Thursday, October 6, 2011

Soaking and Cooking Pinto Beans

Beans are a fun topic because they are so versatile and cheap!  I like cheap.  One thing you’ll learn is I like frugalness just as much as I like natural food.  Sure, canned beans are convenient but they cost considerably more than dry beans and they tend to have a lot of sodium.  Plus, you don’t get the satisfaction of soaking them yourself.

I like to cook a big pot of beans then use them for various things throughout the week.  We like beans and cornbread, of course, (we do live in the south) but I also like to use them in chili, Mexican dishes, etc.  So, what you do is, buy a bag of pinto beans (we’ll start with them because they can be used in a wide variety of ways).  The best value I have found at our supermarket is  a 4lb bag.  (I try to support brands other than the “big names” sometimes but that’s a topic for another post!) 
1.       To start, dump out the desired amount of beans onto your counter.  Four cups is a good amount to start with.  Now, you want to sort the beans.  My husbands grand-mother used to say you need to “look” the beans.  This simply means to make sure there aren’t any rocks mixed in with them.  Rocks aren’t easily digestible no matter how long you soak them.  Once you’ve “looked” your beans, gather them up and put them in a slow cooker (that’s my favorite mode of cooking beans).  Run some water over them, swish them around a couple times and drain the water.  This gets dust and dirt off them.
2.       For four cups of beans, you’ll cover them with 12-16 cups of water.  I usually just put a lot in there so each bean will have enough water.  I don’t care for measuring if I don’t have to!  You want to soak them overnight.  This is best because this method makes the beans more easily digestible.  So, pour in the water, put the lid on and leave them alone to soak overnight.  (Leave the slow cooker off, of course.)
3.       When you get up in the morning, drain the soaking water off and fill up with new water.  I put enough water to cover the beans by about 2 inches.  Since I’m home all day I turn my slow cooker on high around 8:00a.m. and I turn it off around 3p.m.  If you’re going to be gone for a longer period of time you might try putting them on low all day instead.
4.       Once the beans are cooked, I skim the foam off the top then they’re ready to eat!  Season them how you like (I just use salt).  Put them over cornbread, add them to chili, mix them with some salsa and sautéed onions and eat them with chips, add them to a casserole, etc.  I even like to divide them up and freeze them so I’ll have them for later use. 
More than just being versatile, pinto beans have many healthy benefits.  (Thanks to my C-U-T-E hubby for researching them).  Pinto beans in particular are packed with molybdenum (200% daily value in 1 cup of beans). They are also a good source of folate (great for pregnancy), dietary fiber, tryptophan, manganese, protein, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and vitamin B1 (thiamin).  Fiber is good for lowering cholesterol and prevents sugar levels from rising after your meal and lowers your heart disease risk.  Fiber (as well as antioxidants) found in pinto beans can reduce your cancer risk.  Besides all that, pinto beans have lots of protein and are a good source of iron!
Note:  Don't add salt until AFTER the beans are cooked or they will be tough.
What are you waiting for?  Get those beans soaking!

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