One of my cheapest meals is my Navajo Tacos. You make some fry-bread, top it with refried beans, some cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. And then anything else you normally put on tacos (guacamole, salsa, sour cream, etc). Everything is pretty cheap, especially if you make the refried beans at home!
I was very intimidated by making refried beans at home. It seemed complex and mysterious. Until I was talking to a friend who said, "I used to buy canned beans until I became friends with a hispanic woman. She and her friends looked down on 'those crazy Americans' who bought canned beans. I decided to try it and was surprised how easy it is!"
I sat her down and forced her to tell me how to do it! Boy, was I feeling silly when I realized just how easy it really is! And something about making this recipe makes me feel so domestic.
Here's how you do it.
Soak some pinto beans over night. The next morning, pour out the soaking water and put the beans in a crockpot. Add a quartered onion and some garlic cloves that you have peeled and very roughly chopped. Cover with water - not too much, just enough to cover the beans.
Cook the beans all day long. They should be very, very soft and the onions should be almost melty. Ok, melty isn't a word, but you know what I mean.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat, add some fat of some kind. Either some oil, butter, bacon fat, or (traditionally) lard. If your skillet is non-stick enough and you are trying to watch your fat intake, you can do it without the fat. I usually use a TBS or so of margarine/butter. The flavor is good and the little bit of fat helps the beans to be smoother and creamier.
Put the beans in the skillet - but don't add the liquid yet. Here's what I do: I put the crockpot next to the skillet and transfer the beans with a slotted spoon. It drains off most of the liquid but saves it so I can use it later. Mash the beans with the back of the spoon or with a potato masher (I use my pastry cutter!). You of course want to be careful not to scratch your non-stick pan. I use my cast-iron skillet so I can be a little reckless. You can mash them extremely smooth or leave them a little chunky, your choice. You want to add the onions and the garlic, too, just mash them into the beans. They'll disappear into the beans but add tons of flavor.
If your beans are too dry, add a little of the cooking liquid, until you get the consistency you want. If the beans sit for awhile while you are getting other things ready, they will dry out a bit, just add some more liquid and stir.
To flavor the beans, I add cumin and salt. I usually add some garlic powder, too. We like garlic at our house. A lot! You could add cumin, chili powder, taco seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, whatever floats your boat. I like cumin because it is a very taco-type flavor. And you need salt, trust me. I can't tell you amounts because it really depends on how many beans you cooked, and what flavors you like. Add a little and if it is not enough, add some more!
That is is! Then you eat them. How easy is that? I usually make a big batch and freeze the leftovers. Thawing leftovers is even easier.
How much does it cost? Let's see: one pound pinto beans? About a dollar. One onion? About 30 cents (depending on how big it is), some garlic cloves are about 25 cents. Then some cumin and salt and maybe some butter or oil? Fifty cents, max. So you have $2 for about four meals worth of refried beans. That's fifty cents a meal for your protein. Plus, you know that there aren't any partially hydrogenated anything or artificial flavors or colors or added chemicals or preservatives.
This took longer to write than it does to cook! It takes about 5 minutes in the morning and and about 10 minutes in the evening when you are ready to eat. Really easy and so cheap!
This is my cheap recipe for the day. To check out more cheap, family favorites, check out the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.