It's hard to make refried beans very photogenic, no matter how tasty they are, but I'd like you to look closely at this photo. See any little flecks of orange? These aren't pepper flakes but instead are finely shredded carrots.
Yup, carrots. Prepared with minimal fat, refried beans are a wonderfully healthy food just as is, but this method of including some carrot along with all the other good ingredients enhances the vitamin A and antioxidant levels and adds just a little hint of natural sweetness. As usual, I encourage cooking your own beans (cheaper, little extra work in the kitchen, no salt or very little, and no questions of potential problems from the chemicals in the can linings of prepared beans). Cook up a huge batch (I get the two pound bags from Aldi, still well less than $2 for the bag) in your slow cooker (or on top of the stove on a cool day) and then freeze them in 2 cup portions, ready for whatever you might want to make with beans.
...and of course, one of the things you'll surely want to make is a big batch of refried beans.
Refried Beans with a "Secret" Ingredient
1 to 2 T canola or olive oil
1/2 c chopped onion, or to taste
1 c finely grated or shredded carrot
1 jalapeno, finely diced, or to taste--carefully remove the ribs and seeds if you don't want too much heat
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced, to taste
2 c cooked unsalted pinto beans, with liquid
1 t cumin, or to taste
1 T cider, wine, or balsamic vinegar, to taste
1/2 to 1 t salt, to taste
water, if needed
1. Saute the onions, carrots, and peppers in the oil over medium to high heat, until the onions are translucent and the carrots are quite soft.Add the garlic about 5 minutes after the rest of the vegetables.
2. Stir in the beans, bean liquid, and seasonings. Use a potato masher to break up the beans and get the refried bean consistency of your choice. Taste and adjust for seasoning and continue simmering for 10 to 15 minutes, adding water if needed to keep the consistency you like. Be aware that the beans will thicken as they cool.
If using a 15 ounce can of pinto beans, omit the salt until you have tasted the beans.
Black beans can be substituted for the pinto beans.
1/2 to 3/4 c cooked and pureed butternut squash can be substituted for the carrots. If squash is used, add it at the same time as the beans.
The jalapeno can be omitted or a 4 oz can of green chiles may be substituted instead.