Dried beans are a WONDERFUL food--they're nutritious, a good source of protein and fiber, and they're CHEAP. They make a great filler in so many foods. There are so many benefits, but people just don't seem to use them very often. Many prefer the convenience of canned, many simply don't know how to cook dried beans. They're so easy to do, and I don't want you missing out, so I'm going to show you!
Dried beans come in every variety you can find of canned beans. You can buy them at any grocery store.
I like to cook beans in batches of 5 lbs at a time. Once cooled, I freeze them in smaller portions. Then, when I'm making soup, tacos, or whatever else that I want to throw beans into, I just grab a bag of them out of the freezer. Nearly as convenient as opening a can, but without the added salt and over processing! And cheaper!
Once you have your beans out, slowly pour them into the colander. Pick out any little clods of dirt or stones. I know, that sounds frightening to have dirt in your food--but that lets you know just how much closer to nature this food is than the stuff you get in the cans! So just pull out the dirt, and get over it. =)
Then rinse the beans, removing any residual dirt (don't worry, by the time they're all done your beans will be nice and clean).
Next you soak your beans. There are two methods for doing this. Either way, you first put them all in a large pan. Add water--more than just enough to cover them, as they'll absorb it and plump up as they soak.
For a quick soak (for example, making these in the morning to eat for dinner that same night), you then bring the beans to a boil, boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat, then cover and let stand for an hour.
I prefer the overnight soak. It takes a bit more planning to start the night before, but it saves a lot of money and energy--you don't have to run your stove to bring all of that water to a boil for this step. You just put the lid on the pan and let the beans soak for 8 hours.
In the morning, you'll see that the beans have plumped up. Drain and rinse them.
Now it's time to cook them. Wash out your pan and put them back in. Again, they'll absorb a lot of water and plump up as they cook, so add plenty more water than just to cover them. (The instructions on the bag say to make the water hot first, then add the beans. I find this an unnecessary step and just add the beans to the cold water before the cook).
Put them on the stove with the lid tilted, and bring them to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down a bit and simmer for 1.5+ hours, or until the beans have reached your desired tenderness.
Once finished, drain, rinse, and add them to whatever recipe you're making!
I throw beans into most every soup I make. For tacos or taco salad, I typically use 1/2 a pound of ground beef (or no beef at all) and 1+ pound of beans. I flavor them just like you would any taco meat, and you can hardly tell the difference! You still get your protein, you still get your great taco flavor, but it's at a fraction of the cost.
You can even make cake with beans! I've made this delicious, gluten-free cake many times, from The Spunky Coconut. Everybody who tries it loves it and can't believe it when I tell them I made it from beans!
Many times I'm making taco salad or some other recipe and realize I don't have any cooked beans in the freezer. *GASP* This is where lentils come in handy. Just simmer for about 20 minutes and they're done! Again, they're a great filler, nutritious, and they take on the flavor of whatever food they're in.
So if you've never cooked with dried beans before, give it a try! They're easy, inexpensive, delicious, and nutritious!
What have you made with beans lately?