Bean Prep: Sorting and Rinsing

Beans seem to be a recurring topic here, but why not?  They’re frugal, nutritious, and so versatile.  And they can even be sprouted for more nutrition – but that’s another post.  Today I just want to talk about the prep work involved BEFORE the cooking starts.


For my non-bean-converted friends: are you intimidated by the steps involved in preparing beans?  Or do you just think you don’t like the taste? 


I wish I had some great segue here, but I don’t – I really just hope to remove the intimidation.  I’ve loved beans ever since I can remember, so I can only urge you to keep trying them different ways.  Baked beans, chicken tortilla soup, and white chili are some ideas to get you started.  And you already like hummus, right?


If you’re new to using dried beans, sorting might be the most confusing step.  It doesn’t take long, and it can be kinda fun (especially if you have some OCD tendencies.)  There are many ways you can do this, but here are some methods I’ve used in the past:


– Take small handfuls and inspect carefully


– Spread the beans out in one layer on the counter or in a large flat pan with sides (like a jelly roll pan) so you can see all the beans (and any foreign objects) all at once


– If you’re using a slow cooker, you can pour the beans onto the clear glass lid and spot the misfits pretty easily (although you can’t tell in this picture):




Here are a few things I sorted out of some pintos awhile back:




Those black pebbles are commonly found in a lot of beans, but you DEFINITELY want to fish them out – the one time I didn’t sort my beans, I ended up with a really gritty-tasting soup because those pebbles are concentrated field dirt.  I usually find more in black beans than any other type of bean – maybe they’re sorted with optical scanning equipment so they get by because they appear to be beans?  That’s my theory anyway.


I also look for beans that are small and shriveled, excessively dirty (like a black spot covering a whole side of a white bean), or otherwise look old and mishandled.  Beans that are old won’t cook as well and won’t taste as good.


The next step – rinsing – is fairly straight forward.  You can put the beans into a large sieve or colander and run under the tap to clean them well.  This is not optional, unless you’re cool with consuming a nice layer of “field dust,” which could include insect droppings, dirt, etc.  A good rinse will remove a lot of this, and the next step should remove the rest.


Soaking — the final step — is also easy, but requires a little more forethought.  It becomes mindless pretty quickly, though, once you work all of this into your  weekly kitchen routine.  I will discuss this in more detail in another post.


Do you have a favorite bean recipe?  I’m always looking for new ones!


Just a quick update…

So…how is everyone doing?


After battling a sinus infection for weeks, then trying to get caught up on the work I actually get paid to do for the last week, I think I’m finally caught up.  There’s still plenty to do, but at least I’m not behind!


Subsequently, there hasn’t been much of interest going on in the kitchen for the last week.  I did receive my kombucha SCOBY a little over a week ago from Cultures for Health, though, and it’s coming along quite nicely.  It’s already made two babies!  It’s been fermenting for about 10 days and is still a little too sweet for my tastes, but it should be ready soon.


I’ve also been avoiding the internet so I have some time to practice bass guitar, since a good friend is giving me lessons.  I’ve taken drum and guitar lessons in the past (and I played clarinet in middle school), but I just can’t seem to stick with an instrument.  As much as I like music, I really suck at learning to play it.  If I can get past the sore fingers, though, I think I’ll really enjoy bass.  And my guitar lessons are starting to come back to me, so maybe I can attempt that again soon.  My husband’s electric guitar has been collecting dust the whole time we’ve been married!


Earlier this evening, I planted some seedlings I got from a fellow gardener at church – six bell peppers, four jalapenos, and four banana peppers.  At first I was hopeful because I found some earthworms in the soil – then I found what I thought were maggots (eew!!!), but it turns out they were grubs.  So I trekked out to Home Depot to buy some diatomaceous earth.  Hopefully that won’t also kill the earthworms?


What have y’all been up to?

Menu Plan: Week of April 27

This last week the weather completely changed – instead of having the heater on standby, it’s now the air conditioner.  Temperatures are only in the high 70s, but I’m already dying!  The farmers market starts next week, though, so I should be able to convert our meals to spring mode – not only vegetable-wise, but less oven use, as well.  For now, though, it’s the same stuff:


Pot roast, braised carrots and potatoes, salad

Soup – pasta fagioli or white chili

Chard and onion frittatas, sweet potato fries

Tacos, refried pinto beans, rice

Pizza, salad

Sausage, potato and apple skillet dinner

Hamburgers, oven fries


I’m hoping to get some eggplant, beans, cucumbers, and more tomatoes and peppers planted.  Maybe even some melons.  We love cantaloupe and honeydew in summer!  So here’s hoping…

Yankee Cornbread (dairy-free)

When I moved to the south, I learned that how you like your cornbread reflects which side of the Mason-Dixon you’re from.  I’ve always thought of cornbread as sweet and cakey, but many southerners prefer theirs unsweetened and fried. 


Regardless of where your tastes lie, if you need a dairy-free cornbread, this is a good starting point.  It is quite crumbly, but tasty nonetheless.  If/when I figure out how to make it less crumblesome, I’ll gladly let you know – or perhaps you have some tips?  I’m going to try using some of the ingredients that I use as dough conditioners in my whole wheat bread, so I’ll update this if I find something that works!


Yankee Cornbread


1 cup flour (soft white or AP)

1 cup cornmeal

1/2-3/4 cup sucanat

1 tsp salt

3 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 egg, beaten

1 cup coconut milk (I use Whole Foods 365 organic – don’t shake it and use the creamier portion)

1/3 cup olive oil (to offset the coconut)


Combine all ingredients and bake 25 minutes at 400 in a greased/floured round pan.


Here’s a piece…




…just make sure to let it cool completely before cutting, or else it is especially crumblesome!





Baked Beans



Doesn’t that fuzzy picture make you want to eat some?  My camera batteries decided to die tonight at dinner, and the backups were nowhere to be found.  That’s life sometimes.  But back to the food…


Do you have any fun memories associated with baked beans, like a summertime picnic or dinner at Grandma’s house? 


My husband fondly remembers eating “beans and wieners” as a child – baked beans with chopped up hot dogs mixed in, for the unschooled.  In fact, he’d been craving this meal for so long that I finally broke down about a month ago and bought some nitrate-free hot dogs and bacon for the express purpose of recreating his salivatory memory. 


The baked beans came out so well that I’ve made them three times in the last month.  So I guess it’s time to share!  This recipe is adapted from one in Peace, Love, and Barbecue by Mike and Amy Mills.


Baked Beans


1 ½ lbs dried white beans (Great Northern, cannellini, navy, etc)

8 strips of bacon (nitrate-free)

1 small onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups ketchup (organic, no HFCS)

½ cup molasses

¾ cup muscovado or brown sugar

2 tbsp prepared mustard

1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp chili powder

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp sea salt, finely ground

2 tsp pepper


1. Rinse the beans and soak for at least 12 hours (overnight), 24 hours if you have the time.  Drain the soaking water, then cook the beans in a crockpot on low all day or in a large pan on the stove (about two hours).


2. When beans are closed to being tender, cook the bacon in a skillet.  Once the bacon is fully cooked, remove it from the skillet and sauté the onions and garlic in the bacon grease until onion starts to change color (this won’t take long).  Remove from heat and let sit until the next step is completed.


3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together remaining ingredients, plus the onion, garlic, and bacon grease from step two.  If you want to crumple the bacon, add it in at this step (otherwise, you can wait until it goes in the pan).


4.  Drain off most of the cooking water from the beans (you’ll want to leave a little bit to mix in with the mixture in step three), then go ahead and combine everything in the bean pot.  After it is mixed together thoroughly, pour into a 9×13 baking dish and cook in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees until bubbly.


Note: You could definitely cook it at a different temperature – I just chose 400 because that was the temperature my cornbread needed.  You are going to eat cornbread with this, right?

Menu Plan: Week of April 20, 2009

This is our last week of being really busy for awhile. I have a babysitting commitment every single day, Husband is finishing his classes (with his Masters in hand), then we have six fairly easy weeks leading up to the summer break.  Needless to say, this week is full of easy meals:


Chicken tortilla soup

Baked beans, cornbread, greens

Lentil soup, leftover cornbread

My spaghetti, salad

Sesame ginger chicken, rice (held over from last week)

White chili

Hamburgers, oven fries


I’m also looking for a good dairy-free sourdough bread recipe, since I just got a starter from a friend.  I tried Sue Gregg’s sourdough spelt bread, but it was hard to follow and didn’t turn out well.  Any help is welcomed!


More menu plans at Organizing Junkie.

Garden Semi-Update

This is a semi-update because a lot got done today, but all for naught.  I intended to start more seedlings today with new soil because my first seedlings were overrun with mold.  I had reused soil from last year – apparently it wasn’t sterile.  So I took the kids to Home Depot, bought some begonias for my daughter’s garden, a bag of what I thought was organic potting soil, and two transplants (a tomato and a bell pepper) for good luck.


Turns out I grabbed some very much not organic garden soil – which I figured out after I’d already started 18 seedlings.  This time I was using toilet paper rolls as starter pots, and as I was labeling them, my eyes traveled back to the bag I had just finished scooping out of to notice this admonition: Use Gloves When Handling Soil.  Yikes!  Why would that be?  Because the soil was saturated with a bunch of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK).  And of course I was using my bare hands to set those seeds in the soil.  Yay.


So what have I learned about gardening so far?


1.  Use sterile soil when starting seeds, or else you get mold.


2.  Leave the 15-month old at home when buying things that are stacked next to really scary chemical-filled things.


I do have one happy piece of news: three (out of five) of the bare-root raspberry bushes I planted have started growing!




They were sticks when I planted them, now they have leaves.  Let’s just hope they actually fruit at some point.