I have had a friend request a 'how to' on using dry beans, so here is my method :)
It can seem intimidating at first if you haven't done it, but once you have done it once you'll realize just how simple and convenient it is to always have beans ready to go. I do this once or twice a month.
1. Sort beans to remove any bad ones, or any dirt or rocks that may be in your bag. (You will be surprised what you can find!). I also remove any beans that float...my rationale is that if only a few are floating and most have sunk I go with the majority!
2. Place the amount of beans you want into your slow cooker pot, keeping in mind they will almost double in size! (My rule of thumb is less then half a pot, but more then a quarter). This can be done in a regular pot as well, but a slow cooker allows you to cook them the next day without monitoring them on the stove top.
note: some people add a few tsp. of baking soda at this point to help reduce gassiness after eating...our family is used to eating beans and it doesn't seem to bother us so I skip this step.
NEVER add salt when cooking or soaking your beans or they will not become tender no matter how long you cook them!
3. Fill with water, almost to the top of the pot.
4. Let soak overnight. (8-12 hours)
5. The next morning, drain the water, rinse the beans and place back into the slow cooker.
6. Fill with water, almost to the top of the pot.
7. Cook on low for 8-12 hours (depends on heat of slow cooker, amount of beans etc.)
8. Beans are finished when fork tender (or if you like crunchier beans, stop cooking when they reach your desired texture).
9. Divide into containers (I do 3 cup portions, including bean juice) and freeze for later use.
There you have it. Easy peasy and so much cheaper then buying canned beans! I have done this with black beans and kidney beans, and both have worked really well. I always freeze them in their juices to avoid drying out and then depending on what recipe I'm putting them in I either rinse them or add everything in. I add black beans to almost every ground beef dish that I make. Sometimes as Refried Beans, and other times I just add the beans plain.
Dry lentils do not need to be soaked, nor do they need to be cooked very long. For lentils, I rinse them well and then I boil them on the stove until tender (5-10 minutes) and then I blend and add them to things like macaroni and cheese for extra protein!