Category Archives: Sides

Easy Ranch Style Beans Recipe (Instant Pot, Slow Cooker or Stove Top)

overhead shot a a bowl of the ranch style beans recipe.

This is a DIY version of the canned variety of Ranch Style Beans you buy at the supermarket. Just like the premade ones, this homemade ranch style beans recipe is easy and flavorful!

If you’ve never had Ranch Style Beans before, I’d describe them as pinto beans with a southwestern flair. Sounds pretty tasty, doesn’t it?

Just this week I used these on top of the nachos the kids the requested for dinner instead of meat. Nobody complained!

I also love using these homemade ranch style beans in this recipe for Mexican Haystacks. They’d also be a great sub for meat in tacos, quesadillas, this Tex Mex spaghetti squash recipe, or even just to serve as a side dish.

I always make a full batch and then freeze the leftovers in meal size portions. It makes them perfect to pull out of the freezer for a super fast and cheap supper.

(For another bean recipe, check out these Crock Pot refried beans!)

ingredients to puree for the ranch style beans sauce

Ingredients for the blender

Ranch Style Beans Recipe Ingredients:

  • tomatoes/tomato Sauce
  • onion
  • garlic
  • molasses
  • apple cider vinegar
  • beef broth
  • pinto beans
  • salt
  • paprika
  • smoked paprika
  • cumin
  • oregano

If you are like me, these are all ingredients that you already have in your pantry. Perfect for spur of the moment cooking in the instant pot.

pureed ranch style beans sauce

The pureed ingredients

How to Cook Ranch Style Beans:

You have three options here.

  1. Instant Pot. This is my go to method. So fast and easy. All you do is combine all the ingredients and cook on high pressure for 25 minutes (mine is 8 quart). You almost can’t have the canned variety opened and heated in that time. Yes, I’m joking but seriously I was able to make these after work and have them done in time for dinner. The Instant Pot has saved me more than once when it comes to getting beans finished in time for supper.
  2. Slow Cooker. Great set and forget it method. I frequently use this method for beans as well. Dump everything into your Crock Pot and let it go. Cooking time varies greatly from slow cooker to slow cooker. Mine tends to cook things quickly.
    On high check at 3 hours and then each hour after that. It probably will be between 4-6 hours.
    On low your Crock Pot will most likely take 8-10 hours, though again, I’d recommend first checking at 5 hours.
  3. Stove Top. Do a quick soak with your beans. (Cover with water and boil for 10 minutes. Turn heat off and let sit for 1 hour. Remove the water from the beans.) Add all other ingredients and simmer beans for 2-3 hours. Check liquid level occasionally and add broth or water if needed.
seasonings for the ranch style beans

The other ingredients needed for the recipe

Ranch Style Beans Recipe Instructions:

  • Blend the tomatoes/sauce, onion, garlic, molasses, vinegar, and some of the beef broth.
  • Rinse and sort out any bad pinto beans. Place in Instant Pot (or cooker of your choice).
  • Add the pureed liquid, salt, more beef broth, paprika, smoked paprika, cumin, and oregano.
  • Cook until done. Season with more salt, if needed.

If you want more of a kick, feel free to add chili powder or another chili pepper.

The listed combination is perfect for my family with kids, though.

Finished Ranch Style Beans

The beans after they have finished cooking in the Instant Pot

Ranch Style Beans Recipe

Easy Ranch Style Beans Recipe (Instant Pot, Slow Cooker or Stove Top)
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Tex Mex
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 cups
Easy and tasty southwestern flavored pinto beans! Perfect as a side or in your favorite Tex Mex dishes.
  • 1 can tomato sauce (or 1.5 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 6 cups beef broth, divided
  • 2 cups dried pinto beans
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  1. Place tomatoes/sauce, onion, garlic, molasses, vinegar, and 2 cups of beef broth in a blender. Puree until smooth.
  2. Rinse and sort pinto beans.
  3. If cooking on the stove (or on low in the crock pot - I do NOT do this step when using the Instant Pot) do a quick soak - put beans in pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Turn stove off, cover and let sit for 1 hour. Drain.
  4. Combine beans, pureed mixture, 4 more cups of broth, salt, both paprikas, cumin, and oregano in your cooking device.
  5. Cook until done. Check and see if more salt is needed.
  6. Instant Pot: Cook on high pressure for 25-30 minutes. Quick release.
  7. Slow Cooker: Cook on high for 4-6 hours or cook on low for 8-10 hours. (Crock Pots are different, be sure to check doneness of the beans early the first time you make this.)
  8. Stove: (Do the quick soak first) Let beans simmer for 2-3 hours. Add additional broth or water if needed.


Do you buy Ranch Style Beans? What are your favorite ways to use them?

close up shot of a bowl of ranch style beans


Freezing Refried Beans and an Easy Refried Bean Recipe

close up of a bowl of homemade refried beansI love making large batches of recipes (cook once eat multiple times is my motto). So when I whip up my easy refried bean recipe, it makes a lot! Freezing refried beans is the answer.

I use what we need for a meal or two and the rest of the refried beans go straight into the freezer.

If you have not yet tried to make your own refried beans, know that you can also freeze leftovers of the canned variety!

Freezing Refried Beans

Let’s start with freezing refried beans and then we’ll get to the recipe.

There are multiple ways to do this. First off is what I do not recommend. I don’t recommend simply filling a gallon freezer bag with the beans and sticking it in the freezer. It’s just not practical. In the next few months when you need refried beans to make burritos, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you won’t need a gallons worth.

Freeze the refried beans in individual portions or recipe sizes!

That way when you need to defrost some, you can take out exactly what you need.

crockpot of cooked pinto beans and onions

The beans, onions, garlic, and jalapenos after cooking


When the beans are completely cool, transfer to storage containers.

Store in the freezer.


  • Glass Jars (make sure to not fill all the way to the top)
  • Quart sized freezer bags with 2 cups in each bag. Spread flat after sealing for more space effective storing in the freezer (and quicker thawing).
  • Plastic storage containers in desired sizes. Probably between 1 cup and 4 cups depending on how your normally use your refried beans.
  • 1/2 cup “blobs” in freezer bag. Line a baking sheet with wax paper, parchment paper, or silicone baking mats and drop the beans onto the sheet using a 1/2 cup measuring cup. Flash freeze by placing baking sheet into the freezer. Once beans are frozen, transfer to a freezer storage bag and double bag. It’s now very easy to pull out exactly what you need!


Put frozen refried beans in the fridge the day before you want to use them.

When mostly thawed, put beans into a pot on the stove and gently reheat. If they have dried out, add a touch of water to return them to your desired consistency.

Use as you would fresh refried beans.

(Of course you can always defrost the beans if you forgot to pull them out the day before.)

What are your tips for freezing refried beans?

Now we’ll move on to the recipe for these super easy homemade refried beans!

Yes, these would actually be called unrefried beans and not be considered authentic as there is nothing fried about them. But none the less, they have become a staple in our home the last several years.

I always cook 1 to 2 pounds of pinto beans up when I’m making these and freeze them as we discussed above.

This is how simple the recipe is:

  • Dump everything into the slow cooker.
  • Cook until very, very tender.
  • Mash.


  1. Now, the recipe does have fresh onion and garlic (and deseeded jalapeno too if you like a kick) in it, but you are welcome to omit them. If I’m out, I’ll still make up the beans with no seasonings in the cooking liquid and add extra onion powder, garlic powder, and salt when I’m smashing them up.
  2. These beans can also be made on the stove instead of the crock pot. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes and then cover and turn to low. Cook until falling apart. You’ll just want to watch the water level and add more if needed.


bowl of cooked pinto beans for freezing homemade refried beans

The beans and veggies after being scooped out of the slow cooker.

Homemade Refried Beans


  • Dried pinto beans
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Jalapeno
  • Seasoned Salt
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder


If you are looking up this post, you probably already have a lot of ideas. Beans make a great side dish topped with cheese and cilantro.

They also make a perfect fast and cheap lunch. Make bean tostadas or a bean and cheese burrito or quesadilla.

Use them in any recipe that calls for refried beans.

Easy and yummy refried beans in the crock pot. I love making a huge batch and freezing the leftovers!

I always use my potato masher to smash the beans. An immersion blender also works well.

Side note: There are concerns of toxins not being removed from the beans when cooked in the crock pot because it doesn’t get them hot enough long enough. I’ve found that on high my pot gets the beans up to a full boil. If yours doesn’t, you can boil them on the stove for 10 minutes and then return to the crock pot to finish cooking or boil for 10 minutes at the end of cooking.

bowl of finished homemade refried beans on a napkin

5.0 from 1 reviews
Easy Crockpot Homemade Refried Beans
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Tex Mex
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5 cups
These homemade refried beans are easy and freezer friendly. Great for making a large batch for side dish, burritos, tacos and more.
  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 deseeded jalapeno
  • 1 T. cumin
  • 2 t. seasoning salt
  • Optional, ½-1 teaspoon garlic and onion powder
  1. Rinse and soak the pinto beans overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse beans and place in the crock pot and cover with water.
  3. Add a peeled and quartered onion and peeled and smashed garlic cloves if you are using (and a deseeded jalapeno if you like a little kick).
  4. Cook on low for around 5 hours.
  5. Turn to high for the last hour to allow beans to come to a boil for at least 10 minutes and finish cooking.
  6. When the beans are tender and falling apart use a slotted spoon and scoop beans, onions, and garlic into a bowl. Reserve the cooking liquid.
  7. Add cumin powder and seasoning salt. Add garlic and onion powder if you didn't use fresh in the cooking process or if you need a little extra flavor.
  8. Use a potato masher and stir and mash the bean mixture until it is as smooth as you like. Add some of the reserved cooking liquid to make it as soupy as you like. It will thicken up as it sits at room temperature.
  9. Cool and separate into storage containers and freeze what you won't use the first week.
You can also cook the beans on the stove top for several hours until tender and falling apart.

If you don't have time to soak the beans the night before, simply increase the cooking time.


overhead shot of a bowl of refried beans topped with cheeseEasy and yummy refried beans in the crock pot (or on the stove). I love making a huge batch and freezing the leftovers!Originally published July 29, 2014. Updated August 10, 2020.

Easy Cucumber Tomato Salad With Balsamic

Close up of cucumber tomato salad in a bowl

My friends’ with gardens always seem to have an over abundance of tomatoes and cucumbers each summer. Seeing that I do not have a green thumb, I’m always more than willing to help them out. One of my favorite things to make with them is this delicious and easy tomato cucumber salad with feta and balsamic.

It is so good.

After all, how can you go wrong with a fresh cucumber tomato salad with balsamic.

The ingredients are simple:

  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes (preferably vine ripened)
  • Onions (red or another more mild onion)
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh basil
  • Feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper, of course

Ingredients for cucumber tomato salad on a cutting board

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There’s nothing not to love! Unless you are one who doesn’t like feta or onions or basil. If that’s the case, leave it out or swap it with a different ingredient and it will just be a tomato cucumber salad instead of tomato cucumber salad with feta. 😉

You could try these subs:

  • Oregano instead of basil.
  • Freshly grated Parmesan instead of the feta.
  • Apple cider vinegar instead of balsamic.
  • Adding sliced olives.

Isn’t that one of the great things about salads? They are so customizable!

It is also so easy.

You can have this cucumber tomato feta salad with balsamic done in 10 minutes. Honestly, that would probably include the time it takes to wash the dishes. 😉 All it takes is a little bit of cutting and a little pouring and you are done!

cucumber tomato salad with feta with a pink text box

Be sure to make it at least an hour before serving because it tastes best after the flavors are allowed to marinate for a while.

Let talk how to chiffonade basil! I taught my daughter what this meant when making the recipe together this weekend. It’s super easy. You stack the basil leaves on top of each other and then gently roll the pile together (roll from the long side). Next you slice the basil into thin ribbons using a sharp knife. A sharp knife is important, otherwise your basil will end up bruised.

One tool recommendation. A few years ago I received a microplane to use for garlic and ginger and I love it! I makes doing the garlic so easy in the recipe and also makes it paste like.

One more note, I never like to give exact salt amounts because everyone’s tastes are so different. Maybe start with a 1/4-1/2 teaspoon, taste and add more if needed.

I’ve made this salad pretty much always. Both of my girls love it (as long as I’m sure to use a more mild onion). In fact, I used to have to “fight” my oldest for it, when she was 3. It’s just that yummy.

It makes a delicious side dish to go with any grilled meat and wouldn’t it be a great salad for your 4th of July celebration.

I also love to eat this as my lunch (served on a bed of spinach is my favorite) and don’t ever tire of it.

Go make this! I hope you enjoy a yummy cucumber tomato salad with balsamic as much as we do.

Cucumber tomato salad with feta in a bowlYou might also be interested these recipes:

A fun side salad: Garbanzo Bean and Roasted Corn Salad
A main dish salad: Mandarin Salad

Cucumber Tomato Salad with Balsamic

Cucumber Tomato Salad with Balsamic
Recipe type: Side Dish
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 side servings
An easy and delicious cucumber tomato salad with feta and balsamic. It comes together in minutes and has lots of flavor.
  • 1 English cucumber or seeded regular cucumber (around 2.5 cups)
  • 3 vine ripened tomatoes (2.5-3 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • ¼ cup minced onion (red or mild)
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • fresh basil (1/8 cups lightly packed chiffonade of basil)
  • 4 tablespoons feta cheese
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cut the cucumber into fourths the long way and then slice. (Be sure to peel if you aren't using an English one.)
  2. Cut the tomatoes into bite sized chunks.
  3. Chiffonade the basil leaves.
  4. Add the garlic, onion, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, basil, and salt & pepper to the bowl. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.
  5. Sprinkle the feta cheese over the top of the dish.
  6. Refrigerate until serving.

Originally published June 2014. Updated May 2020.

cucumber tomato salad with feta in a bowl with white text boxpicture of cucumber tomato salad with green text boxoverhead shot of cucumber tomato salad with feta and balsamic in a bowl

The Best Cranberry Salad Recipe

When I think Thanksgiving this best creamy cranberry salad recipe is one of the first things that comes to mind. In fact, my family loves it so much it also makes an appearance at our Christmas Eve dinner.

This is the best creamy cranberry salad recipe ever! This recipe will be passed down to your kids and you will be asked to make it every holiday! It's my FAV!

One of the things that sets this recipe apart is that it uses fresh cranberries. No canned cranberries allowed here. 😉

I like to stock up on cranberry discounts after Thanksgiving is over and store several bags in the freezer to last through the year. They are perfect for this salad, muffins, and any other fresh cranberry recipes.

This particular recipe came from my grandma. It was one of the ones that my continued to make and now so do my siblings and I. Recipes that hold special memories are the best kind. Add this cranberry salad recipe to your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner (or really, just meal) and it will be the dish you are always asked to make.

Ground cranberries and sugar mixed together.


What are the other components of this dish besides good old cranberries?

  • Marshmallows
  • Crushed pineapple
  • Sugar
  • Heavy cream, whipped

That’s it! See how easy it is?

You can also make this dish the day before. The marshmallows absorb any liquid and turn into this delightfully light and airy bite.

Cooking for a crowd, be sure and double this recipe! Besides, you will want leftovers too.

Let’s talk sugar for a minute.

This recipe calls for 1 cup. I never make it with the full cup. Not even when making it for company. To me, what’s the point of cranberries if you aren’t going to have a little tart. Your first time making it, try with 3/4 of a cup and see what you think. If you think it’s too tart, you can always add more. (But I don’t think you’ll need too – the pineapple and marshmallows add sweetness as well.)

When I made this cranberry salad recipe for these pictures, I used just 1/3 cup of sugar and a sprinkle of stevia. It’s a little tart, but still good! Disclaimer: I would not recommend starting with that small of amount of sugar your first time making it!

The Best Creamy Cranberry Salad Recipe

The Best Cranberry Salad Recipe
  • 10 ounce bag of cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 20 can of crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 1½ -2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. Using a food processor or blender, grind the bag of cranberries. Pulse button works well. I like them to to be ground but with some large pieces mixed in.
  2. Drain the can of crushed pineapple very well. It yields approximately 1⅓ cups after drained.
  3. Add the drained pineapple and sugar to the cranberries and mix well. Stir in the marshmallows.
  4. Whip the heavy cream until medium to stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the cranberry mixture.
  5. Refrigerate until serving (at least several hours or up to a day early).
  6. Enjoy!


This is the best creamy cranberry salad recipe ever! This recipe will be passed down to your kids and you will be asked to make it every holiday! It's my FAV!

Best Simple Fried Rice Recipe

I love, love, love fried rice! When you combine it with easy and get a simple fried rice recipe, it’s a winner all around!

best simple fried rice recipe

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Secret ingredients are always a good sign! This recipe has a couple and the extra pop of flavor makes it the best fried rice.

I love using basmati rice when making this. I’ve even used brown basmati. If you don’t have that, try using a long grain white rice.

Try using cauliflower rice if you are limiting your carbs. Shredded cabbage you saute with the rest of the veggies would also likely work.

bowl of dry rice for simple fried rice recipe

If you have a super busy day, this recipe is perfect because you can prep your vegetables the day before (or even several days before). You can also use leftover rice because day old rice makes the best fried rice. See, I told you this is a simple fried rice recipe. 🙂

Did you know you can also freeze fried rice? (I wouldn’t do this with cauliflower rice.) Simply make the fried rice and let cool completely. Place in freezer storage bags or food storage containers and place in freezer. Pull out of the freezer the night before or morning of when you are going to use them and let thaw in the fridge. Saute in a skillet for 5-10 minutes until warm

simple fried rice recipe ingredients

If you don’t mind reheating in the microwave, this would also be perfect to freezer in single serving amounts to pack for work lunches.

Secret Ingredients!

There are a couple ingredients that put this simple fried rice recipe over the top.

  1. Fresh ginger. Of course fresh garlic is involved, but the ginger adds a little something special.
  2. Toasted sesame oil. If you’ve never had this, you are missing out! My picky, opinionated 5 smelled the bottle and proclaimed how good it smelled. Do yourself a favor and get some for this recipe and for making the best Asian salad dressings. (I’ve linked to it on Amazon, but I’ve found it at Aldi for a great price before.)
  3. Sambal. Okay, this is totally optional. My kids don’t use it, but I’m obsessed. It adds a kick and a little extra punch of flavor. I blame my dad for turning me onto this years ago. You could also use siracha (I’ve also found the equivalent of this at Aldi).

simple fried rice recipe square picture

Favorite tool!

I LOVE using a microplane for the ginger and garlic. It makes it fast and super easy.

P.S. I love using fried rice to sneak in lots of veggies. 🙂  In these pictures, it’s the amounts listed in the recipe, but often times I add in extra.

Simple Fried Rice Recipe

Best Simple Fried Rice Recipe
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • ½ inch ginger, peeled and minced/micro-planed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced/micro-planed
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 6 cups cooked cold rice
  • 1-2 cups cooked, diced meat (optional)
  • 3 scrambled eggs (optional)
  • oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Sambal or siracha (optional)
  1. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add a little cooking oil (can use butter).
  2. After heated, add the onions and stir and cook 5 minutes. (Lower heat if needed.) When beginning to soften add garlic and ginger and continue to cook another 3-7 minutes until fragrant and tender.
  3. Add carrots and continue to saute. After a few minutes add the frozen vegetables and continue to saute until everything is hot and tender. (Add meat at the end of this time if using.)
  4. Add rice to the pan and stir over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes. Add soy sauce and and sesame oil and stir to combine.
  5. Take off heat and adjust soy sauce and salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Add scrambled eggs if using.
  7. Serve with sambal or siracha on the side.


The best simple fried rice recipebest simple fried rice recipe ingredients