By Jenny Tamayo

Growing up at my house there was always a fresh pot of pinto beans on the stove ready to go.  Pinto beans are a staple in many Mexican and Mexican American households, and are a healthy food choice as they are naturally low in fat, high in dietary fiber and rich in protein. In addition to their great health benefits, cooking beans at home couldn’t be easier – and taste a whole lot better than those canned refried beans!

Spread beans onto a flat surface and remove any irregularly shaped or discolored ones. Also, look out for any small rocks you may find!

For best results, soak beans overnight; they cook faster and come out wonderfully tender – but don’t worry if you don’t have the time to soak, they will still turn out great!

Rinse beans thoroughly and place in a large pot.  Fill the pot with water at least two to three inches over the beans. Add two to three bay leaves. Other options include: adding half of a small onion, a clove of garlic and/or a slice of raw bacon or turkey bacon.  Every family has their own recipe, so feel free to experiment!

Bring beans to a boil. Eventually a foam will appear on the surface.  Use a spoon to skim the surface and remove the foam as best you can. (Grandpa Tamayo used to say this foam was responsible for, shall we say, the not so pleasant effect beans can have on some people. This very well may be Mexican folklore, but I always remove the foam just in case!)

Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for two to two and a half hours, or until desired softness is achieved. Be sure to check that there is at least 1/4 inch of water above the beans at all times. Salt to taste at the end.

Pinto beans keep well in the refrigerator for at least four to five days and begin to thicken the longer they sit. This is the best time to mash or partially mash them for refried beans. To do this, simply reheat the beans in a pot and using a potato masher, mash the beans to your desired consistency.

Pinto beans are delicious at anytime of the day!  Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy them:

Mexican Breakfast Plate:  Beans, scrambled egg whites, La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious Soft Wrap Minis, fresh salsa or chili and cotija cheese.  You can make breakfast tacos or use the Soft Wrap Mini as your fork!

Snack: A cupful of warmed beans with cheese! Yum.

Lunch or Dinner Tacos: Serve partially refried beans with grilled chicken, tofu or veggies and sautéed onions and bell peppers inside a La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious Fiber & Flax Corn Tortilla.  Top with diced tomatoes, cilantro, cheese and a dollop of non-fat plain Greek yogurt or sour cream.