Well, you know how the rest of that goes. But BEANS! Frijoles. Oh, the humble bean.
A few years ago when our budget was stretched wafer thin and I was worried about how to feed the four of us without spending a lot, I made a decision. I took about $30 and bought a whole bunch of beans. I mean a whole lot! We’re talking 25 to 30 pounds total of pintos, black beans, and garbanzos. Costco was running a special. *shrug* I figured I could do a lot with these beans and I was right. I did a lot with them. Nearly every week, I cooked up a batch of beans in the slow cooker and then divided portions to make any number of delicious recipes: black bean soup, black bean burgers, hummus, chana masala, pintos for beans and rice. I mashed the beans. I made bean and rice fritters. Bean enchiladas. Chili! (And before you pearl-clutch, this Tejana likes beans in her chili. My kitchen. My recipes.)
If you are on a budget, find yourself going through a rough patch financially, transitioning to vegetarianism, or just like legumes, then knowing how to cook up delicious beans is something you owe to yourself.
No cocina Tejana would be complete without a fool proof recipe for beans. You’re probably thinking that cooking beans is too labor intensive, takes too long, or is complex but you would be wrong.
This recipe needs only a few things: beans, a slow cooker (also a budget friendly tool. I routinely see these handy gadgets on sale for under $30. It is an investment if you are currently strapped for cash, so I understand that), spices and aromatic veggies*, water. That’s it.
The method I’m sharing requires no soaking. Not even a quick method soaking. Caveat, though, I am not the final word on cooking beans. I’m sharing with you what I do. I make a very large batch of beans every week, and the slow cooker method is my favorite way. As Ron Popeil said, you just set it and forget it!
Big Batch of Slow Cooker Pinto Beans (you can use just about any bean you want in this method. Some beans will require more or less liquid so be mindful of that.)
- 1 lb of dried pinto
- 8 cups of water
- Variety of dried spices such as onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, ground pepper.
*A word about using aromatic veggies: When I first started on the big batch of beans cooking routine, I preferred to use dried spices and still do. About 30 minutes before the end of cooking time, I add 1 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp of garlic powder, 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cumin. If you prefer to use fresh seasoning, you can make a sachet of cheese cloth but wrapping up one small peeled onion, 2-3 garlic cloves, some cumin seeds, peppercorns. DO NOT ADD SALT until your beans finish cooking. Add salt before then will cause your beans to stay hard and that’s just not going to taste good. My recipe below will include the dry spices method since that’s what I usually do.
- Rinse beans in cold water and inspect for stones (for some reason pinto beans are rocky.) You do not need to soak beans to cook them. In fact, soaking many beans actually causes them to lose their distinct “beany” flavor.
- Put beans and water into slow cooker.
- Set slow cooker to low and cook for 8 – 10 hours (high for 5-6 hours.)
- When there are 30 minutes left in the cooking time, add the following dry seasonings:
1 tsp of salt
1 1/2 tsp of onion powder
1 tsp of garlic powder
1/4 to 1/2 cumin (or more if that’s your pleasure)
ground pepper to taste
- Allow to simmer until finished cooking.
- Serve with anything you want – corn bread, tortillas, rice, just in a bowl. Cooked beans freeze very well, so if you want to have some on hand for those weeks you want beans but don’t want to cook, once cooled, divide your big batch into smaller portions and store in resealable freezer bags or other freezable container.