Dining Reviews

The Bean Queen

dining1 Elizabeth Borelli Beanalicious‘Beanalicious Living’ author Elizabeth Borelli is on a mission to demystify and simplify healthy eating

Nearly nine out of 10 American adults think they eat a healthy diet, as suggested by a 2011 Consumer Reports Health poll. This is odd, considering a third of them are obese. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also projects that one in three American adults will have diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue.

So how did we arrive at such a dire disconnect? In the opening chapter of her new book, “Beanalicious Living: A Healthy Eating Guide & Cookbook,” local Elizabeth Borelli gives this simple answer: “When it comes to eating right, a lot of us have it, well, all wrong.”

“A lot of people think they’re health conscious—they’re going to the gym, eating low-fat, and buying food that says ‘healthy’ on it,” she tells GT.

Borelli can relate: 10 years ago, she was eating low-calorie, drinking diet sodas, and believed she was a healthy eater, as well. But the births of her children and a move from San Jose to Santa Cruz, among other factors, fueled a headfirst dive into health and nutrition research.

As the years went on, Borelli (known locally for her green endeavors, such as sustainablesantacruz.org) felt called to share her discoveries about healthy eating with others and to help move the public away from processed, refined, and packaged foods. The outcome is “Beanalicious Living,” a hefty tome that is part educational read and part appetizing recipe book. The book exposes the troubles with the Standard American Diet and the food industry, and promotes eating home-cooked whole foods that produce better, long-term health results and are filling, tasty and budget-friendly.

“People feel like they don’t have time in their lives for healthy cooking,” she says. “We’ve been marketed to so much to believe that it’s really hard to cook, that it’s inconvenient and takes a long time, and that the processed foods industry will just take care of everything for us. That’s what motivated me to do something to help people become more aware, but in a way that wouldn’t be seen as overwhelming or scary.”

dining2Elizabeth BorelliIn an approachable tone, the book presents tips and strategies to make healthy, scratch cooking easier for the target audience (“busy, working moms”). While they aren’t the sole focus of the book, beans are presented as a solution to society’s “dietary conundrum.”

“I started thinking that if there was one thing that people could learn about and do and incorporate into their lives, beans fit the criteria,” Borelli says of her star ingredient.

They may have a bad rap (the “Magical Fruit” song comes to mind), but Borelli makes a thorough and persuasive case for beans. When bought in bulk, they are economical, and they are a nutritious powerhouse packed with protein and fiber and are associated with weight management and myriad other health benefits. (From the book: “One cup of cooked black beans contains 15 grams each of protein and dietary fiber, providing 30 to 50 percent of the recommended daily allowance—all for only 227 calories and less than 1 gram of fat.”)

Readers learn about how easy it can be to make a batch of beans at the start of the week and throw together nourishing meals in the following days. (Provided recipes include dishes like “Easy Beanie Chili” and “Parsnip Adzuki Fried Rice.”)

Her “Beanalicious” message is taking root beyond the book, as well: she has a slew of classes and workshops on the horizon (see right column for event details), and recently launched the 10 Day Detox and Enliven Challenge, in which she and “Milks Alive” author Rita Rivera provide a game plan for individuals or groups looking to jumpstart a healthier diet.

Change can take time, Borelli explains, but can be easier if approached in steps. As her readers and 10 Day Detox challenge-takers will hear, the momentum grows and a healthier lifestyle clicks into place. “Your inner kitchen ninja,” she writes in the book’s introduction, “is just a few beans away.” 


Find “Beanalicious Living” at Bookshop Santa Cruz, New Leaf Community Market Capitola, Staff of Life Market and Amazon.com. Visit elizabethborelli.com to learn more. Join Borelli for these upcoming events: “Shopping the Bulk Bins: Healthy Tips, Tricks and Recipes!” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at the Westside New Leaf, 1101 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz, $15. “Bean and Seed Sprouting Workshop” from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26 at Dig Gardens, 420 Water St., Santa Cruz, $15. “Enliven up Santa Cruz” about the 10 Day Detox and Enliven Challenge, from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 30, at the NextSpace Conference Room, 101 Cooper St. “Vegetarian Autumn Delights” with Rita Rivera from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the Westside New Leaf, 1101 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz.

Keywords: vegetarian meals, easily prepare, eating right and living healthy, cooking with beans. Elizabeth Borelli. Photos: Rebecca Stark

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