Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Anyone who has even dipped a toe into the waters of frugality  already knows that beans are among the frugalest food options out there.  They're super cheap, they're full of fiber so they fill you up and they're full of protein to give you energy.  But I have recently been stumped by the bean.

In my mind, you don't just eat beans on their own, you have to do something with them or put them in something, and I frequently got hung up on what that something you put them in is.  But then I realized that, as I often do, I was completely overthinking the bean because I was trying to look at it through the lens of frugality and not just as a delicious food item.

I made a kick-ass vegetarian chili when I was back in college, but haven't made that in years (not sure why--make a note of that...), and I come from a long line of Lutherans for whom the pot of baked beans is a constant at all holidays and family meals.  I used to actually eat garbanzo beans out of the can with a spoon, and love it.  What the hell changed? Why did I suddenly forget about my constant companion, the bean?

So  I've been making a conscious effort to change that.  To get back together with beans, or at least just be friends if not in an exclusive relationship.  To date: I've made my own hummus, I'm exploring the world of black beans, I made my own falafel, I frequently make awesome split pea soup and lentil loaf. Plus, I've finally gotten the hang of dried beans, which are significantly cheaper and lower in sodium (I sound like such a grownup!)

One of my favorite, and easiest way to eat beans is to just dump some pre-soaked black beans (or canned, rinsed black beans) in a bowl and season with this:

Spices!  The poor man's way to flavor!
I never would have tried this in the past because it's steak seasoning, and I do not eat steak.  However, I had dinner at a friend's house once and she sprinkled this little wonder liberally on some grilled zucchini (note, it's also great on grilled zucchini), and I was forever changed.  Sprinkle this on some black beans, and then just eat them with a spoon, I kid you not.  Plus, this stuff is super cheap, frequently on sale, and comes in a variety intended to be used with chicken, but that also goes well with not chicken.

If the thought of eating a bowl of beans for dinner makes you feel like a hobo, then just use them as an accent with rice or quinoa.  Or make this salad, or these spicy black bean cakes.

What I've discovered about dried beans, is that it takes forever to get them softened--unless you use a crock pot!  If you do not yet have a crock pot, start a smartypig savings account to get one post-haste!  I used to leave dried beans in tepid water on the counter for what felt like days.  Sometimes I'd jostle the container and get water everywhere, sometimes I'd get the brilliant idea that by adding a bit of vinegar, it would make the beans soften faster.  Then I read that that is exactly the opposite of what you want to do.

Either way, I'm good with my legumes now, and am super excited about experimenting.  Expect many more bean recipes to come as I traverse this new, and colorful land.


  1. I got a small crock-pot at Big Lots for $13 a few years ago. A very good buy for something that I don't use on a regular occasion.

  2. I'm glad I have such a positive life changing impact on your life :) And seriously, that stuff is good on just about anything (I sprinkled it on slices of fresh tomatoes last night).

  3. Oh-and just how do you do {that voodoo that you do..no wait, off topic}...how do you cook your beans in the crock pot? I'm never sure how long to leave them in for and at what temp...I have made black bean soup in the crock pot where it doesn't really matter how soft they get, but was looking for a non-soup time/temp to cook them.

  4. Last time, I put in a whole bag of black beans, six cups water, and put it on low for about 6 hours. When I did chickpeas, I started them soaking before bed, and drained them in the morning. I like my beans pretty soft, but usually after six hours on low, I'll taste test, and then leave them longer if needed.