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Tasty Tuesday by Anna Grindeland, RD, CD: The cheapest protein foods and how to cook them, part 1

By Anna Grindeland, RD, CD

It's summer time! School is out, which means kids are home from school and hungry. More vacation time and bigger food costs mean you might be tightening up your grocery budget. Over the next 4 weeks, I will be featuring the 4 cheapest protein foods you can buy, and some new ways to cook them.

The #1 cheapest protein foods (and most daunting in the kitchen) are dried beans and lentils.

Beans and Lentils are nutrition powerhouses! They not only bring protein to the plate, but are high in fiber and vital nutrients like potassium, thiamine, zinc, magnesium, and B-Vitamins.

How do I use dry beans? Soak beans in water overnight. Drain. Boil to cook.

What about lentils? Soaking scare you? Good news, there is no need to soak lentils! Just rinse them before cooking.

Try it:

  • Half and Half: Add cooked or canned black or kidney beans to stretch ground beef in burgers, spaghetti sauces, or meatloaf. Half-and-Half is a tested and approved ratio, but if your family is skeptical, you can start with less.
  • Easy, Peasy Split Pea Soup: Throw one ham hock, two cups green lentils (split peas), 1 quart broth or water, carrots, garlic, celery, and onion in the crock pot on low for a day (or on a low burner for 1-2 hours). When peas and vegetables are fully cooked, use two forks to pick ham from hock, return to soup. Toss the bone. Serve with corn bread or corn chips and a dollop of sour cream.
  • Crunchy snack: Rinse canned or cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas), put on a baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until beans are dry and crunchy. Toss lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper, and other seasonings.
    Seasoning Ideas: thyme and cayenne, Cumin, chili powder and oregano, or your own creation! Beans will continue to dry and get crunchy after coming out of the oven-be careful not to burn them!
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