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A Revelation: Black Beans in the Slow Cooker (and Menu Monday)

Oct 24, 2011 11:29PM ● Published by Anonymous

I have never, in my entire life, liked any form of bean. It's mostly a textural thing (though I can't say that beans smell like roses, either), and I've always been known to order food sans beans or pick around them if a dish surprises me with them. 

But I know beans are healthy and cheap. As someone who is consistently on a quest to eat foods that embody those two important qualities, I knew that I had to find a way to enjoy beans. Did you know they say you have to introduce a child to a food at least three times before they will accept and (possibly) enjoy that? 

Actually, I don't know if that's really true. But darn it, I will treat myself like a toddler and force those beans down my throat. 

It turns out that forcing wasn't necessary. After doing a lot of research on how to make beans palatable -- to soak or not to soak? Stove, oven, pressure cooker? Baking soda or none? Salting or no salting? -- I chose to use the slow cooker for a low, slow, even cooking method.

AND IT WORKED.

I tried the black beans straight out of the slow cooker without any seasoning, sauces, or other additions. It was magical -- the beans were creamy without that strange hard exterior, grainy interior that comes with canned beans. I immediately ran upstairs to proclaim to my husband that we could now eat beans in our household. 

So if you have any bean-haters in your household, or if you just think beans could be improved upon in general, here's what I did:

  • I purchased the beans from the bulk bin at Mom's Organic Market in Bowie. Did that make a difference? Who knows.
  • Before cooking them, I scattered the beans on a baking sheet and pulled out any that looked disheveled.
  • Then I soaked them in cold water for one hour. From my research the reasons for soaking are threefold: 1) It minimized gas, though not as much as people think. 2) It helps remove the dirt from the surface of the bean. 3) It allows beans to slowly absorb the liquid they need to cook evenly and completely so they don't split open, lose their skins, or cook only the outer surface while the middle remains hard.
  • After soaking, I drained the water (which had turned a dirty brown color), and refilled the slow cooker with fresh water a couple inches above the top of the beans.
  • To finish it off, I cooked the beans on low for about eight hours. Voila! Perfect black beans.
Now it's time to start experimenting with other types of beans, as well as seasonings. But beans aren't on our menu this week, so let's take a look at what is.

Sunday: Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and panzanella salad
Check back soon for a "basic to basics" post on how I achieved the dream of a roasted chicken with a crispy, golden skin and moist interior.

Monday: Spaghetti and meatballs, roasted broccoli
I had planned a meal of chicken and dumplings, using leftover roasted chicken. However, we had a friend over for dinner on Sunday and the three of us basically devoured the chicken. So, instead, we will have spaghetti and homemade meatballs, using a combination of ground lean beef and ground pork.

Tuesday: Curried Shrimp over Coconut Brown Rice
Delicious.

Wednesday: Caramel Apple Pork Chops, roasted cauliflower, and Orzo
This pork entree is perfect for this time of year. It's slightly sweet, so kids will love it, but not too cloying for adults.

Thursday: We're attending the grand opening of the Hotel at Arundel Preserve. We've visited the attached restaurant, Grillfire, so we're pretty optimistic it will have some delicious food. 

Friday: Our week ends with attending the Saints and Sinners Cocktail Party at the Loews Hotel, benefitting The ARC Central Chesapeake Region. Tickets are still available, so get yours now!

 

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