Slow Cooker Beans
Everyday I pack my husband's lunch. I do this for several reasons, but namely because of his food allergies, and it saves us tons of money. I also pack a lunch for Kyle's good friend Matt, who also has limitations in his diet due to severe food allergies. Kyle is allergic to soy and dairy mostly, but also bananas, avocados, and coconut. Matt, his friend, is allergic to dairy, pork, any and all nuts, some types of beans, some forms of chocolate, okra, and so many other random little things that I have seriously lost track.
You would think that packing a lunch that both of them could eat, that is also cost efficient would be a nightmare. It really isn't all that difficult, but it does require a little bit of work.
Today I would like to share with you my recipe for the main staple of Kyle and Matt's lunches, Slow Cooker Beans.
First off, if you want to be the most cost efficient, you need to buy dry beans. Can beans will work, and cut your cooking time down by more than half, but can beans will also end up costing you much more in the long run.
Here's the breakdown. At Kroger, I can get a 15 ounce can of pinto beans for 89 cents. I can get a 4 pound bag of dried pinto beans (equivalent to 64 ounces) for around $3.45. At Sam's Club, I can get a 10 pound bag of dried pinto beans (equivalent to 160 ounces) for around $7.40.
Let's look at the price per ounce:
Kroger can pinto beans: about 6 cents per ounce
Kroger 4 pound bag dry beans: about 5 cents per ounce
Sam's Club 10 pound bag dry beans: about 4 cents per ounce
Sam's Club obviously has the better deal. Buying your pinto beans at Sam's will cut your spending by almost half.
Back to the recipe.
To start out, measure two cups full of dry beans into a colander. You are going to need to rinse and sort the beans. I usually toss out anywhere between 10 and 15 beans that are black or otherwise discolored.
At the end of the 8 hour soaking period, your beans will look like this. The water they are in will be murky I think partially due to the pigment of their shells dissolving in the water, and additional dirt that you might not have fully washed off during the rinsing step.
For this reason I give the beans another good rinse. Just pour them into the colander again and run cool water over them. Now they are ready to cook.
Simply pour the beans into your slow cooker, cover with 8 cups of water, and set the cooker on high. I let my beans cook for 2 hours on high, and then 2 more hours on low.
Right before I go to bed, I prepare the beans to cook overnight. I siphon the bean broth off of the cooked beans with a spoon. Here is the crazy part. Get ready for it. I save the bean broth.
I put it in a Ziploc bag and tuck it in the freezer. I think that it will be a great starter for chili and soups this winter, and I will already have it on hand! You surely don't have to save the broth if you don't like; just dump it down the sink and rinse well.
Next, I add one can of Rotel, and one can of diced tomatoes. Do not drain them! The juices help to flavor the beans. I also add several different basic seasonings such as salt and pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and usually red pepper flakes. This week Kyle has asked me to discontinue the red pepper flakes. (Apparently I am making the beans to spicy!) I give the beans a stir, leave the slow cooker on low and get to bed.
When I wake up in the morning I have beautiful slow cooker beans!
All I have to do is transfer them into a large bowl with a snap on lid, slip them in the fridge, and we have a week's worth of lunch for Kyle and Matt. And it is safe for their food allergies, which makes it double yummy.
Every morning, I just plug in our rice cooker, and add fresh rice to the beans. Kyle says this lunch is much more filling than a turkey sandwich, and doesn't leave his stomach growling for a mid afternoon snack.
Not only is this a great recipe for lunches, but can you imagine this as a dinner meal! Just serve with corn cakes, or jalapeno corn bread. Mmmm.....