Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Neverending Bean Pot

You may have noticed from our meal plans that we eat a lot of beans around here. Growing up the only beans I remember eating were baked beans - from a can. Always with meatloaf and kielbasa (or ring bologna). Our family eats a variety of beans (that's one of the things I love about beans - there are tons of different varieties of beans), but I think my favorite are probably black beans. Every week my crockpot doubles as a bean pot for soaking dry beans and then cooking them.

Beans/legumes - what's so amazing about them? They are chock full of nutrients and they have the most healthful mix of protein plus fiber among all other foods. They are great for your digestive tract, blood sugar regulation, heart, blood pressure and more. And when combined with wheat, corn, brown rice or nuts they make a complete protein. Not to mention they are super cheap! I can get a pound of beans for just a little over $1. Beans happen to be one of those things that I don't buy organic and I don't buy them in a can. There are about four cans of beans in one 1# bag of dried beans. The other reason I no longer buy canned beans is that cans are lined with BPA (Bisphenol A) remember that chemical that we worked so hard to get out of our plastic drinking bottles and baby bottles, the one that is linked to breast cancer and premature development in girls - yep, that's the one. It is in the lining of most canned goods. To my knowledge Eden is the only company that makes a BPA-free can lining.

So, not only are dry beans cheap and better for you than canned beans, but you can also control their flavor and increase the nutrient value by soaking them and cooking them in bone broth in your own home. With a little forethought you will have delicious and nutritious beans in no time. I've come across articles about pressure cooking beans and then canning them yourself in glass jars so that you have beans ready to use when you need/want them or you can make up a big pot and freeze them in smaller portions for future use.

Having traveled to South America a few times I have had the opportunity to eat incredibly flavorful beans and rice. When I was working as a HeadStart Preschool teacher many of my co-workers were Latino. I asked them why my beans and rice never tasted as good as what I had in South America. They told me the secret was "sofrito" that you could buy in the freezer section of some grocery stores and a seasoning packet that contained MSG. I tried that for awhile with mixed results. I have since found a recipe that doesn't use frozen sofrito from the store or seasoning packets containing things I can't pronounce. My recipe is one that I adapted from Cook's Illustrated to get the flavor and texture that I remember. The recipe calls for black beans, I have used pinto beans and pink beans, but my favorite is the black beans. Oh and they make really great refried beans too. Just throw some in the food processor until smooth and cook them up in an oiled pan (you can use bacon grease or lard if you prefer).

The Best Black Beans
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated


  • 1 pound black beans, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 water to cover by, inches
  • 1 bone broth, stock or water to cover beans by an inch or so
  • 1 green pepper, stemmed, seeded and quartered (optional)
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 2 Tblsp)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt   

  • Sofrito
  • 3 Tablespoons light olive oil (or coconut oil)
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 14 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 5 Tblsp)
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 5 teaspoons lime juice
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves


  1. Soak beans overnight (12-24 hours) in very warm water (about 140 degrees). Drain the water before you are ready to cook your beans. If I'm making the beans for dinner I typically start cooking them after lunch in my crockpot with the bone broth, stock or water, quartered bell pepper, minced onion, garlic, bay leaves and salt. If using a Dutch oven on the stove top, bring the ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered for about two hours. Add more water/broth if the liquid reduces to the level of the beans. Check the beans to confirm tenderness.
  2. To make the Sofrito, heat the oil in a large skillet (don't use a non-stick pan) over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, oregano and salt - cooking until the vegetables are nearly soft (about 5 minutes). Add the chopped tomatoes and garlic allowing the juices from the tomatoes to cook off. Then add the cumin and cook for about another minute.
  3. To finish the beans, scoop out about 1 cup of beans and 2 cups cooking liquid adding to the pan with the sofrito. Use a potato masher (or fork) to mash the beans until smooth. Simmer over medium heat until liquid is reduced and thickened (about 10 minutes). Return the sofrito mixture to the pot of beans and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. The beans will have a creamy sauce-like consistency. Add lime juice and simmer for another minute then stir in cilantro.
  4. Serving Suggestion = over brown rice with sauteed kale and a fried egg. ENJOY!
Prep Time: 24 h Cook Time: 4 h Ready in: 28 h
Click to add this recipe to your Recipe Book
The Best Black Beans courtesy of Jamie Del Balso.

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