Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dry Beans: 101

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch, join, or snicker at us as our family of 6 eats, or tries to, on $6/day.

You may have noticed a bit of a hole in the bean department on this site. Which doesn't make much sense since beans are cheap, nutritious, protein-packed, and stuff. So if you think it's odd that we don't do many beans here at tastycheapskate, let me introduce my family. It might explain a few things.

Likes: Most foods.
Loves: Home-baked sweets, breads, vegetables, fruits, the A-vegetables: asparagus, artichoke, and avocado.
Will try: all foods except hot peppers and possibly squid/octopus.

Loves: Chocolate, milk chocolate, mildly dark chocolate, chocolate chips, BBQ chicken, beef, chocolate cake, brownies, milk, cereal, sandwiches (but not for days in succession), chocolate milk, fudge, ranch dressing, ketchup, broccoli, peanut butter, pickles, cheese, chocolate, and did I mention chocolate.
Will try: Many foods I make even if he's not thrilled about it.
Hates: Beans, onions, chunky tomatoes, the A-vegetables, hot peppers, all peppers, and surely squid/octopus.

Loves: Chocolate, creamy peanut butter, ketchup, fried potatoes, boxed mac and cheese, spaghetti made with smooth spaghetti sauce, honey, baked goods, juice, pizza with no toppings on whatsoever, even cheese.
Likes: Cucumbers, rice with vinegar (you heard me), BBQ sauce, some candies, bananas, apples, oranges, bread, tomato soup from a can.
Will try: Not much, but if it look sweet, it's got a shot.
Hates: Foods with chunky things in them, most vegetables, all meat, all cheese (except the powdered stuff in the boxed mac and cheese), beans.

Loves: Hard candy, chocolate, creamy peanut butter, juice, pepperoni, meat that is completely plain, most cheeses.
Likes: Bananas, applesauce, apples, oranges, green smoothies with a bit of sugar, bread, tomato soup from a can.
Will try: Just a bit more than her brother.
Hates: Foods with chunky things in them, most vegetables, potatoes, beans, sauces or seasonings.

Loves: Anything sweet, cheese, meat, juice, many fruits.
Likes: Most foods (bless her immortal soul)
Will Try: She'll honestly eat most things if there are no outside influences around telling her she shouldn't.
Hates: Whatever she sees her older brother or sister hating.

Emma Jane:
Loves: Breast milk, all the sweet crumbs she finds under her siblings chairs
Likes: Many foods depending on her mood and how tired she is.
Will Try: Most foods and many non-foods such as styrofoam and toilet paper rolls.
Hates: Anything but me when she's tired or grouchy or sick.

So there you have it. And perhaps you see our problem with beans.

The thing is, I really like beans. So we eat them occasionally. Tonight we'll be having a creamy bean soup that isn't super popular, but is on the not-banned list because the beans get pureed. If your family hates beans, this might be a bit of an in for you too.

Because of our bean problem, I have been slow to hop on the dry bean wagon, but finally I've given it a go. It's ridiculously easy. As, I'm finding, are many many cooking things that I put off because they seem hard.

Hard beans to soft beans: 101

There is a magic word here, well, 2 magic words: CROCK POT. Use this magic, my friends, use it well.

1. Sift through the beans to determine there are no stones. (This was one of those things that scared me. It's easy. It takes maybe 1 minute.)

2. Put them in the crock pot. This will soften and just start to cook your beans. If you just soak them as is the traditional method, you will them have to cook them still for many hours (unless you have a pressure cooker). With the crock pot method, you'll be able to throw them in a pot to make soup in the same way (and for the same amount of time) you'd be able to throw in a can of beans. I like that. I like that a lot. By the way, this method is taken from Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. Have a look at the link becasue she has lots of good things to say about beans and lots of good ways to prepare them.

3. Cover them with water so that the water is 2 inches (2 finger joints) above the dried beans.

4. Cover crock pot and cook beans on high for 6 hours. (Six hours gave me a very tender Northern white bean--some of them cracking open a bit--perfect for my pureed bean soup. But if you wanted your beans firmer, you might want to check at 4 or 5 hours.)

5. Drain beans (this will remove a lot of the indigestible carbs that causes people to have gas--you can give them an additional rinse if you want to remove more of the indigestible carbs that might cause additional gas. I know I did.)

6. Use the beans like you would canned beans. A can of beans is usually about 14-15 oz. which translates to 1 2/3 C cooked beans (about 2/3 C dry beans). Go here for some handy conversions.

7. Freeze what you don't use in Ziploc bags.

One crock pot bean warning: Red Kidney Beans contain a toxin that needs to be cooked out at a higher temp. Soak them and then boil them for 10 minutes, and then cook them in the slow cooker. I know that's a pain; sorry.



  1. Jeanie, glad it worked well for you!

  2. I love crockpot beans! It's the only reason I keep my gigantor crockpot. I do a slightly different method -- I put my rinsed beans in over night to soak, no heat, then in the morning I rinse them again and then I can just can them or cook them in with my regular recipe (minus any acids or salt that must be added at the end or the beans won't soften.) This way you come to dinner with the beans AND the meal all done! But you do have to remember the night before, which can be a substantial challenge.

  3. Fascinating about kidney beans. I've eaten them many times from the crock pot, so either mine reaches 100 degrees or more, or I've just been terribly lucky!

  4. Vanessa--That totally would have worked for my bean soup. But it's true, that whole night before thing definitely poses a problem for me sometimes. I'm trying to do better with that though.

    Heather--Now you know you've been living on the wild side all this time. But I guess most crock pots probably do get above 100 degrees when they're on high. Maybe I should look that up...

  5. My crockpot reaches a boil on high, but not on low. The beans never get cooked enough on low anyway...



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