Each week, I feel a bit disheartened by my grocery bill. How can I get it below $200? Self-reflection brought me to some conclusions about my purchases. Pricey meats and too many prepared foods are part of my problem. I also need to purchase more staple foods like dried beans, frozen and canned veggies and purchase nuts in bulk. Buying more of these plant-based ingredients, means I save money. But I also need to be ready with new and simple ways to prepare them for my family. This year, I hope to feature these plant-based ingredients in new and exciting ways! Campbell Chef, Omar Rivera, shares his expertise on how to prepare beans, veggies and nuts to make everyday dishes pop in the second part of our deep dive on the plant-based trend. If you missed our first article, take a few minutes to catch up on my conversation with Chef Omar. Here’s our Q&A session.
Williams: What tips to do you have related to cooking and preparing beans? Dried beans seem labor intensive to prepare. Can you share some tips on cooking them?
Rivera: Beans are a convenient, inexpensive vegetable protein source and a versatile ingredient for plant-based cooking at home. For example, you can cook with whole or semi-crushed beans, to add more texture to a dish. Dried beans take a little more time but are not difficult to prepare. Follow package instructions, always start with cold water to soak, and make sure you add seasonings towards the end of the cooking process, not the beginning. Salt and acidic ingredients, like lime juice, can toughen the skin of the beans if added too early.
You can even save the bean broth to use as a base for stew or soup. Bean broth is a phenomenal by-product when cooking dry beans. It is very rich and savory and has a very subtle bean flavor and makes a great foundation for many soups. For the most part, the lighter the bean, the lighter the color and the more neutral the flavor of the broth. For a simple, yet delicious vegetarian minestrone soup, add a piece of parmesan rind, fresh herbs, roasted garlic cloves, seasonal veggies, and ditalini pasta to a cooked pot of brothy cannellini beans and simmer until the pasta and the veggies are tender. Finish with fresh lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, some crushed red pepper flakes, and serve with crusty Pepperidge Farm® Garlic Bread. We all have busy days, so even I keep my pantry stocked with canned beans.
Williams: We are always looking for ways to add more veggies to meals. What tips can you share to fit more of them into our dishes?
Rivera: It’s easy and convenient to switch up your traditional pasta and sauce dinner by taking advantage of seasonal veggies. Simply top Prego® sauce, with roasted butternut squash in the winter, or when summer rolls around, sauté zucchini and peppers from your garden to add texture, flavor and variety. Or for a simple solution try one of our Prego®+ Hidden Super Veggies sauces, to add veggie nutrition to your next meal.
Williams: My family loves to snack on nuts and trail mix, but do you have suggestions on how we can incorporate nuts into dishes?
Rivera: Nuts are extremely versatile in the kitchen, so I’ll give you two very different ways to incorporate more in dishes. You can chop and sauté nuts and replace some of the ground meat called for in a recipe. This adds more texture and gives a rich and nutty flavor to the dish. I wouldn’t substitute more than ¼ of the meat with nuts to keep the texture and flavor balanced.
Another option is to make a plant-based alfredo sauce. First, soak cashews, in the fridge overnight and then puree one part-soaked nuts with two parts Swanson® Vegetable Broth or a Pacific Foods® Organic Oat beverage and add about ¼ cup of nutritional yeast for every 2 cups of cashew puree. Nutritional yeast has a cheesy and slightly nutty flavor and can be used as you would grated cheese. To bump up the flavor of your plant-based alfredo sauce, stir in roasted garlic, black pepper, and/or porcini mushroom salt. Serve over whole grain pasta or veggie noodles for a delicious dish.
Chef Omar’s creative tips provide a tasty, new spin on these traditional plant-based ingredients. I can’t wait to try out these new ideas. We hope these ideas inspire you to keep experimenting in the kitchen. Your innovation with plant-based ingredients may put a new spin on your family’s classic dishes.
Omar’s BioChef Omar Rivera is a Research & Development Chef for the Campbell’s Culinary Innovation Hub. He demonstrates and supports the delivery of culinary impact across the Meals and Beverages organization. He also supports culinary enterprise initiatives such as TrendPulse, which leverages culinary observations and insights to drive innovation across the portfolio. Previously Chef Omar was a chef contractor and culinary co-op with Campbell, working on new product and recipe inspirations across the Meals and Beverages and Campbell Snacks divisions. He is also a Lead Chef for Constellation Culinary Group in Philadelphia. Omar graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, with a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree in culinary science and an associate of occupational studies degree in baking and pastry arts.
Kate’s BioKate received her bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetic internship at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She has over ten years of experience in a variety of nutrition-related practice areas including clinical nutrition, weight management counseling, health and wellness and nutrition education. Kate has worked as a nutrition consultant to the Campbell Soup Company since 2005.