Regarding beans - I have a wonderful assortment of bulk beans on hand - chick peas, 12 and 16 bean soup mixes, adzuki beans, you name it.
One thing I do is sprout my soup beans slightly. As you say, this does take a bit of work ahead but is so amazingly worth it for flavor (and also the sprouting takes away some of the gassy tummy effect!)
You can stir fry them with or without meat; put them in with a scrambly egg - or just make soup with them. They are good.
If you live in a wintery place, they will also grow! I live where we have long winters, and while I love potted plants, I'm not so good with them - you can create a quick basket by putting your sprouted beans in and swirling a bit of potting soil over them. They do grow (especially in a well lit window) - and for 5 cents are nice to have for GREEN when everything is white with snow.
Regarding sprouting - I have a colander that I mount over an empty cottage cheese container. I pour water over the beans a couple times a day. If you do that for several days you can get some amazing fresh greens.
On a related note, I use excess coffee filters (someone brought the wrong size once) in the colander and place a bit of plain nonfat yogurt on that. Over a couple of days it drains into the cottage cheese container and makes the nicest soft cheese with a soft buttery texture - and yet, no fat.
This can be done in a refrigerator - or if your colander is too large for convenience, you can also poke tiny holes in a single serving yogurt container (a jar will often suspend it just fine) and use it either for the beans or the cheese process.
I used to not eat beans because you had to make such huge servings and then you were stuck with them (unless you froze them) - but I can get a quarter or half cup going and have enough for several servings - more if I'm making soup!)
Not that much to either of these processes, just keep things clean like you would with any food - and you don't have to watch it that much.
Oh... both processes done at home have a ton less salt than regular cream cheese or canned beans, too.
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