A few weeks ago I shared an article with some of my friends on the top 14 foods you should avoid. I felt pretty good, knowing that I already avoid almost all of them (I have a total weakness for bread, especially baguettes—gotta work on that!), but I continue to be frustrated with the terrible quality of food that is so commonly served in our country. It’s not that high quality food isn’t available; it is! I think the problem lies in two places (and probably more!)—first, high quality, organic foods can come with a hefty price tag that many people don’t see the value in (although I think paying more up front for food will avoid some even heftier medical bills down the road). Second, consumers aren’t well educated/the wool has been pulled over their eyes about the hidden dangers in common foods like strawberries with toxic amounts of pesticides and BPA liners in canned goods! It is pretty common these days for consumers to look for labels on water bottles, plastic dish ware, and baby products stating that the products are BPA free. But did you know that the lining of most canned goods contains high levels of the same substance we try to avoid in other products? BPAs are an endocrine disruptor and are thought to mimic estrogen in the body. They are linked to obesity, neurological health, higher risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes (read more here, or do a google search to find lots of information!). Do you really want to eat that?
And that is what brings me to dried beans.
I chatted with one of my friends about this article and she expressed frustration that it is hard to be on the lookout for so many hidden dangers in our foods. Especially for busy people, avoiding canned goods is especially challenging. It is so much easier to just pop open a can of beans and have dinner on the table quickly, than to spend time soaking and boiling dried beans. But with a little planning, you can skip all of those BPAs and have dinner on the table just about as quickly!
We gave up canned beans a few years ago (still looking for a good alternative to canned coconut milk). I make big batches of dried beans—we’re talking 2 or 3 pounds! I often cook them in the evening once I am home for the day, and tend to them during breaks from TV watching. I find that beans don’t really need to soak overnight—2 or 3 hours seem to be more than enough. After soaking, I boil the beans on high heat anywhere from an hour to three. depending on the bean, until they are perfectly al dente. I divide them into containers that are roughly the same size as a can of beans (about 1 ½ cups). Then I put them in the freezer until I need them. On the day they are needed, they are even easier than opening a can!
2 pounds dried beans
1 T salt
(Please excuse the less-than-stellar photos—I took these back in October and was apparently having an off day in photography world! I think you’ll get the idea though!)
Begin by rinsing your beans and doing a quick sort to make sure there are no rock fragments.
Place beans in a LARGE pot and add water—enough to cover beans by a few inches. Allow them to soak for a few hours. As the water is absorbed, you may need to top it off a bit. The longer the beans soak, the less time they have to boil; 2 or 3 hours is a good time to aim for.
Once the beans have soaked, drain the beans, rinse, and put them back in the pot. Refill the pot with 12 cups of water covering the beans by a few inches and bring the water to a boil. Continue to boil over high heat, refilling water when needed, until the beans are just al dente (you should be able to bite one easily but they won’t be quite done). Add salt and continue to boil until beans reach the consistency of canned beans; easy to bite but not mushy. Drain right away, and give a quick rinse.
Divide beans into containers about the same size as a can of beans for ease of use in recipes, about 1 ½ cups. Store in the freezer until ready to use.
On the day of use, either allow them to sit at room temperature for a few hours to thaw, or pop them in the microwave to defrost for a few minutes. Add to your favorite bean dishes—here are a few of mine!