Cheap & Delicious Eats: Pinto Beans (yes, really)

Yesterday I found two big bags of pinto beans on sale for two bucks each. Not organic, which I would rather, but at that price - I won't complain. Here is how you make those cheap old pintos taste like a gourmet meal.

Don't be intimidated by the idea of preparing dry beans, it's so easy my seven year old can do it. It takes very little time, most of the time the beans are doing their own thing while you go about your business. The way I am going to show you, the beans come out so tender, creamy and mild that they are good all by themselves with a pat of real butter and a sprinkle of sea salt. I've never liked plain beans but after I learned to do it this way, I was really surprised how enjoyable they can be. I cook beans plain to store in the freezer, it makes chili or ham & bean soup or just simple beans & rice, a quick and easy meal to whip up on a busy night. The kids also like them as finger food to snack on during the day. Sort of like edamame, only cheaper, and much more digestable!

  • place beans in a large bowl, sort out any broken bits or pebbles. Rinse beans & add salted water to cover the beans by about an inch. (two teaspoons of water for each quart of water) Cover the bowl. Ignore them til the next day.
  • in the morning, pour off the water & refill the bowl. Repeat in the evening, this time don't add any more water but leave the wet beans in the covered bowl.
  • in the morning, place the beans in a colander and rinse them well. By this time they should be sprouting; you will see a little tail emerging if you look closely. Don't worry if the soak water doesn't smell that great, it will all get washed away in the final rinse.
place the beans in the cooking vessel. I prefer a dutch oven, or crock pot. Add water to just cover the beans. Heat on high til it just begins to simmer then reduce to the lowest heat. Because of the long soaking & sprouting, they will not take as long to cook. Do not stir them while they cook, if you want them to remain whole. Cooking time will vary but roughly an hour and a half should do the trick - test & remove from the heat as soon as the beans are tender.

I drain the cooked beans in a colander & let them cool then divide into portions and freeze.

Use this same technique on any other dry bean for the same creamy, tender results.

Three Non- TV Ways to Occupy Your Delightful Offspring

I'ts a rainy or subzero day. You just need fifteen minutes in the kitchen, on the computer, or if it's a really bad day, in the closet. But every time you step out of the room all heck breaks loose. Ok, here's a few ways to get fifteen minutes of less chaos. Not no chaos cuz that, my friend, is not possible.

#1 - Humongous Playdough
Some kids are happy with playdough anytime, but if your kids are bored with those little cans of dough, do something a little different. It will take a few minutes but provide about a year's worth of play. Make a playdough recipe and let them play with the entire thing in one big, squishy ball. I find that letting the younger ones sit at a highchair with the dough on the tray is helpful in controlling any mess. For older kids, I use a black lawn bag, unfolded onto the table. Spritz the table with water or run a very damp cloth over it before laying the bag down, and the bag won't slide off the table.

#2 - BubbleMania
Lay a large blanket or sheet out on the floor. Make a big sinkful of bubbles with dishsoap, and give the kids the biggest bowl you have, full of bubbles. Make sure they have plenty of spoons, cups, whisks etc. I have had great results with this for kids from ages 2 up to 7. If the kids are able, you might also let them blow bubbles with bubble solution in the blanket zone.

#3 Indoor "Pool"
Do you have one of those kids who will spend 45 minutes in the tub playing & never get a single hair wet? At 6:30 pm this is a highly stressful trait. Any other time, this is an ace up your sleeve. Use it to your advantage, then, and let your little one put on a swimsuit, take out a beach towel (or a whole bunch of beach towels, depending on your kid's play style) and fill the tub with toys. I leave the bathroom door open so I can monitor my seven year old while he's in there creating tidal waves & whirlpools. I learned when I left a squeegee in the tub once that he will scrub the walls and shower door as part of his play! (hey, it's worth a try) Assume there will be water flying, and lay out old towels so you don't have a mopping job afterward.