Plant-Based Basics: Beans

Today I’m starting a new series called Plant-Based Basics! This series is one you won’t want to miss if you are new to a plant-based diet or if you feel like you’ve been struggling to eat well. This series will also be the perfect thing to send to you friends or family who are curious about what you eat.

Plant-Based Basics: Beans What you need to know to get started eating healthy

Today’s focus will be on Beans. For many plant-based eaters, myself included, beans make up a large portion of our diet.

Why Eat Beans

Let’s look at a few reasons that Beans are so good for you.

  • High in Soluble and Insoluble FiberWhy eat beans?
  • High in Protein
  • High in Carbohydrates
  • High in Minerals
  • High in Vitamins
  • Low in Fat
  • No Cholesterol

Eating beans reduces the risk of “chronic disease such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease” according to the USDA.

Beans are easy to include into your menu whether you eat vegan, vegetarian, or just trying to cut your grocery bill.

There are a lot of different types of beans too. I typically use pinto beans, black beans, white beans, and chickpeas most often. My favorite bean to use when I’m in a hurry is the lentil. Lentils are smaller and cook quickly.

Canned vs. Dry Beans

Canned beans are delicious and healthy. Although canned beans often contain large amounts of salt. Reduce the sodium levels by rinsing canned beans before using. Canned beans are fully cooked and can be eaten without any further preparation.

Dry Beans need to be cooked before eating. Follow the steps below for Soaking and Cooking Dry Beans or use this Printer-Friendly Guide: How to Soak and Cook Dry Beans.

You can expect to spend a lot more money on canned beans compared to dry beans. While dry beans are less expensive they take more time to prepare. Most people still consider canned beans to be inexpensive compared to animal products.

How to Soak and Cook Dry Beans

  1. Sort dry beans making sure there are no rocks, sticks or other debris.
  2. Rinse your beans with clean water.
  3. Put rinsed beans in a pot and cover them with water. I generally use a 1 part bean, 2 parts water ratio but you can use more water.
  4. Soak beans overnight.
  5. The next day, rinse the beans again and refill water. The water should cover the beans.
  6. Bring the beans to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Cook the beans from 1-3 hours. Some beans take longer to cook than others. (You can add onions, garlic, a bay leaf, etc. if desired.)
  7. Beans become soft when done. You can scoop up a few beans in a spoon and lightly blow on them, if the bean skin peels away they are done.

A one pound bag of dry beans is about 2 1/2 cups. Once cooked they will make about 5 cups of beans.

One can of beans is about 1 1/2 cups. Most of the time you will want to drain and rinse the beans if using canned.

Lentils do not need to be soaked prior to cooking. They cook quickly in about 20 minutes.

Some people swear by products like the Instant Pot Programmable Pressure Cooker, Stove Top Pressure Cooker’s, or Crock-Pot Slow Cookers for cooking beans.

Plant-Based Beans

How to Eat Beans

Beans are incredibly versatile! They can be eaten whole, puréed, ground into flour, partially mashed or even baked into treats.

We eat whole beans often. I like them in burritos, wraps, casseroles, mixed into soup or chili or just by themselves.

We also eat puréed beans a lot. Hummus is a popular bean recipe that can be made in a ton of different flavors.

Plant-Based Beans

Favorite Recipes that use Beans

Most of our favorite recipes are Mexican food but beans are used throughout the world.  These recipes are our favorites. Feel free to add links to your favorite recipes in the comments.

Even when a recipe specifies a particular kind of bean, often other beans can be substituted.

I use pinto beans and black beans interchangeably in many recipes including Taco Soup, Enchilada Soup, Unfried Beans (although I alter the spices slightly when making Unfried Black Beans), Taco Salad, Mexican Rice and Bean Casserole, or Bean and Grain Bowls.

I use white beans (Great Northern Beans) and garbanzo beans interchangeable too.  A few of our favorite recipes are Green Chili White Bean Dip, Lasagna, Creamy Italian Salad Dressing, Chickpea Noodle Soup, Lemony Quinoa Salad and many more.

I use lentils in Lentil Tacos, Quinoa-Lentil Tacos, Lentil & Barley Stew, Quinoa-Lentil Salad and Lentil Shepherd’s Pie. I also randomly include them in almost anything. I feel like Lentils are the ultimate super food.

Are you a Bean Eater? What is your favorite way to prepare and enjoy beans?

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Earth Day

Today is Earth Day! My Facebook feed has been full of people and pages trying to spread the Earth Day message. Today I thought I share a few things we do all the time to do our part and make the world a better place.

earth day

Plant a Garden

I have a small garden that I love. Getting it set up was quite a bit of work but after that it was very easy. I just water it occasionally, shade it in the summer ( I live in Arizona, this is necessary), and enjoy its bounty. My garden doesn’t produce year round but that is mostly because I don’t have a lot of experience gardening and I tend to neglect it by the middle of summer when it’s 115° outside. I stick to a spring garden but I want to keep it up this fall too.

Cloth Napkins

Years ago when we only had 3 kids we would go through a roll of paper towels at least once per week. We would use them for napkins at each meal, for spills and general cleaning. I decided to give cloth napkins a try and bought a pack of 12. They worked great! We were already doing a load of laundry everyday so they didn’t require much extra effort. I know have about four sets and buy them when they are on sale. We still use paper towels but not as often, a roll lasts about a month now.

Cleaning Rags

I mentioned above that we used to use paper towels for cleaning and we still do occasionally but mostly we use old rags. I keep them in a drawer next to the “cloth napkin” drawer in the kitchen. We have lots of spills but these do the trick. Most are old wash cloths made from terry cloth and some are crocheted. They save us a ton of money.


Our city prioritizes recycling. We have a special bin for recyclables that is picked up every week. I don’t know if I’d recycle as much if it were more difficult. You can also recycle by reusing or gifting things. Hand-me-downs aren’t just for kids. Some friends of mine have organized Swap events were we would bring clothes, shoes, and accessories that were gently worn and trade.

There are also groups that facilitate selling household items that are still useful but of no use to you. Even if you old couch as seen better days and young couple or college student may love to give it a good home, and keep it out of a landfill. My first few apartments almost completely furnished by hand-me-downs.

Reusable Water Bottles

Everyone in our family carries Reuseable Water Bottles. This keeps us from buying plastic disposable bottles all the time. You can find them everywhere. I prefer bottles with a loop handle so I can hang it on my pinky when my hand are full and a flip top straw but find one that works for you.

Energy Saver Curtains

I had never thought of spending money on curtains until I moved to Arizona. Our living room would get so hot with the sun shining though our large sliding glass door every day. I discovered Energy Saver Curtains, sometimes called Blackout Window Curtain, that blocked the sun light and left our whole downstairs much cooler. We don’t need the air conditioning set quite so high, that saves energy and money.

Our Food

Our choice to eat a plant-based diet helps the earth by decreasing our dependence on the meat and dairy industry. You can read some mind-blowing facts about what the meat industry is doing to the environment. I also try to avoid products that lead to deforestation like palm oil.

There are many other ways to help the environment, some I’ve been too scared to try like the DivaCup. Other things like composting just didn’t work for us.

I’d love to hear your tips for making the world around you a better place.

This post contains affiliate links.

Plant-Based Tostadas

Raise your hands if you love a good Tostada!

Plant-Based Tostadas are a fun and easy meal idea. Kids love tostadas and they are healthy too.


Plant-Based Tostadas

I rediscovered the Tostada when we learned my son had a wheat/gluten allergy. Tostadas are made with corn tortillas (but always read your labels) so they were safe for him.

Tostadas are:

  • Easy to make
  • Customizable
  • Allergy-friendly
  • Inexpensive
  • Delicious
  • Kid’s love them

pinterest tostada



  • Soft Corn Tortillas (or buy the crispy tostada tortillas)
  • Unfried Pinto or Unfried Black Beans (store-bought refried beans can be used but read the label)
  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Dice Tomato
  • Salsa (optional)


  1. If using soft corn tortillas, preheat oven to 350° and place tortillas on cookie sheet (I use parchment paper on my cookie sheet).
  2. Bake tortillas for 15 minutes then remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes until you can handle them. They may not feel crisp but they will get crispier as they cool. Leftover tortillas can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
  3. Spread beans onto tortillas. I prefer the Unfried Black Beans. Top with lettuce, tomato and any other toppings you prefer.


These are great as an afternoon snack but also good for lunch or dinner. If serving as a meal I highly recommend making Mexican Rice. Tostadas are so simple that many kids could assemble them without much help and would be a fun party food.

How do you top your tostadas?

Cinnamon Apple Raisin Breakfast Rice

Do you need a cheap and easy breakfast idea? If you have an intolerance to oats or can’t handle the sticker shock of quinoa this may be the perfect whole grain breakfast for you.

Breakfast Rice


This has been a family favorite for weekend breakfasts for about a decade. But if your family is used to Fruit Loops they may need a little more sweetener than this recipe includes. I love that I can make this with pantry staples.

I say this was a weekend breakfast because it takes about 45 minutes to cook brown rice. Now we will make a large pot and reheat leftovers quickly. Even my 4 year old who has been very picky lately LOVES this. I also have an Instant Pot version for a more hands off approach!

Cinnamon Apple Raisin Breakfast Rice


  • 2 cups brown rice (I prefer short grain)
  • 4 c water
  • 1-2 cups plant milk
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 diced apple
  • 1/4 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (optional)


  1. Pour rice, water and cinnamon into large sauce pan and cook over medium heat set timer for 45 minutes.
  2. When there is 15 to 20 minutes left add 1 cup plant milk, diced apples and raisins then give it a good stir.
  3. When the timer goes off the rice should be soft, most or all of the liquid will be absorbed and the apples will be soft.
  4. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving, stir in extra plant milk if needed.


This is a perfect fall breakfast and will keep you fueled for hours. Add a little liquid when reheating leftovers. My daughter always liked this with a lot of extra liquid (soupy) but most of us prefer it without it.

For more breakfast ideas check out my Recipe Page!

Save Some Green While Eating Clean…A Guest Post from Kara of the Extended Family

Are you a couponer? I’m not but my friend Kara is and today she is joining us to share a little about how extreme couponing can work on a Plant-Based Diet. On a side note, I have to mention that in addition to being a member of The Extended Family Kara is also my friend in REAL LIFE, she even planned my baby shower. 🙂

Save Some Green While Eating Clean

Hi, I’m Kara and I am an avid couponer. My family and I have lived a couponing lifestyle for 3 years now. Last year, we were able to save over $7,000 and pay cash for my new (used) car. It’s fair to say I have become pretty good at this money-saving game. When we switched to a plant-based diet, I was a little nervous about how shopping this way would affect our tight budget.  How was I going to save HUGE amounts of money if items we were buying rarely have coupons?  I was use to saving plenty on frozen snacks, sugar cereals and all the other processed junk that you normally see coupons for but how often do you see precious little paper savings on things like apples, whole grains and almond milk? Lucky for me, you see them plenty! Oh yes, you can still eat clean and save LOTS of green!

Here are some helpful tips to get you on your way to saving:

Be sure to get a store card. You need to register it online and load all coupons you can find onto your card from the store’s website. This eliminates a lot of cutting. Certain stores like Fry’s or Kroger’s, track regular purchases that you make and will send you coupons for “Free” items that you buy most frequently but you must have the card registered.  That means deep discounts on things like plant milk, whole grain rice, even gluten-free items.

Always look at your favorite store’s flier so you can plan your meals around what’s on sale. Buy produce that is in season. Out of season produce is always more expensive. Are tomatoes, avocado and lettuce on special? Sounds like a good time to make some Mexican dishes.  Are black beans on major discount? Buy in bulk and save them for later.  Get large containers from the Dollar Store and store them as required.  Make sure you do this with all the grains and legumes you use in your meals.  Then you will always have them on hand.  This works great for oats as well.

Another money-saving tip is to think of your top 10 go-to meals and make a list of all needed ingredients. As you see these ingredients go on sale, stock up for a 3-6 month supply.  Freeze anything you are able to if you get it super cheap. Work your way down your meal list. You will find this will take you very little time and you will have huge pay off in the end.  Eventually you will be able to make any meal on your list at a moment’s notice because you will have everything you need AND you saved money along the way! One of the biggest budget busters there are is a last-minute trip to the store to pick up needed items for a daily meal.  Paying full price is no fun!

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg! Imagine the savings you can rack up if you use coupons on top of rock bottom prices? We are talking some major cash! If you are hungry for more money-saving tips or looking for ways to chop your grocery bill in half, be sure to visit my website. My couponing DVD can be purchased at Couponing with Kara. This DVD is chock full of couponing secrets to help turn the novice into an extreme couponer.  Eat well and save money!

How do you make couponing work in a plant-based lifestyle?