Basic Crock-Pot Beans
The last few days have been PERFECT writing days… gloomy skies, wind whipping around the windows, rain pattering down in sporadic spurts… my kids are currently obsessed with LOTR (a habit I have fostered, nurtured, and whole-heartedly endorsed) so there has been lots of movie watching and role-playing. Which has obviously gone straight to my uterus, because we discovered we’re having a baby girl today, and have decided her middle name will be Éowyn (YAY!!!).
So naturally, I was NOT writing. I was reading. =) In my defense, it was an amazing soon-to-be-published novel. And I will gloat more that *I* got to read it before you did when it’s all official like (because I’m just competitive like that). Anyways, all the reading, LOTR, and rainy weather have made me eager for low-maintenance, low-cost dinners. And while on the phone to a dear cousin who struggles (as I do) with meal planning for a hubby who NEEDS to know what’s for dinner (“Um…. peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?”), I decided to post the easiest dinner to make in the whole world. It includes a tool (Crock-Pot) and skill (cooking beans) that you MUST have to be an adult, in my opinion.
You’ll need to start in the morning and gather:
- at least 2 pounds of dry beans (we prefer black or pinto beans)
- a big onion
- several cloves of garlic
- salt & pepper
- (Opt.) cooked meat (bacon, ham hocks, etc.)
Rinse the dry beans in a colander, removing funky looking beans (sometimes you’ll even find rocks… you DON’T want to bite on those!), any bean skins that stick to the sides, etc. Basically, clean them really well.
Dump your clean beans into your Crock-Pot and cover them with water. Because you can use any amount of beans, the amount of water varies. A good measure is your finger (this is genius: my husband taught me this trick): if you gently put your index finger on the top-most bean, the water level should be even with the second knuckle on your finger (brilliant, right?).
Now, skin an onion (chop off the top and bottom and take off all the dry skin) and add it to the pot. I leave the onion whole, because my kids don’t care for onion (they think), so when the beans are done, I just take the whole thing out. But you can totally dice it and mix it in with the beans. It’s up to you. Also, if you DON’T have an onion, onion powder or onion salt work just fine. Just sprinkle enough to cover the surface of the water.
Throw in some garlic cloves, either peeled, chopped, or pressed (we don’t believe there is any such thing as “too much garlic,” and it’s kept our house vampire and zombie free for years). Again, if you don’t have garlic, you can use garlic powder instead.
Add a bunch of salt and a few dashes of pepper (don’t you love my measurements?). This last batch I made I used up all our salt and it still didn’t taste salty enough for me. I recommend a taste-test about half-way thorough the cook time to make sure the flavor is right for you.
I’ve seen a lot of people add bacon or ham hocks to their meat. Leftover bacon never happens in our house, so we’ve never actually done this. And if we have ham hocks, I make split-pea soup. So anyways, I’ve never done this before, other people do and I bet it tastes yummy!
You can also add any other spice you want (and your kids tolerate): this last batch I sprinkled in cumin powder and a dash of chili powder. It went over fine with them.
Now fire up the Crock-pot for about 6 hours. Check it every few hours to make sure the water still covers the beans. If you have to add water, boil it first so it doesn’t slow down the cooking time. Although, I usually don’t check it… I’m generally busy… you know, reading. =)
This way, when my husband wants to know “what’s for dinner?” I have an answer. “Beans!” And when he comes home, the house smells amazing. =)
You can serve them in bowls with cheese and sour cream, or heat up tortillas and make burritos. Mmmmm.