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March 31, 2020
How To Make The Most Of Your Cupboard During COVID-19

In this first installment, Chef Vanessa talks about ways to use those dried beans you have sitting in your cupboard.

While many of us are in quarantine, preparing three meals a day for us or for our families is something we're perhaps not used to. We asked one of our Project Bread Chefs, Vanessa LaBranche, if she could share some tips and recipes that center around items you might already have in your pantry. Chef Vanessa is an expert on cooking healthy, economical meals, so she jumped at the chance! We hope you enjoy this first installment on the multiple dimensions of the humble dried bean.

I think cooking with dried beans is a wonderful way to get healthy plant based protein and carbs filled with fiber. On the plus side, stored properly they will last for up to two years in your pantry. Just place them in food safe storage containers with tight lids (think mason jars) and keep them out of direct sunlight.

Dried beans are also more economical than canned beans, you can control the sodium, and they just taste better. All around, they're a perfect option for this moment.

You should soak your beans for better digestion (note that lentils, split peas and blackeyed peas do not need to be soaked). Soaking removes some of the indigestible sugars that can give people problems. I like soaking for eight hours or overnight, but if you prefer, you can do the quick method of bringing dried beans to a boil, placing a lid on top, and soaking for an hour. Pick through the beans first and get rid of any discolored or shriveled beans and then rinse well and place in a large pot. You can use about 10 cups of water for each pound (2 cups) of dry beans.

Once your beans are soaked, drain them and put them back in the pot with fresh water that just covers them. Bring to a boil and cook until they're tender but still a little firm. This should take between 45 minutes to two hours depending on the beans, so just keep checking them and add more water if needed.

You should definitely experiment with different varieties, but the usual suspects that are easy to find and to keep on hand are kidney beans, black beans, red beans, pinto beans, chickpeas and lentils.

Here are a couple of bean recipes that you can make easily at home with different tastes and textures. I hope you give them a try to be a part of delicious meal in the next few weeks.

Kidney Bean Sauce 

(Makes 8 cups)


  • 1/2 pound of dried kidney beans, soak for 8 hours or overnight, (drained)
  • 1/4 cup of oil (or you can use olive oil for better flavor)
  • 1 red onion or regular onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika or smoked for better flavor
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • 6 cups of chicken broth or water
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste


Heat a large pot over medium heat and add your oil. Add the chopped onion and green pepper and stir until slightly softened. Add the paprika and the garlic and stir for another 30 seconds to a minute.

Add the soaked beans along with the broth or water, salt and pepper to taste, and the oregano and crushed red pepper. 

Bring the mixture to a light simmer. Continue to cook the beans on a light simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another 10 minutes. 

Using a stick blender, puree the mixture until pureed into a sauce. Serve over rice.

Red Lentil Curry Soup

Lentils are mini sized legumes that come in a variety of colors, but offer similar health benefits of traditional beans. Full of dietary fiber, they offer an advantage over regular beans with their quick preparation, and they cook in a shorter period of time. No soaking in water is required. I like this soup because of the delicious flavor of red curry. You can find Thai red curry paste in your local grocery store.

(Makes 4 cups)


  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. ginger, freshly grated
  • 1 Tbsp. Thai red curry paste
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, chopped roughly for garnish (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


In a large pot (or Dutch oven if you have one), bring the pot to medium-high heat. Add the coconut oil. Swirl slightly and then add the chopped onions. Stir until mixture becomes brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add the ginger and red curry paste and cook for another minute.

Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot along with the broth and lentils. Reduce the temperature to a simmer on low heat. Cover and cook occasionally until the lentils are cooked, which should take 20-25 minutes.

To serve, spoon evenly into 4 bowls using a ladle. Top with sour cream and crushed pistachios for garnish, if using.

Author(s): Chef Vanessa LaBranche

Filed under: Healthy Food, News and Events, Community Solutions