Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Beans, beans ...

Dave Ramsey talks about rice and beans as a frugal staple. "Rice and beans, and beans and rice" comes up quite a bit on the message boards his followers post on and on his facebook page. After reading it enough I knew it was something I needed to add to our diet, as our grocery budget is really tight and often strained to the point of breaking, and I was out of other ideas for saving in that area.

Pinto beans cost about $1 per pound, raw, at Sam's Club or WalMart. 1 lb of raw beans is about 2 cups of beans, and will equal about 6 cups of cooked beans. 6 cups of beans for $1. 6 cups of fiber, protein, and iron for $1. And they're filling. Seriously, hard to beat and much less expensive than the same amount of poultry or meat.

Rice we can eat, except that until just a few weeks ago I was a really, really crappy rice cooker. I've improved so much just by (1) rinsing the rice a lot and (2) following better cooking directions, actually cooking the rice for a shorter time than I thought I should.

Beans were a tougher sell around here. I tried bean soups, beans in casseroles, rice and beans, beans and rice. Not much luck, and I was serving them at least once a week. Darn it.

Over the last six months or so, however, the kids have gradually accepted beans as a part of their diets and meals. I've been able to sneak black beans or pinto beans into crock pot meals or casseroles and no longer receive complaints.

One day I needed refried beans. Not having a can of them available I found a recipe and made my own. The kids LIKE them. Really LIKE them. A LOT.

I use about 1 lb. of beans and end up with 9 cups of refried beans. Very cost effective.

Vegetarian Refried Beans 
from allrecipes.com

1 lb. dry pinto beans, rinsed
2 T minced garlic, divided
1 medium tomato, diced, or 1 can diced tomato
2 T ground cumin
1 T chili powder
2 T olive oil
salt to taste

Place beans in a large saucepan and cover with an inch of water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. When the beans have reached a boil remove from the stove, and drain. Return to the same pot and cover the beans with about 2" of water, and stir in 1 T garlic, the tomato, cumin, and chili powder. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 4 hours, until beans are very soft.

Once the beans have cooked remove some of the cooking water if there's quite a bit left, or add a little more if there isn't much left at all. Then add in the oil, salt, and remaining garlic. Mash or puree in food processor or blender. Place over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.


* I have heard that beans are more digestible if an acid, like lemon juice, is added when the beans are first boiled.
 * I have also heard that soaking the beans overnight, rather than bringing them to the first boil, is better for digestion. When I can't soak them overnight I bring them to a boil, turn the heat off, and let them sit for a few hours before draining them.
  ("more digestible", "better for digestion" = polite way to say "less tooting")

I freeze the refried beans we can't use right away, usually 2 3-cup containers.  When storing food I use these ZipLoc containers. They're clear and easy to label on the tops with tape, and they stack very well. In the refrigerator leftovers are kept in the ZipLoc containers, always stacked on the same shelf on the same side, making it really easy for the kids and I to know what needs to be eaten first, limiting waste. In the freezer they get labeled and dated and stacked ... easy to grab what I need.

The recipe we make most often with the beans is the Southwest Roll-ups. If you follow my menu plan Mondays you've probably noticed we make this once a week or so. The kids love them, and love having extras in the freezer that they can quickly pop into the oven even more. This past Sunday night I made 30 roll-ups, using 6" tortillas, for 7 people and there wasn't a single one left after the meal. They're that good.

Do you have a family "go to" bean recipe? A frugal favorite to share? Leave a link or recipe in the comments.
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