If you've never considered beans a part of your sweet treats, think again. Adzuki beans, also spelled aduki and azuki, are versatile red beans that pack a nutritional punch. Cultivated and cherished in East Asia, adzuki beans were discovered in Chinese and Korean ruins dating back between 3000BC and 1000BC. Today they are the second most popular legume in Japan where they are often boiled with sugar to make a sweet red bean paste, boiled into a sweet soup, made into a tea-like drink, enjoyed as a filling or topping for various kinds of waffles, pastries, and baked buns, and even used as a popular ice cream flavor. Due to their nutty flavor, adzukis are equally delicious in savory dishes: Traditional festival rice from Japan combines adzuki with rice, which receives a pleasant pink tint from the beans, and many people in the US enjoy adzuki beans on salads and in chili. Adzuki Bean Nutritional Facts adzuki_beans.jpgKnown for their healing properties in Traditional Chinese Medicine, adzukis are not only said to support kidney, bladder and reproductive function, but they are also a great source of magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and B vitamins. One cup of cooked adzuki beans also yields almost three fourths of the daily-recommended dose of fiber, 17 grams of protein, and only 300 calories! Not only do they a nutritional powerhouse, but they are also easier to digest than other beans so they don't produce as much digestive gas. One more reason to add adzukis to your diet is their ability to aid in weight loss and cholesterol control: Since adzuki beans are low in calories and fat yet high in protein and fiber, adzuki beans are a great choice for losing extra pounds. The soluble fiber also helps keep you fuller longer and keeps cholesterol levels healthy. Cooking Adzuki Beans While adzuki beans may not be available in all supermarkets, you can find them in most health food stores and Asian markets. You can buy them dry or pre-prepared and canned, which saves time. If you end up buying the dried beans here is how you would prepare them: Soak beans in water for 1-2 hours. Drain water and replace with fresh, cold water for cooking. Place on stove and bring to a boil in a pot with a lid. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, tilting the lid slightly to allow steam to escape, and leave to cook for up to an hour, or until tender. Once you've prepared your adzuki beans, try out the sweet and savory recipes below! Adzuki Bean Recipes Adzuki bean and butternut squash soup serves 3-4 Ingredients: 14 oz cooked adzuki beans 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon cumin seeds 1 teaspoon coriander seeds ½ teaspoon ground coriander 1 purple onion, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 large carrot, diced 1 tablespoon tomato puree 1 teaspoon smoked paprika ½ teaspoon ground chili generous pinch of dried thyme 1 bay leaf 1 1/3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock salt and pepper Directions: Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add cumin & coriander seeds, chili pepper, and the ground coriander and let simmer a minute or two. Next, add the onion and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Add carrots and season with a salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomato puree, smoked paprika, ground chili and dried thyme and cook for a few minutes. Pour vegetable or chicken stock over the vegetables, add bay leaf and let the stew cook until it starts to boil. Put the lid on and cook on low heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until carrots have softened. Add the butternut squash and cook for 6 minutes, and finally add the beans keep the pot on the stove until the beans are warm. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve dollop of yogurt or sour cream. Matcha Cupcakes with Adzuki Buttercream Adapted from the little epicurean. adzuki_bean_cupcakes.JPG Ingredients 2 large eggs ½ cup whole milk ¾ cup + 2 Tbsp cake flour, sifted ¾ cup all purpose flour 1 cup granulated sugar 1 Tbsp matcha tea powder ½ Tbsp baking powder ½ tsp salt ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes, warmed to room temp. Directions 1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 2. Combine flours, sugar, matcha powder, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and mix until combined. Add butter and mix just until just coated with the dry ingredients. 3. In a large measuring cup, whisk together eggs and milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry in three additions while the mixer is on medium speed. Scrape down sides of bowl before each addition. Mix until all ingredients only until all are incorporated, being careful not to overbeat. 4. Divide batter among lined cupcake pan, filling a little over 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 5. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Once cupcakes have cooled, stamp out center with a small round cutter. Then fill and top with red bean buttercream. Adzuki Buttercream frosting Ingredients 3 sticks unsalted butter 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 ½ pounds (24 oz) confectioners' sugar, sifted 4-6 tablespoons heavy cream or milk ¼ cup sweetened red bean paste Directions 1. In a large mixing bowl, mix butter on low speed, slowly adding in confectioners' sugar, and continuing until well blended. 2. Add in vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk. Blend on low speed until moistened. 3. Add an additional 1 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy. 4. Once the frosting is blended, stir the sweetened red bean paste into the mix.