Cooking up a hill of beans

I cooked 8 pounds of dried beans the other day.  That’s a lot of beans!

thiscrunchylife_beans

As a busy mom who wants to feed her family whole, unprocessed food as much as possible, cooking beans from scratch has never been high on my list of priorities.  That being said, it does save money.  Canned beans are cheap, but dried ones are cheaper.  Also, beans cooked at home avoid the ickiness of canned beans, namely BPA lids, added salt, and unknown cooking methods.

Although I’ve been cooking beans at home on and off for a few years, it was after reading Nourishing Traditions that I began to cook beans in earnest to enjoy not only the money savings, but also to insure the methods used to cook the beans.  I believe that beans cooked this way are easier to digest and give up more of their nutrition than conventional canned beans.  If you have extra time or freezer space, give it a try and see if it makes a difference for your family.

Here’s how:

  1. Soak beans for up to 24 hours in large pot with 2-4 tablespoons whey per pound and enough water to cover by a few inches.  No whey? You can get whey by straining yogurt, or you can choose to soak beans in water only.
  2. Drain and rinse beans, then return to pot with enough water to cover.
  3. Bring to boil.
  4. When pot begins to boil, skim off and discard foam.
  5. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered for up to 3-4 hours.
  6. Drain beans, then use within a few days or freeze for later.

Tips

  • If you are going to be watching the stove, try making 2-3 different kinds of beans in different pots.  I usually make chickpeas and another type of bean, like black, kidney, or pinto. By cooking this way, I only cook beans about 4 times a year.  
  • Make sure you leave plenty of room in the pot for the beans to bubble up with they boil.  2-3 pounds are all that can comfortably fit in a 16 quart stockpot.
  • Consider freezing the beans in 3 cup amounts.  This is roughly equivalent to 2 cans of beans.  Use it to make recipes calling for 2 cans, or just double recipes calling for 1 can.
  • Forget to thaw beans you need for dinner in a few hours?  Place your freezer bags or other containers into a bowl of hot or warm water.  The beans will thaw in a jiffy.
  • Beans are pretty forgiving, if you cook them too long, they’ll be a little softer.  I haven’t screwed them up too bad yet.
  • If you like refried beans, try this vegetarian recipe that requires no refrying and is priced out at 19 cents per cup.  You can make it in a slow cooker as described, or modify with my instructions above to make it on the stove.

Do you cook your beans at home?  Why or why not?

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Freezer Cooking for Lunch: Veggie Bean Burgers

At the beginning of 2013, I found myself overwhelmed with all of the cooking, cleaning, parenting, diapering, laundry, planning, and so on that keeps this family going from week to week. I want to enjoy our everyday lives, so 2013 is being devoted to learning two things:

  1. how to adjust my attitude and expectations; and
  2. practical skills to simply life and make the day-to-day easier.

To further number 1, I’ve been reading a variety of books about parenting, relationships, and self-care and doing some self-reflection.  These kind of changes are hard, but worthwhile and I hope to share some of the great books I’ve been reading.  To further number 2, I’ve been streamlining some of our routines and learning how to freezer cook.

For the uninitiated, freezer cooking is just cooking food when you have the time so that you can freeze it to eat later when you don’t have enough time to cook (the way you want to). I’ve frozen things before on an ad hoc basis, but my recent adventures in freezer cooking are a little more structured and are focused on providing nutritious and delicious lunches for the whole family. For me to consider a recipe nutritious, lots of veggies are a must, but I also like lunch to be toddler-approved so that there isn’t too much drama.

This week, I had some extra time on a day where dinner was leftovers, so I decided to made a double recipe of bean burgers to freeze for later. Sadly, I couldn’t find a recipe that included some vegetables mixed in with the beans, so I had to make my own.  Although they came out a bit crumbly, they did freeze well and I think they taste great.  I lowered the amount of cumin in the recipe below due to Matt’s recommendations.  Both children loved these burgers, although they only ate a half-burger each because they were so large.  I served them with a little bit of tahini spread on top, but I think these might stick together even better if you threw in a bit of tahini to the burgers themselves.  I doubled the recipe below to make 16 burgers at a time.

Burgers before cooking.  Next time I'll get an after picture!

Burgers before cooking. Next time I’ll get an after picture!

Jen’s Freezer Friendly Veggie Bean Burgers  – Makes 8 large burgers

  • 1 can black beans (or 1.5 cups cooked black beans)
  • 1 can chickpeas (or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
  • 1 sweet potato, shredded
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 egg

Use a food processor to do the following: shred sweet potato, finely chop green pepper, onion, mushrooms, and garlic, mostly process beans, leaving some chunks.  Combine processed ingredients, rolled oats, spices, and egg in large bowl and mix well.  Form mixture into 8 large patties and place on greased baking sheet.

Cook burgers at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.  Then flip burgers and cook for another 15-20 minutes until tops are browned.  Let cool on baking sheet.  Serve and eat immediately, or freeze for later.  Freeze on baking sheet or plates, then transfer to freezer bags.

To serve later, thaw for a few hours, then microwave or heat in oven. Serve these burgers plain or topped with tahini, sour cream with lime or hot sauce, or ketchup.  Add some raw vegetables and fruit or applesauce and you have a well-balanced meal that takes only a few minutes to pull together.