Matt92 wrote:I've never cooked dry beans before but it sounds like I need to learn!
Yes, you do!
I'm on a very limited food budget, too (I live on a very small disability pension) and dried beans have been a lifesaver for me.
I typically set aside a "full day" (it doesn't really come out to that...more in a minute) and then cook up a full bag of kidney beans, white beans, and garbanzo beans. When they're all nice and done (nobody likes "rocks" .... hard centers....in their beans), I put them in small pint-sized freezer Zip-Lock baggies and then put them in the freezer. It doesn't take long for that small an amount to thaw if I need them thawed. (Like garbanzo beans in a salad.) Although if you're adding them to something else cooked (like a soup, etc.), just dump them in frozen.
If you're going to do this, you will need a LARGE pot with a good lid and a large colander. I say I "set aside a full day" because I only have one pot big enough. So I do this whole thing three times in one day. If you have more than one pot big enough, you can do more than one at a time. And it's not like you have to stay in the kitchen the whole time. Most of the time you can be off doing other things. As long as you remember to go out and stir the beans occasionally while you're cooking (not soaking) them.
1) Pick through the beans. Most beans are pretty "clean" but on the rare
occasion a small pebble the size of a bean gets through the cleaning process. Your dentist would probably love it if you bit down on one of those. (That would probably make a full boat payment for him.) But your budget probably wouldn't be happy.
2) Put the dried beans in your big pot. Fill the pot up with hot water to about an inch from the top. Put the lid on the pot, put it on a burner on the stove on "High" and let the water come up to a vigorous boil. (Check every so often because, if you don't, when the water comes to the boil, it will lift the lid off and make a complete mess all over your stove. When the water gets close to boiling, leave the lid off.)
3) Once the water has come to a full boil, turn the burner off, put the lid back on the pot, and go do something else for about an hour or two.
4) When you get back to the beans, drain the water off, put the beans back in the pot with fresh water, put the pot back on the stove (lid on) and bring the water up to a simmer (just barely
boiling). The reason you change the water is because a lot of the stuff in beans that makes you "gassy" will come out in the soak water. If you change the water you'll have less of a "social problem" when you eat the results.
5) When you happen to think of it, go out to the kitchen and give the beans a gentle stir. Add additional water if needed. Keep simmering the beans until they are soft all the way through. How long depends on the kind of beans. Figure at least an hour (except for lentils), and then eat a bean every time you go out to stir them. You'll know when they're done.
6) Drain the beans again and put the results into freezer containers.
A few tips:
*Don't add salt to your beans (if you want to add salt at all) until after they're done cooking. Adding salt before then will make them take a lot longer to get fully done.
* You can keep the cooking water (not the soaking water, but the cooking
water) and use it to make soup.
* If you have any onion skins in your vegetable drawer in your fridge, toss those into the cooking water with white beans. It will flavor the beans a bit, and will add a wonderful golden color to the resulting "stock" if you plan to use it to make soup. Just be sure to take the skins out when you drain the beans before putting them in freezer containers.
*I don't normally put any kind of seasoning (other than the aforementioned onion skins) in my beans while I cook them, because I'm never sure exactly how I'm going to prepare them once they're cooked and frozen.
*For a change of pace from just eating beans, the "Supercharged" book has a recipe for "Red Bean Cakes" on the bottom of Page 230. They're yummy. And then for added variety, try putting a bit of salmon (canned, or fresh cooked, whatever) in the mix before you fry them.
*Take that one step further and use white beans to make your bean cakes. A bit of canned tuna in the white bean cakes tastes pretty yummy, too.
*In fact, you can use any cooked fish, flaked, as an addition to bean cakes.
*Wetting your fingers in water before forming the bean cakes will keep them from sticking to your hands as you try to make patties out of them.
*If you're having trouble getting your beans to hold together when adding salmon, tuna, or other flaked fish to your patties, try adding an egg-white to the mix to help "bind" them.