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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!


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.

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?

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