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At my house red beans is an all encompassing term for any red bean (I know, obvious). These could be the large red kidney beans or smaller red beans. I tend to alternate on which I purchase. I’ve also found that other than size there is not a huge amount of difference in the beans. The flavor is very similar and the dishes created out of the beans do not have a noticeable difference.
However, I do prepare the two beans slightly different. Because of the possibility of toxicity in kidney beans I perform an extra step when preparing kidney beans. Both type of beans are soaked in water overnight. The next morning the water is poured off. Here is where things change; for the kidney beans I put them on the stove top in fresh water and bring to a boil. I let them boil ten minutes, pour the water off and then put in the crock pot. Fresh water or broth (or half water, half broth) is added to the crock pot and they cook all day until soft. For the small red beans I eliminate the stove top boiling step and immediately put in the crock pot. Some people do not feel the need to do the boiling step but as many beans as we eat I choose to error on the side of caution. Use your best judgement.
I usually start with five cups of dry beans when making red beans. This ends up being at least three Stretchy Bean dishes. I find red beans to be quite versatile and a wonderful start to many dishes. I do have to admit that we don’t really enjoy red beans as a freestanding item as much as part of a dish. With something like pinto beans we’ll often just cook up a pot and the first night the beans will be served seasoned over rice. Red beans don’t go over very well when served that way at my house. We do have several red bean dishes we love. I usually buy my red beans through Azure Standard. This year I ordered small red beans. The tag on them said they were Merlot beans. The red color is beautiful and very much like a glass of wine! Of course, after soaking they are not nearly as red but still quite lovely.
Red Beans: Rajma Style is a wonderfully delicious and spicy dish. The picture above is of Rajma (notice the pepper on top? That is a hint indicating the spiciness of the meal). One of my girls gets very excited when I make these beans.
Jamaican Red Beans and Rice is inspired by Nourishing Traditions (by Sally Fallon) recipe for Beans and Rice, Jamaican Style. I’ve changed the preparation of the dish to accommodate for our Stretchy Bean methods. The mildly spiced beans and rice are finished in coconut milk. Delicious!
Beef and Bean Enchilada Casserole is another favorite. The enchilada sauce is absolutely spectacular!
BBQ Style Beans was a simple dish and a huge hit. My 17 year old girl especially liked it since she loves anything BBQ. I really liked how quick and easy it went together.
Southwestern Haystacks are another super easy dish. This one screams comfort food to me. Brown rice elbows (pasta) make a fine base for a hamburger helper style dish. One half pound of hamburger (save the other half for chili or cowboy soup), 1 1/2 cups cooked red beans, diced tomatoes, (organic) corn, garlic, salt and pepper are all cooked together, served over the pasta and then topped with sour cream and shredded cheese.
The soup we call Cowboy Soup is just a simple mixture of hamburger (one half pound), diced onion, diced tomatoes, broth, tomato sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, and perhaps leftover vegetables. It isn’t a dish that needs to simmer so can be ready in no time. I brown the hamburger and onions together, season the beef then add the rest of the ingredients and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings and serve. Quick and easy.
I love making simple Chili from red beans (also pinto or black beans). Hamburger (one half pound) and diced onion are cooked together. I add chili powder, cumin, a dash of cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper and stir well. Then the beans plus juice go in along with diced tomatoes. Everything is allowed to cook together for several hours (hopefully, if I started the meal on time). My husband loves coming home to the smell of a pot of chili cooking. This dish is usually served on the last night of our Stretchy Beans so all of the juice and remaining beans go in.
Another great dish that these red beans can be used in is Super Flexible Burritos.
What are your favorite recipes using red beans? Please share!