Memories come in many forms, and the foods we ate at my childhood home bring back some of my very favorite memories. As a young girl growing up the oldest of two younger brothers, my mother always had to be slightly inventive when it came to getting us to eat healthy foods. Even back then when fast food was not as easy to get as it is today, we still wanted to eat mac and cheese and cookies instead of dinner. In an attempt for us to try new foods and eat some of her favorites, she’d name our meals with names she knew my brothers would eat and think were fun. A simple dish of pinto beans and ground beef was soon dubbed ‘Cowboy Beans.’ They gobbled it up and I’m sure felt rougher and tougher at the same time!
As a parent I’ve always felt that one of my goals should be getting my daughters to experiment and try new foods. My grandfather’s famous saying, “Eat it like you like it!” is still ingrained in my memory to continually encourage us to eat what is on the table. Thankfully, in both my mother and grandparent’s home, eating delicious food was never a problem and as cattle ranchers, beef dishes almost always took center stage on the table.
Cowboy Beans was one of the first dishes I cooked for my husband, Scott, as a young wife. It was an easy dish that even the most inexperienced cooks like me at the time could easily prepare. The key to this dish is to soak the Pinto beans overnight, drain them the next day, and begin to cook at least 2 – 3 hours before time to eat. Soaking the beans speeds us the cooking time, and in my opinion, reduces tough-skinned beans. Pouring off the water reduces some of the residue and gases that accompanies dried beans, especially pintos. You can also place in one teaspoon of ginger to the pot of beans to help reduce this as well, but that is optional.
Click here for online recipe for The Ranch Kitchen’s Cowboy Beans
To begin cooking the beans, you’ll want to bring them to a boil and add your onions and spices, allowing the beans to cook for about 1 hour on a medium-low heat. Make sure to check the fire or heat under your beans, and also check that you have not filled your beans with too much water because you do not want the liquid to boil out of the pan and make a mess.
After simmering the beans for one hour, begin to add gradually add small, uncooked meatballs of ground Certified Hereford Beef that have been hand-rolled into 2-inch balls. As the beans continue to cook, so will the ground beef meatballs, creating a great season for your beans with their delicious flavor.
I like to serve Cowboy Beans with cornbread and nothing else because this dish is the perfect one-pot meal. My cowboy husband, Scott, absolutely loves this hearty dish, just like my brother’s did growing up as do my three cowgirl daughters. Leftovers are always better with beans and stews the next day too. When reheating, I sometimes will add an extra cup or two of water if needed before I warm up the beans in the microwave or on the stovetop.
The Ranch Kitchen’s Cowboy Beans are also perfect for potlucks, church socials and anytime you are cooking for a crowd since this recipe can be doubled, tripled or multiplied to the proportions you need to cook toward.
The Ranch Kitchen’s Cowboy Beans
• 6 cups pinto beans, rinsed and brained well (at least three times)
• 9 cups of water to cover the beans
• 1 large can of stewed tomatoes
• 1 onion, sliced
• 2 green chilis, seeded and chopped (optional)
• 1/4 cup chili powder
• 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
• 1 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
• 2 pounds ground Certified Hereford Beef
1. Rinse and drain pinto beans until water runs clear.
2. Place pinto beans into a cast iron dutch oven, or in a large pot, and add water.
3. Bring pinto beans to a high boil for five minutes. Reduce heat to a low boil.
4. Add black pepper, tomatoes, onions, green chiles, garlic and chili powder. Continue to cook on low, covering with a lit.
5. After 1 hour, add ground beef. Break off pieces of meat in 2×2 chunks, roll into a ball, and place directly into the cooking pot of pinto beans. The meat will cook as the beans do and will help season the beans.
6. Continue to cook the Cowboy Beans on low for 2.5 to 3 hours, or until beans are fork-tender.
7. Add salt in the last 30 minutes. Adding salt during the beginning of the cooking process will result in hard skinned beans that are tough to the taste.
The next time you are trying to get your family to eat a healthy meal, give The Ranch Kitchen’s Cowboy Beans a try. This recipe has a double punch of protein and I’ve never seen anyone not love this hearty meal that cowboys once ate around the campfire on cattle drives many years ago.
The Ranch Kitchen