Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Perfectly Simple Beans

Beans have become such a big part of our diet. We love them in soups, chilies & as a side dish. In the last year or so, we've really discovered how superior the flavor & texture of dried beans are over canned. We try to keep a selection of various varieties (mainly from Rancho Gordo) on hand in our pantry most of the time.
The biggest thing with using dried beans is remembering to give yourself enough time to cook them before using them. I've started to pre-cook the beans a day or two in advance & keeping them in the fridge until needed. Unless of course, I'm making something like ham & bean soup where the beans will cook right in the soup. Since I was cooking some beans up for this week I thought I'd share a few bean cooking tips.

1. It isn't absolutely necessary to soak your beans before cooking them. I often skip this step & just know the beans will take a little longer to cook. Just give them a rinse & a quick pick through for stones.

2. Your crock pot is a wonderful way to cook beans.
Handiest little crock pot
I got this 1.5 quart pot at Target for $7.00 & it is perfect for cooking up 4 - 6 servings of beans. I typically start at the high setting & then turn it down to low when its really bubbling.

3. Don't salt you cooking water. This will give your beans a tough skin. Add salt after cooking if needed.

4. If you are using good beans the cooking water is often good enough to replace stock for soups or chilies. When I made ham & white bean soup last week I added water instead of stock knowing that the beans, ham & other seasonings would add enough flavor.

Usually I just cook my beans in plain water but this week I decided to experiment with adding some seasonings to the cooking water.
Cooking Beans
I started with 1 cup of dried beans. The bean I was using here is called Silvia & was a limited edition from Rancho Gordo, isn't the color pretty, they ended up tasting a lot like pinto beans. Then I added in half a chopped white onion, a minced clove of garlic, a chopped stalk of celery, a bay leaf and a pinch of epazote (an herb that is traditional thought to help reduce some of the intestinal discomfort you may get from beans). Then I just added 3 cups of water & let it simmer away for about 5 hours. Oh, these were so good! We used them as a filling for a taco lunch and Matt ate any leftovers by themselves.
Cooked Beans
Bean Tacos

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© 2007-2010 Kathy Lewinski


Elle said...

First off, I love your pantry!! Second? Cooking beans is always a mystery to me. I did some last w'end for a stew and loved them! So I'm going to use your tips and experiment. Thank you!

Tangled Noodle said...

I second the pantry love! Thank you for this - my husband and I love bean dishes but I rely heavily on canned (an upcoming post will show just how much!) I've wanted to switch over to using dried beans not only because it's economical but also because of the greater variety to be found. Now that you've highlighted your inexpensive but very handy Target slow cook and how pre-soaking isn't necessary, there's really no excuse!

kat said...

I should also recommend the cooking tips on the Rancho Gordo site, such a great resource.

vanillasugarblog said...

ok now, that end result is fabulous. i eat a lot of beans since i'm not a huge meat eater.

Carter @ The Kitchenette said...

Oh, I love beans! They are so darn cheap and delicious. I love mine in soup, but I think my real favorite is over rice. Spicy beans and rice... this is making me hungry.

Lori said...

When I realized there were no canned beans where we were in Brazil I was forced to look more at dried beans. I am so happy that happened because I love all the varieties out there. It does take a lot of planning ahead and organization, but I'm determined to stick with dried now that we are back.

I'm so glad to be back to a crockpot though. That makes it so much easier. These tacos look delicious!

Kris said...

I've recently switched over to dried beans and since I would rarely need the whole thing, I'll use what I need and freeze the rest in 1 3/4 to 2 cup portions (sans liquid). Then it's as easy as canned beans without all that salt. However, I don't have nearly the beautiful selection a seen here - jealous!

Lori said...

I have read recently that salting your water will not make the bean skin tough. I think I will have to do a side by side study because I have heard it both ways. Funny, huh?

Have you tried the epazote in your beans yet?

kat said...

Lori - I'm interesting to see what your study finds as I've just been safe & not added the salt. Yes, we used the epazote in the beans you see in this post & in chili. We like the flavor it adds & I haven't had any tummy troubles.

Anonymous said...

I love how organized your pantry it! I am a bit spastic at cooking beans, but I am getting better! Thanks!

grace said...

those beans are gorgeous, both before cooking and after. also, your bean shelf is a little bit of my idea of heaven on earth. :)

Lisa said...

I love how you organize the beans in your pantry. I have been slowly accumulating glass storage containers from Ikea, but your canning jars is so much easier and cheaper. I love the look too!

Peter M said...

I would so have a Toulouse sausage with these beans!

coleen~ said...

I also use the canning jars for my staples. I LOVE them. Easy to see what you have and what you'll need to pick up. I use my vacuum sealer to pull the air out and I get a longer shelf life.

We are getting where we like the dried beans as well. I like that I can cook up only what we need but I love the comment of freezing what is left over for later!

Michelle said...

I just started seriously investigating beans and have been adding them to various recipes with wonderful success!

Carol in Indian Springs Village said...

I didn't have time to look at my favorite blogs till today and just had to comment on your beans post. I love, love, love dried beans but hate the 'side effect' so now I'll be off to Penzy's to get some epazote this coming weekend. And I love your pantry storage too. We are going to do a renovation this year and part of that is to enhance the pantry and I'll keep these jars in mind for staple storage. Thanks for all the great ideas on your site!

Deborah said...

I really need to try cooking with dried beans. I just always forget to plan that far ahead!

Anonymous said...

is that celery you have in there with the beans?

kat said...

Joonspoon - Yes it is!

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