Monday, August 27, 2012

Beans are Awesome

We love beans in our family. They're cheap. They're tasty. They're easy. And they're super good for you. What's not to like?

sort beans

I hear from a lot of people that they simply don't know what to do with beans.

Here's what I do with them:

1. STEP ONE: I make a big crock pot full of black or pinto beans every other week or so. I just throw dry beans and about 3x as much water as beans into the crock pot and cook on high for like 6 hours (or until they're tender - all crock pots are a bit different). No soaking is really required for black beans or pinto beans or white beans - the only ones I make. I've heard beans are supposed to give you more gas if you don't soak them first but I've never found any difference whether I soak them first or not and after the first few times we had beans, our systems seemed to get used to the beans and voila! no more gassiness.... I hear you are supposed to soak kidney beans and some other types of beans to reduce toxins or something like that but I just stick with the beans I know.... Here's a great post with step-by-step instructions and photos to make it ultra-easy to make beans in a crock pot (dry beans are easier to store, don't involve cans that need to be recycled, so much cheaper, more tasty, and really not much harder than canned beans and just as easy as canned).  I have a big crock pot so I usually make about 2 lbs of dry beans at a time (double the recipes offered on this blog I've linked to). Sometimes I make the beans plain so I can use them in a bunch of different recipes just as I would canned beans. Mostly though, I make them seasoned as explained here: Not Refried Beans (my kids LOVE them like that). Sometimes I mash them like the recipe says. Sometimes I don't mash them, just make them as seasoned whole beans. Often I drain the water when they're cooked and add a big can of crushed or diced tomatoes plus a bit more chili powder (about 2 more tsps or more - to taste). I usually skip the peppers since they add work and too much spice for my kids' taste (my husband and I add hot sauce to our'll want to experiment a bit to get the seasoning just right for your taste).

In both of the posts linked above, she says to lay out the beans on a cookie sheet and make sure there are no rocks and wash them carefully. I buy the triple-washed beans and check for stones as I pour them somewhat slowly into the crock pot - have yet to find any stones...

Here's how the cooked pinto beans look:
extra liquid

Here's how the cooked black beans look:
cooked black beans

2. STEP TWO: I freeze half the beans once they're cooked and cooled (just throw them in a zip lock freezer bag and use a sharpie to right "plain" or "seasoned" right on the bag) so they're ready to use on days I don't have 6 hours of crock pot time. Over time, I end up with a nice variety of beans in my freezer, plain black beans, plain pinto beans, seasoned pintos, seasoned pintos in crushed tomatoes...  On a night when I don't have much time to cook, I grab a bag of seasoned pintos and tomatoes out of the freezer, cook up some rice, and voila, easy, healthy and tasty beans and rice meal, ready to go.

3. STEP THREE: I use the other half for 2-3 meals that week. I then use these seasoned beans the night I've made them for one of these favorite family meals and save the rest in the fridge to use for another couple meals that week, warming them up as needed.

Here are EIGHT favorite recipes/meals using beans:


Just serve the nicely seasoned beans on top of rice with a choice of toppings. When serving over rice, the beans are best if you mix in some canned diced or crushed tomatoes and some extra chili powder, in my opinion. My family's favorite toppings are shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, chopped tomatoes, chopped green onions, chopped romaine, guacamole, sour cream, spicy salsa (me and Jared like it a bit spicier). Often the toppings are just some cheese and a bit of sour cream. We just use what we've got.


Burrito night is always a fiesta around here - the kids LOVE it. I have the kids cook up a bunch of the great uncooked tortillas (sold in bulk at Costco) and then everyone puts what they like in their burritos -  the seasoned bean mixture (with added canned tomatoes or without) plus usually cheese and a bit of sour cream plus whatever else we've got (often leftovers from rice-and-beans night). I like to coat my tortilla with baby spinach before putting on the hot beans that sort of cook the spinach a bit then I add a little cheese, a little sour cream or plain yogurt, a little hot sauce, a little cilantro, wrap it up and dip it in guacamole as I eat it (see photo of burrito before wrapping above). Makes my mouth water to think about it.

This lasagne-style enchilada dish is super easy and super tasty. Here are the directions (takes about 15 minutes to assemble and 45 to bake in the oven - can assemble ahead of time and then put it in the oven while you're helping with homework or whatever...)
  • Get a big can (28 oz) of enchilada sauce (mild or medium, depends on what your family likes, try different ones to see what people like best. My favorite is Las Palmas medium green chile enchilada sauce). 
  • Spread a 1/2 cup in the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan then line the bottom with 6 little corn tortillas. I spread a layer of beans (seasoned or not seasoned - I usually use the seasoned ones, often even the seasoned ones with crushed tomatoes mixed in) on top of the tortillas, then about a 1/2 cup shredded cheese (or crumbled queso fresca - my favorite), then a 1/2 cup of sauce. 
  • Repeat the tortillas, beans, cheese, and sauce two more times, ending with about a cup (instead of a 1/2 cup) of enchilada sauce and cheese on the top layer of beans. 
  • Cover with tin foil and cook at 350 for about 45 minutes (take foil off for the last 10 minutes or so if you want the top to be nicely browned)
  • Serve in squares topped with chopped tomatoes, cilantro and a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt if you want. 

Sweet potatoes with black beans - SO yummy.
My whole family loves this unique and tasty recipe -

This is a favorite of everyone who's tried it - easy and oh-so-yummy. Scroll down in this post for the recipe -

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice
This calls for red beans but I just use the unseasoned pinto beans I've got in my fridge or freezer:

Super easy tomatillo chicken chili - crock pot, 5 minutes to assemble, awesome stuff
This recipe I posted about a while back uses dry white beans. You just put the beans, chicken and everything else together in the crock pot to cook all day - no pre-cooked beans necessary here.

Use the cooked pinto beans you've frozen or just made in your favorite chili recipe.


Rachelle said...

Thanks for these, adding them to my menu now. We are loving your Thai Chili!!

Eyrealm said...

Wow, this took a lot of work! Thanks so much for sharing. We are so happy to be the recipients of so many of these recipes at the reunion. Yum!

Ashley said...

Stumbled upon this searching for a no-soak black beans recipe for church lunch tomorrow. Thanks for the great ideas & recipes for beans - my 3rd baby is 7 weeks old and I needed some cheap, easy meal ideas! :-)


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