crock-pot pinto beans

We've always been a family on a tight budget. 

That's a super understatement.  We're on a tight budget now, but there were years a budget was something we could only dream of.  We got pretty good at eating on the cheap, and one of the things we ate over and over (and over and over and over) again were beans.  All kinds of beans, but mostly black beans and refried beans. 

Hey, we're from Tucson, which is practically Northern Mexico, so we really love our beans!  But, really, actually, we got so sick of them back then that Tyler still doesn't love them much now.  We only have them here and there and I still love 'em.  So do the kids!

One of the ways we made cheap beans even cheaper was to cook them ourselves from dried beans we buy in bulk.  The first few times I tried it out it was kind of a disaster.  They were dry or mealy or watery or bland.  Just not good.  Eventually I got it pretty well down, though.

So, you should know, how I do this is more of a method than a measured out recipe.  Crock pot sizes vary, different families need different amounts, all that nonsense...

Crock-Pot Pinto Beans

-  Pour rinsed dry pinto beans (or any dried bean, really) in the bottom of your crock pot, at the most filling it 1/3 full of beans, since your beans will swell and take up more volume over the cook time.  Cover the beans with water to twice or more the height of the dried beans.  Turn your crock pot on high if you can check it midday, or on low if you are leaving it.

-  Chop an onion, roughly or finely, it doesn't really matter.  Sometimes I just quarter it, chop off the root end, and toss it in.  The onion helps cut the gassiness of the beans, and of course adds some good flavor.   Also, add a crushed clove or two of garlic.  Not too much, though, because I think beans are one dish that can get too garlicky.

-  Add a couple of Tbsp. of fat.  I most often use olive oil, but I love using bacon fat if I have it on hand.  It's soooo worth it.  The fat is important to the final taste and feel of the beans, so I don't recommend leaving it out.  Plus, I'm a firm believer in fats - our bodies need them, our brains need them!

-  Toss in a bay leaf or two.  I feel like it helps fill out the flavor of the beans, so that's what I do.

-  Cook all day.  (the cook time depends on the age of the beans - the older the longer.  You can't really overdo it, though, as long as there's water in there.)

-  I check it in the afternoon sometime and see if I need to top it off with a bit of water to keep those softened beans submerged.  Just go ahead and fill it to the top.  

-  The beans are done when they are very soft, and creamy inside when smashed.  

At the end, I scoop out any extra bean water and save it in a bowl to the side in case I need to add it back in during blending so they aren't to thick.  Then I salt the beans very generously.  I often bag half or more of the beans in freezer bags at this point to save for later.  They thaw easily, and a large amount of beans in the fridge spoils quickly.

There are lots of ways you can use these crock pot beans.  Here are a few we like -

-  blend and season with chili powder, salt, a little garlic powder to taste, and use on tostadas, taco salad, or as a side topped with cheese.  Super good next to fajitas.

-  saute with diced onions and green chilis, seasoning to taste,  smashing beans with your spatula and adding water as you go.  Yummy in burritos or on top of rice.

- add chopped tomatoes, onions, seasoning to taste, browned meat of your choice, and you have a start for really great taco soup or chili or you can serve it with chips or on rice.

- blend, add chili powder, salt, garlic powder, cumin, some salsa, cream cheese, some sour cream, and some cheddar cheese, and stir in a pan until melted.  Dip chips in it and be super super happy and you are welcome.  My friend Sheila's mom makes this, and she knows how to make tummies happy.

1 comment:

Real said...

I've been thinking about your beans for months and working myself up to try them again. So I'm glad you posted how to do it. Maybe I'll give it a shot this weekend.