Field beans, as they're sometimes called, are incredibly nutritious, economical, and work for a variety of recipes/meals. They're also one of the best early finger foods. All three of my kids love 'em--plain. They enjoy them in dishes, but really seem to enjoy them best just scooped onto their little plates with no adornment. Field beans are harvested when nearly dry, then dried fully, and then sold as the familiar dry beans: pinto, black, navy, cranberry, cannellini, kidney, etc. You can buy these beans fairly cheaply in canned form (i.e. already cooked), but they pack a lot of sodium per serving. You can boil them at home, cook them in a pressure cooker, or, my new favorite method, cook them in the crock pot. I based my recipe largely on a recipe from allrecips.com called "Refried Beans without the Refry" that is good as written (for pinto beans--a bit spicy), but works equally well with a variety of other dried beans as follows. You don't even need to soak them! Here is my now standard bean recipe:
1 pound dry beans, picked over and rinsed
1 onion, peeled and halved
2 tablespoons minced or crushed garlic
2 1/2 teaspoons salt (half of the original recipe)
1 3/4 teaspoons pepper (optional--depends on age of your child)
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
2 cups (1 can) chicken broth (preferably low sodium)
7 cups water
Savory, bay leaves, and other similar spices all work well with beans. Feel free to experiment with these. The original recipe calls for 1/2 jalapeno, chopped, which adds a nice kick if your family likes spicy things.
Put all in crock pot and cook for 8 hours on high. If more than a cup of water evaporates out, add some back in. (Pintos take 8 hours; black beans take less--just check 'em every now and then).
1 pound of dry beans yields roughly 6-8 cups. Each regular can usually contains 1 3/4 cups. Cooked beans also freeze well in their cooking liquid.