Many housewives in this time of financial crunch are looking for cheap ways to prepare healthy meals for their families. And what could be cheaper than a large bag of dried pinto beans? But for many of us, cooking with dried beans is a novelty and not something we’ve ever done before. Here are tips and recipes for using dried beans for delicious, money-saving meals!
You have a bag of dried, colorful beans that are hard as tiny rocks. You want an edible and delicious but inexpensive meal. So let’s look at some ways to make that happen.
Soaking the Dried Beans
Dried beans will cook faster if they are soaked in water overnight. Or if you forget to soak them overnight, as I often do, soak them throughout the day. You can then put them in the crock pot before you go to bed so they’ll be ready for an early lunch the following day.
First use a colander or strainer to rinse the beans and throw away any that look shriveled. Then, put the clean beans into a bowl, pot, or crockpot. Pour in enough clean, fresh water to cover the beans completely plus at least another 2 inches of water. In the morning (or that night) the beans will have swollen to three times their original size! Put them back into the colander and rinse them out again.
Cooking the Beans on the Stove
Beans that are cooked just plain are very bland indeed. Spices are a cheap way to add lots of flavor but I usually do not salt my beans until the end of the cooking time. Put the soaked beans in water in a thick pot and bring the water to a boil. Add in all your spices (I like pepper or chili, rosemary, oregano, garlic salt, minced or sauteed onions and bacon or bacon bits), and then simmer with the lid on. Depending on altitude and the hardness of your water it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. It is worth using bottled water if your water is very hard since that will extend the cooking time.
If you prefer your beans very soft, or want to mash them for “refried beans” style beans, you may need to adjust the cooking time or add additional water as you continue to cook.
Cooking Beans in the Crockpot
My preferred method of cooking beans is in the crockpot – fewer stirring, scorching or other cooking mishaps. The only trick is to make sure you add enough water. You will need to be sure to add extra water to the pot throughout the day. Sometimes I use beef bullion cubes to flavor the water and create a little different flavor for the beans!
**Note – Do not cook kidney beans in the crock pot – soak them first and cook them, RINSE, and then add them to the crock pot already cooked.
I like to add a couple strips of turkey bacon or bacon ends to the pot first thing so there is plenty of flavor. We also add chopped onions or chilies, as well as spices and other seasonings. The beans will cook all day – a good 6-8 hours – until they are as soft as I prefer them. At that point, I often turn the crockpot full of beans into a yummy bean stew by adding a can of stewed, dice tomatoes, a can of sweet corn, and a cup of chopped celery. This will create a large stew to last my family for one or two dinners and a hearty lunch!