What a world we are living in these days, y’all. For this post, I’m excited to partner with my friend Amanda Angel, also known as @fit.food.chatt on Instagram! Amanda is a personal chef and healthy-eating advocate, with a huge repertoire of satisfying, approachable recipes. In this post, we’re partnering to talk about how to cook dry beans, a popular pantry staple, and easy ways to stretch your meals and your budget.
In times of social distancing, or otherwise, buying shelf-stable basic pantry staples is a great way to make sure you always have something delicious and nutritious on hand. Dried foods such as beans and rice, and simple broths, can stretch your budget and stretch your meals in healthy, satisfying ways.
For the purpose of this post, we’re going to tackle dried beans. If you want to learn more about pantry staples and how to cook with them, Amanda is hosting a virtual cooking class with The Chattery here in Chattanooga! The class will be Thursday, April 9th, 2020, at 6:00pm. You can sign up for the class here! And since it’s virtual, you don’t have to be in Chattanooga to take the class.
One more thing before we dive into beans: both Amanda and the ladies of The Chattery have been guests on my podcast! You can listen to their episodes here:
- Amanda: Eating My Way Through China
- Amanda: Meal Prepping 101
- The Chattery with co-founders Shawanda & Jennifer
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Stacking my life with all the things I love, and this Thanksgiving has been the best expression of that. I love my family, my best friends, all of these beautiful kiddos, and of course, being in the kitchen and eating amazing food! I am thankful for all that I have every day, but this has been an extra special holiday to express it. ❤️🍁🦃🍽🍷🥕🥰 • • • • #foodislove #cookingismylovelanguage #healthycomfortfood #fitfood #fitfoodchatt #cookathome #inthekitchen #inthemoment #gratitude #thanksgiving #realfood #healthyisdelicious #lovelovelove #loveisthemasterplan 💜💜💜
How to prepare and cook beans
Okay, beans. Beans are a great staple to keep on hand, whether we’re living in quarantine or not. Amanda has three successful methods of preparing and cooking dry beans. When cooking beans, an important factor to consider is soaking them. Do you have time to soak the beans overnight? But first, why does soaking beans matter? Amanda says:
Soaking beans overnight is an “easy enough” ahead-of-time step that will save cooking time the next day. I personally think that soaking your beans overnight results in more tender beans, and it’s the most authentic way to prepare them. Others say that soaking beans makes them easier to digest.
To soak your beans overnight, follow these steps:
- Measure 4 cups dried beans into a colander.
- Run water over the beans, sorting through them while rinsing. Remove any gnarly-looking beans or pebbles.
- Once thoroughly rinsed, transfer beans to a glass bowl. Cover them with water, an inch or more above the surface of the beans. Add a healthy handful of salt, cover with a plate, and set them aside for the night.
- The next morning, give the beans a stir, and add more water if they’ve soaked it up and you aren’t quite ready to cook them yet.
- When you are ready to cook them, give them a final rinse in cool water
Next, consider the vessel in which you’d like to cook your beans: crock pot, Instant Pot, or cast-iron Dutch oven. Each vessel has its advantages, but the choice comes down to your personal preference, which one(s) you already have at home, and how much time you have. The following cooking methods (and the above soaking method) are pretty standard for many dry bean types, including pinto, black, and great Northern beans.
How to cook beans in a crock pot
Peel and quarter 1 medium yellow onion, and quarter 3 garlic cloves. Add those to the bottom of the crock pot, along with 2 bay leaves, a huge pinch of kosher salt, lots of freshly cracked black pepper, a turn of extra virgin olive oil, and a glug of apple cider vinegar. Keep it vegan and delicious by stopping here! But, if you would like to throw in a few slices of bacon or a ham hock here, that would be awesome! Try a big pinch of red pepper flakes too, if you like a background kick. Drain the soaking water from the beans. Add the beans, and 6 cups water or broth to the crock-pot, and set it on high. Set a timer for 2 hours. After 2 hours, turn it down to low and let it simmer for 3 more hours.
How to cook beans in an Instant Pot
Here, we’ll use an onion and garlic to create the flavor base. The sauté option on your Instant Pot is perfect for this! Sauté 1 medium yellow onion diced, 3 minced garlic cloves, a big pinch of salt, lots of cracked black pepper, and 2 bay leaves. You may also choose to add bacon, pork belly, or ham hock at this stage, and render it a bit. Add soaked beans, 4 cups of broth or water, and another big pinch of salt. Set Instant Pot to Manual for 25 minutes, then natural release for 15 minutes before fully releasing steam. Add more broth to cover and save if needed.
How to cook beans in a cast-iron Dutch oven
This will sound familiar to the Instant Pot method at first. Heat 2 turns of EVOO over medium heat. Sauté 1 medium yellow onion diced, 3 minced garlic cloves, a big pinch of salt, lots of cracked black pepper, and 2 bay leaves. You may also choose to add bacon, pork belly, or ham hock at this stage, and render it a bit. Add soaked beans, 4 cups of broth or water, and another big pinch of salt. Bring everything up to a gentle boil, then stir well and reduce heat to low. Let this glorious pot of beans sit at the back of the stove on low, stirring occasionally for 2-2½ hours.
3 easy recipes with beans
Now that you know how to prepare delicious, tender beans from scratch, let’s use them in some recipes! The following three recipes make beans the star of the dish, but you can always pair them just as they are, fresh, lovingly, and slowly cooked, as a side dish with any meat and vegetable. Add a slice of cornbread and you’ve got yourself a simply delicious dinner. Or we can get creative! In her virtual cooking class, Amanda will cover even more recipes and methods for preparing your favorite pantry staples.
Authentic Mexican Refried Beans
This recipe comes by way of Amanda’s friend Varinia Maldonado – thanks for sharing your recipe!
- Cook your beans with your preferred method from above. Best if you can make them the day before.
- In a cast-iron skillet, heat a spoonful of lard. You can use canola or olive oil if you’re vegan, but lard is the traditional choice.
- Add 1/4 cup finely diced white onion until it’s soft, but without browning.
- Add 1 cup of cooked beans and broth from beans, and mash.
- Gradually add more beans and broth and continue mashing until it reaches a coarse purée-like consistency.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Continue cooking until beans begin to dry out.
- Serve while warm with queso fresco, sliced radishes, and romaine lettuce.
Caribbean Beans & Rice
This recipe comes from Amanda’s brother-in-law, whose family comes from the island of Bequia. It’s traditionally made with pigeon peas, but here it’s been adapted to use black beans.
- Sauté 1 finely diced onion and 2 tbsp minced garlic in olive oil in a large pot.
- Add 3 cups of cooked black beans after onion is soft and continue to sauté for another 5-10 minutes. Stir to prevent the bottoms from burning. You can add more olive oil if necessary.
- Add 1 1/2 cups rice and 3 cups of water and stir. Bring to a simmer and cover.
- Cook until the rice is done.
White Chicken Chili
Amanda says, “This recipe comes from my mother, Lori. She’s famous for always having a pot of chili going when folks are in town, or when friends drop by. It’s great how she can make it in advance, then keep it warm on the stove all evening. She sets out all the fixins, like salsa, sour cream, jalapeños, cheese, and Fritos!”
To make White Chicken Chili, you will need:
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (homemade is best!)
- 3 cups chicken breast, cooked and chopped (or a whole roasted chicken shredded is really good!)
- 3 cups cooked Great Northern beans
- 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Sauté the onion until tender. Add garlic, chiles, and spices. Continue to cook and stir the mixture for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken, broth, and beans. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, slowly stir in the cheese until method. Serve with your favorite fixins!
There you have it: three ways to cook beans, and three delicious recipes with which to enjoy your beans. Whichever method you choose, beans make a great addition to your diet, in and out of quarantine, and are an easy way to stretch your meals and budget.
Thanks so much to Amanda Angel for sharing her bean-cooking methods and recipes! Don’t forget to sign up for her virtual cooking class with The Chattery for Thursday, April 9, 2020.