Crock Pot Black Beans

A couple of notes before I start.  If you don’t have a crock pot, read on, because you can certainly do this on the stove.  But, you might want to consider that small investment if you can stomach another kitchen gadget.  It might be worth it if it helps you avoid the weeknight take-out routine…Also, this is a basic recipe and you can fix it up however you like, including subbing a different kind of beans.  Don’t feel the need to go to crazy, though, because it doesn’t take much to make good food taste good and why make life complicated?

Every once in a while, a discussion about slow-cookers, aka crock pots, comes up.  It  seems that many people have them, but don’t know the many advantages of using them.  Well, I am here to tell y0u how easy your life will be if you dust off your old crock pot and get it working for you….You can cook just about anything in a crock pot and the biggest advantage is that you don’t have to be there watching over it.  You just throw your ingredients in, turn it on, and go on about your life while it does its work.  That means you can go to sleep and wake up to a hot, ready-made breakfast.  You can have lunch ready to scoop into a thermos.  You can go to work and come home to a steaming hot, yummy dinner.  Or, best yet, on the weekends,  you can throw your dinner in the crock pot and then sit around reading a book ALL day while enveloped in the delicious aroma of a home-cooked meal.  I know, in this busy world we live in, it seems outrageous to lie idle all day, but I challenge you to rebel and give it a try.

Seriously, all you have to do is put your ingredients in the crock pot and turn it on.  If you think you can’t cook, keep reading, because you are going to learn to love your crock pot.  The only thing I ever do to complicate things is saute my vegetables on the stove before putting them in, but you can even skip that part.  You can also skip the whole soaking/bean cooking part if you already have some leftover cooked beans.  This is a fabulous way to use them up.

Here’s a good starter recipe.  It’s nice because it’s simple and yummy and you can really use any kind of beans with good results (though you might need to add more cooking time for larger beans).  We’re going with black beans for now, because just about everyone likes black beans, but you can use whatever kind you like.  The added bonus is that you also get to learn that cooking beans from scratch is also a breeze.

  • 2 cups dry black beans
  • water for soaking
  • olive oil
  • 2 medium onions or leeks, chopped (or a combination)
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 strip kombu*, optional
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • Optional – bell peppers (seasonal), sliced carrots, cumin, chili seasoning, fresh lime juice, chopped greens, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, cabbage…
  • 5 medium tomatoes, fresh and roughly chopped if in season, 1-1/2 cups jarred strained tomatoes if not
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

*Kombu is a sea vegetable often cooked with beans to make them more digestible.  It also adds nutrients, particularly iodine.

Soak the black beans in water to cover by about an inch overnight.  Alternatively, you can put them in a pot with water to cover by 2 inches, bring it to a boil, and just soak them for 1 hour.  Drain the beans in a colander and rinse them well, then put them in your crock pot along with a little olive oil and your onions, celery, garlic, bay leaves, and kombu if you are using it.  Add enough water to cover the black beans by an inch or two.  Turn it on, high if you have a choice, cover it, and walk away for the next 6-8 hours.  I don’t add salt or anything acidic until the beans are soft.  That’s controversial, but I have found that these impede the bean softening process; you can decide for yourself.  Once the beans are soft, add the tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper and let it all cook for at least another hour or two.  Here is where you can make the timing work how you want.  You could cook the beans the  night before, then throw the tomatoes, salt, etc in in the morning and then cook it on low until you are ready to eat.  This is optimal, because the beauty of the crock pot is that it gives lots of time for your flavors to come together.  However, if you are pinched for time, you can cook the tomatoes on the stove for 10 minutes and stir them in and it will still be delicious.   If you are adding some of the optional vegetables – bell peppers, cabbage, and other relatively quick cooking veggies can be added with the tomatoes.  I would add carrots at the beginning.  Winter squash and sweet potatoes will need at least an hour and maybe two to get soft, but can also be cooked more quickly on the stove and added in.  Serve over rice or quinoa with a green salad on the side, maybe some cornbread too, and enjoy!

PS – if your schedule requires the beans to cook a little faster, you can bring it all to a boil on the stove, then transfer to the crock pot, or if you don’t want to dirty another pot, you can heat the water in a tea kettle or pot on the stove and pour it over the beans, etc in the crock pot.

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