One of the most important ingredients in chili is beans. You can’t have a good bowl of chili without those hearty and delicious beans.
An economical and healthy option is to use dried beans.
I know that a lot of people are afraid to use dried beans. They think that the process is too complicated and time-consuming.
While I will admit that it does take hours to get the beans to the perfect softness, it is one of the simplest thing you can make. So simple that you can do it while you are sleeping!
1 pound bag beans (will yield about 4-5 cups of cooked beans)
Big Mixing Bowl
1. The first thing you need to do is dump the beans into a big bowl. Fill the bowl the rest of the way with water.
I suggest letting this sit on the counter for a few hours. Usually what I do is get it started after dinner and leave it be on the counter until I am getting ready for bed.
After letting the beans sit for a few hours you will notice that they have plumped up quite a bit. A few beans will have risen to the top. You will want to skim off any beans that look gross and watch out for any rocks that might be in the batch. Pour the beans into a colander to drain them of the water.
In my picture you can see two different kinds of beans. These beans are waiting to be turned into chili. But it is the same process for pinto beans to be turned into re-fried beans, or any recipe in which you want to substitute dried beans for the canned variety.
2. Pour all the beans into the crock pot.
3. Fill crock pot with water.
You want to make sure to fill the crock pot to about 3/4 of the way full. It is important to make sure that there is plenty of liquid in the crock pot. Don’t worry about there being too much because you will end up getting rid of the water at the end of the process.
4. Plug in the crock pot, cover with lid, and set on low.
5. Let it cook overnight, and don’t think about it until the morning.
6. Pour beans into the colander to drain of liquid and use in recipe as normal.
If you are making re-fried beans or another form of beans that does not need to cook for hours you can let the beans soak overnight and cook all day. Then they will be ready to prepare for dinner. If you are using them for a recipe, like chili, it is helpful to cook the beans overnight so that you can prepare the recipe in the morning and allow it to cook all day.
I will share my chili recipe (an adaptation of my wonderful friend Nenna’s recipe) soon, but here is how I take this recipe and turn it into “re-fried” beans. (I put it in quotes because I generally do not do any real frying.)
1. The easiest way I have found is to use a blender. I do not own a food processor, but it may be simpler. If you have one, give it a try.
Start with a small amount of beans. You do not want to overload the blender. (I accidentally killed a blender by putting too many beans in at one time.) Generally I do about a cup of beans at a time.
Add a small amount of milk. Blend. You are trying to get a mushy consistency.
2. Transfer the beans into a large sauce pan.
3. Continue blending until all the beans have reached the mushy consistency. Over time you will figure out exactly what consistency you like.
4. Spray a small skillet with oil and heat some garlic and onions. The amount that you use is completely up to you. I change the amount from time to time. But as a general rule, for one pound of beans (which is around 4-5 cups cooked) I would us a large onion and 5-6 garlic cloves, minced.
5. Add garlic and onions to the pot of beans.
6. I then add cheese and salsa to the beans. I also like to add pepper, cumin, chili pepper, paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder. (I do not use salt as it is unnecessary and adds to high blood pressure problems common in our society, but if you must use salt, feel free to do so.) This is all to taste, and all seasonings can easily be omitted.
7. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the cheese is all melted.
Because your beans are probably still hot from being in the crock pot, it won’t take long to get the cheese melted and to blend the flavors.
If you are making this into more of a dip, I would suggest adding more milk when you are blending the beans. If it is to go on your burritos, I would use less. Just make sure that you use enough liquid to keep your blender happy.