Beans, Beans: How to Cook Dried Beans

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As I've mentioned before, although we're not vegetarians, we don't really eat meat at home.  This means that most of our meals include an abundance of a healthy (and cheap!) alternative:  beans.

We started out buying bulk cans of beans from GFS.  While these cans are enormous, we really did eat enough beans to go through the 6 pounds, 14 ounces in a day or two.

The more we ate the beans, the more concerned we became about what was in the canned versions.  Truthfully, it's not that bad - just mainly a bunch of salt - but we felt we could do better and wanted to try and go the organic route with them as well, since they suddenly started making an appearance at every meal...

We were a bit turned off by the idea of all the "work" it took to cook dried beans, but finally broke down and tried it for ourselves.

It wasn't hard at all!

In fact, it's way easy.  The main thing you have to get used to is having some forethought, because they do take some time.  But since we eat so many beans, we've kind of gotten into a rhythm of just always having one batch soaking, and another batch cooking, and by this point, bean prep has just melded in to our daily routine, which makes it hardly any trouble at all.

One thing we've done since we've started eating so many beans and whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, and millet, just to name a few) is to invest in a good, stainless steel-lined rice cooker. (This is the one we have and we love it!)    

Not only can we use the rice cooker to cook grains, but also pasta, beans, lentils - and we can even steam vegetables in the top at the same time!

Now, you can easily make dried beans in a crock pot, or even on the stove (the microwave, too, if you're in a pinch), but we love to use the rice cooker because everything turns out the right consistency and it's so easy to just set it and walk away (you know I'm a huge fan of dump-it-in-and-walk-away cooking, don't you?) and also, they're done so much sooner.

So if you don't have a rice cooker, then you'll just need to check on your beans every so often, to make sure they're bubbling away properly and getting all soft and squishy.

What You Do:

Step One  The first thing you'll want to do is soak your beans.  A lot of people suggest sorting through the beans by hand to make sure you get rid of any "off" beans or small stones, but honestly, we always skip that and have never had a problem.

We're not too fussy with our bean's appearance and haven't ever encountered any rocks (of course, now that I've said that, you know we'll be chomping on boulders in our next meal).

Find yourself a decent-sized container (We typically use an old box that our greens come in.  We use these for everything and still have a zillion hanging around.)  Dump your dried beans in (I've got two cups in this photo) and then cover them with plain old water.  Don't be stingy with the water, either.  Fill your container right up!

Usually I then stick the container in the fridge overnight.  If I soak beans during the day, I just leave them out on the counter, but at night I'm always afraid that every bug within a four-mile radius is going to show up and have a party in my kitchen, using the beans box as their own personal hot tub, so I'd rather hide it all away in the fridge.

Anyway, you just let those bean sit in there overnight and in the morning, they'll be ready to cook.

Step Two   Now that you're ready to cook them, you'll just drain out the soaking water (supposedly this will cut down on the "musicality" of your beans) and then stick them in your cooker with double the amount of water.  So for my two cups of beans, I add in four cups of fresh water:

Step Three  Turn on the cooker and in about an hour an a half, your beans will be ready!  (If you're using a crock pot, it's all the same process, but they'll cook for about 8-12 hours on low or 6-8 hours on high.  And you'll want to start checking on them after about 5 hours, so they don't overcook or explode)

See, I told you it was easy!  Hopefully any bean-cooking fear has left you and you'll try some for yourself.

We find that our two favorite beans are black and garbanzo.  We make tons of things with both of them, but one of our favorite things to make is hummus.  We have a standard hummus recipe we work off of, but then we also like to mix things up and try something like strawberry hummus or other variations, from this list.

So go create your own family symphony - make dried beans for dinner (or a snack!)  I'd love to hear what you think.  Leave a comment here or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com. 

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