Cheap Eats: BEANS

I often get teased for my love of beans. That's right bean-haters, I LOVE beans! Healthy, tasty, and filling, the humble legume is one of my go to foods and if you're on a budget, a friendly-on-your-wallet meal. One can refry beans, make them into a dip, hummus or the filling for a taco, create a soup or puree, or even form them into patties for a healthy vegetarian burger. But this City Vegetable usually just sticks to the basics by making a big pot of well seasoned beans from scratch. Sure, I'll use canned beans in a pinch but that's not quite as rewarding (or delicious) as making your own. Gather 'round and I'll tell you my secrets...

Go to your local grocery store - preferably Pete's, and buy one large bag of dried beans. I usually go for black or pinto beans, but by all means, if you see a bag of pigeon peas, go wild! You can usually get 10-12 servings for around $3.00 - a super steal. Now that you've secured a bag of beans for only a few bucks, you can start infusing them with a flavor, all your own.

Mama's Beans
One large bag of dried beans
One large white onion
One large tomato
2-3 cloves of garlic
One stalk of celery
Olive Oil
Chicken or vegetable stock
Cumin, Red Pepper, Salt & Pepper
1 or 2 chipotle chilies, with a few teaspoons of adobo sauce, for an ever so slight smoky flavor (optional but recommended, you can get these canned at most grocery stores)
**secret ingredient***A few splashes of Italian dressing

FOR GARNISH(the more, the better):
One Avocado
Diced pickled jalapenos
Cotija or Chihuahua cheese
Tortilla crisps

1. Rinse and soak the beans overnight in a large pot of lightly salted water. If I forget to do this, I often soak my beans while I'm at work. It just helps them cook faster.
2. Drain beans, add to pot of vegetable (or chicken) stock and bring to a boil.
3. Add diced onion, tomato, celery and garlic. No need to precook - they will cook with the beans. If you're using the chipotle chilies, finely chop these as well and add to the pot.
4. Bring to a rolling boil and cook until the beans are soft. This takes some time.
5. Read a book or watch Access Hollywood.
6. Add your seasonings and continue to taste during the process. Adjust the liquid level depending on your preference. I usually like to leave a little liquid so that the beans are a bit soupy.
7. Add chopped fresh cilantro and a few tablespoons of Italian dressing to the pot.
8. Serve and garnish with any or all of the above listed accoutrements.
9. Ask your bean-hating friends to taste the dish and watch as they love it! Boo-ya!

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