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  • Writer's pictureErin

What do I do with these?? Cooking Beans with Lateta

At the very back of the cupboard, everyone has a bag or jar of dried beans that has been migrating around for years. Maybe they came hidden in a food bank bag, farm share box, or you picked them up on a whim in 2005, convinced you would learn how to make them. You may not even remember where they came from! I had one such jar of beans (navy-- what does that mean?), so I contacted Commonwealth member Lateta Burns.

Lots of us are exploring new ways to cook and bake now that we're stuck at home so much, and Lateta had some great advice on what to do with this underutilized mystery food. Many of us and our neighbors are doing our best to stretch food as far as it can go between layoffs and closures. By sharing her knowledge as a chef with me and our community, Lateta helped me provide better for my family.

Below you will find a few recipes that Lateta sent with me. You'll find that you can use means in just about everything and with tons of different spices! But if you're not feeling very creative right now, here are some clear directions for how to prepare them.



White Bean and Ham Soup

Serving size – 1 cup cooked, yields 8 servings.


  • 1 lb dried navy, cannellini, or great northern beans

  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped

  • 2 ribs celery, chopped

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon thyme

  • 1 ham bone and the meat surrounding it (or precook ham)

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1/2 tsp pepper

  • 5 cups water


Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.

Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours until beans are tender.

Remove ham bone from slow cooker. Allow ham bone to sit until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bone and chop into bite size pieces (Skip this step if using cooked ham. In the last 30 min of cooking, chop cooked ham into bite size pieces.)

Puree half the soup with an immersion blender or regular blender just enough to thicken. You still want the soup to be chunky.

Stir chopped ham back into the soup.

Black Beans and Rice

Serving size – 1 cup cooked, yields 8 servings.


  • 1 - 16 oz package dry black beans

  • 1 tsp. dry oregano

  • 2 cloves minced garlic

  • 1 tbsp. salt

  • 2 tbsp. Olive Oil

  • 1/2 cup chopped Bell pepper

  • 1/2 cup diced onion

  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional, helps the flavor a little but great without it)

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Extra diced onion for on top of beans (optional, I like the added crunch)

  • 2 cups rice


Place dry black beans in a large pot of water on the stove. You will only need to cover 2-3 inches above bean level. Allow to soak overnight.

Drain and rinse beans. Place beans in crock-pot. Add about 4 cups of water, just enough to cover the beans. You can also make on the stovetop. See notes*

In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add Bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Sauté until onion is translucent. Add to beans in pot. (You can skip this step and just add the veggies to the crockpot without cooking, Sautéing the veggies will help the flavor.

Add your seasonings, Bay leaf, Oregano, Salt, balsamic vinegar and a dash of pepper. Place lid on beans and leave in a crock-pot on low for 8-10 hours.

30 min before serving, prepare the rice according to package.

Remove bay leaf before serving. Serve beans with rice. Enjoy!

* For stovetop follow the same instructions. Add everything on a large pot with a lid. Cook on low heat for medium heat for 4-6 hours stirring often to prevent sticking.

Southern Black- Eyed Peas

Serving size – 1 cup cooked, yields 8 servings.


  • 1 bag dried black-eyed peas

  • 1 cup smoked sausage, quartered (you can also use a ham bone)

  • 6 cups water

  • 2 onions

  • 1 celery stalk

  • 1 green bell pepper

  • 1 tsp pepper

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

  • 1 tsp parsley

  • 1 tsp olive oil

  • rice


Put dried black-eyed peas in a large bowl with enough water to cover the beans2-3 inches over beans. Let sit overnight.

Dice the onions, celery, and bell pepper and start browning 1 tsp olive oil. You want the onions a dark caramel color. This takes about 10-15 minutes.

Add the chopped turkey sausage and brown for about 5 minutes. (or add in bone in the beginning of cooking, or cooked meat in the last 30 min.

Add the soaked black-eyed peas, 6 cups water, and seasoning.

Stir and cover.

Bring to a boil. Once boiling, simmer the peas on medium heat for one hour. Stir occasionally to stop the peas from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

  • Once the peas have cooked for an hour, take a wooden spoon and smash some of the beans against the side of the pot. Mix the peas that are smashed in with the rest of the pot. Repeat this 2-3 times. This is an important step to give the black-eyed peas a creamy consistency.

  • Let simmer another 15 minutes.

  • Serve over rice and enjoy!

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