Friday, February 18, 2011

Eat Yer Beans!

We all know that we should be eating more legumes. Full of fibre, vitamins, minerals and all sorts of good stuff, there’s no denying how healthy they are. But aside from a smear of refried pintos in a burrito, the cannellinis in a bowl of minestrone or a bit of hummus with pita and crudités, beans are still a bit of a mystery food to most people. Far from boring, beans are incredibly variable in taste and application potential – and when you consider that they’re also one of the cheapest foodstuffs around, it’s no wonder that so many cultures worldwide rely on them as a staple food. From salads to spreads to a delicious topping on a baked potato, the possibilities are as endless as the varieties, and once they discover how simple it is to prepare a satisfying, meatless meal for a crowd many people wonder why they didn’t do it before.

However, beans come with that stigma – “beans, beans, the musical fruit” – and yes, if you start eating bowl upon bowl of them after a meat-heavy, fibre-poor past, well, the rhyme might ring true for a while until your gut bacteria adjust. But starting slow and gradually adding more legume-y dishes to your repertoire will keep you from becoming a public disturbance (or, for some of the less mature set – you know who you are – a musical icon!). Half the battle is the mind game most folk have surrounding any meatless meal – it’s not a “real” meal because there’s no meat. While many people now “get” that beans and lentils provide more than ample sustenance for a meal – thanks to a slew of food bloggers, cookbooks and the general vegetarian / vegan movement – I still come across a few that ask how “meat-freers” get their protein!

Thankfully, most adults out there are pretty adventurous when it comes to trying new foods and manners of cooking. Kids, however, are a whole other ball game. Poll an elementary class as to whether they want black beans and rice or chicken nuggets and fries for lunch and (assuming we’re talking about North Americans) it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what would sell out. Their “new” palates and taste buds undeadened by years of experience mean that half the time you can’t even successfully hide them in their favourite foods.

But just try getting anyone – especially a child – to resist a cookie. By and large, they are the favourite after school or teatime snack regardless of their “specifics”: after all, a cookie is a cookie is a cookie! I’ve already whipped up brownies, muffins and bread with different beany boosts, but aside from a tofu-based chocolate chipper way back in 2007 (it was 2007? Whoa!) I’d never tried the legume thing in a cookie. But I had this recipe from an old bean cookbook I took out of the library years ago and photocopied that used pureed navy beans as a base, so why not at least try? Even though I knew my sister (who’s miraculously maintained her super-taster ability over the years) would never touch them, my peers at IHN sure would – especially since it was simple enough of a recipe to veganize and I had a slew of ideas for modifications I wanted to try. One of the first things I messed around with was the very base of the cookie dough. Gone were the navy beans, in came the nutty, almost buttery chickpeas. Vanilla got boosted way up – ¼ tsp in a cookie? Yeah right. Butter and shortening had Earth Balance take their places, and instead of straight whole wheat flour I broke out a mix of spelt and oat flours, finally throwing in a handful of rolled oats just because.

I couldn’t leave the “add-in” component well enough alone either. While the original recipe called for chocolate chips, walnuts and raisins, I had no walnuts on hand, and raisins and chocolate chips are so... pedestrian. Instead, I took the two ingredients and combined them – Raisinets! Really, you can’t go wrong with Raisinets... sweet, chewy and semi-healthy (I mean they are fruit based, and chocolate’s all antioxidanty, right?) they just seemed so logical for these. Then again, if you abhor them, use whatever add-in you want – I’m no cookie monster!

Chickpea Chocolate – Raisin Chippers
Makes 30
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas (or 2 cups cooked), drained and rinsed
1 ½ tbsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbsp water
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup vegan margarine or butter
1 cup oat flour
1 cup spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)
½ cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch nutmeg
½ tsp sea salt
1 ¼ cups chocolate-covered raisins

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment or silicone.
  2. In a blender or food processor, puree the chickpeas, vanilla and water until very smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugars until well blended.
  4. Add the chickpea puree and beat in well.
  5. Whisk together the flours, oats, cornstarch, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a bowl and gradually beat into the creamed mixture until well combined.
  6. By hand, fold in the chocolate covered raisins.
  7. Scoop onto the prepared sheets and flatten slightly (they don’t spread much as they bake).
  8. Bake for 12-13 minutes, rotating the pans in the oven halfway through baking time.
  9. Cool on the sheets for 15 minutes before transferring cookies to wire cooling racks.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 137.3
Total Fat: 5.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.8 mg
Sodium: 103.9 mg
Total Carbs: 22.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.9 g
Protein: 2.2 g