A few days ago, a conversation began on a friend’s face-book page about beans. Beans are a problem food for many people. They have only eaten them a few ways, and have no idea how to expand their repertoire of recipes. They also may not understand why they should.
My first experience with cooked dry beans was as a child. My mom used to cook navy beans with a ham bone and serve the soup with cornbread. Well, as a child, I was non-plussed, but the cornbread was great. If this was my only experience, I would have saved that recipe for times when the pantry was bare. And my first thought as a little girl was not, “When I grow up, I want to make beans and cornbread for my children.”
Many people feel that dry beans are not worth the effort to prepare; with the sorting, rinsing, soaking, simmering, and longer cooking times. In our era of instant food, this is a challenge. Beans are a food that our parents had time to cook. We have sports and dance lessons, PTA meetings, and we work full time. Right? Let me share a few recipes with you that will introduce your family to beans in a way that will form a lifelong friendship.
Not sure how to prepare these foods? Maybe you can identify with this story. As a young wife and mother, I found myself in a situation where the money was hard to come by, and we had eaten our groceries…all except for a bag of black eyed peas. As a northerner, transplanted to Texas to be near in-laws, I had eaten these at Mom’s table, but never cooked them. I read the directions. Sorted. Rinsed. Put in the pan, and brought to a boil. Wait!! I must not have rinsed them well enough. The water was turning purple-grey. I took them off the heat, rinsed well, and put them back on the fire. Again, as the water heated, it colored to a dirty purple. I rinsed and again, it happened. I was so frustrated!! By the time my husband came home, I was in tears as I explained that we only had beans for dinner, and I couldn’t get them clean. He asked why I thought that, and I told him that the water was yucky. He laughed. I got mad. You can see where this went. How was I to know that the water for these peas was supposed to be purple?? He took us to his mom’s that night, tear stained face and all, and we ate at her table. His family teased me for years about not knowing how to cook black-eyed peas. They became one of my favorite beans.
If preparation is an issue for you, too, then there are options. You can buy the beans pre-cooked and canned in the store. You can also, if you are so inclined, can your own beans at home. Why do this? Because if you know that every time you want a bean meal, you have hours of preparation, you are not likely to use them. If, however, you can walk to the pantry, grab a can or jar of beans, ready to eat, you may be more inclined to use them. If you own a pressure canner, I encourage you to can some basic beans, and some of the other bean recipes that are approved by the National Center for Home Food Preservation and Ball Corp. Both of these do extensive testing to make sure that a properly followed recipe is safe and tasty.
Looking at beans in my local store, there are the usual pintos, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, and fifteen bean soups. There are cans of butter beans, limas, chili beans, pork and beans, fifteen thousand kinds of baked beans, pinto beans and lentils. Now if you go to the ethnic sections, you will find many kinds and colors of split peas, lentils, pink beans, refried beans, and several others that are popular elsewhere. If you go to the processed foods, you will find chili, various bean soups, and lots of boxes of beans and rice and quick bean dishes. If you just made a point to try all of these, it would keep you busy for a few months.
Fast forward forty years. Beans grace our table several times a week. Sometimes they are the star performer, other times they are just a player. Either way, they bring variety and flavor to many dishes. They are a wonderful soup ingredient, but that is only the beginning.
Not only do beans store well, but they are truly a nutritional powerhouse. They contain only small amounts of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and are full of fiber and various minerals. Chock full of incomplete proteins, they can be turned into a complete protein by combining with a dairy or grain protein. Some of the best “poor man’s foods” are actually very healthy. Peanut butter and whole grain bread, bean burritos, re-fried beans and cheese, and navy beans and cornbread are all examples of these combinations.
As I wrote this, I made a list of recipes that we eat often. I came up with a quick list of forty recipes containing beans. If variety is the spice of life, then having a pantry well stocked with various beans is key. Who could get bored if you ate basic pinto beans and cornbread, and a few days later had lentil sprouts on a salad? If you were served a tamale pie with chili beans, and then bean salad with kidney beans, onions, and peppers in a cool sauce? Mexican wet burritos stuffed with beans and cheese, with rice on the side. Dal Makhani, an Indian dish made with Lentils and kidney beans, is a new favorite for us. Pinto bean fudge and pinto bean pie are always fun to serve visitors. Beans are a simple food, but they are not boring.
I would like to share a few standout recipes with you. I will assume at this point that most of you have had basic bean soup, whether it is navy beans, split peas, pintos, or black beans. I would like to step your game up a level.
At one point in my life, I was a caterer for several years. My friend had a big cooker, and we did “hog roasts”. One of the most popular sides was my Cowboy Beans. You may know these as Calico Beans. At one party, a friend asked me for the recipe for them, and I gave it to him. Five years later, he called to ask me to make some for a party. I reminded him that he had my recipe. He said his were never as good. I finally decided that the difference was the prep. I made it ahead and stored it till the next day, giving the flavors time to meld. So here is that recipe and please do try making it ahead.
My Famous Cowboy Beans
¼ lb bacon
1 lb hamburger
1 21 oz can pork and beans
1 15 oz can butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
½ c brown sugar
½ c ketchup
1T cider vinegar
1t prepared mustard
Brown the bacon and remove to plate to cool. Brown the hamburger and onion in the bacon fat. Into a large bowl, dump all the ingredients, crumbling the bacon, and stirring well. Refrigerate overnight. You may cook in the oven for an hour or a crock pot for several hours. These hold well, and are a perfect picnic food. I believe multiplying this by five will fill a large roaster.
We used to have a huge farm house, and every weekend it seemed we had people around. I loved putting things on in the morning and then enjoying my company. One of the simplest recipes we came up with was so flavorful that I didn’t even add any seasonings. It was perfect.
Crazy Day Beans
1 lb. Chorizo sausage
1 jar or three cans pinto beans
2 cans Ro-tel tomatoes
1 tomato can of water
In a dutch oven, brown the chorizo. Add the beans and tomatoes, and turn the heat down. Let simmer until heated through. These also do well in a crock pot. These can be served over rice, with cornbread, or just as a soup. If you puree these or mash with a potato masher, you get the most amazing re-fried beans. I like to put a few scoops into a hot cast iron skillet with some bacon fat on low heat, mash some of them to smooth them out, leaving a few whole. People who say they don’t like refried beans tend to eat these, of course topped with cheese.
As a volunteer for several years at a local food pantry, I became interested in getting the patrons more interested in basic foods. It seemed that they had the same reservations as many of you do. They didn’t know what to do with the foods on the shelf. I began making things, taking in samples and the recipe. Our use of these foods increased. One of the most memorable was a plate of fudge that I set on the front desk. Everyone asked for the fudge, and we handed them a bag of pinto beans and a recipe. 🙂
Pinto Bean Fudge: This is certainly not calorie free, but it is pretty tasty, and a fun way to use them.
1 c cooked mashed pintos
¾ c butter, melted
1 Tbsp. Vanilla
¾ c cocoa
2 lbs confectioner’s sugar
And my little addition to lots of things, 2 Tbsp. Instant coffee
Mix the beans and melted butter, add the vanilla and cocoa. Work in the sugar. I like to do this in my mixer with the bread hook. Put this in a 9×13 pan, chill, and then score into pieces. This should be refrigerated. It is rich, so pieces should be small, but sometimes big pieces are just in order.
Here is another fun way to use them.
Pinto Bean Pie
½ c. pinto beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed
1/3 c. butter, melted
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 ¼ c. sugar
½ c. coconut
2 eggs, beaten
½ c. chopped pecans
1 prepared pie crust
In mixer bowl, combine beans, butter, and vanilla. Mix on low. Add sugar and coconut; mix. Add eggs, and mix well.
Pour into prepared crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Sprinkle pecans on top, and bake for another 15-20 minutes until a knife inserted in the center is clean but moist. Remove to rack to cool. Slice, and top each piece with whipped cream and a pecan if desired. Store leftovers in refrigerator.
Here are two soups that are my own creations. I am going to make them using my own pantry items so that those new to using home preserved foods can see how they are used here. I will also try to convert for those who prefer traditional foods.
Home-style Italian Wedding Soup: This will put Progresso to shame, folks.
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
1 qt chicken broth or 4 cans
½ t garlic, minced
2T dried carrot bits, or ¼ c shredded fresh carrot
1 can cannelini beans, or 1 pint home canned navy beans
1 c loosely packed spinach or other mild green, chopped roughly
½ c acini de pepe pasta, also called frog eyes. Orzo will also work here.
¼ c Clear-Jel thickener, or corn starch, STIRRED INTO 1 CUP OF COLD WATER.
Clear Jel allows this soup to reheat to a beautiful “just made” consistency. Corn starch doesn’t. Once you use clear jel, you will always keep it handy. However, if you plan to eat it all, then cornstarch is just perfect.
Brown the sausage in a large dutch oven. Add the chicken broth, and beans. Bring to a rolling boil, and add the pasta. Let simmer for about 20 minutes, and then add the spinach. Return to rolling boil, and stir in the thickener of choice, diluted in water. Bring back to boil, and then simmer for a few more minutes, stirring as it thickens.
Cheesy White Chili
1 qt home canned chicken with broth, or 3 cups cooked and chunked chicken
2 qts chicken broth
1 t minced garlic, or ½ t garlic powder
1 T ground cumin
1 T chili powder
1 t white pepper
¼ c dried onions, or ½ c fresh chopped onions
2 cans cannelini beans, or 2 pints home canned navy beans
1 jar red pimentos or 2 T dried pepper mix.
8 oz shredded provolone
8 oz shredded Monterey jack
4 oz cream cheese
Combine all ingredients EXCEPT cheeses in large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes, and if needed add water to maintain consistency. Stir in cheeses, stir slowly till they melt. Adjust seasonings to taste. Sometimes I thicken a bit with Clear Jel, sometimes not. This is very good either way.
Tamale Pie: This recipe is just as awesome without the burger in it at all.
1 pt home canned hamburger, optional. May also use one lb browned and drained burger.
2 pts home canned chili beans in sauce, or 2 cans
1 pt diced tomatoes, drained, or 1 can
1 c. homemade tomato sauce, or 1 can
1 pt corn or 1 can
1 packet taco seasonings or the home made equivalent. (See Colleen Bohrer’s FaceBook page for diy equivalents.)
1 packet of Colleen’s Jiffy Mix cornbread replacement, or 1 box Jiffy Cornbread.
Brown the burger in a large deep skillet or dutch oven with lid. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, sauce, corn and taco seasonings. Bring to simmer, top with corn bread mix. Cover, turn down heat, and let bake with the lid on for 20-30 mins until a toothpick in the center of the cornbread comes out clean.
This is my latest favorite recipe. This Indian dish is so fragrant and smooth. The seasonings are not overbearing, but instead come on as a light after note. This is one of the best Indian dishes ever. I believe you can also make it with meat, but why?
The day before you make this put ½ cup whole Black Urad Dal lentils (I can’t always find the black ones, and store type lentils work just fine here.) and ¼ cup dried kidney beans in water and set it in the fridge to soak.
Drain excess water from the soaked lentils and beans. Put beans, ¼ teaspoon salt, and two cups of water into a pressure cooker. Close the lid and pressure cook them over medium flame until pressure builds, then time for five minutes.
Turn off flame and let pressure come down on its own, about 6-8 minutes. Lightly mash dal (lentils) with a wooden spoon. Do not mash completely.
Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in a skillet over med flame. Add ½ teaspoon cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle. Add 1 large onion, finely chopped, and saute until it turns translucent. Add 1 teaspoon grated ginger, 3-4 cloves garlic, and 2 green chiles, finely chopped. Add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder and ½ teaspoon coriander powder. Do not overcook. Add 1 chopped tomato and cook about two minutes. These items all go into the skillet at a fairly rapid pace, and should all be added within a few minutes of the cumin seeds sizzling.
Add the cooked dal to the skillet and 1 cup water. Let it cook over med flame for 4-5 minutes or until you get the desired consistency.
Add 2 Tablespoons butter, mix well, and cook for 2 minutes.
Add 3 Tablespoons fresh cream. Turn off flame, and just let the cream heat through. Too much cooking at this point will curdle the cream.
Serve topped with Fresh cilantro and drizzled with more cream.
I like to make citrus rice to serve with this. I add orange peel to my rice while cooking. This dal over fragrant citrus fluffy rice is a treat. It is wonderful reheated.
Roasted chickpeas have become a snack of choice around our house, especially when the grandkids are visiting. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans). In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil, we use olive oil or butter. Add the beans, and stir occasionally as they roast. We like to sprinkle taco seasoning over them, but you can experiment with your favorite seasoning. The grandkids don’t even need a spoon. They just eat them with their fingers.
Sprouted lentils are a wonderful food. Take ½ c of lentils from the bag you bought for the dal. In a quart jar, soak overnight in water, then drain the water, and let them sit until evening. Rinse them, then drain, and let them sit. Rinse two times a day. They will sprout in about three days, and when the tail is the length of the lentil, you can throw them in a salad. We also ferment these. To ferment, add a half tablespoon of pink Himalayan salt and water to cover. If you have floaters, find something in your kitchen to submerge them below the brine. One of the easiest ways is to use a cabbage leaf or onion slice. I like to add garlic and dill to mine. You can add whatever seasonings you are fond of. Some people like curry, or Mexican seasonings. They will take about two weeks to be ready, and you will want to burp the jar daily. These stay crunchy, and are hard to stop eating once you start. This is a very basic informational on fermenting, but if this interests you, there are pages that you can consult for more information.
Several years ago, when I was laid off for almost a year, we decided to stop eating meat so often. I challenged myself to replace two meals a week with non-meat dishes, and beans became a big part of that. My meat-eater husband has learned to appreciate the lighter fare, and I still love finding good bean recipes. We are much better off financially now, but I keep finding so many wonderful recipes with beans that we not only still skip the meat, but we now only eat meat about four times a week.
Although I only shared a few bean recipes, I do hope that you will try them, and be encouraged to find and try other new recipes. And I hope that a few fun recipes will start your love affair with the musical fruit.