Perfect slow cooker "refried" beans


Last week Little Monkey hit the 6-week mark, and I celebrated with beans.

At six weeks, it suddenly seemed like we'd accidentally but fortuitously hit a magic switch. We got to indulge in two nights in a row with luxurious 5-hour stretches between feeds, amounting to said 5 hours sleep for Dave, maybe four for a row. The day after that first night, I felt giddily jittery with renewed energy, all from an amount of sleep that would have knocked me out not long ago. Things started to feel like they were gelling. We could even feel the fluttery promise of the re-emergence of routine, maybe in the near(ish) future.

Who wouldn't go for broke and eat a bunch of beans?

I'd been trying to curb or avoid the "gaseous" foods, including broccoli, cabbage, and beans. But at six weeks, things were starting to look up. Felix's digestive system seemed to be developing heartily, and burps and gas were taking care of themselves without painful incident. I thought about two foods I really like, but haven't had the greatest of luck recreating healthfully out of the can: baked and refried beans. Refried in particular posed a challenge.

There's a lot to dislike about refried beans, in theory. They're loaded with sodium and preservatives, plus there's the BPA factor to consider. Besides, it's not too appealing eating food that comes shaped like the can. Only I like them anyway, quite a bit.

The other week, trolling the internet with one finger on my phone while nursing at 4 am as usual, I found this superb recipe from blog and fun new find, rachel cooks. Healthy AND uses the slow cooker--what more can a girl ask for?! As long as you like refried beans in the first place, this recipe is seriously awesome. I  left  out garlic; didn't have smoked paprika so used regular; and made half the recipe. The day ran away from me, and I ended up leaving the beans in the slow cooker so long the I didn't even need to strain the beans before mashing. Such lax cooking, even for the slow cooker, and still they were perfect. Now I wish I'd made the full recipe so I could freeze a bunch.

Of course, no sooner did I celebrate our amazing 6-week back-on-track feeling then we had a throwback fussbudget day and a literally SLEEPLESS night. My alert and curious Little Monkey fights sleep generally anyway, but that day we fell into such a black hole of over-tiredness, little boy didn't sleep AT ALL at night, except from 5-7am, which hardly counts as nighttime anymore. I'll leave you to imagine what that amounted to for us, his zombified parents. The rough patch began well before consuming of beans, but I'm sure they didn't help.

Of course I'll be making these beans again. Lots. And I don't regret my premature little "celebration" either. More and more, I am learning to make the most of every small moment, thanks hugely to Little Monkey, who, it must be said, graced us with miles of smiles after the throwback day/night.

Today my little man fell asleep in the Ergo, nestling against my shoulder after nursing, and in his monkey swing. I had time to do one load of laundry, dishes, and 1 whole hour of freelance, plus now I'm writing this post. I'm not going to celebrate with another batch of beans, but you can believe I am reveling in the rarity of this day. Baby's sweet sleep faces make me want to squish him and cover him with kisses, but I now fully understand the warning not to wake a sleeping baby. When awake, Little Monkey imitated silly faces, smiled spontaneously, cooed and giggled.

It really doesn't matter how many moments and periods of fussiness, worry, and sometimes WAILING we get hit with. This kid is cool beans.

Fat Free Slow Cooker Refried Beans (from rachel cooks)

  • 2 pounds dried pinto beans (approximately 5 cups), rinsed and sorted
  • 1 medium to large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons of salt (more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 9+ cups of water
  1. Add all ingredients to slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on high for 6-8 hours or until beans are soft and mash easily. Add more water if necessary during cooking. I added two cups about 2/3 of the way through cooking because it was looking dry. It doesn't hurt to have extra water, but you don't want them to dry up.
  2. Reserving the liquid, strain the beans out into a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher. Add the reserved liquid until you reach the consistency you desire. Serve, or cool completely and freeze in portions appropriate for your family.