Friday, October 15, 2010

How-to: Soaking dry beans

TGIF!  Color me surprised that this week flew by at such a quick pace!  After last week's Tuesday through Thursday very abbreviated work schedule, I figured this week would be a dragger... especially with so many fun things for this weekend.  But, I've gotta say, having new and out of my comfort zone meals planned certainly gives me things to look forward to on weeknights.  Not to mention a fantastic Thursday night TV line-up.  Community and The Office were hilarious, as per usually, but 30 Rock LIVE?!  In my opinion, the crew, writers, and actors knocked it out of the park!  Did you watch?  If so, what did you think?

Anyway, like I was saying, having exciting meals planned definitely gets me excited.  I used to fear that I'd have last minute cravings and not be hungry for what I planned for that dinner, but that has yet to happen (crosses fingers, knocks on wood, etc.).  The cassoulet was certainly that dish this week, and I managed to make it even more budget-friendly...

Sure, buying cans of beans is convenient, and I definitely do it from time to time.  But buying dried beans and soaking them?  Sooooooo inexpensive!  One two pound bag of dried beans will cost you roughly what one 15-ounce can of soaked beans will.  And, figure in that the dried beans will expand to roughly double the weight and size and you've got a serious bargain on your hands.  I happened to have half a bag of dried navy beans left from when I made navy bean and ham soup last winter.  You read that correctly -- they practically keep forever!

Full disclosure -- I was once a dried bean hater simply.  I tried a few times to soak black beans for tacos or non-soup dishes, and I just couldn't seem to get the beans soft enough.  And then I read somewhere, I wish I could recall where exactly, about preparing dried beans in a slow cooker.  It sounded logical.  And easy.  Very hands-off.  I tried it and all I have to say is WOW!  I won't go as far as saying this discovery changed my life, but it will save me a few bucks for sure :)  Note: this method works with any dried bean.

How to soak and prepare dried beans in a slow cooker (Crock Pot)
1. Rinse beans in a colander, discarding any broken pieces.
2. Put beans in a large pot and fill with water, covering beans by at least 2 inches of liquid.
3. Allow to soak 8 hours or overnight.
4. Drain beans.
5. Put beans in bowl of slow cooker and cover with water by at least 2 inches.
6. Cook on low for 8 hours.
7. Drain and use immediately.  If not using immediately, can keep sealed in refrigerator for up to 4 days.  Also, they freeze well: bag one cup portions in a resealable plastic bag and freeze.  When needed, thaw in refrigerator a day before using.

In a completely unrelated to beans note (because honestly, how many things are related to beans?), this weekend is shaping up to be a blast!  Bar exam celebrations, hockey games galore (come onnnnnn Penguins!), brunch with visitors, and last but surely not least a glorious garden wedding of two dear friends :)  I feel like we've all been looking forward to this wedding for eons and it's finally here -- the ceremony is at Phipps, so hopefully I'll have some gorgeous pictures to share with you on Monday.  Have a glorious one, y'all!

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