Most of us eat too much salt and not enough fiber. A great way to add fiber and protein (without the cholesterol) to our diets is beans. But if you use canned beans for the convenience, you are adding too much salt to your diet. A way to get around all that salt is to cook your own beans from dried beans instead of opening a can. But they need to be soaked for hours, then cooked for another hour, and do you really want to end up with a large amount of cooked beans? Or do you want to spend all this time on a small amount of dried beans?
I find the best way to make dried, healthier beans, more convenient, is to cook them in a larger batch and freeze them in small batches. Once cooked and frozen, they can be added to soups and stews, made into bean burgers, chili, or roast them with other veggies. All the convenience, all the fiber and protein, none of the salt, and cheaper too. And you can get a wider variety of beans in the dried form. And if you are even more adventurous, you can grow some pretty interesting varieties in your garden for little or no effort except for the shelling of them in the fall once they have dried in their pods.
For some nutrition comparisons:
Dried Beans (per 1/2 cup cooked serving):
Fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 15 milligrams
Fiber: 14 grams
Carbohydrates: 22 grams
Canned Beans (per 1/2 cup cooked serving):
Everything is the same except the sodium: 440 mg. Even in the reduced sodium types, there is 220 mg. That is really a lot. Too much. And easily avoidable.
Another factor is the cost. While beans in any form are fairly cheap, even organic ones aren’t that much for the nutrition value that they contain. This bag of dried beans came from the dollar store. So 12 oz. dried pinto beans for $1. You can also get a 14 oz can of cooked beans for $1 at dollar store too. In a regular market, beans can range from $1.19 up to $1.79 or more. Still not much right, even if organic canned beans are $2, still good for the fiber and protein and the good carbs. But for dried beans, the result of cooking 12 oz of beans was at least twice that of their dried weight. So maybe 10-20 cents per serving? Not very scientific, but you get the idea.
I was a bit disappointed to see that this was a 12 oz bag and not a 16 oz bag, but still a good value.
Soak beans in a bowl of water–about twice as much water as beans. Leave on the counter and forget about them. Do this in the morning, or overnight. Anywhere from 4-6 hours or even 8-10 hours of soaking time is fine.
I’m not sure if you can tell from these pics, but in about 6 hours, they have doubled in size.
I drain them from here. In my mind all the fluffs are in the soaking water. So I drain that off and give them a rinse. Also not a scientific concept, but it couldn’t hurt.
Add to a pot with again, twice as much water as beans. I did not add any seasoning to the beans. If I had a specific purpose in mind for them, I might add a bay leaf, or chopped onions or garlic, but since I will use them for a bunch of things, I just left them plain.
It is worth noting, NEVER salt your beans until they are cooked. Salting seals the skins and they will take forever to cook. Literally forever. I have done this before when after 4 hours they are still hard nuggets.
These beans cooked for about an hour. Slow simmer on the stove. If you have a wood stove, you could put them on top and leave them for several hours to just blub blub away. No extra cooking fuel wasted if you do it that way.
They look (and smell) kind of swampy at this stage. I put them back into the colander for another rinse. If you were making soup right at this point, I would use the cooking liquid, but I am freezing these, so I drain and rinse them.
They are soft and tender but not overly mushy since they will get cooked again when I use them.
Into small containers for the freezer. I am the only one who will eat them, so I freeze them in small batches. These are 3 8 oz containers and 1 16 oz container. Not all the way full, but mostly.
Pop them into the freezer, then they become as convenient as a shelf full of cans. I have saved one container out to make something with tomorrow. Not sure what yet.
I hope this was helpful. I still have cans of beans on the shelf too, but I am working my way through them, and will try to only make my own. They are so much better for you. Depending on the type of bean, you could toss them into green salads, pasta salads, make rice and beans, bean burgers, bean dips, almost anything.