Good Recipe for Big Batch Slow Cooker Beans

I really love reading recipes. I read cookbooks like they are novels. I regularly read the cooking sections in newspapers and magazines hunting for interesting recipes. Of course, I’m super interested in good bean and grain recipes.

I just received my September 2018 copy of “Real Simple magazine.”

They have have a very interesting recipe for “Big Batch: Slow Cooker Black Beans”.

Photographer: Jennifer Causey, Prop Stylist: Kathleen Varner, Food Stylist: Mary Claire Britton

Its a simple recipe, but also very flavorful. This is a basic instruction on how to make a flavorful pot of beans in your slow cooker. And it has instructions for freezing the beans which is a useful technique to know. This recipe works for black beans but can easily be used for a variety of other beans, such as pinto beans, navy beans, even garbanzo beans (almost any bean!). Do be aware that cooking times may vary.

Follow the link to get this very versatile recipe – Big Batch: Slow Cooker Black Beans.

 

San Xavier Co-Op – Pima Lima Beans

Last January when we were in Tucson Arizona I picked up this good looking bag of Pima Lima beans.

I bought these when we visited the San Xavier Co-op farm store. They had so many interesting things, products that they can grow in that hot dry climate. Really interesting!

I finally got around to cooking these gorgeous beans.

I hesitated because I wasn’t really sure what to do with them. In the end I just opted for the simplest possible cooking method…water and a little salt. I cooked them in my small slow cooker. I didn’t even bother to soak them and  they cooked in about 4 hours.

They are rather large bean. They held their shape and they had a really soft, creamy interior. I thought they were delicious. And I particularly liked the thick, dark broth they produced.

The San Xavier Co-op is currently out of stock on this item. But I will check back with them next time we are in Arizona. Take a look at their website, they do have a very interesting story!

Yummy! Red Lentil Stew with Indian Flavors

For some reason, I find it almost impossible to exactly follow a recipe. Sometimes I substitute an ingredient, sometimes I change the spice level, and sometimes I try to make it more to my own tastes. In this case, I have a fantastic recipe that I have modified just to make it a bit easier. I’m certain that the recipe “as written” is fantastic but it requires a number of steps and uses a couple of cook pots. Here is my lazy version cooked in one pot – and I think it’s really delicious! Oh, and I also substituted some ingredients too. It’s just my way.

The original recipe is found in Fresh India by Meera Sodha. It’s a gorgeous vegetarian cookbook that I highly recommend.

The original recipe is Butternut squash, eggplant and red lentil sambhar.

Here are the ingredients for my version (which is entirely indebted to the Fresh India version!)

  • 1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek (omit if not easily availabile)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds or ground cumin (I really like the whole seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 finely chopped jalapeño
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small eggplant, cubed with skin on
  • 1 small zucchini, cubed
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes, puréed slightly in a blender
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar or agave syrup
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 teaspoonground red chili

There are 3 basic steps to my plan:

1. In a large soup pot cook the lentils in about 3 cups of water for 20 to 25 minutes until soft and losing their shape. Add water if needed.

2. To the cooked lentils, add the spices (fenugreek through mustard seeds). Add the vegetables   (ginger through tomatoes), cook for another 20 minutes or more, until vegetables are very soft.

3. Stir in salt, sugar, lime juice and red chili. Cook for about 5 more minutes to combine and heat through.

Done! Super simple. And really tasty!

It looks like a lot of ingredients. There are quite a few spices but they are easily measured and added to the soup.

I cut my vegetables in bite size pieces, a bit smaller than the original recipe.

I served my soup with a couple of slices of whole grain sourdough bread. Some naan bread and a green salad would also be delicious.

This is one of those recipes where the leftovers tasted even better.

 

 

 

 

 

Four Ways to Cook Beans

When I first started cooking dried beans, many years ago, it seemed like a huge and daunting task. Many, many pots of beans later I know that there’s really nothing to it. I have four different methods that I use to cook dry beans.

Slow Cooker

I use a small slow cooker that works great for me. I can cook one  cup of dried beans with about 3 cups of water. The time varies greatly depending on the type of bean, probably between 4 and 8 hours. I can set it up in the morning and expect to have beans for dinner.  It doesn’t require any tending, just set it and forget it. Mine is easy to clean. The pot is removable and can go in the dishwasher. You can buy more sophisticated models that have timers and a variety of settings. My slow cooker has only 3 temperature settings (high, low and warm). I purchased mine at our local grocery store for about $10.

Instant Pot

Much has been written about the Instant Pot! I use the smaller Instant Pot Duo Mini. It’s the perfect size if you are just cooking for one or two people. Because it’s a pressure cooker, there is no evaporation so I find that I can use less water, maybe one cup of dried beans and 2 cups of water. For some reason I like that. The bean broth seems more concentrated and delicious. . Beans cook in 50 to 90 minutes PLUS the time it takes to get the pot up to pressure – around 20 minutes. So 70 to 110 minutes total. Like the slow cooker, the Instant Pot doesn’t need to be tended. This unit is programmable. And it will switch to “keep warm” mode after the cooking time is over. It’s relatively easy to clean. The cooking pot and the lid can go in the dishwasher though they do take up a lot of space. I bought mine at Target for about $60.

An Old Fashioned Pot on the Stove

Yup, kicking it old school. Sometimes it’s nice to just cook a pot of beans on the stove. Even cooking with a lid you have to expect some evaporation. I start with a cup of beans and 3 or 4 cups of water. Then I check back every half hour or so to see if I need to add more water. Cooking times vary but I’d guess anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. This is definitely a more hands on approach. If you have a pot of beans on the stove you really can’t leave it unattended for any significant period of time. Clean up is easy. My Mom bought me this nice looking pot for about $25 at Target.

A Pot of Beans in the Oven

I own this very beautiful clay pot that I got in Santa Fe NM at Cafe Pasqual’s. It is a traditional mica cookpot. Gorgeous! I can use this pot on top of the stove but I prefer to use it in the oven. This method would work just as well with a cast iron or enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Whatever pot you use, it has to have a well fitting lid.  I find that cooking beans in the oven works best on a cold winter day. In the summertime that hot oven really competes with the air conditioning! A pot in the oven will have quite a bit of evaporation so I start with a cup of dried beans and 3 or 4 cups of water. Just like with stove top cooking I check it every so often to see if it needs additional water. It depends on the type of bean but it’ll take 2 to 4 hours to cook beans in the oven. I think this is a pretty high maintenance method. Unlike the stovetop, you have to pull the hot pot out of the oven every time you want to check it. So it’s a bit of a hassle. And you definitely cannot leave the beans unattended. I have to wash my clay pot by hand. Most cast iron pots will have very specific cleaning instructions. I bought my clay pot for $135 at Cafe Pasqual’s. A Lodge Cast Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven is about $60 at Amazon.

What About the Taste?

Somehow I think that Clay Pot makes the best tasting beans. But maybe it’s just that I’m more deeply involved in that cooking process? I also think that the beans cooked in the Instant Pot have a deeper, richer flavor. However I seriously doubt that in a blind taste test I could really tell any difference in the flavor. They all taste great!

So Which Way is Best?

All four methods have their pros and cons. My favorite method, the method I use most often is my small slow cooker. Though it does require a little planning ahead it’s just so convenient and easy. It doesn’t heat up the kitchen. Clean up is easy. I can turn it on and leave the house for the day.

Nevertheless, I do use all four of these methods for various reasons at various times. I find them all satisfying in their own way. And at the end of each, I have a beautiful pot of beans.

“Campfire” Chickpeas

We decided to take a quick mid-summer RV trip. That means it’s time to make some of my Campfire* Chickpeas. A foil pack is an easy way to jazz up canned garbanzo beans. It’s very simple and quick, perfect for a camping trip.

All you need is –

  • Heavy duty foil
  • A can of chickpeas
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Any other seasonings you might like – paprika anyone?

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Put the chickpeas on a large piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil, salt to taste. I added some red pepper flakes for a litttle heat. You could use some chili powder or curry powder. In the past I’ve also thrown in a couple of slices of lemon. Whatever sounds good and is available.

Fold the foil into a tight foil pack. Crimp the edges to keep the pack from bursting open as it heats up.

Place it on  hot grill for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and let cool. When you open the pack protect yourself from the escaping steam.

The cooked chickpeas are nicely browned and flavorful. The texture is drier and maybe a bit crunchy. It just adds an extra delicious dimension to that can of garbanzos.

For this batch, I sprinkled the chickpeas on a Greek salad. Delicious!

 

*Mid-Summer draught in South Texas means “No Campfires Allowed” and statewide burn bans. But I have to admit, we’re not big fans of campfires on our RV Trips. For many a campfire is SOP, but we seem to always be drenched in smoke after a campfire and it’s just not our cup o’tea.

 

My Method For Great Brown Rice

It took me a long time to come around to brown rice. I’d been a big fan of white rice, all the varieties; jasmati, Texmati, sushi, arborio, etc. The list goes on. I didn’t mind the taste of brown rice. I just did not like the texture, especially when I made it at home. It always seemed a little mushy and didn’t maintain those wonderful individual grains.

After experimenting with lots of different brands, different varieties and different cooking methods, I finally came up with a winning combination. This isn’t just something I can tolerate…this is something I really and truly enjoy.

I prefer short grain brown rice. My favorite is Lundberg Organic Brown Short Grain Rice.

This is a bit of a process and requires some planning ahead but I really think it’s worth it. So the night before I put one cup of brown rice into a container and cover it with water. Place that in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, the rice will have softened up and absorbed some water.

This is the rice the next morning. The red mark on the jar indicates the volume of rice when it was originally placed in the jar. You can see it has increased in size. The increase isn’t dramatic…it just absorbed a bit of water.

When I’m ready to cook the rice, I drain it in a colander. Place the rice in a sauce pan with ONE cup of water (brown rice usually calls for twice as much water as rice. My method is a one to one ratio). Bring to a boil and give it a quick stir. Cover and lower the heat. Cook for 22 minutes. Remove from heat. Don’t open the lid – set it aside for about 15 minutes.

Use a fork to fluff it up.

You can see that the grains are beautifully separate.

 

No-Knead Homemade Bagel Recipe

My good friend Liz recently sent me some wonderful whole wheat flour. Liz and her husband are both soil scientists. I’m no where near smart enough to explain what they do but I do know that part of her husbands research includes growing this fantastic flour using organic and sustainable methods.

They live about 120 miles north of me. So this flour is whole grain, single source, organic, sustainable, local, and hand milled. And it tastes so much better than any store bought flour. How can you do better than that?

This morning I turned their flour into some beautiful bagels.

By the way, Liz made that handsome cutting board. In addition to being a scientist, she’s also an artist and woodworker. You can check out her work here: Mustang Creek Creative.

So here is my bagel recipe…I use a starter so this recipe may not be for everyone.

My No-knead Bagel Recipe

  • 175 grams King Arthur bread flour
  • 175 grams organic whole wheat flour
  • 8 grams salt
  • 200 grams filtered water
  • 120 grams 100% hydration starter
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • sesame seeds or other desired toppings (I used sesame, poppyseed & fennel)

You will also need a large pot to boil water and a large baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Mix first 5 ingredients (through the starter) in a large bowl to create a fairly wet dough. Do not knead. Form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise for 12 hours. Dough should double or triple in size. Punch down and allow to rise for another 3 or 4 hours until dough has again double or tripled in size.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Fill the large pot with water and set to boil. Add the baking soda when it reaches a boil. Divide the dough into 8 equal size balls and form into bagels (Here’s a YouTube video demonstrating the technique).

Gently drop one bagel into the boiling water for one minute.  Using a spider or slotted spoon, remove the bagel and drain. Set on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with desired toppings. Repeat this step with remaining bagels.

Bake the bagels for 18 to 20 minutes at 450 degrees.

Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy! YUM!!

 

“Superior” Veggie Burgers

I used to eat a lot of store bought name brand veggie burgers. I had one particular brand that I ate at least once a week. But then I started thinking about the long list of mysterious ingredients on the box. It concerned me so I gave those up pretty quickly.

Since then I have been searching for a recipe for homemade veggie burgers that suits me. Some were OK, but the biggest problem I found with my homemade veggie burgers was the texture. These recipes almost all rely on some combo of beans and grains (Hey perfect for a website such as this) and the result is a texture that tends to be mushy or crumbly. I’ve tried many, many recipes and have not been bowled over by any of them.

Last week I came across the “Superiority Burger” named for the Superiority Burger restaurant in New York City. I found an adapted recipe for their burger in the Washington Post. The recipe is vegan and is based on quinoa and chickpeas and it’s a superior veggie burger with superior texture AND taste.

I like this one! The texture is pretty good. Mine had a bit of a crunch on the outside and were moist and flavorful on the inside. My carnivore husband took a taste and even he thought it was tasty.

The ingredients list is rather long and the recipe takes a while to pull together. I probably worked on these for an hour or more.

Here is a link to the Washington Post Recipe:

Superiority Burgers, Washington Post Adaptation

I’m sure the recipe is great as written but, as is my normal routine… I did make a few small changes:

  1. I didn’t have a lemon on hand so I used a tablespoon of soy sauce.
  2. I used two tablespoons of ground flax seed with 4 tablespoons of water rather than the potato starch as a binder.
  3. Instead of making 8 large patties, I made 15 small patties. I formed my patties with the ring from the lid of a small mouth Mason Jar so that they are fairly uniform. I plan on freezing most of the patties for later use.
  4. I baked my burgers instead of pan frying. That seemed easier for 15 burgers. I baked them at 425 degrees on a parchment paper lined sheet pan for 15 minutes on each side.

And here is a picture of my burger, ready to eat (lots of pickle!)

Gotta say – veggie burgers just aren’t that pretty!

And finally, here is a link to the cookbook, Superiority Burgers by Brooks Headley, which has lots of great vegan sandwich recipes as well as delicious looking sides and desserts!

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Tabbouleh and Hummus

OK – this is the last Cookbook Challenge recipes from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I had a huge bunch of parsley that needed to be used up so tabbouleh seemed like the perfect choice. And what better to go with tabbouleh than hummus with some warm pitas. That makes a nice meal.

I usually think of tabbouleh as a grain salad because it is made with bulgur wheat. While it does have bulgur in it, it is really an herb salad; lots and lots of herbs, a few vegetables and some bulgur to go along with.

I followed the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian recipe (more or less) exactly – with one glaring exception. I was a little short of mint. My mint plant was not as prolific as it needed  to be. I only had about a quarter cup of mint.

Ingredients for tabbouleh

So here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups fresh parsley
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup scallion
  • 1 really good tomato

I used Bob’s Red Mill Bulgur. I cooked the bulgur according to package directions, and I actually cooked some extra because I had another use for it. Bulgur is a terrific whole grain because it cooks very quickly. With a ratio of 1 part grain to 2 parts water, the bulgur was cooked in about 15 minutes.

Once the bulgur was cooked and slightly cooled it was time to start chopping. Roughly chop the parsley and mint. Chop the scallion and tomato. The tomato is optional. You can skip it if you don’t have a really delicious one on hand.

In a large bowl add the cooked bulgur (about a cup and a half), herbs, tomato, scallion, olive oil and lemon juice.

Tabbouleh ingredients, chopped

Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Beautiful Bowl of Tabbouleh

This tabbouleh is gorgeous. It looks so fresh and flavorful!

Next up, I prepared the hummus. Earlier in the day I had cooked a pot of chickpeas. I used Rancho Gordo chickpeas.

In my small crock pot I cooked about a cup of chickpeas with 4 cups of water. I let them cook all day as the recipe calls for them to be well cooked.

Ingredients for Hummus – except for the lemon!

For this recipe you will need:

  • 2 cups well-cooked, drained chickpeas (reserve the cooking liquid)
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 peeled cloves of garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon cumin or paprika (and a little more for garnish)
  • salt and pepper

Tahini is a sesame paste. It looks like peanut butter. Most stores carry it. You may find it in the peanut butter aisle. Or it might be in the Kosher section. It will keep for a long time in the refrigerator.

Hummus ingredients – ready to process

Put chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic, lemon, paprika in a food processor. I have two food processors and I always use the larger, more powerful one for hummus so that I end up with a smoother result.  Turn on the processor. Add cooking liquid as needed (in small amounts) to get a smooth puree.

Dinner

For dinner I served the hummus and tabbouleh with some warm pita bread. I used Ezekiel pocket breads. They are made from whole grains and they don’t have any weird ingredients. You can find those in the freezer section of well stocked stores.  served a yogurts sauce that I made using Greek yogurt, lemon juice and some spicy chili paste, like Srirachi. And I chopped up some cucumbers, red pepper and romaine lettuce.

The Verdict: This was a fantastic dinner. The tabbouleh was just perfect. It was so fresh tasting. It had a lot of lemon so it was very bright. The bulgur gave the salad a nice nutty quality. That was great. I am in love with that recipe. I have eaten lots of tabbouleh in my day and this was the best. Husband ate seconds and thirds of this salad.

The hummus was delicious also. I make hummus from time to time and we aren’t usually all that thrilled with the outcome. But this hummus was great. It was balanced. Not too tart. Not too garlicky. It was just right. Husband was very impressed too.

We made pita sandwiches with hummus and lots of vegetables. The tabbouleh tasted great as a side dish but it was also terrific tucked into the pita sandwich.

I loved both of these recipes and I will definitely make them again. This is the only hummus recipe that I will use in the future. Delicious!

 

 

 

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Baked Lima Beans Parmigiana

For my next Cookbook Challenge recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, I made Baked Lima Beans Parmigiana.

Right up front, let me tell you, this recipe has everything in it that I love. I love lima beans (a.k.a. butter beans). I love casseroles. I love anything that is cheesy and a gooey. I love crisp breadcrumbs on the top of almost anything. So this recipe really called my name.

It’s very easy to make, though there are three parts to the preparation. I cut the recipe in half, so here is how I did it:

Part One – The 1/2  recipe calls for 2 cups fresh, thawed frozen or cooked dried lima beans. I chose to use dried beans. So the first step is to cook the dried lima beans. I cooked about 3/4 cup of dried lima beans in my slow cooker with about 3 cups of water. I didn’t season them at all during the cooking process, though I did add a little salt at the end. I ended up with more cooked lima beans than the Baked Lima Beans Parmigiana recipe called for. No worries – I’ll use the leftovers to make soup!

Part Two – Prepare one recipe Fast Tomato Sauce –  also found in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  You’ll only need half of this recipe. But it is quite tasty and it’s very handy to have some of this hanging out in your refrigerator for other purposes (pasta, pizza, etc.).

You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • One medium onion, finely chopped
  • One 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the onion is softened but not browned. Add the chopped tomatoes. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture thickens and looks like tomato sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

Part Three – Assemble the casserole. You will need:

  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • 1/2 recipe of Fast Tomato Sauce
  • 2 cups cooked lima beans
  • 1/2 cup cubed or grated mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley for garnish

Grease the bottom of a 9×9 baking dish. I used PAM for this step. Spread the tomato sauce over the bottom of the dish. Spoon the beans of top of the sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top. Use the back of a spoon to press it into the beans. Add a little salt and pepper. Top with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with a little olive oil to lightly moisten the topping.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, uncovered at 400 degrees.  The casserole should be bubbly and the top should be browned and crispy. Sprinkle with chopped parsley for garnish. I have and admission to make here – I completely forgot to add the parsley. I had some cleaned and ready to go. In my haste to eat dinner, I forgot all about it!

Baked Lima Beans Parmigiana, Salad and Bread

 

The Verdict: I ate this as a vegetarian main dish. Husband ate this as a side dish with a piece of grilled chicken. We also had a big, beautiful salad and a fresh demi-baguette.

I thought it was very good. Husband liked it pretty well, too. It was comfort food. The mozzarella was melted and gooey. The topping was crispy and delicious. The beans worked well with the tomato sauce.

Having said all that – I felt like it was missing something. Possibly the parsley, which I forgot! That may have been just the fresh zing that this dish needed. It tasted good. It was satisfying, it just needed a little something extra to make it really memorable.

I’ll try it again with the parsley. But I think it still needs something else. But I’m not sure what.

So my final call: Really good but falls  just short of great!