Beans are a nutritional superstar.  It’s tough to find other hearty, protein packed food that are as rich in nutrients and fiber and low in cost.  They can be added to Yumm Bowls and soups as the main protein or can help you cut back a bit on the meat in your standard carnivorous favorites.  But making homemade beans has alluded me for years.

So why even attempt to cook dried beans?  The sodium content is far lower and the flavor can’t be beat.  Plus I won’t have to recycle several aluminum cans and I’ll pay three to five times less per serving.

To reduce my overall cooktime, I tried my friend Lorene’s tip: Simply soak huge batches of beans overnight to soften them up and then pop them into zip lock bags to freeze.  The frozen, pre-softened beans can then go from the freezer to the table with only about forty minutes of stovetop cook time.

If you’d like to cut that time down even more, you can fully cook the beans in one batch and then freeze.  They’ll just need to be defrosted before being tossed in taco filling or savory soups.

This time of year I love setting up my crock pot with soup ingredients and then enjoying a rich, slow cooked meal at dinner time.  A large batch of bean soup can cost pennies per serving while nourishing your whole family and driving away the winter cold.  I love this Navy Bean Soup with Ham Recipe, but note that it does require you to start preparing the soup the night before.   Spicy Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup uses the heat from jalapeno peppers to dissolve the December chill. If you use a vegetable-based bouillon it will be a tasty vegetarian meal.

What are your favorite tricks for preparing homemade beans and bean soups?  Are you still laden in leftovers from the holiday festivities?