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Basic Beans

There is nothing like a hearty dinner enjoyed around a crackling campfire, as food cooked outdoors seems to have heightened flavor, just plain tastes better.  Perhaps spending the day outdoors, hiking or climbing, stimulates our appetites in the same way it improves our sleep.  But it’s hard to argue with a steaming pot of beans and warmed tortillas cooked at the campsite.

Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, or WLRV, a non-profit organization headquartered in Boulder and expanded to Fort Collins, is looking for volunteer cooks to support their restoration crews.  Trips are scheduled all up and down the Front Range, from seed collecting at Vedauwoo outside Laramie or Medicine Bow near Walden, to Chico Basin outside Colorado Springs for bird habitat restoration.  Many trips are day only, requiring just breakfast and lunch for 15-30 people, while others bridge the weekend with breakfast, lunch and dinner for as many as 75-80 workers.  Cooking teams consist of a lead cook, who determines a menu within the budget provided by WLRV, and enough assistants to prepare and serve timely, hot meals for the volunteers.  Cost of supplies is reimbursed, and all cooking equipment is provided.  Many of the projects are family friendly, and descriptions of each project can be found on the website at, including location, dates, degree of difficulty, minimum age, and duties of the volunteers.  Many businesses support the enormous scope of work accomplished by this worthy organization, including kegs donated by Odell’s here in Fort Collins for overnight trips.  These folks know how to turn work into a celebration!  Sounds like great fun, and if you are interested in volunteering for any of the crews, visit the website for additional information.  Training is provided for all volunteer opportunities, but Cook Training is scheduled in Fort Collins for Tuesday, April 3 from 6-9 pm at their office, 418 Howes, Suite 115.  Call Nate Boschmann at 970-389-5746 to sign up.

When cooking for a crowd of non-profit volunteers, budget-friendly food is a necessity.  Fajitas, soups, chili, and stews fit the requirements of providing fuel for the work at hand at a reasonable cost.  Beans are nutrient dense carbs that work for vegetarians and carnivores alike, and dried beans are an inexpensive way to deliver satisfying stick to the ribs goodness.

Basic Bean Recipe to feed 5 people

1 lb. dried beans

10 cups water

1 tbsp. whey or lemon juice

Soaking the beans overnight, or all day, insures quicker cooking, and adding a little whey or lemon juice neutralizes the phytic acid that blocks the absorption of minerals.   For a gas-free soak, bring the water to a boil, add the picked over beans, and boil for 2-3 minutes.  Let sit overnight, covered, and the indigestible sugars will be dissolved into the soaking water.  Drain, rinse, and cook as usual, skimming off any foam that accumulates.  Add seasonings like chopped onion, diced carrot, and mashed garlic cloves for flavor, and add salt as beans become tender.  Add to soups or stews, puree or leave whole, and enjoy!

Bon appétit!

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