7 Days To Veg! Day 3: Embrace the International Year of Pulses

 Pulse to-go: Our kind of fast food!

Pulse to-go: Our kind of fast food!

2016, as proclaimed by the United Nations, is the International Year of Pulses. Get on board and you’ll be well on your way to a more plant-powered diet. So what, exactly are these precious pulses?


Chances are you’ve eaten them before…in fact, three days into our 7 Days To Veg and we’ve already mentioned them numerous times. Beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas all fit the category of pulses. And they have been fundamental to plant-based eating for generations.


Nutritionally, it’s hard to beat pulses. They’re great sources of protein, not to mention fiber and other crucial vitamins and minerals like iron and folate. The combination of fiber and protein is particularly valuable because it helps you feel satisfied when you eat a meal (in other words, it can stabilize your energy level and keep you from overeating).


Yesterday when we talked about plant-powering your pantry, we mentioned keeping canned and dried beans on hand for adding to meals. Here are a few ways you can use those beans (or find them in prepared foods from the supermarket and on-the-go spots):


Hummus/bean dips: There are plenty of store-bought brands available; we especially like the single serving packs sold by Sabra (perfect for throwing in your lunch bag or an on-the-go snack). But did you know you could make your own? This is our go-to recipe, by Ina Garten.


Refried beans: Mexican food is easily made meat-free when you substitute chicken or beef for refried beans. Make your own (this Ellie Krieger recipe is great but uses chicken broth, simply substitute vegetable broth); there are also plenty of canned and boxed varieties like these ones from Pacific Foods.


Crunchy garbanzo snacks: These have become more popular in recent years and for good reason—they’re delicious, and great for you. Try our recipe, or pick up some ready-made ones from The Good Bean, Biena Snacks, or a number of other brands out there. They’re great for snacking, but a handful can also turn a protein-devoid salad or pasta dish into a well-balanced vegetarian meal.


Pureed into soups: So simple, and so delicious. White beans in particular can help thicken soups and give them a creamy flavor, without adding any off colors. Use as a cream substitute, or let the beans be the star like in this soothing white bean soup.


Hearty soups: Of course, there are also soups that let pulses shine in their whole form, making for an incredibly satisfying meal. Lentil soup, for instance, is a wintertime SGV favorite. And don’t forget about veggie chili.


Veggie burgers: You can find bean-based burgers in the freezer at most grocery stores these days; you can also whip up your own (they’ll be about a hundred times better, too). Here’s a sweet-sounding one from Minimalist Baker.


Smoothies: Beans in smoothies? Really? Don't knock it till you’ve tried it. A ¼ cup scoop of white beans in a light-colored smoothie; the same of black beans in a chocolate-infused one—you won’t notice the flavor, but it will bump up the nutrition of your drink.


Baked beans: I don’t know about you, but for a long time the only beans I even knew existed were the ones served at barbecues beside hot dogs and hamburgers. Well, you don’t have to eat grilled meat to enjoy these—and they’re a great entry point for someone who is uncertain about eating beans since they’re basically doused in a flavorful sauce (in other words, you almost forget it’s beans you’re eating). Just make sure the ones you get are vegetarian, since traditionally they’re flavored with some pretty un-veg ingredients. Serve them as a side for all to enjoy, or make them your main protein when your family is eating steak or chicken.


Socca: One of the simplest and most delicious recipes ever, or so we think, socca (also known as farinata) is basically a flatbread made primarily out of chickpea flour. You can eat it like bread dipped in sauce or olive oil, or use it as a pizza base. Trust us, it’s delish.


Sweets: Seriously! Is there anything you can’t use beans in? Blogger Chocolate-Covered Katie took the blogging world by storm with her bean-based cookie dough dip; black bean brownies are another surprise hit.


What’s your favorite way to eat beans?