A pot of pintos makes a satisfying meal

Pictured is a bowl of warm, hearty pinto beans with cornbread muffins.

A comforting meal for many people is a big bowl of pinto beans. There are various opinions on the best way to cook pinto beans and on what other ingredients should go into the bean pot. Soaking the beans overnight or simply just rinsing, draining, and dumping them in a crock pot, it’s really up to you. As far as necessary ingredients, I opt for minced onion, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, and chicken broth. For a Southwestern flavor, use cumin, chili powder, diced tomatoes, and jalapeños. A bay leaf, fresh bell pepper, and paprika can also enhance the flavor of beans, and a ham hock, cooked sausage, or strips of bacon are three of the most popular meats you can add to pinto beans. Cornbread is the perfect accompaniment to pinto beans, as well as a slice of onion and a spoonful of tomato relish. Fix a pan of macaroni and cheese to go with your beans or, if you prefer, some wilted greens, pork chops, or hamburger steak. If you typically just heat up a can of pinto beans, next time try making them from dried beans—the extra effort you put into preparing them will be worth it when you taste the difference.

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans

Although these pinto beans are cooked in a crock pot, I recommend a quick soak to help with retaining the texture of the beans. These pinto beans will hold their shape, definitely not mushy, and will not be too soupy.

• 1 lb. dry pinto beans

• 1 small onion, finely chopped

• 1 TBSP. garlic, minced

• ½ tsp. salt

• ¾ tsp. black pepper

• 3 cups chicken broth

• 2 cups water

• 2 bacon slices

Rinse and drain the pinto beans and remove any that are shriveled up or any other debris; add to a cooking pot or Dutch oven and cover with about 3 inches of water. Cover and bring to a boil. Rapidly boil for 1 minute; turn off the heat and let soak for 1 hour. Drain. Spray the bottom of the crock pot with oil. Place the beans, onion, garlic, salt and black pepper in the crock pot. Pour the 3 cups broth and 2 cups water over the beans; lay 2 bacon slices over the top. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, then turn to warm and allow to simmer for another 2 hours. Add more salt and other spices to the crock pot as needed.

My Favorite

Cornbread Muffins

I make these when we have soup or pinto beans. The recipe makes a dozen of these delicious cornbread muffins.

• 1 cup self-rising cornmeal

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• ¾ cup mild or Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

• 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

• 1 ¼ cups buttermilk

• 3 eggs

¼ cup vegetable oil

Combine the cornmeal, flour, cheese, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk and eggs and add to the dry ingredients. Add the oil and mix just until moistened. Spoon into a well-greased muffin pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 16-18 minutes.

Creamy Baked

Macaroni and Cheese

Whether you make macaroni and cheese on the stovetop, in the crock pot, or baked in the oven, it is a versatile dish that goes well with just about anything on the table!

• 2 cups cottage cheese

• 8 oz. sour cream

• 1 large egg

• ¾ tsp. salt

• ½ tsp. black pepper

• 2 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

• Paprika

• 1 (8 oz.) package elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained

Stir together the first six ingredients in a large bowl; stir in cooked macaroni. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased baking dish, and sprinkle lightly with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

— Amy Fischer lives in Fort Payne, Alabama, and is a Southern food enthusiast who loves to spend time in the kitchen creating tasty recipes. You can contact her at facebook.com/MySouthernTable.

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