Category Archives: Beans

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!


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?

Refried Beans: Easier Than You Think!

I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile, but I can’t ever seem to remember to take a picture.  Which is why I have no picture accompaniment – but I’ll add one next time I make this.  After all, Sarah asked for the recipe.


Let’s start by saying that I love beans in just about any form.  I’ve eaten beans nearly every day of my life, which is probably why many of my recipes involve them.  I used canned refried beans when cooking them until this last year, though, because it seemed easier.  Not tastier, though, if you’re used to the real thing – and when you’re buying the Amy’s brand, they can be pricey.


As with many things I post, this hardly seems post-worthy – but it’s easy, frugal, nourishing, and most of all, flavorful.  The spices really should be added to taste, so please adjust as needed or start with smaller amounts and taste as you go.  This is really just a guideline as to what flavors should be present.


Refried Beans


1 pound dried pinto or black beans (or mix of both – but the black dominates)

Pinch of asafoetida or epazote

¼ cup olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander seed

Salt and pepper to taste (I use a lot)


1. Soak beans for 24 hours (or overnight if that’s all the time you have).  The next morning, drain soak water, add new water and a pinch of asafoetida or epazote, and cook on low in a crock pot all day until dinner time.  Don’t add any of the other seasonings yet – the salt, especially, will slow down cooking time.  (You could also cook the beans in a pot on the stove; adjust cook time accordingly.)


2. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven, adding the onions when hot.  After onions have softened, add garlic, cumin, and coriander and sauté about two more minutes. 


3. Add cooked beans, salt, and pepper.  Mash the beans (still in the pot) with a potato masher until they look the way you like them – Husband prefers not to see a lot of whole bean, so we mash quite a bit – and taste for seasoning.  I’m always needing to add more salt here.




– Chicken broth could be substituted for the water during the bean cooking step.

– If you opt to cook the beans on the stove instead of the crockpot, just sauté the onions and garlic in a small saucepan then add them in with all the seasonings to the cooked beans.  I’ve done this before and it works fine.

– I’ve tried to make this entirely a crockpot thing, but it never seemed to taste as good.


So what’s next?


Well, following my obsession with sprouting, I’d love to come up with a sprouted and refried bean recipe.  I don’t imagine it would change much except in the cooking time.  So expect that to come soon.


Also, I would like to try making them with lard – the most traditional preparation.  I don’t, however, have access to high quality lard (just the hydrogenated stuff at the store – yuck!), and I haven’t yet tried to render it myself. 


How do you make refried beans?

Part of the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

Pasta e Fagioli

We’re eating from the cupboards this week, and pasta e fagioli is right in line with that! 


Traditionally a peasant food, this soup is always made with pasta and beans (hence the literal translation of the name).  I’m not a huge pasta fan – mainly a textural issue, and it’s also pretty nutritionally devoid – but I had some leftover macaroni from my Christmas mac and cheese side dish contribution, and this is the only thing I could stomach it in.  The combination of ingredients here is very flexible and reflects what I had in the house today.


The pasta overtook the dish, but I promise there are lots of little white beans in there!

The pasta overtook the dish, but I promise there are lots of little white beans in there!



Pasta e Fagioli


2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tsp of your favorite Italian seasonings (I used a combination of dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, and basil)

2 bay leaves

2 quarts (8 cups) beef bone broth

1 cup cannellini beans, rinsed and soaked overnight

1 cup macaroni (or other small pasta)

1 can diced tomatoes

½ cup green beans (from freezer)

Freshly ground pepper and sea salt, to taste


1. Heat oil in a large pot until it is very hot but not smoking.  Add onions and carrots (you should hear a loud sizzle!), sautéing until soft.  Then add garlic and all the aromatics, sautéing for just a couple more minutes.  I don’t add salt and pepper until later since it interferes with cooking the beans.


2.  Add broth and bring to a boil, then add beans and cook until soft.  This step will take the longest – an hour or two, depending on the age and quality of the beans.  This step can be shortened by using pre-cooked beans, but I didn’t have any on hand.


3.  When beans are almost soft enough to eat, add pasta to the pot.  You can also add salt and pepper at this step.  If everything is timed well, the pasta and beans should be done about the same time.  Then add tomatoes and green beans to heat through (I don’t like them to be overcooked).


4.  Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese, a dollop of crème fraîche, or eat it simply by itself.


Enjoy this inexpensive yet filling dinner!


Part of the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

Chocolate Chili: Second Attempt



Our first attempt was this recipe, which was totally inedible to us.  But now, Husband and I have come to the consensus that we just don’t like chocolate in our chili.  The recipe we tried tonight was from my friend Heidi, who is an excellent cook, so at least we could eat our dinner this time.  The complex sweetness of the cocoa and molasses is countered a bit by the chili powder and other savory flavors, so I’m sure there are others out there who would enjoy this.  For instance, if you like the Mexican dish mole, you would really enjoy this chili.  (We’re not into mole!  But I know lots of people who are.)


Here is Heidi’s recipe; we used a pound of dried beans (mixture of pinto, black, and kidney instead of canned beans:


Vegan Chocolate Chili


¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

5 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons chili power

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cumin

1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1 14 ounce can of tomatoes with green chiles, or tomatoes with jalapenos if you want it spicier

3 tablespoons molasses

3 tablespoons of cocoa powder

2 14 ounce cans of kidney beans

1 14 ounce can of pinto beans

1 14 ounce can of black beans


Sauté the onions and peppers in the olive oil in a large pot, covered on low-medium for about 10 minutes or until a bit soft and browned.  Add the garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes.  Add the spices and cook for another minute then add the tomatoes, molasses, cocoa powder, and beans and cook on low-medium heat for about 20 minutes.  If it looks too thick you can add a can of tomato sauce or some water. Turn off heat and serve after about 10 minutes.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Just so you know, this is one of my all-time favorite soups.  It can be modified to be completely vegan (although I prefer it with cheese on top) or loaded with lots of chicken.  I will start with a recipe for how I made mine last night, detailing other substitutions I’ve made below.


Chicken Tortilla Soup


1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced (seeds = heat, so remove seeds if you don’t like it hot)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp chili powder

2 quarts vegetable broth

2 cups crushed tomatoes

3 cups black beans, cooked

1 cup chicken, cooked and shredded

2 cups corn, frozen (use fresh when in season)

¼ cup fresh cilantro


Suggested toppings:


Tortilla chips

Grated cheese (I like pepper jack – adds even more spice!) or crème fraîche

Sliced avocado

Chopped scallions


1.  In a dutch oven/stock pot/whatever you make soup in, heat the olive oil on medium.  When hot, add onion and jalapeno, sautéing until onion changes color.  Add garlic and sauté a little longer, being sure not to burn garlic.  Then add broth and crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.


2.  Once it comes to a boil, add beans, chicken, corn and cilantro and heat through.  Since I used precooked ingredients (all leftovers!), this was all quick and easy.


3.  Top with your choice of toppings and serve!




This batch is on the brothier side because I don’t measure.


Now here are my copious notes – I have been making this for a long time, so I kind of have a lot to say. J


         I make at least one large batch of beans every week for various meals.  Often I have a little more than I need, so I freeze the cooked beans in three cup portions so I can just thaw them in the refrigerator as needed.  You could also use canned beans or turn this into a slow cooker meal to cook it from dried beans and uncooked chicken.  Just don’t add the corn until close to the end or it will get mushy.


         I’ve made this using boneless, skinless breasts before, but it’s more expensive that way – which is why I just cook a whole chicken now and portion out the meat.  Just sauté the chicken with the onion and jalapeno if using uncooked chicken.


         Fire-roasted corn is great in here, too.  Many months from now, when fresh corn is easy to come by locally, just roast some on your grill and cut it off the cob to add in.


         For a milder flavor, use a milder pepper than the jalapeno.  Or use a 4 ounce can of chopped green chiles.


         For a beanier soup, omit the chicken and substitute the chicken for some pinto beans.  I would switch to bone broth for more nutrition, too.


         In the summer, roasted red bell peppers are a great addition, too.


I’m sure there’s more, but I’ll have to add to it later.  Let me know if you make any fun substitutions!


This recipe was submitted to the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

Aiding the Digestion of Beans

I got some comments about asafoetida’s anti-flatulent properties, so I thought it would be useful to list other natural ways to increase the digestability of beans. 


First – and most important – is proper soaking.  We already know this, though, right?  I actually learned about this from my mom who does this every time she makes beans, and she probably learned it from my grandma who also did it.  I can’t say that my family is all about traditional food preparation, but this has always been a non-negotiable.  The quick soak isn’t, in my opinion, worthwhile, because a long soak (preferably 24 hours, at least 12) is gentler on the beans, preserves more nutrients, and gives the finished product the best texture.  In a pinch, I’d rather use canned beans (though not as economical and the lining of the can has BPA if they’re not Eden Organic brand).  I should probably get over this all-or-nothing mentality and just opt for the quick soak when it’s needed, though. J


In addition to asafoetida, there are other herbs that aid in the digestion of beans.  Some of the more common ones are savory, turmeric, and ginger.  Less common is epazote, which is used in southwestern cooking.  I’ve never used epazote, but my favorite vegetarian chef, Deborah Madison, is a big fan.  I finally found it at my local Whole Foods (after several months of searching!), but I haven’t had room in the food budget lately for a new herb.  Kombu (dried seaweed) is used as a digestive aid in Japanese cooking, but I’ve never tried that, either.  Perhaps with some adzuki beans, though?


Fermenting the beans with some vinegar, lemon juice, or whey also helps break down some of the gas-producing sugars.  Even better, letting them sprout will increase their nutrition while further breaking down the complex sugars.  Not all beans are


I’ve heard people say that the more often you eat beans, the more your body becomes accustomed to them, thus reducing any indigestion that may occur.  I’m not sure how true this is, though, because Husband eats all the bean meals that I eat and still has trouble digesting them.  I don’t always add herbs that will neutralize that effect, and I usually have no problems.  So I guess we’re all just different?



How do you improve the digestability of your beans?