As many cooks know, dried beans are an inexpensive ingredient that can be used as a main dish, as an additional ingredient to other dishes, or as a side dish for almost any kind of meal. Low in fat and cholesterol-free, beans are a good source of protein, iron and Vitamin B. Whether you choose to soak them before cooking or not, you can have beans on the table in time for dinner.
To Soak or Not to Soak
While you can pressure cook dried beans without soaking them beforehand, many people soak them overnight or for several hours before cooking to reduce the adverse effects beans can have on the digestive system. The only difference in cooking beans that haven't been soaked is that they require a longer cooking time than beans that have been re-hydrated beforehand. Whether or not you soak your beans, always place them in a strainer or colander beforehand, rinse them well in cold water, and remove any gravel or shriveled beans that invariably find their way into each bag.
When cooking dried beans in a pressure cooker, ensure that you never fill the cooker more than half full, including your beans and water. When a pressure cooker is too full, expanding beans and liquid can block the vents of the pressure cooker and create a dangerous situation. Use one part beans and three parts water to ensure that your beans are able to absorb enough moisture to ensure a quality finished product.
Pressure Cooking Safety
While a pressure cooker is an amazing, time-saving invention, it's vital to have a healthy awareness of the dangers of improperly using a pressure cooker. Always ensure that your lid is firmly and tightly secured on the cooker. Use a pressure of 15 psi for cooking dried beans that haven't been soaked, and ensure that all pressure is released before attempting to remove the lid. While children can often assist mom in the kitchen with many dishes, pressure cooking is one project best left to adults.
Kids and Beans
While adults may enjoy a big bowl of soup beans and cornbread or red beans and rice, kids are often less enthusiastic when faced with a bowl of beans. There are tricks you can implement to encourage your kids to eat their beans. Use mashed pinto beans as filling in burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, and on top of nachos along with other ingredients like cheese and salsa. Serve the kids a bowl of chili chock full of kidney beans, along with a side salad with creamy dressing, or opt for barbecue baked beans as a tangy side to oven-baked pork chops.
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