Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup

Vegetable Bean SoupWell, hello there! Things were a little quiet on the blog last week because I was on a short vacation, enjoying the wildflowers in Death Valley. Charles and I don’t do complicated camp food. Our cooler is reserved for beer, so everything else is just boil-in-a-bag. After a few days of eating Tasty Bites Jaipur Vegetables for dinner, I was in the mood for anything different.

It was a busy week for us after our break, as the reality after trips often is. I wanted something healthy and inexpensive, and I didn’t want to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, since I didn’t have a great deal of time. That’s where my favorite kitchen tool — other than my Japanese chef’s knife, the slow cooker came into play. After a night of soaking beans, it was a day of slowly cooking a mishmash of ingredients, and by the time I got home from work, soup was on!

One of the best things about soup is it’s not an exact science. I tend to eyeball the amounts when I’m making it, so don’t feel freaked if you only have 30 ounces of tomatoes or vegetables. It will still be tasty.

What’s even better, there are plenty of leftovers. We’ll have more soup tonight, probably paired with a Zinfandel or Sangiovese, and I’ll freeze the rest in two-serving containers for more easy, soup-filled evenings in the future.

Vegetable Bean Soup

  • Difficulty: super easy
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Serves 10

1 cup dried Orca beans (Black turtle beans or little navy beans would also work.)
water
32 oz canned, fire-roasted tomatoes
32 oz (2 bags) of frozen, assorted vegetables (Buy these while they’re on sale and hoard them for whenever you need a veggie addition to a meal.)
2 cups of stock (You know I always have plenty in my freezer.)
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried parsley
roasted red pepper flakes to taste
salt and black pepper to taste

In an eight quart slow cooker, soak the beans in water overnight.
The next morning, drain the beans in a colander. Return them to the slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients. Add water to the pot until it’s 3/4 of the way full. Put on the lid, turn the slow cooker onto low, and let cook eight to ten hours.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Serve with some crusty bread, if you’re into that.

Slow Cooker Stout Chili

chiliI don’t know what it is about chili and summertime, but the two go together like best buds. While it’s a hot and spicy meal, it’s also really satisfying – even when the mercury is hovering around 100 degrees F.

Of course, since it is incredibly hot outside, I kept the temperature nice inside by using the slow cooker. It’s a perfect way to make chili, as the flavors have hours to slowly meld, incorporating the savory, sweet, and spicy into a taste bud pleasing whole.

Using stout in the chili is the perfect way to round out the flavors. It supports the malty, molasses flavors while complimenting the chipotle spice. Pair the dish with a summer beer, like Anderson Valley’s Summer Solstice (it was amazing with the chili) and a cornbread muffin, and this humble dish magically transforms to almost Manna-like proportions. Well, maybe not to that extent, but it is a pretty pleasurable dinner.

A quick note on the spice blend I used – it was Frontier’s Blackened Seafood Seasoning. Here’s the thing about “specific” seasonings – they’re still just a blend of herbs and spices. Don’t feel like it’s just for use on one type of meat. It’s a blend. Use it wherever you see fit. This specific seasoning would also be fantastic on chicken — or even tofu — and I used it on ground pork, which was perfect.

Slow Cooker Stout Chili


Serves 8

50 oz. canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed (If using dried beans, soak overnight.)
56 oz. canned fire roasted tomatoes, crushed (I used Muir Glen)
1 pound ground pork
22 oz. stout (I used Lagunitas Imperial Stout)
1 yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
Hot sauce, to taste (I used O’Brother, That’s Hot Chipotle Habanero Pepper Sauce)
2 teaspoons salt
Spice blend, to taste

Brown pork in a skillet over medium-high heat. Shake in spice blend while pork is cooking. Add onion and garlic and stir. (I used a pork that wasn’t greasy, but if yours is, make sure to dab up the excess grease with a paper towel.)
Pour into a slow cooker, spreading it evenly over the bottom. Add beans, tomatoes, stout, hot sauce, and salt. Cover and cook on low for nine hours.
Taste and add more salt, spice blend, and hot sauce as needed.

Kale and Chickpea Soup

Kale and chickpea soupI have one of those recipes that I go back to again and again. It’s one of those dishes that makes you feel better after eating it, and it’s chock full of good-for-you ingredients. You know, all that stuff you’re supposed to eat on a regular basis like kale and tomatoes and legumes.

Because it’s a soup, the flavors meld into a savory, sweet, and slightly earthy experience that’s even better the second day. The recipe was given to me by one of our local farmers, and then I changed it up a bit, i.e., I dumped a bunch of wine into the dish. The extra wine gives the soup an amazing tang, and you can use what’s leftover to drink with your meal. I mean — what a win-win! For the leftovers, I’d recommend pairing with a Sauvignon Blanc. The acidity and citrus flavors go really well with my favorite soup.

This recipe is going to be two-fold. The first recipe is the way I’ve been making it for years, and the second is what I did this past week — utilizing a crock pot so a delicious, wholesome soup was ready and waiting when I got back from my afternoon run.

Kale and Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean) Soup


serves 8

2 onions or shallots, diced small
1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried
3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ t. pepper flakes
4 large tomatoes, fresh
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves torn small
1 ½ cups dry garbanzo beans, cooked, or two 15 oz. cans of chickpeas
Salt and pepper

If using dry chickpeas, soak overnight. Cook them in at least four cups of water for three hours until soft. Be sure not to put salt in until peas are fully cooked. Cook the onions and thyme in the olive oil over medium until soft. Increase the heat and add the garlic, pepper flakes, tomatoes, bay leaf, salt and 1/3 cup wine. Stew for 15 minutes. Add the cooked chickpeas and the 8 cups of liquid. Simmer for 20-30 minutes to let the peas absorb the flavors. Add the kale leaves and cook ten more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker Kale and Chickpea Soup

Slow Cooker Kale and Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean) Soup


serves 8

2 onions or shallots, diced small
1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ t. pepper flakes
4 large tomatoes, fresh
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves torn small
Two 15 oz. cans of chickpeas
Salt and pepper to taste

Layer all ingredients into a slow cooker except the kale, salt, and pepper. Place onions and garlic on the bottom, followed by the tomatoes, and then the chickpeas. Sprinkle herbs over everything and pour liquids in. Turn the slow cooker on to low, and let it cook eight to nine hours. Put in the kale and continue to cook on the low setting for another 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

slow cooker pork shoulderYou’re probably beginning to realize that while I occasionally enjoy creating a complicated meal, my stand-bys are simpler meals that have a few layers of flavor but are easy peasy to make. And I love my slow cooker. I have a small one that’s perfect for smaller meals as well as small roasts — even a chicken.

A couple of days ago, I found a pork shoulder in the freezer (that place is a constant source of surprise for me) and decided it needed to be dinner. After thawing overnight in the fridge, I slow cooked that bad boy until it was a tender, falling-off-the-bone flavor extravaganza and served it with some smashed potatoes.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

One pork shoulder
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of mixed sweet and hot peppers (I had a bag of pre-sliced sweet bells, jalapenos, etc. that were in the freezer. I recommend a 3 to 1 ratio of sweet to hot.)
2 cups sweet cherries

Throw it all in the slow cooker. Set on low, and go to work. It will be cooked and the flavors will be nicely incorporated by the time you get home. Serve with veggies, potatoes, etc. — whatever side speaks to you.

Any leftovers can be turned into pulled pork sandwiches. I used a gluten-free hamburger bun that I toasted on the grill with a little garlic butter before filling. I added a couple of dollops of Larrupin Red Sauce to the pork for a bit more sweetness and heat.

Slow Cooker Roast Beef

roast beef sandwichI work full time, as many of you do, and I’ve found that one of my best friends on a busy day is my slow cooker.

When it’s slow cooking beef, I’ve found another friend — Mr. Sauerkraut.

Mr. Sauerkraut does an awesome job of breaking down a tougher cut of meat during the day and creating a tender, flavorful star for a sandwich.

A couple of days ago, I was poking around in the freezer, trying to find inspiration for dinner. I found a flank steak from my meat CSA. A few days before, I had made a simple meal of sausage, potatoes, and sauerkraut and had picked up an extra package of the fermented wonder. (Just like other condiments, I find it’s good to have an extra package of sauerkraut hanging out in the fridge for last-minute meal ideas.)

Knowing that a tender roast beef sandwich was only a crock pot away, I allowed the steak to defrost in the fridge overnight and then tossed it into the slow cooker with the entire package of sauerkraut, turned it onto low, and left for work.

When I got home that evening, I drained the beef in a metal colander while browning a roll of whole wheat French bread on the cast iron skillet. While the bread browned, I put together a simple salad of tender baby greens of chard, kale, and spinach and threw on some grape tomatoes and avocado for good measure.

Once the bread was ready, I smeared a healthy layer of horseradish on the roll, and dinner was served. We were chowing down with a nice barleywine to drink within a half hour of arriving from work. What could be simpler?