Sunday, January 8, 2012

Easy Meals

One of the easiest meals I make is warm bean dip with tortilla chips. Serve fruit alongside and it works for lunch around here.

Other favorite easy meals:

  • Stir fried rice (eggs, peas, bacon or ham, and cooked rice,
          season with soy sauce in a wok)
  • Rotisserie chicken and Caesar salad--okay, not totally homemade, but it works!
  • Chicken nuggets and Ramen--yup, we eat this occasionally. I have made my own noodles with an automatic pasta machine (which I love--spelt or kamut anyone?) but we do have Ramen around, too.
  • Tuna sandwiches with pickle (bonus with tomato soup)
  • Cut-up veggies and dip (ranch or hummus), cheese and crackers--for the "snacky" days

Bean Dip:

1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 c. Refried beans (canned or homemade)
1 small can diced green chiles
OR 1/4-1/2 c. salsa
1 t.  each cumin powder, oregano and a pinch of chili powder
salt to taste
opt: cream cheese or cheddar cheese

Heat a small amount of oil in a saucepan. Saute onions over medium heat for a few minutes, then add the garlic. Stir often over low-medium heat so as to be sure the garlic cooks but doesn't burn. When the garlic and onions are translucent, add in the beans (2-4 c. depending on how many are eating), chilies or salsa, spices and cheese or cream cheese if that's your thing. Stir often so the bottom doesn't burn and it heats evenly. Salt to taste and serve with tortilla chips.

This is often served for lunch here--it only takes about 15 minutes to put together. It's an easy-peasy, sometimes cheesy, way to have a warm meal on a busy afternoon. The kids do like it without cheese, but sometimes I like it with cream cheese, just enough to get it creamy. This is a great meal to get lean protein into the kids and everyone likes to eat it, even the baby (something about dipping food with hands is magical). My kids choose this over bean quesadillas every time.

Curious about how to save $$$ and use some of your stored dried beans?

I used to soak my pinto beans overnight in the crock pot, drain the water in the morning, fill it with fresh water, an onion quartered and a few crushed garlic cloves, then cook on high until the beans were soft (about 4-5 hours). You could also make this with black beans, for a change. Save the liquid as it makes an excellent broth for a vegetable soup (freeze if needed). The beans can then be cooled and portioned in small containers to use as you need and frozen until needed. Easy as canned, almost, and very inexpensive.

Now that I have a stovetop pressure cooker (dubbed "the time machine for food" at our house), I can cook them in about 10-15 minutes after a night's soak. These are yummy and it's as easy to make twice as much as it is to make a single amount, so I can make a bunch and then freeze some in containers for later. When I am thinking about what to make to eat the next day, I just take a container out of my freezer and set it in the fridge to thaw. No biggie.

Homemade Refried Beans:

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, diced
salt and pepper to taste
optional:  1-2 t. each cumin, oregano, and chili powder to taste
cooked beans
oil of choice, like olive oil, about 2-4 T. I like reserved bacon drippings. :-)
some reserved liquid from cooking the beans OR chicken stock (or water)

Saute the onions and garlic in the oil of choice until translucent and fragrant. Add in whatever seasonings you like, stirring to mix well. Let sit on medium heat for a minute or two. Transfer this mixture to a good quality blender, then add in the cooked beans (however much fits in the blender), and about 1/4 c. of bean liquid or broth (adds great flavor) or water if that's all you have on hand is fine and some salt. Blend until smooth. Add in a little more liquid if too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

That's it! Surprised to see frying is not involved in "refried beans"?
Make bean and cheese burritos, top your nachos with them, or make a bean dip (our family's favorite).

Now, I will tell you, it won't have the same color and texture as most store bought refried beans. My husband says it reminds him of refried beans at an authentic Mexican restaurant, which I have to say I do prefer. You can make this to your taste and mix it with a little of a can of refried beans to get your family used to something new. I still have some cans on hand for "emergency" meals when you just need something fast. But the more I make this, and get the hang of it, the less I miss the convenience of just opening a can and plopping it in a pan. This doesn't take that long, it's healthy, tastes great!, and saves a lot of money over time.


  1. I'm always wondering what to do with my bean dried beans. Gone to have to try this.

  2. This looks like a good recipe. I just made pancakes with bean flour that I ground fresh. It actually was really good. It was a whole-wheat banana pancake, and I just substituted bean flour. So... grinding works well too :)


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