Tuesday’s Tip: A Hill of Beans

October 18,2011
Sweet Pea Chef
Jessica Efird( )

Jessica, aka the Sweet Pea Chef, is a former U.S. Senate staffer/weekend gourmet turned full-time mom/family gourmet. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two sons.

Black beans, kidney beans, Canellini beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, navy beans and the other countless varieties of beans are a kitchen marvel.  Inexpensive and plentiful, easy to store and keep, they are a very healthful and budget-friendly ingredient to use

With concerns about BPA in canned foods, our family has been trying to slowly move away from using canned fruits and vegetables.  However, with our simultaneous move to more and more meatless meals, we use a lot of beans and legumes.  I used to buy solely canned beans, but over the years I’ve made the switch to dried beans.

Using dried beans makes sense for several reason:

*dried beans are less expensive yet still shelf-stable and a breeze to store

*dried beans come in infinite varieties, sometimes more than you can find in cans.

*dried beans are completely natural--no additives like you sometimes find in canned beans

*dried beans are virtually sodium-free, while canned beans usually are higher in sodium

*unlike canned beans, dried beans are not stored in cans that potentially contain BPA

But using dried beans does require a bit of forethought, since you can’t just use them as is.  I’ve recently found a super duper easy way to have beans on hand, without a lot of oversight in the kitchen.

This week’s Tuesday’s Tip is this:  to easily cook beans, use your slow cooker!

Cooking beans in the slow cooker is easy as:

ONE:  pour one pound of beans, pick out any beans that look "off," and add ½ teaspoon of salt (the salt helps soften the bean skin--and is still far less than canned beans!):

TWO:  cover the beans and salt with water:

THREE:  make sure the water to beans ration is about 3:1:

Cook on LOW overnight or HIGH for 4-5 hours.  Check your beans...since water composition varies greatly and the minerals in our water can affect cooking time,  Once you know how your water reacts to cooking times, make a note of it for future beans.

Lastly, freeze any beans you don’t plan to use immediately on a cookie sheet and store in a pyrex container for up to 6 months.  You can then easily use the frozen beans, after a quick defrost in the microwave, just like you would canned beans.  In fact, if you wish, you can freeze the beans in 1 ¾ - 2 cup measurements, and you can replace this amount for any 15 ounce can of beans.

Pretty handy, eh?

Peas out-