Tag Archives: #beans

Wild Blueberries: Small, But Fierce

Last week, I went wild. Really wild. I don’t know what you’re thinking right now, but I’m talking about going to Maine and getting better acquainted with wild blueberries. I knew they were delicious, but I didn’t know just how special wild blueberries really were until I got to see for myself how they are grown, harvested, and packaged. Here’s what I learned, thanks to the Wild Blueberry Commission, who sponsored my trip, plus two easy recipes so you can go wild, too!

Wild Blueberry and Banana Oatmeal Cups

If wild blueberries had a theme song it would be “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. That’s not actually the name of the song, but you get the idea.

As plants go, wild blueberries are among the toughest on earth. Anything that’s been thriving for 10,000 years in a desolate location called The Barrens of Maine, and in Eastern Canada and Quebec, is hardy stock.  Wild blueberries actually love the thin, acidic soil found in this cold, harsh climate. Go figure!

Tough conditions make for delicious and nutritious wild blueberries! (Photo courtesy of Wild Blueberry Commission.)

Unlike the cultivated blueberries you buy fresh and frozen, it’s not possible to plant wild blueberries.  Wild blueberries spread naturally, and they have never been modified by man.

Wild blueberries are smaller than the cultivated kind, so you get more of the skin in a serving.  That’s good, because the skin is packed with plant compounds called phytonutrients. Eating foods rich in phytonutrients, such as wild blueberries, helps support brain health, and is linked to  a reduced risk for heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions.

Wild blueberries ripe for harvesting. (Photo courtesy of Wild Blueberry Commission.)

Once they are picked, wild blueberries are frozen individually within about 24 hours of harvest, preserving taste and nutrition. Frozen wild blueberries are available year-round.

These frozen wild blueberries are ready to be packaged. (Photo courtesy of Wild Blueberry Commission.)

A cup of wild blueberries, which qualifies as a serving of fruit, supplies 20% of your daily need for fiber and is a good or excellent source of several minerals, including iron, all for just 80 calories.

I snack on plain wild blueberries topped with sliced almonds or a bit of granola to add some crunch, and I like to cook with them, too (if you can call making a smoothie cooking!)

These baked oatmeal goodies are a riff on my No Added Sugar Banana Raisin Oatmeal Cups.

Baked oatmeal cups brimming with wild blueberries and whole grain goodness.

Wild Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Cups

Makes 18 servings.

3 cups oats, uncooked

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional

3 ripe medium bananas, mashed well

1/4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups 1% low-fat milk

2 1/2 cups frozen wild blueberries

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the mashed bananas, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until well combined.  Whisk in the milk.

Pour the banana mixture into the oats mixture. Stir well to combine. Gently add the wild blueberries.  The batter may be a little soupy. That’s OK.

Fill the muffin cups nearly to the top with batter (a scant 1/4-cup full).

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until set.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack for 5 minutes, with the muffins still in the pan. Remove the muffins from the pan and allow them to cool on the wire rack. Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

 

The Wild Blueberry Commission challenged us to smoothie contest, and this was my entry.

Wild Blueberry, Bean, and Beets Smoothie

You’re probably wondering: beans in a smoothie? I wanted a smoothie that was different than what I usually make and was a mixture of wild blueberries and vegetables (beans are vegetables). You can leave the beans out if you think they are too weird, but you can’t taste them.

Beans, beets, and wild blueberries combine to make a delicious and nutritious drink.

I rimmed the glasses with a mixture of sugar and a teaspoon or so of beet juice. You don’t have to rim the glasses, but it makes the drink fancy, especially if you’re serving it as a mocktail.

Invert the glass into a thick mixture of sugar and beet juice and allow it to set for a few minutes.

 

Rimming the glasses with sugar and beet juice is simple and makes the drink fancy.

Wild Blueberry, Bean, and Beets Smoothie

Makes 1 serving.

2 tablespoons sugar

1 small cooked peeled packaged beet, plus 1-2 teaspoons beet juice from the package

1 cup frozen wild blueberries

1/4 cup white beans, drained if canned

1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Prepare the glass. Combine the sugar with the beet juice in a small bowl. Invert the rim of the glass into the sugar mixture, rotating to cover the rim. Shake off the excess sugar, and set aside.

Place the beet, wild blueberries, beans, yogurt, and maple syrup in a blender or food processor and blend on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour into prepared glass. Top with a few frozen wild blueberries and enjoy!

 

Nobody has to know there are beans in their wild blueberry smoothie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Better for You Chili

Chili is the perfect meal for cooler days. My version is better for you because it’s light on the beef, packed with vegetables, and features a secret ingredient that boosts flavor and nutrition without overpowering the dish. It’s a good idea to make a double batch of this easy, nutritious dish. It tastes great the next day, too!

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More Beans, Please

I like more beans (technically, legumes) and less meat in my chili to improve nutrition and cut food cost.  Beans supply protein, fiber, potassium, and many other vitamins and minerals, and, as part of a balanced diet, they can help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood that lead to clogged arteries and heart disease. Beans are rich in prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in your gut, which benefits your health in several ways.

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I choose canned, drained beans for the sake of convenience and because I lack the forethought to buy dried beans and soak them! Rinse canned beans to reduce their sodium content by as much as 40%.

Have it Your Way

This recipe is flexible.  You can use turkey instead of beef, eliminate the meat and add even more beans to make a vegetarian chili, or use different types of beans, such as white kidney beans and garbanzo beans. Also, I’m a wimp, so I keep the heat to a minimum. Add chili powder, jalapeño peppers, more cumin, or any other spice you like. It’s your choice!

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The Secret Ingredient, Revealed

So, what’s the big secret? A little bit of cocoa powder.  Unsweetened cocoa powder upgrades chili by intensifying the flavor of the meat, and you won’t even know it’s there. Cocoa powder is also good for you.

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Cocoa contains antioxidants called flavonoids. While it’s still unclear exactly how flavonoids benefit health, they may help to lower blood pressure, which protects the heart and the brain.

Buy unsweetened cocoa powder that hasn’t been treated with alkaline, which reduces flavonoid content. Avoid Dutch-process cocoa.

Better for You Chili

Makes 6 servings.

8 ounces 95% lean ground beef or 100% ground skinless turkey breast

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2 tablespoons canola or olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 16-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 28-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, not drained

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the meat, breaking it up into very small pieces as it cooks.  Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Remove the meat from the pan. Set the meat aside.

Return the pan to the burner. Add the oil and heat over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute for two minutes or until clear. Add the garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute.  Add peppers, and continue to cook until peppers are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the beans, tomatoes, cocoa powder, and meat to the pan. Combine thoroughly. Cover, and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Per serving:

Calories: 291
Total fat: 9 grams
Saturated fat: 2 grams
Cholesterol: 33 milligrams
Sodium: 586 milligrams
Carbohydrate: 35 grams
Dietary fiber: 10 grams
Protein: 21 grams

 

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