Thursday, February 14, 2013

Basic Beans

Dried Beans:

It's best to presoak dried beans before cooking them in a slow cooker. This softens them and gives them a head start on cooking. Softening beans reduces the cooking time. Lentils and split peas do not need to be softened.

Presoaking: Traditional method: place dried beans that have been sorted and rinsed in a bowl. Cover them with cold, unsalted water and let them stand overnight (or for 3-4 hours). Drain off the water and place the beans in the slow cooker.

Quick method: place sorted and rinsed beans in a large saucepan; cover them with twice their volume of cold unsalted water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover it and let it stand for 1 hour. Drain off the water and place the beans in the slow cooker.

To cook: Cover the beans with 3 inches of water and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until completely tender and creamy, but still holding their shape. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the beans.

Ideas for Beans:

Once your beans are cooked, you can use them for several meals. Try make-your-own-taco-night, and fill a tortilla with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa. Roasted peppers and onions are also fun additions. Get creative with fillings, and let each family member make his or her own masterpiece. Kids who help prepare their food are more likely to eat it!

Beans are also a great, low cost, nutrient rich filling for enchiladas. Fill a corn flour tortilla with beans, cheese, sautéed onions and cumin or chili powder. Roll up and arrange a backing pan. Cover with enchilada sauce (I always just buy the canned kind) sprinkle with more cheese and black olives. Bake until heated through, and cheese is bubbly, 15-20 minutes. Garnish with some plain yogurt and chopped scallions, serve with a fresh salad.

Whip up a healthy snack-make bean dip! Mash beans with spices like cumin, chili powder, or some salsa and greek-style plain yogurt.

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