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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!

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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/

Taco salad

This meal is fast.

Pop open a bag of tortilla chips.  Heat up 2 or 3 cans of beans, add seasoning if you like.  Serve at the table with grated cheese, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, onion and anything else you can find.  May God bless you with avocados on sale, which indeed just happened to me.  OH, yes, cilantro–if there is any way you can get fresh cilantro, please do!

Kroger makes a bag of tortilla chips (with no trans fats) for $1.19.  This works great for one meal for us.  A can of beans costs between $.70 to $.80.  Add in salsa, and cheese and this meal still can squeak under the $6 range.

Enjoy your beans!

Black Bean Burgers

Love those black bean burgers at Chili’s Restaurants. I have not quite achieved that kind of perfection here at home, but after a couple attempts, I’ve got a work-in-progress recipe that we will keep making.  Jerilyn sent me a recipe to start with–so thanks, Jerilyn!

Most of the recipes I’ve found online and including the one my friend sent, require a food processor.  We actually don’t have a food processor and when I tried it  in the blender, I was left with  2 T. of black sludge and 2 c. of perfectly preserved beans and onion.  The blender was out.  So, apparently, was the egg that I forgot.  I just have trouble following directions….and on top of that the uncooked onion chunks were a little much for even me, the onion eater.

On to the second attempt.  I’ve found that I can make black bean patties with a potato masher, no egg (yay, lower cholerterol!) and grated onions that add flavor, but no weirdo crunch in my soft bean patty.  This recipe is super easy and cooks up SUPER FAST.  It is also SUPER GOOD-FOR-YOU and SUPER LOW BUDGET.  I hope you will try it—–we really enjoyed them.

INGREDIENTS:

1 can black beans, WELL DRAINED

about 1/3 c. of quick oats (I think instant would work, too.  If you have Old-fashioned oats you may want to grind them up in a coffee grinder or blender first)

a few tablespoons of finely grated onion

seasonings–chilli powder, cumin, but especially SALT.  Did I mention you need SALT for these?

COMBINE all ingredients, mash up with a potato masher.  Form mixture with your hands into small patties–you can get about 5 happy meal size burgers out of one can.  (We use two cans and double the recipe for our family).  The mixture will look very strangely light colored–but the patty will cook up dark brown as the oatmeal cooks into the bean mixture.

Heat a heavy skillet and oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  Fry your patties for about 3 minutes per side.  They will get a bit crispy–but they really isn’t burnt.  Ummm, unless you burn them.   These cook super fast.

We served ours one night with buns–that was tasty.  The second night I had no buns, so we had patties topped with a delicious salsa, pasta and veggies on the side.  Salsa, sour cream, any kind of sauce is great for a topping.

Let me know if you try it out!  You may have some other ideas on how to make these, as well–so keep in touch.

Suppertime!

It’s 2:20 now.  My kids will be running in the door from school just shortly.  They’ll want a snack and even as I am wiping the table down from snack, they’ll be asking about supper.  It never ceases to amaze me how supper comes every day, whether I am ready to cook it or not.

But tonight, I’m ready!  We’re having brown rice, black beans and roasted sweet potatoes.  This is tasty food, folks.  And cheap.

This blog is for you–the one who cooks supper every day.  And this blog is for you–the low-end budget shoppper who is likely not shucking out for a subscription to home magazines that headline “Budget Casseroles!”  You’re not buying cookbooks–you check them out from the library.  You’re not buying name brand chocolate sandwich cookies, either.  You’re online today trying to find something easy, cheap and  tasty to feed the family.

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