Thursday, May 3, 2012

Two-Timing Beans!

Si SeƱor by Control Machete
I listen to latino hip hop music - it was introduced to my life when I started doing Zumba a few years ago. I'm a 50-something year old woman who has a groove inside that's been my constant companion since as long as I can remember.  I'm not saying that that translates into great dance moves or anything - all I can say is that I want to dance and I feel the need to dance - often.  Zumba was a great exercise choice for me.  But I don't need a Zumba class to get my moves on.  My kitchen has served as my dance floor for - oh - always!  I love a good beat - I can't resist a good beat!  I have to move to it!  The very first time I heard this song was in the movie theater watching the movie "Post Grad." (A very funny movie, BTW!)  This song came on in a scene and my reaction was instant and primal.  If you're wondering if I embarrassed my kids, I'll just let you know that they share this same inner "groove."  We all immediately started bopping around in our seats.  I have no idea what they're saying in this song and I hope it's nice - the translations I've seen just appear to be some sort of freeform poetry.  But I'm still in a Cinco de Mayo mode here and wanted to share my recipe for refried beans - that I don't "fry" with oil.  You can if you want, though.  I needed a song that was just as cool as these beans are and this one certainly is cool.  Since there's not much work involved you'll have plenty of time to do some dancing yourself!

I love the days I'm making refried beans for dinner.  The house smells soooo good!  But the best part, for me, is not what's at the end of the day but what's ready halfway through the day.  If I get the beans started at breakfast time, by the time lunch rolls around the liquid is flavorful and the beans are al dente - soft enough to easily chew but not soft enough to easily mash yet.

The lead photo to today's post is my lunch on beans day.  I ladle a couple of large scoops into a bowl, sprinkle in some salt and top it with finely chopped white onions and cilantro - much like what they put on your tacos at the taco trucks - and an avocado if I happen to have one on hand.  Oh this is good!  Really, really good!  I never served it this way to my family.  I'm not sure how they would have received it - but mostly I think I liked having this little secret meal all to myself.  Luckily, the family loved the beans and I happily made them for them - if only to have the beans at lunch!

This is a picture of the end-of-the-day product.  
I didn't lead with this photo because legumes just don't photograph well after they are smushed.  But believe me, they are very, very tasty!  

About 30 years ago a girl at my church had her Mexican mother-in-law come and teach a group of us how to make refried beans the "authentic" way.  I was NOT a big cook at the time but was geared up to learn how to make them for the first and foremost reason being that pinto beans were CHEAP!  And we were beyond POOR!  I needed a budget stretcher!  Certain that it was going to be this long and laborious cooking process I went armed with notebook and pencils to take meticulous notes.  

I clearly remember the evening because it was a revelation!  No notes were taken.  A simple handout sufficed.  Making refried beans is very, very, very easy!!!  It was something I could do!  Even with my limited abilities!  AND - the next biggest news, I could make them without fat - which means they could be a healthy addition to our diet.  I have made only one adjustment to the recipe over the years - that coming when I discovered my love of cumin. 

I'll use pictures to detail the simple process and include the recipe at the end of the post.
Let's get started!

It all starts the night before you're planning on making the beans.  This is probably the hardest part - remembering to get the beans to soak the night before.  Place the beans in a large bowl and cover well with water and let them soak overnight.  If by chance you do forget to soak overnight, you can put the beans in a pan and cover with plenty of water.  Bring to boil then reduce to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes.  Turn off heat and let sit for an hour.  Strain off the water then continue as follows.
In the morning, drain off the water and place beans in the crock pot.  Add fresh water and the chopped onion and spices.  
Stir well, cover with the lid, and turn on low.  Cook for 8 hours.
When ready to make refried beans, heat a large frying pan on the stove top.  If you want to use some oil, add it to the pan now so it can heat as well.  Ladle the beans from the crock pot into the frying pan, being sure to include some of the broth.
Mash the beans, leaving about a third whole.

At this point, cook the beans over low heat, simmering and stirring occasionally, until thickened - about 10 minutes.  If they get too dry, just add some of the liquid from the crock pot.  They are the right consistency when you can bring the spoon through and leave a trail that quickly closes.  Of course, it's personal preference as to which texture you prefer.  Just cook until you're happy with it!
Season to taste and use for burritos, tostadas, or as they are!

Refried Beans
makes about 8 servings
3 c. dry pinto beans
9 c. water
1 large onion, chopped
2 - 3 T. chili powder, your preference
1 1/2 T. garlic powder
Dash of cayenne, if desired
2 T. cumin
2 T. vegetable oil, if desired
Salt to taste


  1. You know, I love to cook but refried beans is one thing I haven't done yet. Perhaps because hubby used to have an allergy to beans. But now that he's on a medication and it helps with the allergy, I should go back to beans more often! I love them and this likes a good and super simple recipe! You've inspired me!

    1. Lisa, I'm sure you'll love them! And be sure and do the lunch idea for halfway through the cooking time. It really is so good! Now that the kids are gone I'm thinking about doing a batch, or half-batch, and not mashing them. Just cooking them halfway and saving them like that! Freeze them!