The ABC's of Cooking with Lynn Fredericks
author of Cooking Time Is Family Time

Lynn Fredericks
gives new meaning to our ABC's.
Each installment will focus on a new ingredient beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. L is for Legumes features recipes and fun family learning activities with legumes.



 L  is for Legumes

If your kids claim not to like beans or other legumes don't be dismayed. There's such a wide variety — many exciting colors and shapes — they are likely to get excited about some type visually.

The variety of peas, beans and lentils is absolutely staggering -- well over a thousand different types. Gourmet stores are increasingly stocking 'heirloom' beans, or older varieties of beans that are extremely beautiful to look at and have distinctive flavors. Such beans had largely fallen out of mass production and are now being brought back as specialty items. While heirloom beans are usually more expensive than most 'sack' beans — e.g. navy beans, pintos, black beans etc. available in bags for about $1 in the grocery store — they are still, pound for pound, much cheaper than most types of meat. And remember, meat shrinks in volume when cooked as fat is rendered. By contrast, dried legumes increase in bulk when they are reconstituted in cooking. Thus a one pound bag of navy beans will become 2 pounds when cooked, capable of sustaining an entire family.

Legumes are also believed to be one of the oldest of cultivated crops. Various types originated around the same time in the Middle East and Southwest Asia as did wheat and barley. Thus their cultivation goes back at least 10,000 years. Of all the great many types of beans, soy beans and their products are the most impressive from a nutritional standpoint. Soy beans were first prized by the Chinese who then brought them to Japan by way of Korea. However very few people are aware that, in addition to being an excellent source of protein, iron, calcium and phosphorus like most other beans, they contain more B vitamins than meat and some vitamin E. Soy beans also contain a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids which, while necessary to our health, our bodies cannot synthesize on its own. Thus soya products provide these essential nutrients in a form our bodies can utilize right away, including, it is believed, to help it lower blood cholesterol.

Here are some fun activities that are unique to legumes. Additionally, I've provided some recipes from my book Cooking Time Is Family Time which make very delicious use of this healthful, tasty and underutilized food category.



Sprouting peas, beans or lentils is as fun as it is interesting. All you need is a shallow container, some cheesecloth large enough to cover the top of the container and some water. If you would like a medley of sprouts from all three categories, it's best to choose a whole lentil, a dried pea, and a smallish bean such as a small navy or azuki bean. Plan to have a separate container for each as all types of legumes to not sprout at the same speed. You will want to harvest each type separately as they become ready to eat.

Have your children help you pour the beans, peas or lentils in one layer over the bottom of the container. Cover with water and leave overnight. Drain off the water and leave just a bit of moisture. Cover with cheesecloth and secure it over container with a rubber band or some twine. Have the children place the container in a window that does not get direct sunlight (e.g. a north window). Rinse the sprouts and drain through the cheesecloth twice daily (it's OK to peek!!).

Each day the sprouts will change, as the white root breaks through the legume and curves downward. The sprouts are ready to eat when the white root is about a quarter inch long. This will generally take 3-4 days, depending on the type of legume you are sprouting.


Let's Cook!

Check out other recipes that bring the whole family together:

>>> Buy This Book

Cooking Time is Family Time: Cooking Together,
Eating Together, and Spending Time Together

by Lynn Fredericks, William Morrow & Co., August, 1999

In COOKING TIME IS FAMILY TIME, Lynn Fredericks shows people how they can improve the time they spend with kids by inviting them into the kitchen to help prepare meals.

Included are 125 recipes emphasizing a variety of fresh, healthful ingredients and strategies to get kids to gobble them down. Each recipe offers directions that specify which steps are right for younger kids and which are more challenging for their older siblings.


Cooking with Kids Home
The ABC's of Cooking ::: Aa |Bb |Cc |Dd |Ee |Ff |Gg |Hh |Ii |Jj |Kk |Ll
Kid's Meals | Lynn's Thoughts on Feeding Her Children | Recipes | Book