called oligosacchiride. Our bodies lack the enzyme to break down oligosaccharides. These unbrokendown oligosaccharides are digested by bacteria in the large intestine causing gases to develop.  There’s a way around that though.  Rinse your canned beans thoroughly before using. Do not use the liquid it comes in. Better still,  start from scratch with dried beans, soak them overnight in water with about 1/2 tsp baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). In the morning, throw away the water and rinse thoroughly before cooking. Adding baking soda to the water helps to relieve ‘gastrointestinal problems’.

Here is a link to a chart which gives the nutritional values of several types of beans.

Jack and the Beanstalk was one of my favourite fairy tales as a child. I also read it often to my daughter. In the story, Jack traded his mother’s cow for some magic beans and got a big scolding for his stupidity. In the end, those beans really turned out to be magic and brought wealth to him and his mother. I do love fairy tales as there is always a happy ending. Well, it looks like beans can also contribute to a happy nutritional plan for diabetics and low-carbers and bring us a wealth of health so don’t cut them out completely!

Reference Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bean
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/01/beans-without-flatulence.php
http://www2.state.id.us/bean/nutrition/value.htm
http://www.beanslentils.com/about_b&l.htm
http://www.dietbites.com/Diet-2/beans-calories-nutrition-info.html
http://www.brighthub.com/health/diet-nutrition/articles/42071.aspx

I can have my cake and eat it!

6 Mar

Yes, I can finally eat cake without feeling guilty and having to inject more insulin than I want!

Thanks to Lauren of Healthy Indulgences, I have found two cakes for the low carb diet. Since I am now equipped with coconut flour and erythritol, I tried out two of her recipes – her Gluten-free Low Carb Yellow Cake and her Healthy Chocolate Cake. About a week has gone by now since I’ve tried these recipes. I made both cakes into muffins with differing success rates and I’ll explain why further on.

Both cakes use beans – yes, BEANS! I’ve made muffins and cakes with carrots and zucchini and know about the uses of pumpkin but beans? This never crossed my mind. After baking these, I’ve been googling other beans and guess what?  Beans are a very versatile ingredient. I found recipes using white beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black beans and azuki beans.  It’s all out there folks. If you’re on a gluten-free diet, you probably know this secret by now.

The Yellow Cake came out firm while the Healthy Chocolate Cake came out moist and soft. The big difference between the two was that the Yellow Cake has the addition of coconut flour and that is probably what contributed to the firmer texture.

I’ll review the Yellow Cake first. I followed Lauren’s recipe instructions and everything came together quite easily. Here is what the batter for the Yellow Cake looked like – a firm batter, easy to scoop into the muffin cups.

The baked muffins looked wonderful …

… and had a nice dense texture when cut in half.

It was difficult to peel away the paper from the muffins without having thick crumbs still adhering to the paper. I thought it was because I did not spray the paper liners with oil spray as recommended in Lauren’s recipe but then I saw that in her photo, the paper liner also had crumbs stuck to it, so obviously the oil spray did not make a difference.

After taking a bite, I could taste the erythritol (I now think it was the baking powder or baking soda and not the erythritol but it goes away after at least 2 days) so I decided to make a topping. Since I did not have xylitol for the topping recipe she had (a comment was made that erythritol did not produce the same results), I decided to make a ganache using a chocolate with 81% cocoa content. Here’s what the end result looked like.

I left the muffins in a tupperware box on the kitchen counter for the first two days and put the rest later into the fridge. They were still moist and did not harden up. I even froze a couple and defrosted them later with no problems. At the end of 6 days, I hardly noticed the erythritol aftertaste. These are absolutely fabulous! When I discovered I needed very little insulin per muffin I was in seventh heaven. I had a hard time limiting myself to one muffin a day.

The Healthy Chocolate Cake was quite different. I didn’t have black beans so I just used white beans. The batter was very liquid. I thought I’d done something wrong, re-read the instructions but found that all the ingredients called for had been added.  So I scooped the batter into the muffin cups and put the tray into the oven. There was still leftover batter so I decided to experiment. This time I buttered the insides of the second tray generously and sprinkled on some almond meal, hoping that the muffins would pop out easily. Boy, was I wrong. I had to pry the cooked muffins apart causing the base to tear – not a pretty sight. Even the muffins in the paper liners weren’t any better. The cooked muffin stuck to the paper meaning a lot of lost cake!

Then I took the taste test. The chocolate muffin was moist, lightly chocolatey but not sweet at all – reminded me of devil’s food cake without the sweetness – but the erythritol aftertaste came through. So I decided to make the buttercream frosting which came with Lauren’s recipe – this one used erythritol. I got a light, ‘crunchy’ buttercream – crunchy from what else, the erythritol. The recipe says to grind the erythritol into powder in a grinder which I did but maybe I didn’t grind it long enough. Anyway it still tasted good and paired together, the muffin tasted great.

After a few days, the muffins, left on the kitchen counter in a tupperware box, were still moist. Today, about 5 days later, I had the last muffin and honestly, I didn’t notice the erythritol aftertaste nor the crunchy erythritol in the icing. This icing is much lighter than my ganache topping. I savoured my last muffin. Here is a photo of the last two muffins – one with topping and one without.

I’m keeping these recipes and next time I will make these into cakes so that I don’t loose any cake when peeling off the muffin paper liners. I will also make these a few days before serving so that any erythritol problems dissolve!

If you would like to try these recipes, click on the links above. The nutritional information is also given there.

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