We've always eaten a lot of beans but, unless they are going in soup, I usually use canned. My reasoning for this was that we like to eat a variety of beans and so the cans are more convenient. Like everyone else though, I've been trying to cut back on my expenses and so I decided to try dried beans again. I measured this week and a one pound bag of black beans gave me the equivalent of 4 cans but cost the same as only 1 1/2 cans. The extra bonus was that we now remember that we actually prefer the taste of beans that we cook ourselves!
The way that I combated my own argument that we need a wide variety of beans on hand at all times was to go through my recipes. For the past month, every week I've picked one kind of bean. I then found 4-5 meals or snacks using that bean. For example, last week I made chickpeas. We had patties, falafel, chickpea salad, and roasted chickpeas. I also planned to make a pasta and rice dish with chickpeas but we ran out! There is such a variety of things you can do with beans, you don't have to worry about feeling like you are eating the same thing every night. Not once did Bill or Kay say "Chickpeas again?!".
My other argument was always the time involved which is really ridiculous because, seriously, I'm not that busy! It's almost no hands-on work. Here's what I do:
Soak one pound beans in a large bowl with about 6 -8 cups of water. You need a large bowl. It is amazing how much they swell. Leave on the counter overnight.
When you wake up, drain the beans. Place the beans in a stock pot with 6-8 cups fresh water and one strip of kombu* or 2 bay leaves. Bring the beans to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer one hour. Test for doneness. You should be able to easily crush it with the back of the spoon but you don't want them to be mushy because you'll more than likely be cooking them again in whatever recipe you choose. Drain the beans, remove the kombu or bay leaves, and leave to cool. Once cool, place in a large ziploc in the refrigerator.
(Here's what a smashed bean looks like.)
You can also freeze them. I've done this in the past with good luck. Lately I haven't had any left over to freeze.
I don't salt my beans. I'd rather add salt if needed, when I'm adding them to a recipe. If you insist on salting the beans while cooking, don't add it until the last 20 minutes or so. But really, don't add salt - it isn't good for you!
*Kombu is supposed to make the beans easier to digest. It also seems to help them cook up more evenly. I ordered a ton of it through amazon.com but I've also seen it at our health food store.
Kay: Kidney and garbanzo beans are my favorites. I like kidney beans whole in recipes but I like garbanzo's mashed up like in chickpea patties.
Mom (Dana): Really - it only takes one hour in the morning. You can eat breakfast, take a shower, get dressed, make the bed, watch tv, read a book, etc. Who doesn't have an hour in the morning on a weekend? You could even go back to bed if you really needed too. Just remember to put your timer nearby!