The Busy Crock Pot: Old Fashion Beans & Rice

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In the early 20th century when someone ate a lot of fancy cuts of meat it meant one was eating "high off the hog". Eating high off the hog was a sign you were wealthy, or affluent in society.  Or it could mean you were being stupid. Stupid for spending too much hard to come by earnings on highfalutin meals instead of being frugal. Jobs, cash and prime meat were all scarce at the time, leaving most families living on beans and rice, and rice and beans. Dried lentils were relatively cheap, high in nutrients, and easily stretched across the table ladled over a thin slice of cornbread.  This staple meal fed the largest of America's hungry families throughout The Great Depression years of our country.  Thankfully, times did take a change for the better and we recovered from the bank failures and job and farm losses, leading to more profitable family structures.  Once jobs became more plentiful, prime rib, lamb chops and imported exotic foods hit our tables.  Thus, from about the 1950's, eating in this country has increasingly become more expensive as the quality of our meals have become not so quality at all.   Because of a whole gamut of reasons we have settled when it comes to what we eat. I hope I don't offend you for stating the obvious, but the Average Joe's in our society (that's me and those like me) have found themselves living a bit too high off the convenience hog.  And we are now paying for that stupidity with increasing health issues like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and yep, just as I figured, now medical research is linking Alzheimer's Disease to high levels of toxic chemicals found in most processed foods.  

Ok, maybe beans and rice are not high off the hog living.  And true,  they are not glam when it comes to having the boss over for dinner.  Yeah, for social dinners you may want to skip the dried beans, and grab Martha's latest magazine for inspiration. (AH! I love the Martha Stewart Living rag.)  But come on... one day per week or so, we can flip out the ole crock pot, and throw in some dried beans. Hey, with the extra twenty spot we save from not doing drive-thru we can buy more canning or gardening supplies! I just love being hipster, Y'all! *wink

Hey, if you want to take me up on a challenge of having dried beans and rice for a family meal every once in a while but not quite sure how to cook those pretty little legumes that are hard as BB's®...

Here's How:
 Busy up your crock pot with 2 CUPS dried beans to make about 6 cups cooked:

  • The beans need to be picked through a bit to remove any beans that may have a bad spot. It's not a science, just glance through them and pick out anything that doesn't look tasty.  Swish under water to rinse the dust off. 
  • Toss the sorted and washed beans into a pot of water and bring to a boil. Boil for only 2 minutes. This just softens the skins on the beans to prepare them for the cook. 
  • After the quick two minute boil pour off the boiling water and rinse beans under cold water.

Toss the now cold beans into a crock pot. Add cold water. In my regular sized crock pot, 2" of water above the beans is usually plenty.  I just eyeball the water, but if measuring makes you feel better, it is about 6-7 cups of cold water.  Turn crock pot on lowest setting and let cook for about 3-4 hours. Or until tender, which in some crocks is longer. 

Add salt as beans are getting tender, toward the end of the cook. At this time, you can also throw in some onions, garlic, and meat if you want to get fancy and live a little higher off the hog, but not necessary for the beans to be yummy. 

After the beans are soft but not mushy, boil up some plain white or brown rich. Pour cooked beans and a spoon full or two of bean juice over the rice, pepper it up a bit, and have yourself a good old fashion nutritious and frugal meal!  I do flip in some onions and bacon from time to time, and sometimes make a skillet of cornbread to go with it, but usually I don't and save the saturated fat and cholesterol from making it to my already quite puny brain cells. 

If you do not currently cook dried beans, please let me be the first to encourage you to do so.  It truly is a very easy meal to prepare as it only takes a few moments on the front end, and then you just walk away and let the crock pot do your job for you. But because crock pots vary in temperature settings, be a bit watchful the first time or two you cook dried beans to make sure you do not over cook them.  


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