Monday, January 9, 2012

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit!

Doesn't everyone display their beans?
I love a good pot of beans. I always, always have. I grew up in Phoenix in a single parent household, with a plant based diet. One of the staples of our diet growing up was a good pot of beans, and to this day. I love 'em. There are so many wonderful varieties of beans out there. I have to admit, I have a little bit of a bean buying addiction. Our local co-op sells so many types, and I can't help buy buy ones I've never tried before. I also love going back to old favorites, and some of the ancient Native American varieties. I'm sure it seems super-whack, but I get excited about a good bowl of beans.
The great thing about beans is they're a wonderful way to provide a no or low-meat meal to your family without cooking for hours. Satisfying and warm, a pot of beans can be prepared with a minimal amount of work, and they're a great source of protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. And honestly? After the excesses of the holidays, I'm happy to eat something so healthy and satisfying.
I was hesitant to post about beans at first. To me, they seem so basic. Honestly? Refried beans were my first solid food. I've been making pots of beans since I was old enough to reach the stove. And then a friend (or two!) reminded me that part of the point of this blog is to share the things I love to eat with other families who are striving to eat non-processed food without cooking for hours.And of course, beans are the perfect slow-cooker food. And really? That's kind of the whole point. It's so important to me to find healthy food that I can feed my family while balancing the demands of a full-time job and the responsibilities of home life.

And so, my recipe for beans. Please note, there is all kinds of room for improvisation in this recipe. I'll write down the basics for you, and then give you a few notes about where you can make changes.


Beans are not particularly photogenic. But hey!
You can see the vintage cake plate I got for Christmas!

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans


1 lb pinto beans

1 small onion (or 1/2 large onion), finely diced
1 - 2 small carrots (or 1 large carrot) finely diced
1 - 2 small peppers, or 1 large bell pepper, diced. (I love to use the little mild or spicy peppers I get in my farm share. Jalapenos are great too, as are Anaheim or Serrano, depending on how hot you like it.) (Optional)
1 can diced tomatoes
3 - 6 cloves garlic, finely diced (more or less depending on your family's taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 chipolte in adobo sauce, finely diced (optional)
1 - 3 tsp salt, or more, to taste (Do NOT add until after the beans are cooked)
1 Tbsp vinegar, or more, to taste (Do NOT add until after the beans are cooked)

The night before you plan to eat the beans -
Rinse beans in a colander or strainer, and place in the insert of your slow-cooker. Cover beans with water and nearly fill the pot. Cover with lid, and leave to soak overnight at room temperature.
Dice the onion, carrot and garlic, and place in a small container to store in the fridge overnight. I also like to add the other seasonings to the diced veggies at this point, so it's all ready to dump in the slow-cooker in the morning. So, add the cumin, pepper, oregano and chipolte, and store in the fridge overnight.

In the morning -

Drain and rinse the soaked beans, and return to slow cooker. Add the diced veggies and seasoning from the fridge, and add the can of diced tomatoes (juice and all). Cover with water plus 2 - 3 inches of water above the "bean line". (Some of the water will evaporate, and some will be soaked up by the beans. You want to make sure there's enough to keep the beans covered while you're out earning a living.)

Set the slow cooker to low for 6 - 10 hours (the longer they cook, the softer they'll be. I like 'em anywhere from al dente, to falling apart. For most people, 8 hours will be perfect. Alternately, you can cook them on high for 5 - 6 hours.

After the beans cook -

Add the salt to taste, and a tablespoon or two of vinegar. (I like to add a good vinegary hot pepper sauce, honestly, but I like it spicy!)

Garnish the beans with your choice of sour cream, grated cheese, chopped cilantro, diced raw onions, diced scallions, salsa and/or hot pepper sauce.
I LOVE homemade cornbread with a pot of beans, but corn chips, tortillas and rice are all good, too.


As you work with this recipe, you might want to try it with various beans. Black beans. Kidney beans. 7 bean mix. Adzuki beans. The choices are endless.....

You can also play with the seasoning. Want chili beans? Add a tablespoon of chili powder. Plan on making an Italian bean soup? Use white beans, and leave out the cumin and hot peppers. Add a bay leaf.  Like your beans smokey? Add some smoked paprika, or chipolte powder. And there's always the ol' pork fat option. A little bacon or a smoked pork knuckle would go a long way in a pot of beans.... I usually do mine without any meat, but I also tend to think if you have a family member who feels they *need* meat in their supper, using just a little as seasoning is better for your bodies and the planet than loading up your plate.

Enjoy those beans! Toot Toot!

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