Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Big Pot of Nourishing Black Beans

I often hear people complaining that health food stores are too expensive. I have never found this to be the case and I have a sneaky suspicion that these complainers are purchasing pre-packaged organic ready made specialty products, fancy cheese, and organic grass fed kobe beef when they visit said heath food stores.

I find health food stores to be quite comparable to regular grocery stores, if not a little more affordable, when I stick to the produce and bulk sections. To see if I was correct I did a little research while shopping for this recipe and my findings were quite interesting. A pound of local, organic black beans at the health food co-op costs $1.99. To purchase a pound of organic but not local black beans at the regular grocery store costs....$1.99. They also sell non-organic black beans at the regular grocery store for $1.83. And for those who think vegan food is more expensive than non-vegan food I checked the beef at the regular grocery store - 1 lb. of ground chuck was $3.98, 1 lb. of grass fed beef was $8.49, and 1 lb. organic grass fed beef was $9.49 (plus the beef comes with saturated fat and cholesterol). So I'd say the locally grown organic black beans at the health food store are a pretty good deal. I purchase all of my beans, lentils, whole grains and spices from the bulk section of health food stores and do not find it to be expensive at all.

To make this huge pot of black beans it cost me $2.00 for the beans (I already had the onion, salt, and herbs). We can get at least 30 tacos out of these beans using small corn tortillas or two huge baking dishes full of enchiladas using large flour tortillas (try doing that with a pound of beef!). So I say health food stores are not expensive, but organic junk food might be.

1 lb. dried black beans, sorted, rinsed and soaked for 6-8 hours
Filtered water
2 white onions, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. dried Mexican oregano or epasote (optional)

1) Measure out 1 lb. of black beans and spread them out on a light colored kitchen towel. Sort through the beans and remove any broken, discolored or malformed beans and foreign matter and discard.

2) Place the beans in a strainer and rinse thoroughly. Then transfer the beans to a glass or ceramic bowl and cover with about 2 inches of water and let them soak for 6-8 hours, adding more water if the beans start to expand above the level of the water.

3) After the beans have soaked, drain them through a strainer and rinse them. Place them in a large pot with the onions and bay leaves and cover with about 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and keep them uncovered.

4) As the beans cook keep stirring and adding more water as necessary to keep them submerged.  After about 2 hours of mostly inactive cooking time the beans will be almost soft. At this point add the salt and Mexican oregano and start to let the water evaporate and thicken.

5) As the water begins to boil off stir the beans frequently to avoid sticking and burning. Once the beans are completely soft and the sauce is to the thickness you want then they are done.

A few notes on cooking dried beans:
-It seems like it takes a long time, but most of the cooking time is inactive so really it's not a lot of work.
-You must make sure that the beans are completely soft. If you eat beans that are still a little hard they will continue to expand in your stomach and this will be very, very painful.
-Rinsing off the soaking water, using Epazote or Mexican oregano, and boiling with the lid off are all said to reduce the gassy effects of beans. But if you still experience gas maybe you can have a farting contest.

Some things you can do with these beans:
-Use them to make tacos, burritos or enchiladas.
-Make them a little saucier and mix them with cooked brown rice topped with a little salsa and guacamole.
-Use them in any recipe that calls for beans such as black bean burgers or vegan taco salad.

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