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Tag Archives: beans!

Coming home to home cooking.

We traveled to the homeland to enjoy time with family.  We ate tender braised beef that had been raised right there on the ranch.  We ate sweet corn grown by my aunt–and just about the only area sweet corn that has managed to survive the drought.  We ate party foods–pizza, potato chips, and cotton candy and sno-cones from the Sheridan County Fair.  We ate, ate, ate and ate

It was all good food.

And when we came home, my 11 year old cooked us a supper of boring lentils and boring cornbread.  It was quiet around the table except for passing the salt and honey butter.   Somebody piped up, “I’m so glad we’re home and eating lentils.”

Me, too.

Get Your Black Belt in Black Beans

The house is filled with the aroma of cumin and bay.  Oh.  So lovely, it is.

I’m cooking black beans this morning and I thought I’d share the how-to with you.

Last night after supper, I rinsed a big bag of black beans and started them soaking.   No way would I want to try the quick-boil method with black beans; they are too firm for that.  After breakfast, I dumped out the soaking water, rinsed them, added them back to the pot and filled up the pot with fresh water.  I’m cooking my 2 lbs. of beans  with 4 bay leaves and a heaping tablespoon of cumin.  Hopefully you can find inexpensive bay leaves and cumin in the Mexican food section of your grocery store.  Both those items will be cheaper there than in the spice aisle.  When the beans are tender in a few hours, I will add salt, but not before.  Be prepared to be patient with your black beans.   For my 2lb. bag of dried beans, I will have a yield of about 3  quarts of cooked beans.  The eight of us will eat up one big jar for a meal.  The rest I’ll put in mason jars to keep for weekday lunches.

Here’s the thing about black beans:  they are firmer than other beans.  It’s that firmness that makes them perfect for veggie burgers, bean salsas, or any other bean dish where you’d like to see an intact bean.  I very much enjoy their meaty flavor.  I also really like the thick, dark bean broth you get when you cook black beans.  Poured over rice, it’s a savory sauce.  When someone smiles and says, “I’m having black beans and rice,”  she’s thinking about black beans nestled on top of a bed of hot rice, black bean gravy making rivers down the pile, black beans topped with yogurt for tartness and salsa for spiciness.

Black beans cooked with cumin are so good.  So, so good.  I think you’ll enjoy both the cooking and eating.

Happy aromas to you!

Lentils are kid food.

Brown lentils, red lentils, red lentils with curry, lentil soup–my kids just love lentils.

Last night at supper, Margaret was singing the praises of brown lentil gravy, which is more accurately called the bean broth.

Does someone in your family love lentils?  Post a pic here.

Do you like lentils?  Go out today and tell someone.  Show someone how to cook lentils.  Serve lentils to someone you love.  Post a lentil recipe on your facebook page.  Ask your grocery store to carry lentils.  Go to an Indian market and swoon over the many colors of lentils.

Or you can just stop by here for lunch–we’re having lentils.

A poll. Your honest thoughts on cooking beans.

Pinto beans: the kindergarten of cooking beans

A staple of our meals lately has become the simple pinto bean. I love the flavor of this bean–almost could be sweet,  and I love the texture–very creamy.

Pinto beans cook up easily, so if you would like to start on learning to cook your own beans, this is a good choice.

How to shop for dried beans:  pick a store that you think might have a good bean turnover rate.  The longer dried beans sit on the shelf, the tougher they are to cook.  I find that my local Walmart has good beans.  I like the “Casserole” brand.

Any bag of pinto beans will tell you how to cook them.  The favored way is to rinse the beans and let them soak overnight.  In the morning, I choose to drain off my soaking water, dump them back into the pot and cover generously with water.  I slow cook on the stove until tender, usually 2-2.5 hours.

After the beans are completely tender, I will add salt.  I don’t add salt during cooking because it makes for tough beans.

I’ve also found we don’t need ham.  The beans really have great flavor on their own and we don’t need the cholesterol or the expense.  Ham hocks are expensive!

When I’m in a hurry, I’ve also found that I can cook pintos using the rapid boil method.  Rinse beans, sort out the odd ones, place in pot and cover with water.  Bring water to boil and once you have a rolling boil, slap on a lid, shut off the burner and come back in an hour.  Now turn your burner back on and cook your beans for 2-2.5 hours.

For our family, I find it helpful to cook up a 4 pound bag, serve pintos for supper and store the remaining beans in the refrigerator.  For that purpose, I prefer using wide mouth quart jars.  Having jars of beans in the refrigerator makes meal prep fast–burritos, beans and cornbread, beans over rice.

Why choose cooking beans over canned?

Canned beans will typically contain corn syrup and salt.  Now I like my salt, but it just feels better knowing I am choosing the amount.  I don’t, however, want corn syrup in my beans for any reason.

Canned beans come in……you guessed it, cans.  When I cook my own, I am saving the environmental production costs of a steel can.  Yep, we do recycle, but still, I like avoiding the can in the first place.  For most canned products, the steel can is also lined with a “protective” product called bisphenol-A.  I don’t need BPA leaching into my food or my kids’ food.  There is also the gas/oil expense of packing the heavy cans of beans, water and corn syrup into pallets and lugging them across the country on trucks.

And then, finally, there is the the expense to me, the consumer.  Canned beans are just more expensive than cooking your own.  The price of canned beans at my Kroger has gone up and up the past year.  How about .79 for 15 oz of store-brand beans?  I can buy a whole pound of dried beans for a little more than a $1 and those beans will cook up to the equivalent of 3-4 cans of beans.  Yes, in a pinch, I will still buy a can of beans.  But with happiness in my heart and pocketbook,  I can tell you that I like the beans I cook better.

I hope you will give cooking your own beans a try.  Will you let me know how it goes?

Oh, honey, red beans and rice!

Let’s kick it!  One of my favorite dinner parties ever was a big group of friends huddled around our table all sharing a giant pot of red beans and rice.  I think it’s the subtle red pepper flavor that warms me up and makes me want to come back for more.

Soak up your red beans the night before.

FIll up a big pot with 6 c. water and the red beans.  Add 1 or 2 c. chopped onion, 3 cloves garlic, minced, 2 bay leaves, and 1/2 t. to 3/4 t. red peppers.  Simmer your beans for a couple hours, checking to see if you need water.  Here’s the tricky part:  you want the beans to cook down with a lovely thick “bean gravy.” You’re not aiming for soup.  Ideally you want to be able to serve your red beans on rice without needing to drain off water.  I cook my beans until they are tender and then, if I so choose, I add meat.  We like to use a ButterBall turkey sausage, sliced.  For you onion phobes out there, rest assured that 3 hours of cooking tenderizes onions into a fabulously flavorful but unidentifiable character.  You’ll never find them.

I don’t cook beans with salt or salty meat because I’ve learned that salt makes beans tough.  I just add my salt at the end.

Honestly, red beans have a great flavor.  I don’t think they need ham, sausage, or pork hocks.  Pork is expensive, so I just try to leave it on the shelf for Congress.

Here’s the cost:

1 bag red beans: $1.40

1 or 2 onions: $1.00 (at the most!)

garlic:  .30

bay leaves: oh for Pete’s sake, I have no idea.  I have a giant container I keep on the top shelf.

ground red pepper:  FREE if you save two packets from the next time you order out pizza

a sausage, if you must: $3.50.

rice:  .75

TOTAL:  $6.95    A budget deal!  Somebody call the Treasury Secretary.  I’m giving away an economic recovery recipe.

Black bean and sweet potato quesadillas

The kids love these!  Sweet potatoes and black beans are best buddies, I think.

We’ve been eating and enjoying the combo for a long time now, but the idea to turn it into a quesadilla came from a cookbook that a friend gave me—–“Simply in Season.” I’ve modified it with the low-budget knife and traded out the dripping boiled sweet potatoes for my roasted style.

About 4:00, I turn the oven on to 425 degrees.  I stab a few sweet potatoes with a knife, place them on a baking sheet.  They will bake until they pinch softly when I pick them up with tongs.  Obviously, the smaller potatoes cook up faster than the really big ones.  When they are done (sometime between 5:00 and 5:15), I cut them lengthwise with a knife to let the steam escape. When they’ve cooled at bit, I scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash.

About 5:00, I will make the tortillas–you can find that recipe  on my blog, but I won’t repeat it here now.  When I use thomemade tortillas for quesadillas, I will gently cook one side of the tortilla, flip it, then on the cooked side I will spread the topping.  I sandwich all that with another tortilla I’ve been cooking on another burner.  Obviously, store-bought tortillas save time and energy.  I try to make tortillas because I get to pick wholesome ingredients (whole wheat flour and olive oil) AND save the budget.  Tasty and inexpensive they are.

Heat a heavy skillet.  Spoon the mashed sweet potatoes onto the tortilla, top with a spoonful of black beans (drained from the can).  Top with your favorite cheese and another tortilla.  Cook for a bit, then carefully flip.   Transfer to a cutting board and cut into wedges.  Last time I made these I was in a hurry, so I just baked my “tortilla pies” in the oven.

Serve with sour cream and salsa.

Here’s the budget bottom line:

Homemade tortillas:   .48 for flour and .60 for olive oil and throw in some baking powder and salt = $1.15

Sweet potatoes: 3 lbs. @ .88 = $2.64

Couple cans of my black beans of choice:  “Ranch Style Black Beans”: $1.60

Cheese: $1.50

Condiments: $1.00

So far, we’re at almost $8.00.  Adding in a vegetable side will add about $2.00 if I make a salad or cook up a couple bags of frozen vegetables.  It looks like this meal ISN”T one of my uber-low budget busters (which by my own definition is $1.00 per person or less), but I still think feeding a family of 8 for $10.00 isn’t bad.  I’m still filing this one under budget meals.

And now for a link to the good folks at “Simply in Season” — http://www.worldcommunitycookbook.org/

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