Tag Archives: beans

How to: Cook Dried Beans in a Slow Cooker

 

One of my all-time-favorite money-saving appliances is the handy dandy slow cooker. It is amazing at taking tough (cheap) cuts of meats and slow cooking them to tasty perfection. It is great for making wicked frugal soups and stews. It makes dinner a breeze on crazy weeknights, keeping me from just ordering a pizza or take out. And it allows me to make staple items, like beans, for literally pennies per serving.

Beans aren’t usually listed on “top 10s” of superfoods, but I think they should be. There are so many kinds, black, pinto, navy, chickpea, green… And they are a fantastic source of protein for a very pocketbook-friendly price, I can usually find them about $1 per pound. And since beans plump when you cook them, you get much more than one pound out of that bag. If you find a good sale or buy in bulk, that price drops even lower. You can’t beat that in a can!

However, you also can’t beat the convenience of canned beans. Just sitting on a shelf, ready and waiting for a taco Tuesday or a last-minute decision to make minestrone. All you need is a can opener and you’re in business.

But you’re paying a premium for that convenience.

Someone else took the time to soak and cook dried beans ahead of time, and stick them in that can. They also may have chemicals or preservatives or flavorings or way too much sodium in the can. When you cook your own, you are in control of all these things.

So here’s the big secret: You can cook your own dried beans at home, with just a few minutes of effort, and have delicious beans ready to toss into whatever any time! For, like, a dollar!

Enter the slow cooker.

crock pot black beans with nori

Almost every Saturday, I toss a half pound or a pound of either black, navy, chickpeas, or pintos into a slow cooker with water to cover them, and let them soak overnight. Then on Sunday, I change the water and add some spices and let it simmer all day. The finished product gets canned, separated by cup into individual bags and frozen, or put in the refrigerator for use that week.

That way I have a stock of frozen beans ready at a moment’s notice, and fresh beans for recipes whenever I want! Hello, black bean and egg burritos, white chicken chili, tortilla soup, or red beans and rice anytime.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound beans
  • Water to cover
  • ~2tbsp vinegar (any kind)
  • Spices recommended: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seed, onion, chili powder, or oregano. Choose 1-2 you like and see what happens
  • Optional: 1 strip of seaweed

Step 1: Cover your beans with water, and let soak 6 hours or overnight. Drain, and cover again. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.

Slow cooker pinto beans canned

Step 2: You can keep the cooking liquid, or discard, up to you. I usually keep it, especially when canning or freezing the beans, and then drain just before using in recipes.

The beautiful thing is that now you have this super-cheap base to use to make your own refried beans, hummus, (did you know you can make hummus with black beans too!), vegetarian burger patties, or you can can them for later. (By the way, do use a pressure canner, or keep them in the refrigerator. We don’t want botulism now do we?)

 

Slow cooker dried beans

Slow cooker dried beans

Ingredients

  • 1 pound beans
  • Water to cover
  • ~2tbsp vinegar (any kind)
  • Spices recommended: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seed, onion, chili powder, or oregano. Choose 1-2 you like and see what happens
  • Optional: 1 strip of seaweed

Instructions

  1. Cover your beans with water, and let soak 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain, and cover again.
  3. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.
  4. You can keep the cooking liquid, or discard, up to you. I usually keep it, especially when canning or freezing the beans, and then drain just before using in recipes.
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Red Beans & Rice

 

A long-standing frugal classic, Red Beans & Rice is claimed to have originated in Louisianna. History says that this dish was typical of Monday nights, because Monday was wash day. Laundry was once a very time and labor intensive task, with water to boil, hand-scrubbing each piece of clothing, wringing it out, and hanging it to dry on a line.

This meant little to no time to also cook a complicated meal. Since Sundays were traditionally a ham, the leftover ham bone would be simmered with the beans slowly all day. With the trifecta of veggies (celery, onion, and bell pepper) and some seasonings (garlic, sage, thyme, and/or bay leaf) it is then served over white rice for a simple, cheap, yet hearty meal.

Sometimes sausage is added into the beans, or at the end of cooking, and sometimes pork chops are cooked on the side. Though usually cooked using a ham bone, sausage, and/or bacon grease for flavoring, it is very easy to make vegetarian or vegan. I used some of my home-canned beans for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups cooked beans or 1 1/2 cup dry
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 bell pepper
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • Green onion
  • Optional: black pepper and/or hot sauce
  • Optional: 1/2 cup sliced sausage or ham

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Step 1: Chop the onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper very small. Put in a pan with the olive oil, and cook on medium heat 10-15 minutes.

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Step 2: If you want to use sausage or ham, now is the time you can add it to the pan and cook it until no longer pink. If you want it to be vegetarian, feel free to not include sausage.

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Step 3: Either using canned beans, or pre-soaked and cooked beans, add to the pot with the veggies. Add water to cover, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1-2 hours.

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Step 4: Add the bay leaves and 1 tsp black pepper to the pot. Simmer another hour.

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Step 5: This is optional, but will make your beans much creamier. Take out 1/4 to half the beans, and put into a blender with some cooking liquid. (You can do this before you add them to the pot so you are sure to not include any sausage bits).

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Step 6: Add the blended beans back into the pot. This thickens the liquid considerably. Mix well and heat through.

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Step 7: Remove the bay leaves, cook up a batch of white rice, and serve with some chopped green onion or chives on top.

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This meal is super hearty and will fill you up for hours. It also costs just a few cents per serving, especially if you can your own beans and grow your own green onion.

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Vegetarian Breakfast Strata

I’ve said many times, and I’ll say it again, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
I’ve also said many times that I love easy, make-ahead meals. This breakfast strata could be put together or baked the day before and stored in the fridge if needed. It is super simple and could incorporate any type of veggie or bean you prefer. You can make it completely vegan by using egg substitute and no cheese too.
 
Ingredients:
3 slices bread
1 can beans, slightly mashed
1/2-1 cup vegetable (spinach here)
8-10 eggs, beaten
sprinkle of cheese

Step 1: Lay the bread in an oven-safe pan sprayed with oil. Layer on the mashed beans, cheese and spinach.

Step 2: Add the egg mixture.

Step 3: I sprinkled more cheese on top. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes, until eggs are fully cooked.

Mmmmmmm! Hot, healthy, and protein packed breakfast. Actually this doesn’t necessarily have to be for breakfast, you could have this any time of the day.

 
What are your favorite strata ingredients?

Crock Pot salsa chicken tacos

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I have heard so many recipes raving about how easy and delicious Crock Pot salsa chicken is, it is on nearly every Crock Pot recipe list I’ve seen. So one day before leaving for school, I decided on a whim to try it. Turns out, all these people know what they’re talking about! It was amazing by itself over rice, and it is even better shredded on a taco!
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Ingredients:
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups salsa
1 flour tortilla
2 tbsp refried beans
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cup diced bell peppers
2 tbsp taco seasoning
1/2 cup shredded lettuce
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 tbsp sour cream
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Step 1: Put the chicken and the salsa in the crock pot. Cook on low at least 6 up to 10 hours. The chicken will be slightly browned, lightly salsa flavored, and fall-apart tender. It tastes amazing on its own, serve with a vegetable and a starch side dish.

Step 2: Put a tiny amount of olive oil or stock in a frying pan, and fry the onion and pepper until soft. Add the taco seasonings, cover and cook another 2 minutes.

Step 3: Smear refried beans on half the tortilla, heat in microwave 20 minutes. Add cheese so it melts, and about 3-4 oz of the chicken. Then pile on the veggies and smear the sour cream on the other half. Pour salsa on top, roll up and enjoy!

This is super filling, and all the flavors combine into a taste bud party in your mouth! Makes enough for several meals, probably 10 tacos depending on how much you stuff them. The meat could also be used for quesadillas or tamales.


 

The versatility of stir-fry

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Especially during the summer, when fresh produce is cheap and plentiful, a veggie stir fry is always an awesome option. Cheap, easy, very filling and excellent for you. It is also very versatile, as my many meals from the stir-fry will show!
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Ingredients:
1/2 red, orange, and yellow bell pepper, julienned
1/2 zucchini, diced
1 large radish, diced
2 turnips, diced
1 med carrot, diced
1 can black beans
1/2 red onion, diced
1 cup cous cous
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Extras:
Torn romaine lettuce, tomato chunks, sour cream, salsa, diced avocado

Step 1: Saute all the veggies in order of hardness, until all are tender. Add the black beans and heat until warmed through. Season if you want with garlic and other spices.

Meal 1: Add the stir fry and all extras into a flour or corn tortilla, eat as a burrito.

Meal 2: Put the hot stir-fry over some freshly cooked cous cous. You can top with hummus, salsa or a dressing if too dry.

Meal 3: Cover a large plate with torn romaine, add cooked cous cous, and veggies and extras on top, eat as a salad.

These meals were all eaten on different days, because the stir fry makes a ton and keeps well in the fridge. This is easy, cheap and very versatile. Add whatever veggies you like and have on hand. These 3 meal types will work well with any kind of stir fry, so go crazy!


 

Chicken Tacos

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So yet again I’m moving soon, and need to clean out my freezer and pantry. I had some chicken quarters I had gotten cheap a while back , and was sick of ground beef tacos. So I decided to make some chicken tacos. It helps that Meijer had a great sale this week, $1 bell peppers and avocados.
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Ingredients:
2 chicken leg quarters
Taco seasoning
Chili powder
1/4 red, orange and yellow bell pepper
1/4 red onion
1 tortilla
1/4 avocado
2 tbsp salsa
1 tbsp sour cream
1/4 cup black beans

Step 1: Put the chicken in a sprayed crock pot, sprinkle with taco seasoning and chili powder. Add 1/4 cup water to keep moist. Cook on high 4 hours or until chicken is no longer pink.

Step 2: Remove chicken meat from the bones and skin, throw it away. Add more seasoning if you like.

Step 3: Cut the peppers and onion into thin strips. I steamed the peppers for about 10 minutes first.

Step 4: In a tbsp of butter or oil, saute the peppers and onion until soft and translucent. Add some taco seasoning.

Step 5: Warm the beans and tortilla. Layer the chicken, peppers & onion, beans, avocado in chunks, salsa and sour cream.

The combination of flavors is amazing: the creamy avocado, the spiced chicken, the crunchy-soft peppers and sweet onions, tangy salsa, milky sour cream…. just mmmmmmmm! And so much protein and veggie goodness! Obviously you can omit the chicken and just use veggies for vegetarian, and add as much or whatever spices you like.

Jealous? You should be.

Homemade Chipotle

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage
Chipotle is one of my absolute favorite “fast food” places for several reasons. They encourage responsible practices, local and healthy food, quality, plus it is just dang delicious. However, even the best intentioned company makes some compromises to be large scale, and I always prefer making food myself so I know what’s in it and can control the portions. Plus, though $6.95 seems pretty cheap, more than once a month or so isn’t practical. 
Therefore, I decided to make my own version of my favorite, the chicken burrito bowl. A website called Chipotlefan.com has recipes for several Chipotle favorites. I used their recipe for the chicken marinade, with a few variations of my own. Then I made my own version of the fresh tomato and corn salsas based on memory, and the cilantro lime rice. Try it yourself, it isn’t exact, but it is close and Delicious!
 
Chipotle Chicken:

1 (7 ounce) can chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (remove chipotle peppers, skim out seeds)
2 tsp fresh ground ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 tbsp powdered garlic
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 quarter red onion
1/4 cup oil (canola/vegetable/olive)
Boneless skinless chicken breast or tenders

 
Step 1: Mix all marinade ingredients in a blender/food processor. Add oil until it’s slightly pourable. 
Step 2: Poke holes in chicken, and pour marinade over chicken. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour up to 24 hours. The best way to cook the chicken is to grill it, but you can cook it in a frying pan with a weight on top as well.
 Chicken sitting in marinade
Spiced Pinto Beans:

1 can pinto or kidney beans, drained
1/2 cup water
3-5 bay leaves
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder

Step 1: Drain and rinse the beans, pour into a pot. Add spices, simmer on very low for 10-60 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the beans don’t stick.

 Seasoned beans

You can add a bit of bacon here too, if you have it and like that kind of thing. Chipotle has changed their recipe to make it vegetarian, so no bacon included.
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Cilantro-Lime Rice:

1 cup rice
1 1/2 cup water or chicken bouillon
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup lime juice
Sea salt
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Step 1: Boil the rice or prepare as directed. 

Step 2: When cooked, add the cilantro, salt and juices, fluff with a fork.

The rice magic makers. Lemon juice, lime juice, and chopped fresh cilantro.

 

Finished rice, ready to be mixed
Corn Salsa:
1/2 cup corn
1/4 red bell pepper
Pinch fresh cilantro
Splash lemon juice
1/8 red onion
Step 1: Blacken the corn in a skillet or grill. 
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Step 2: Dice the pepper & onion, add to the corn with the cilantro and lemon, mix well. 
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For extra spice, take one of the chipotle peppers from the adobo sauce and dice it up to add, or use a fresh seeded jalapeno.
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Fresh Tomato Salsa:
1 large tomato, diced
1/8 red onion, diced
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
Handful fresh cilantro
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lime juice
Sea salt
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Step 1: Mix the diced tomato, onion, pepper, cilantro and juices. Add a grind or two of salt to taste. 
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Refrigerate both salsas until ready to serve.
Chicken after grilling and dicing, salsas ready to go.

 

 Beans and rice, ready for assembly.

 

Finished plate. Can make it into a burrito, tacos, or a bowl.

I tore up a few large romaine leaves and put the rice, beans, chicken and both salsas on, with a sprinkle of cheese on top. It was deliciously fresh tasting! It is on the spicy side, so if that’s not for you then dial down the seasonings and forget about the chipotle peppers in adobo. For vegetarians, ditch the chicken and marinate some tofu, add some guacamole, or other grilled veggies. Enjoy!

This recipe submitted to the May 2014 “Cooking with Herbs” challenge!

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage

Kidney bean and quinoa burgers

Well, this one came from a combination of boredom, hunger and a determination to not go to the grocery store this week. I had half a can of kidney beans in the fridge, and some googling brought up this blog’s recipe: http://sweetbeetandgreenbean.net/2009/02/04/kidney-bean-and-quinoa-burgers/

So of course I made my own version of it.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup kidney beans
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp olive oil
Garlic salt, burger seasoning, Nature’s Seasoning, and cumin

Step 1: Add the chicken stock to the quinoa and microwave for 10 minutes. Then add the rinsed and drained kidney beans, and microwaved another 10 minutes.

Step 2: Mash the beans and quinoa together, and add the spices, flour and olive oil.

Step 3: Put some oil in a frying pan, shape 4 patties from the mixture, and fry them for about 5 minutes per side, until golden brown.

Step 4: Drain the patties on a paper towel, and man they are delicious! 

You seriously need to try this. I put a patty on a slice of whole wheat bread with baby romaine and grilled bell peppers. Seriously, try it!