Sunday, April 1, 2012

Frugal Friday – cooking beans 101

A few days ago a friend of mine asked me if I cooked my own beans.  I told her I did.  She told me that she had made bean bags for the kids’ activities for Easter and had some leftover beans.  She cooked them and was really surprised at how easy they were to fix and how delicious they were to eat.   I added that not only are they easy and good, the only waste she had when she was done was a little plastic bag.  No empty cans to send to the landfill.   Beans are a great nutritional addition to your menu, as well as a frugal choice.  If you are making frugal or nutritional changes to your menu, make small baby steps.  I have read where a frugal or nutritious change to the diet or menu should start with one meatless meal a week and beans would fit the bill.  My family dines on beans at least 3 times a week and sometimes more.  We eat bean and onion burritos, beans and rice, soups with beans.   Pinto beans, black beans, red beans, and black-eyed peas are some of our favorites.  We use a lot of garbanzo beans in the summer time.  All of the beans I mentioned are cooked about the same, except for the garbanzo beans (chick-peas are another name for them.)   Think of cooking most beans as bean cooking 101 and garbanzos as the advanced course.  Actually they aren’t harder they just take longer and take different tools.

 I have found that if I cook beans, it is just as easy to cook a large pot of them and then freeze them.   I would use some for that week’s meals and then put the rest into large freezer bags and toss them in the freezer.  When I needed beans I would thaw out the bag.  The problem, then was using up the rest of the beans in the bag before they got bad since many recipes using cooked beans call for 15-ounce cans. The solution took me years, but I finally got there, drum roll please, I put 2 cups into smaller freezer bags.  I take out what I need and leave the rest for another time.  Oh my, life is so simple.

Recipes for cooking beans will be on the bag.  Pick a soaking method, overnight or quick soak.  Either works, for me the choice is a management issue.  Did I plan on beans and did I remember to put them out the night before or is it an emergency?   

Start by sorting and washing the beans.  Don’t let this step scare you.  I pour the beans into a colander and run cold water over them.  Pick out discolored and broken beans and discard.   Use either the overnight soak or the quick soak.  Use 6 cups water for every 1 pound dry beans.

Quick Soak: boil beans and water for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour.   

Long Soak: let beans and water stand overnight (6-8 hours).

Cook:  I like to drain the beans and add fresh water.  Simmer until beans are tender.   If I am cooking pinto beans I usually throw in chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika.  That way the beans are on the way to tacos, chili, or refried beans.

I will be add a refried bean recipe in a couple of days.

I’m always looking for different bean recipes, so if you have a favorite bean recipe, please share. 

Thanks, Debbie

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