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Putting on a pot of beans

“If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer. If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!”
– Shel Silverstein

One of my favorite holiday gifts this year was a box full of dried beans, not the kind you get at the ol’ supermarket, but heirloom beans grown and dried with love and care from Rancho Gordo in Napa.  So since Christmas, beans have been on the menu quite a bit and it’s been a real joy renewing my love for a putting on a pot a beans.  They are a fantastic, nutrient-dense, protein-rich food worth exploring.  I also love that by making a pot from scratch, the ingredients can be controlled for allergy-safe cooking, and the best part of all – they are a really inexpensive way to feed your family.

I grew up on rice and beans and this duo is actually a staple diet throughout the world. Turns out, there’s good reason they go together so perfectly. The protein in beans is “incomplete” because it doesn’t provide one of the essential amino acids needed from food for building protein in the body. This is where grains come in to play. Grains lack a different amino acid, but provide the bean’s missing amino acid. So there is an actual special relationship between rice and beans in that their composition “completes” one another and does our body good.

A quick note about peanut and soy allergies and dried beans: Beans are legumes and are related to peas, soy beans, chickpeas and peanuts-  those with allergies to any legumes could also test positive to dried beans. If you are allergic to any legumes, please consult your allergist for proper testing and advice about whether dried beans are a safe food for you and your family.

Paleo and beans: The common paleo thinking on legumes is we should strictly avoid them because 1) they aren’t part of our ancestral diet, and 2) they contain toxic anti-nutrients like lectin and phytic acid. There is also people in the community like Chris Kresser who think that if you can tolerate them, they are find a couple times a week.  In other words – if they give you a stomach ache, maybe they aren’t for you right now– get your gut health together and try again in a few months.

So what’s the difference between beautiful heirloom, organic beans and regular dried beans? I’ve noticed a big difference in flavor, texture and cooking time – being better, creamier and faster. Supermarket beans could be dried and sitting on the shelf for up to several years before being used rendering them little rocks that take ages to cook, which in turn leaches out nutrients and flavor.

When cooking your beans, Rancho Gordo insists on cooking the beans with the soaking liquid, but most say  (including my mother) to toss that soaking liquid because of it’s gassy qualities.  The Rancho Gordo method assures us that keeping the soaking liquid makes no difference in the gassy department, and keeps more nutrients in the pot. Either way, I do highly encourage you to take the time to soak your beans because it cuts down on the cooking time and helps the beans retain more nutrients.  I also encourage the use of good quality, filtered water to wash, soak and cook your beans.  I soak my beans overnight and cook them up in the morning. Beyond just having the beans ready for any meal I want that day, there is nothing like waking up the family with the beautiful smell of a simmering pot of beans. Below is a few images from my latest bean adventures.


Here is my tried and true recipe for cooking up a pot of beans from scratch.

1/2 pound of dry beans = about 1 cup of dry beans which makes 3 cups of cooked beans, making more is easy, just double the recipe.  Cooked beans freeze nicely so keeping the extra isn’t a problem.

Spread out your beans and take out any debris or stones, then rinse and clean your beans thoroughly. Put your beans to soak in a glass or non leaching container with enough filtered water to cover by 2 inches. You may need to add more water as the beans take up the water.  Leave to soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. (In the image above I’m holding dry and soaked Christmas Lima beans.) Dump your soaking liquid and put your beans in a heavy bottomed pot with enough filtered water to cover your beans by 2 inches.  Here you can add any vegetables you want to flavor your beans (or not). For my recipe today, add:

2 cloves of garlic peeled and slightly crushed
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Give the mixture a good stir and set the heat to medium until it reaches boiling for a few minutes, skim off any scum, then lower to simmer and cover. You will have to adjust the heat to get it perfectly cooking as slow and low as possible, yet still bubbling. If the water level drops, you will need to add more water. I keep a kettle on the stove and turn it on to add hot water to the beans when needed. Depending on the age and size of the beans, they may be soft anywhere between 1 hour and several hours.  Once soft, then you can add your salt. Salt the beans sparingly and give the salt a little time to absorb into the beans before adding more.

And there you have it! A beautiful pot of beans to do with what you will:  Make chili or soup, burritos, toss onto a salad, make hummus or veggie burgers or anything else your heart desires.  Your beans will keep for up to five days in the refrigerator or six months in the freezer.

Hopefully this has inspired you to get out that pot and cook up some magic.

Until next time,  Lisa

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    February 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    That article did spur the craving for a pot of hot beans… I love the aroma on a cold day and I don’t care what anyone says… nothing beats a fresh pot of home made beans. I am on my way, keep them warm. Nana

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