October 26, 2010 at 6:00 am
My husband and I had a conversation this weekend about growing up on slow-cooker meals. We both had busy moms who worked hard at an outside job, while also taking care of us.
And that meant weekly “Crock-Potted” meals (as my husband put it).
My favorite was Swiss steak. My husband’s was pot roast.
But we both remember coming home to a house filled with the smells of dinner.
It was homey and comforting. It felt warm.
Two years ago I asked for a slow cooker for a holiday gift. I was so inspired by recipes I saw for vegetarian lasagna and flavorful curries and all the wonderful things you can have cooking while you are out at the library or a class or get-together.
I received one that winter and immediately made the most disgusting lasagna I have ever seen, tasted or been in the presence of.
(And as a long-time vegetarian, I am used to vegetarian lasagna. It is the go-to veg dish at weddings, holidays parties and team building retreats. So I have seen bad lasagnas. Some of them I even tried. None of them made me think of burned hair).
My second attempt at a slow-cooker meal resulted in the kids asking when returning home from roller skating:
“Mommy, why does the house stink?”
“Stink?” I asked, wondering who had broken into our home and promptly died.
“Yeah, it’s like stinky cheese or something.”
There wasn’t even any cheese in that particular recipe, but I had to agree, the odor emanating from the slow-cooker smelled sickening and wrong, like maybe the cat had fallen in.
This was frustrating. There are a great many things that I am not good at. But I consider myself a pretty decent cook.
Eventually, I gave up. I considered selling the slow cooker in a garage sale. I figured there was no reason to have one if everything that came out of it was rejected by even the raccoons who frequent our garbage can.
But instead, I set it aside for a while. Maybe a few months. I don’t remember now. I kept it hidden it a dark closet, so as not to have failure staring at me all the time:
I’m making toast … FAILURE!
I’m making tea … FAILURE!
Our family eats primarily vegetarian, and that means a lot of beans. A few years ago I began buying them in bulk and soaking them overnight on the stove.
It was a time-consuming process, but of course that was not the real issue.
The real issue is I always forgot to soak the darn beans.
I would literally walk into the kitchen at 5:30 and smack myself in the forehead. Then I would spin around a few times and decide we were having breakfast for dinner.
I had read about cooking beans in the slow-cooker, no pre-soak was required.
And I am glad to say that we now eat slow-cooked beans a couple of times a week. I like to make a batch of chickpeas on Mondays for salads and hummus. I like to make black beans for our weekly taco night. Sometimes, I’ll make a batch for soup too.
I still sometimes forget to actually cook the beans, but I am happy to say that the slow-cooker and I have made amends.
And, as I type this, the place is smelling pretty darn warm.
Rinse and drain 2 cups of dried chickpeas. Add beans to slow-cooker with enough water to cover plus about 4 inches. Add two bay leaves and a few pinches of cinnamon. Cook on high for 6 to 8 hours. Add salt to taste. Great in salads, in soups, or blended into hummus.
Slow-Cooker Black Beans
Rinse and drain one cup of black beans. Add beans to slow-cooker with enough water to cover plus about 4 inches. Add in one half onion, two bay leaves and a teaspoon of cumin. Cook on high for 6 to 8 hours. Add salt to taste. You can drain most of the water and mash the beans, or serve them whole.
Slow-Cooker Soup Beans (usually white beans or cranberry beans)
Rinse and drain one cup of beans. Add to slow-cooker with enough water to cover plus about 4 inches. Toss in a couple of carrots, a half onion, a teaspoon of thyme or basil (depending on what type of soup you are making), and two bay leaves. Cook on high 6 to 8 hours. Add salt to taste. Drain and add to soup.
These beans also freeze well in small freezer-safe containers. Add a little of the cooking liquid to the container before freezing.
Do you have a favorite bean or slow-cooker recipe? Share it or link to it in the comments below!