Even More About Getting More Beans into Your Diet


A couple recent posts delved into affordability and how to make quality meat affordable.  One solution to the high price of meat, of course, lies in making vegetarian meals once or twice each week (or more.)  It’s no secret that beans are cheaper than meat, but they are also a good source of protein and substance, making them a good center-of-the-plate substitute.

Cooking Your Own Beans

Slow Cooker Beans

Hands-down, I recommend the slow cooker for cooking beans, like these pretty variegated beans from Monroe Organics. Be sure to save the juice for use like a broth (see suggestions in article.)

For even greater affordability, cook your own beans.  Then you can enjoy high-grade organic beans for just pennies per serving.  And it’s easy. Contact us for a reference sheet that you can keep handy in your cooking files.  Alternatively, check out a previous post on cooking beans, and one on an accelerated method.  I have found the slow cooker to be the best method for cooking dried beans; it eliminates many of the problems people associate with the operation.  And if time is an issue, here’s some good news.  Yesterday, I needed some beans quickly to take pictures for this series of blog posts, so I discovered an even faster, slow cooker method:

Super Accelerated Slow Cooker Beans–No Soaking Required

  • Step 1: Boil for 5 Minutes  (In a large saucepan, combine 1-2 cups dried beans  with about a quart of water.  Bring to a boil for cook for 5 minutes.)
  • Step 2:  Drain  (Drain beans into a colander–but save the juices for watering plants–then put drained beans into the slow cooker)
  • Step 3:  Boil More Water (Fill the large saucepan with another quart of water and bring to a boil)
  • Step 4:  Combine and Cook (Pour the boiling water over beans waiting in the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on HIGH heat until tender to your tastes–which can be a s little as 3 to 4 hours.  Keep an eye on them as they cook more quickly than expected.)
  • Step 5:  Add Salt (Wait until beans are cooked to the desired tenderness then stir in 1/4 to 1 tsp. good sea salt, to taste.)
  • Step 6:  Eat and Enjoy (Freshly cooked beans are good enough to serve as a side dish, on their own.)

Cooking Classes Using Beans

If you want to learn more about cooking with beans, check out our classes which very often include a bean dish or two.

Waste Not-Want Not:   Bean Juice

Speaking of affordability, there’s no need to throw out the liquid from cooking beans.  Maximize food dollars, flavor and nutrition:  Drain the juice into a jar.  Refrigerate and use for cooking rice, thinning soups, cooking harder vegetables, deglazing pans or anywhere else that you’d use a broth.  It keeps for several days, or freeze it in small portions for later use.

Note:  Higher quality beans will have better juice.  For instance, Eden Organic beans are cooked with kombu, a sea vegetable that adds nutrients and reduces or eliminates the need for salt.  Conversely, lower quality beans may be cooked with a lot of salt to mask a flavor deficit.  In all dishes where you add bean juice , but especially those with higher sodium juice, be sure to taste before adding more salt.

Convenience and Freezing

You certainly can’t beat beans’ convenience.  Just open a can and you’re ready to go!  “But what if I can’t eat the whole can?” you might be wondering.  Or what if you cook a batch of beans from scratch, which tends to make a lot!  No problem.  Beans store in the frig for several days and extras can also be frozen in single serving sizes.

“Accelerated” Slow Cooker Beans

We love slow cookers, but sometimes they they can be a little too slow (or we can be a little too late!)  Yesterday, for example, I was presenting “How Can You Tell If You’re Eating Well.”  It’s a fun talk about “eating close to the earth” and how that simple approach makes it easy to know if you’re eating well.

Anyway, at the end of the talk I planned to demo a fast, “eating close to the earth” dish using slow cooker black beans.  But while fixing my morning cup of tea, I realized that I’d forgotten to soak the beans the night before, so they could slow cook all day, and be done just in time for my evening class.  As I poured the water over my Earl Grey leaves, I watched my carefully laid plans collapse.  What do I do now?

Innovate.   Fortunately, a bolt of inspiration struck and left behind a formula for  “Accelerated Slow Cooker Beans:”

8:48 a.m.  Put quart of water on to boil on biggest burner on highest heat (with the lid on because that makes it boil faster, too)

8:49 a.m.  Measure out 1  1/2 cups black beans, pour on a plate and pick out dirt clods and bad beans (my beans come straight from a local farm, so they take a couple extra prep minutes, but the taste is well worth it.)

Sorting Black Beans:  Pour into a pile on one side of plate.  Working in small batches, push into a pile on other side of plate

Sorting Black Beans: Pour into a pile on left side of plate. Working in small batches, push to right side of plate, pulling out bad beans, small stones or dirt clods like the one in center of plate.

8:52 a.m.  Pour cleaned beans in slow cooker.  Water is now boiling so pour it in.  Cover and turn to high heat.

1:00 p.m.  Beans have already begun to soften, the same as if they had soaked all night, so I drain them, return them to pot and put another quart of water on to boil.

1:05 p.m.  Second round of water is boiling.  Pour over drained beans in slow cooker, cover and return heat to high.

5:00 p.m.  Return from appointment to find that beans are perfectly cooked–just a little on the soft side, how I love them.

Moral of the Story:  “Slow” cooker beans are possible in just 8 hours instead of 24.

Add salt at the end and that easily (and cheaply) you’ve got a dish fit for a healthy-eating king.

I’m always amazed at how good beans taste when cooked from scratch in a slow cooker.  Canned beans are perfectly fine, but I’m always nagging people to experiment with fresh-cooked–just once (’cause you’ll be hooked).  Experiment with this accelerated method or, if your brain works at night use the more leisurely method and put the beans on to soak the night before.  You can read more about the leisurely method in a previous post:  “How to Cook Dried Beans?

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