Using beans: Pinto, black, red and more

Beans can be used in a variety of dishes, for countless meals as they are affordable, long-lasting and versatile.

Stretching food-dollars is important to everyone. A particular bargain is the purchase of a one-pound bag of dried beans. Beans are full of protein and nutrients and easy to prepare with a few steps.

Preparing beans

First, put the dried beans in a colander and rinse them under cool water. Sort the beans and thoroughly rinse to eliminate any dust or dirt that might be on them. Then, put the beans in a pot and add about two inches of water on top of the beans. Let them soak overnight (unless you’re using lentils, which do not need to soak) or all day while you’re at work. The next morning (or later in the evening), drain the beans, pouring out the water they soaked in. Add six cups of fresh water, place the pot over high heat and wait until the water begins boiling. Once the pot begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium-low so the water is reduced to a simmer. Generally you can determine the size of the bean as a rule of thumb for how long to cook, or you can taste them. When the boiling is almost complete, try a bean or two to see if you think they’re too hard. Drain the water when finished.

Storing beans

Storing beans is easy. Allow them to cool to room temperature and then put the beans in a covered container in your refrigerator. They will last this way up to four days. You can also freeze beans, but only for a short period. Store one-cup of beans in quart sealed containers. They will maintain solidity for about a month in the freezer, any longer and they may turn mushy when you thaw them.

Ways to use cooked beans:

Beans and rice: Cook rice, mix with beans then add vegetables (and/or meat).

Bean salad: Beans, a bit of olive oil, diced vegetables with a bit of lemon juice and vinegar.

Soups and chili: Cooked beans are a fundamental ingredient in any soup or chili.

Dips: Puree beans and add other ingredients to your liking, such as salsa or garlic (try pureeing the beans with chopped tomato, avocado, green onion, green pepper, cilantro, lime juice and cayenne pepper).

Side dishes: Mix beans and salsa, top with a cheese of your choice then bake until the cheese is melted for a very easy and tasty side for many meals.

Beans can be used in a variety of dishes for countless meals and are common in most pantries as they are affordable, long-lasting and versatile.

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