Members of the legume family (plants that carry seeds in a pod), dried beans are an excellent source of protein, calcium, and iron. Major varieties include black, garbanzo, kidney, pinto and white beans. To prepare dried beans, soak for 8 hours or overnight in a ratio or 3 parts water to 1 part bean, bring to a boil and simmer for up to 2 hours. If beans haven't been soaked for 8 hours, bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes, then let stand, tightly covered, for 1 hour. One cup of dried beans will expand to 2 to 2-1/2 cups after cooking. Look for smooth surfaces and bright colors and avoid cracked or wrinkled surfaces. Store dried beans in an airtight container for up to 1 year. There are a wide array of canned beans now available if using dried beans is too time consuming. Simply skip the soaking process, rinse and drain the beans well, then proceed with your recipe cutting down on the total cooking time.