Recently while listening to a food podcast I learned that canned foods can leach bisphenol A (BPA) into the food, and can result in health concerns for people---EWW!
I hardly purchase any food from the grocery store, but canned refried beans, pinto beans and black beans are regular staples, mostly because they are quick and easy to use.
It is actually less expensive and healthier to just prepare your own dried beans, so that's what I've started doing.
A few tips on preparing dried beans:
-Always soak the beans 8-24 hours and then drain and rinse them before cooking. Dried beans release toxins and sugars into the water as they soak and to avoid gas and stomach cramps it is best to drain and rinse the beans and then cook them in fresh water.
-You'll want to cook 1 lb (2 cups) of beans in at least 6 cups of water, or more. The beans should remain covered in water at all times during cooking. The more water, the faster they'll cook.
-Bring the beans to a boil for 3 minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, or until soft.
-Beans can be cooked in a slow cooker after soaking. Many recipes call for cooking on low for 8-10 hours. I tried this and they seemed pretty tough after 12 hours on low, so I turned up the heat to medium for about 8 hours and then back to low for another 4 hours, so they cooked in the slow cooker a total of 24 hours after soaking for 24 hours. You can speed this up by soaking the beans overnight then turning the slow cooker on medium in the morning and checking it after about 6 hours. As long as you have enough water, you can safely leave the beans on medium all day while you are at work.
Here's my recipe for homemade refried beans, which are great made into Quesadillas with cheese and homemade tortillas (recipe follows):
Homemade Refried Beans
1 lb (2 cups) dried pinto or black beans soaked overnight and drained
6-12 cups water for cooking beans
2 Tbsp butter, oil, bacon fat, etc for cooking with the beans
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onion
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3-6 serrano peppers (optional)
3 habanero peppers (optional)
2-3 Tbsp freshly ground cumin
1 diced green pepper
zest and juice of 2 limes
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
In a large sauce or saute pan heat olive oil and then saute onion, garlic and hot peppers with cumin and 1/2 tsp salt until the onions are translucent. Add green pepper and cook covered for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the vegetables are sauteeing, mash the beans with a potato masher, and/or run though the food processor to produce the desired consistency. I like my refried beans smooth so I mashed them first, then ran them through the processor with the lime zest and juice.
Add beans, lime zest and juice, remaining salt and pepper and stir thoroughly. Keep beans covered in warm oven until ready to use, or refrigerate for later use.
Homemade Flour Tortillas: Super just with butter, but great as quesadillas too!
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp lard, vegetable oil or bacon fat
3/4 cup hot water
Sift dry ingredients together, then mix in fat and gradually add water, 2-3 Tbsp at a time, mixing dough between. On a lightly floured surface knead dough for about 8 minutes, until dough is a smooth consistency. Place dough in a covered dough and let rest in a warm place for 20 minutes. Cut dough into 8 pieces and shape into balls, then cover with a damp cloth and let rest 10 minutes before rolling out into 6-8 inch rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Cook over medium heat in a cast iron skillet if possible for 30 minutes on each side. Store cooked tortillas in a covered pan in a warm oven (170-190°) until ready to use.
For Quesadillas: Spread one tortilla with refried beans and top with your favoite cheese and cover with another tortilla. Cook over medium heat in a cast iron pan for 2-3 minutes per side. Serve with sour cream, salsa and jalapeno peppers.
Left over tortillas can be refrigerated or frozen for later use.