Beans In The Oven

Cooking Beans

There's something magical about a rich soup or stew bubbling away on the stove. With a slow simmer, flavors deepen and become complex. It harkens back to an image of a cauldron and the magic of a transformative fire. 

Somehow, the cauldron idea did not appeal when it came to cooking beans. It was labor intensive and beans ended up cooked irregularly, with lingering hard ones or entirely smashed ones.

When it came to beans, it seemed like using canned ones was the simplest choice. All the debate about soak or not to soak, salt or no salt, just how long to cook the beans and all the stirring for who-knows-how-many-hours left many of us less than enthused.

So, it was no surprise that over the years we gave up and took the path of least resistance... canned beans. 

Of course, it's not a failure if you use canned beans. Sometimes, it's just easier. It's better to have canned beans than none at all.

But, cans of beans are not terribly inspiring and consequently, we didn't often cook with beans even though we really liked them.

Dried Beans Versus Canned Beans

Dried beans come in a wide range of colors and sizes. Gigante beans, baby lima beans, red beans, black beans, and white Northern beans, just to name a few.

Buying dried beans is a pleasing process. All those bean pebbles feel nice in your hand. So many possibilities lie within little bits of goodness. They're easily transported and stored.

The price of dried beans is especially helpful. And, environmentally speaking, there are no tin cans or BPA to worry about. If you buy your beans in bulk, you don't even have plastic bags. 

Dried beans sang a siren call, but not really being sure what to do with them meant they remained on the store shelf.

Then, we found out about using a Dutch oven to cook our beans.

Dutch Oven To The Rescue

Looking on the internet, there were several articles about baking beans in the oven in a Dutch oven. Dutch ovens function both as a pot on the stove top as well as in the oven.

Dutch oven is a misnomer, in that two well-known brands, Le Creuset and Staub, are made in France. Lodge is another brand of Dutch oven made in China. Dutch oven refers to a cast iron pot with a tight-fitting, oven-proof lid and often with a ceramic interior finish.

What Is a Dutch Oven?

A Dutch oven is any large, heavy pot that is suitable for stovetop or oven use. So your deep 7-quart stock pot could be a Dutch oven, as long as it has an oven-safe lid and can go straight to the oven from the stove.

But when talking about Dutch ovens, most people really mean the extra-heavy cast iron, enameled pots typified by Le Creuset and Staub. These hard-working pots are ideal for slow-simmered soups and braises, as well as other favorite hearty meals.
— Kelli Foster
 

The idea of using a Dutch oven to cook dried beans was intriguing. The gentle, unhurried simmer that takes place in the oven is particularly pleasing.

The beans remain intact because they don't have constant stirring to break them down. There is no scorching on the bottom of the pan. It's very hands-off. The beans do their job of cooking while you do other things around the house. There's no need to stir during their bake time.

Canned garbanzos tend to be hard and roll all over the plate. Sometimes, there seems to be a slight bitterness to the flavor. Not so with the garbanzos we cooked in the oven. In fact, the broth is delicious – worthy of sipping all on its own.

Home cooked means you're in charge of their cooking time. We cooked our garbanzo beans until they were somewhat soft. The garbanzos had tender skins that melted into the buttery flesh of the beans. They even had a sweetness to them.

How To Cook Your Beans In The Oven 

Any dried beans can be cooked in a Dutch oven.

Here are instructions to prepare half a package of beans which is usually 8 ounces.

First, rinse them in cold water to take any dust off of them. Place them into a large bowl, sprinkle 1.5 Tablespoons of kosher salt on them. Cover with 8 cups of water. Let sit over night, from 12 to 18 hours. 

Drain and give the beans a brief rinse in cold water. Place beans in a 4 quart Dutch oven. Sprinkle 1.5 teaspoons of kosher salt over them. Add 6 cups of water. Cover with lid.

Place in a 300º Fahrenheit oven and bake for 1.5 hours to 2 hours depending on how soft you want your beans. Don't stir, just let them cook. 

Check them for doneness and if you think they need more time, you can put them back in the oven and check every 15 minutes until desired softness.

Below: white Navy beans cooked in a Dutch oven. No stirring required.

If you want to double the recipe, using the whole package of beans, use a bigger Dutch oven.

Use your cooked beans right away, or once the beans are cooled, place them in containers and store in the refrigerator. If you've cooked a whole package and find you have too many to consume right away, they freeze beautifully. They're easy to thaw in the refrigerator.

Add beans to soups or salads as desired. Be sure to keep some of the broth, it adds a lot of flavor. 

Students Of TRT®

For those who have studied The Radiance Technique® (TRT®), you can enhance the life-force energy in your food by holding it in your radiant hands for a few minutes. This applies to your dried beans too.

You can also place your hands about an inch above your food to help you connect to it consciously. For students of The Second Degree of TRT®, you can direct radiant energy to what you are about to eat. Your food is meant to nourish you and directing universal energy helps to lift that connection.

Garbanzos Transformed Into Hummus

Oven-baked garbanzos can be used to make homemade hummus, like in this photo. The recipe is from Bon Appétit: Classic Chickpea Hummus.

The recipe calls for a can of garbanzo beans, but you can substitute your own oven-cooked beans. Two cups of cooked beans equal one can.

The next time you see some dried beans, take some home and pull out your Dutch oven to prepare them.

Deliciousness awaits you.

 

Back To School With Crunchy Granola

 

Time For Back To School

The dog days of summer are slipping behind us, but the cooler days of autumn have yet to return. Hot summer days linger in every corner, air conditioners hum at full force. 

We tumble down the slippery slopes of summer into fall as we prepare for back to school. We're anxious to wear our new fall clothes, but it's still too hot for wool plaid skirts and saddle shoes.

Time to organize our books, bags and school lunches.

The office supply store beckons. The thrill of the search for pencils, pens and notebooks calls to us.

Surely we need  another notebook. Especially a pretty one like this. Maybe this one over here is more functional. Oooh, look at this pretty paper.

La Rentrée

In France, it's called la Rentrée, (the return, beginning of the school year). The French return home from their August month of vacation and re-enter their work-a-day lives. Children head back to school.

Paris is notoriously empty during August as everyone skedaddles to their favorite vacation spot. I like the expression, la Rentrée, because it embraces everyone getting back into the saddle of work, school, and daily life.

Back to school in the U.S. specifically targets students starting school again, but in truth, we're all caught up in it as we buckle down to another work year.

Getting to work takes longer as traffic increases with children shuttled to school. Waiting behind the school bus, we dream of the summer vacations that are behind us.

Organizing Meals For Back To School

Wholesome, homemade food sustains us in our busy endeavors. King Arthur Flour offers a wonderful recipe for Crunchy Granola. Sweetened with maple syrup, it makes a tasty, healthy breakfast with yogurt and fruit. It's also a mid-day treat, just as it is, for snacking. Pack some in a small container to add to a lunch box.

I'd been meaning to make my own granola for awhile. I can report without hesitation that this recipe is delicious.

Here's a photo of my granola on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper, ready for the oven. If you're making the full recipe, you'll need two half sheet pans. A full recipe makes approximately 18 cups.

Oven temperature is set for 250º F (120º C). The low heat and slow cook seal in the flavors and help protect it from burning. I cooked mine a bit longer than the 90 minutes to ensure the granola was crunchy.

Bring Light To Your Food

Students of The Radiance Technique® (TRT®) can use their TRT® hands-on with their cooking and preparation of food. Hold the nuts in your radiant hands prior to chopping to expand the life sustaining energy that is inherently in them. Raisins or wheat germ can be held on the outside of the bag, the radiant energy is not stopped by the covering. 

If you have studied to The Second Degree of TRT®, you can pattern symbols as you have been taught over the granola before you bake it, afterwards, and when you eat it. 

Homemade Granola For Back To School

The freshness of the granola was delightful. Made at home, you can't get any fresher than that. It's easy to gather all the ingredients and what's left over can be saved in the refrigerator or freezer (such as nuts, wheat germ) for future batches.

I added currants to this batch of granola. The tiny bites of sweetness tuck in nicely with the crunchy nuts. I also chopped up some white raisins to help them blend in. The real maple syrup is a splurge that's well worth it. 

I stuck with the sliced almonds, as suggested, because larger almonds could be too crunchy. Since I had walnuts on hand, they were also chopped up with the pecans.

 
Chaque rentrée, c’est la même chose. On a, à la fois, trop peur et trop hâte de se retrouver.
— from the movie, LOL
 
 
For each return back to school, it’s the same thing. We are, simultaneously, too scared and too eager to see each other again.
— translation
 

Enjoy your homemade granola. Here's to a new cycle of healing as we head back to school.