We are very due for a Kids Clean Up here at the Lean.Green.Kitchen. Since I’ve been working on perfecting my pinto bean recipe, I thought we could clean up one of my childhood fast food favorites: Taco Bell’s Pintos and Cheese side dish. The creamy beans, zesty sauce and flavorful cheese come together to make a filling, cheap grab-and-go snack or side. So the challenge is to duplicate this full flavored item while maintaining the thrifty quickness.
What We Are Cleaning Up
Taco Bell Pintos and Cheese Ingredients:
Beans: Pinto Beans, Soy Oil (Trans Fat Free Shortening With TBHQ And Citric Acid To Protect Flavor), Seasoning Blend (Salt, Sugar, Spice, Beet Powder [Color], Autolyzed Yeast Extract (Contains Gluten), Sunflower Oil, Maltodextrin [Corn, Potato, Tapioca], Inactivated Yeast, Corn Flour, Natural Flavors, Trehalose, Modified Corn Starch And Less Than 2% Silicone Dioxide As A Processing Aid).
Sauce: Modified Corn Starch, Maltodextrin, Paprika, Salt, Tomato Powder, Onion Powder, Spices, Garlic Powder, Yeast Extract (Contains Gluten), Extractives Of Paprika (Color), Xanthan Gum, Malic Acid, Caramel Color,Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Trehalose, Natural Flavors, And Less Than 2% Silicon Dioxide Added As A Processing Aid.
Cheese: Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (Color), Anti-Caking Agent.
That’s a whole lot of yuck for a dish so simple, in my humble opinion! So I cleaned it up and have been enjoying my version ever since.
Pintos and Cheese Clean-Up
Beginning with the pinto beans, the best way I’ve found to have these ready to go, is to make a big batch of them in the crockpot for use all week long. (They can also be frozen for use later, if the batch makes more than you need.) I have tweaked a recipe I found many years ago by Little House of Veggies and it produces a pinto bean very close to the texture of the Taco Bell version.
Creamy Pinto Beans Recipe
- 2 cups dried pinto beans (plus water for soaking overnight.)
- 5 cups water
- 1 medium onion, diced small
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3T tomato paste
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1T cumin
- 1t coriander
- 1t chili powder
- 1t garlic powder
- 1t garlic salt
- 1t salt
- a few cranks from a pepper grinder or 1/2t ground pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- Soak pinto beans overnight. Drain and discard soaking water.
- Place all ingredients in a crockpot and heat on low for ten hours.
- When finished, gently mash beans with potato masher to get to desired creaminess.
- Serve or cool to store in the refrigerator.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 8 hours
Makes approximately 6 cups of beans.
Enchilada Sauce Recipe
Next we need a mild but flavorful enchilada sauce to pour over the top of our beans. This recipe from The Gracious Pantry is easy and makes a lot! You can plan out other fun enchilada sauce uses to go through all of it. The ingredient list is: olive oil, whole wheat pastry flour, chili powder, tomato sauce, water, ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder. I made a half batch and it still made a quart of sauce! Find the recipe here: The Gracious Pantry Enchilada Sauce.
All we need now is to put it together with some cheese! You can use your favorite cheese (I used a local firehouse jack cheese that was super zing-y!), a cheese substitute (to make it vegan) or skip the cheese altogether and go for other fun toppers. I’ve added cilantro, radish slices, blue corn chips, sour cream and green onions to mine over the past few weeks.
You can also wrap it all up in a tortilla and have a Cleaned-Up version of a Taco Bell Bean and Cheese Burrito!
I think we hit this one out of the park. This is something cheap and easy that I can store in my fridge all week and pull out as necessary for a snack or a base for a quick meal. It is kid approved and can be jazzed up to make me happy too.
Pintos and Cheese might go really nicely with this Mexican Caesar Salad. Check it out!
Mexican Caesar Salad
Another crowd favorite meal with similar flavor profile and crockpot ease is the Crockpot Taco Soup. Have you tried this one?
Crockpot Taco Soup