I was looking for a budget-friendly recipe and found one that uses beans – – canned beans. I did the math and realized that if I bought four cans of beans at $1.20 each I could instead have a pound of shrimp on sale. Beans are so good for you and my kids love them, so I decided to beat the system and cook dried beans and divide them for the freezer.
Cooking dried beans is easy, and you can control the sodium and flavorings. Add chipotle, garlic and cumin to some dried black or pinto beans if you want. Cook chickpeas and have them ready for a quick hummus – – in fact I have some in my freezer right now. You can get dried beans for 99 cents a pound at the dollar store and elsewhere. At some places if you buy two pounds at a time you might even be able to get them for 50 cents a pound. I have before. One pound of dried beans cooked up equals about three cans of beans. One can of beans is 1 1/2 cups, so divide them into those portions for recipes. Or, you could always flash-freeze them, which involves spreading them out on a cookie sheet evenly and freezing them. They will not freeze together this way, so you can throw them all in one gallon bag and take out what you want as needed.
One caution about dried beans — they often do have rocks. I almost always find one little pebble. Spread the beans out on a cookie sheet and inspect for rocks, wash the beans and proceed with directions on the bag. When I cook beans I add big slices of onion and whole cloves of garlic. And for sure, salt. Probably more salt than you feel comfortable with. At least a tablespoon, maybe more. Don’t cringe because you have probably been ingesting more than that eating canned beans. Experiment and see what you think. Next time you are tempted to get canned beans in the store, think of me saying into your ear in a little, sarcastic voice, “What, are you rich or something? Put down that can of beans, fancy-pants, and reach for the dried.” Then, go buy some shrimp on sale.
Here is a recipe for refried beans in the crockpot, except there is no fat involved. We make these constantly at my house. I get tortillas from Costco – – 24 for $2.50 – – and use these beans for the filling. Now that is an inexpensive main dish! Freezes well too.
Slow Cooker Refried Beans
- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 1 pound dry pinto or black beans, rinsed
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 5 teaspoons salt
- 1 3/4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 9 cups water
- Place the onion, rinsed beans, chili powder, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin into a slow cooker. Pour in the water and stir to combine. Cook on high for 6 hours, adding more water as needed.
- Once the beans have cooked, strain them, and reserve the liquid. Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding the reserved water as needed to attain desired consistency.