Versatile Ranch Beans

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Those simple raw ingredients pictured above when combined with liquid slow transform themselves into a wonderful concoction that feeds us for weeks.  Best thing about making your own beans?  They are easily transformed into flavors that suit your palette or the meal you have planned.  Yesterday we had taken out pork ribs for dinner and fish tacos are on the menu as well this week.

For this batch of beans I used the following:

1 1/2 cups of pinto beans

2 small red onion, quartered

1 tablespoon of beef bouillon

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon dry mustard

2 dried red peppers

Liquid to cover

2 Roasted  and diced Poblano chilies

I placed mine in my four quart crock pot and cooked on low all day.  Seasoning changes based on mood, these beans weren’t meant to be terribly spicy so the spices were mild. 

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I didn’t use stock this time because it definitely flavors the beans intensely and I was going for subtle, same reason I didn’t use smashed garlic cloves.  There is no salt or pepper called for in the base recipe because the bouillon is salty and over salting the beans will cause them to be tough.   Pepper is also omitted from the base recipe based on how potentially spicy the dried peppers utilized are.  I happen to know the dried peppers I use are on the spicy side.   The beans cooked slowly all day, the aroma was intoxicating, and I stirred the pot a couple of times during the day.  It helped break up the onion chunks and evenly distribute the spices as the beans cooked. 

When completely softened the beans are ready to be served.  Be sure to taste and check for seasoning.  Salt may be needed based on how salty the bullion used was and your personal preference. 

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At this point, I divided the beans in half.  I reserved one half of the cooked beans in my two quart crock pot and creamed the other half of the beans.  To the reserved half of the beans I added one roughly chopped roasted Poblano Chili and returned to warm until dinner was ready.  The remaining half of the ranch beans I subjected to the immersion blender and creamed.  Be sure to include enough cooking liquid but not so much liquid the final mixture will be too loose and runny.  It is easier to add liquid from the reserved beans if necessary. 

IN a small frying pan, I added the rough chop of one roasted Poblano Chili to a pat of butter.  Once the butter was melted and the chili heated through, I then transferred the creamed beans into a frying pan to heat through.

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The beans were a little looser than my personal preference but luckily, like all bean recipes this one is very forgiving.  Continue to heat gently until the beans are hot and the consistently you like.  Just be careful to avoid being burned by bubbling beans when stirring. 

I admit, I love ranch beans both ways.  My husband does too, although he would prefer the onion chopped a little finer next time. 

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Chili

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A couple of days late in posting this, but the chili took longer to cook than I expected.  After a lat start to Sunday morning, I grabbed the beans, the crackpot, and spices and set about making chili.  My plan was to put half of each 16oz bag of beans into the mix but hubby wanted me to use them all.  So, dumped three kinds of beans into the pot, spices, liquid, and turned on the crackpot.  Hours crept by, beans being stirred, and liquid added as required.  Around 2 or so, I realized that the beans would NOT be done in time for the big game. 

So I decided to order pizza and let the bean finish until they were at a point I could separate half of them out for chili some time later this year.  WP_20130204_001 I will admit the beans looked great.  Plump, rich, and still having texture.  Beans separated, cooled, and stored we went to bed.  Monday morning I started the beans again, fried the meat, and added the remainder of chili ingredients needed for dinner that night.  Here my culinary skills let me down after a bout of torturous heartburn last week.  Although I spiced the meat, the beans, and re-spiced the beans I couldn’t bring myself to actually taste the chili.  I know makes no sense right?  After all, I was going to eat it for dinner that night and was looking forward to it the night before and yet, I never managed to dip a spoon and check the seasonings. 

WP_20130204_003 It looked right, smelled wonderful and so I foolish thought it would be alright.  It wasn’t.  It was BLAND.  And by BLAND, I mean it tasted like my spices had been locked away and sent to the moon.  It was fixable but it was bland.  That bowl of from-scratch chili wouldn’t give even the most sensitive stomach heartburn sadly. 

But there is an upside, all cooks need to be reminded sometimes that there is truly no substitute for tasting to check for spices – even if you’ve made the dish a thousand times before.  I’m lucky, it was chili that reminded me and chili is easily one of the most forgiving and easily fixed dishes around.