Imagine this. You are in the grocery store and you need to buy some beans. In one hand, you hold a can of beans. In the other hand, you hold a bag of dried beans. Which one do you buy?
You probably consider a few things before you decide.
The first consideration may be convenience. The canned beans are ready to go. You can throw those in the microwave and have hot, cooked beans in just a couple of minutes. The dried beans will take much more time because you have to soak them for many hours and then cook them for another couple of hours. Do you have time for this? Do you know how to cook dried beans? Will you forget and then have to come up with a Plan B dinner?
The second consideration may be nutrition. Beans are a nutrition-packed food! If you cook dried beans, then in 1/2 cup of black beans you get 7 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 14 grams of fiber, and 10% daily value of iron with only 115 calories, 1/2 gram of fat, and no cholesterol or sodium! If you choose the canned beans, much of this stays the same; but you get more sodium. If you choose regular black beans, that 1/2 cup can have 500 milligrams of sodium and reduced sodium black beans can have 240 milligrams of sodium. Some canned products are also packaged in cans that have BPA.
Many people don’t consider cost because those other two things are more important. A 15 ounce can of beans gives you approximately 1 3/4 cups of beans for $1.00 to $3.00. A 16 ounce bag of dried beans contains 3 1/4 cups of dried beans which gives you about 9 cups of cooked beans for about $1.00 to $2.00. If you do the work of cooking dried beans, you get about five times a much for your money!
I used dried beans most of the time and save canned beans for when I don’t want to rely on myself to remember to cook dried beans the day before I need them or I decided on having beans for dinner on the day I grocery shop. I went in search of dried bean recipes that eliminated the need to cook the beans the day before. After reviewing a few recipes for cooking times and methods and a few trial runs, here is what I ended up with.
Crockpot Quinoa Chili
Makes 9 cups cooked chili
Prep time: 15 minutes, Cook time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Skill level: low
1 1/2 cups dried pinto beans
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 teaspoon or 2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups frozen corn
1 package (10 ounces) spinach
2 cups low-sodium salsa
1/2 large red onion, chopped
5 cups water
1/2 teaspoon each: Hot Shot (red/black pepper blend) and red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon of each ground spice: turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, and chipotle chile pepper
1. Layer all ingredients except spices in crockpot in order listed above.
2. Cook on high heat for one hour and then reduce to low heat for five hours. If home, stir occasionally making sure beans and quinoa stay covered by liquid.
3. Add spices and stir before serving.
Nutrition Information per 1-cup serving: 138 calories, 1 gram fat (0 saturated, 0 trans), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 225 milligrams sodium, 34 grams carbohydrate, 13 grams fiber, 8 grams protein.
Serving suggestion: Stir in plain Greek yogurt (not vegan!) to cool it down or top with chopped chipotle peppers and hot sauce to kick it up a notch! I added homemade cornbread muffins on the side (also not vegan) following this recipe and sliced tomatoes.