Happy New Year Everyone. Hope you’re still at your resolutions. (By my clock, we all have another few hours before we abandon them completely.) Me? I grabbed 2015 by the horns – I think by noon on January 1, the tree had been disrobed and curbed; the basement, organized; the contents of Phoebe’s Fibber-McGee-and-Molly closet sorted into three boxes – keep, hand-me-down, goodwill; and all those little ziplocs from the freezer containing mysterious frost-bitten contents had been laid out on the counter like crime scene evidence, waiting to be identified and put to use.
Of course, these little triumphs are usually more likely found on a to-do list than an “I Resolve” list, but it felt good anyway. My real resolutions – eat healthier lunches, not blow my next book deadline, find a new hobby that doesn’t involve a screen (I’m taking nominations), snack better, listen to more podcasts – aren’t necessarily the kinds of things one checks off a list after a few hours of caffeine-fueled determination. Or ever, actually. (I’m always afraid to read back my archive of New Year’s posts to see how ineffective this whole exercise is.)
As anyone who has ever reorganized their sock drawer instead of dealing with a deadline knows, it’s so much easier to control what’s right in front of you, and what was in front of me on January 1 were those freezer bags. Chunks of Benton’s Bacon, misshapen ziplocs of homemade stock, a few heels of Parmesan, three small bags that each contained one or two canned tomatoes, five (five!) black bananas. I knew there were some orphaned bags of dried white beans in the pantry, some onions, basil leaves, and nearing-their-end carrots in the fridge, so I unceremoniously dumped everything into the slow cooker (minus the bananas which would be put to use the next day) and pressed the 6-hour button.
Warning: What I’m about to say might send a few of you into a tailspin, but I’m going to say it anyway. Here it goes: I have not been loving my slow-cooker. I know I’ve only had it three months, and that hardly counts as giving it much of a go, but the truth is, so far, most of what has been ladled out of the thing has left me wanting more. Or something different. (Even Phoebe the other day, when told we were having chili, asked “Can it not be the one you make in the slow-cooker?”) I think most of the problem lies in the fact that I have been using it to translate dishes that I’ve been cooking in the Dutch Oven for over a decade – so there’s a standard to meet. Not just Phoebe’s chili, but short ribs, and pork loins, too.
But my kitchen-dump beans? These made the cut. Rich, stewy, smoky, they were somewhere between a meatless cassoulet and minestrone, and I must say, most excellent with a piece of crusty bread. Since I had so much room in the freezer, I ladled the whole thing into a new batch of single-serve soup bags. In other words, More Healthy Lunches: Check! At least til next week.
A Recipe-ish for Slow Cooker White Beans
Another reason why this was a success? I didn’t measure anything. (The whole dump-it-in thing is 100% of slow cooker’s appeal for me.) I used about a one-inch chunk of the bacon – that’s the great thing about good bacon, you don’t need a lot — but you can leave it out altogether if you’d prefer to make this meatless. Then I’m guessing about a 14-ounce can’s worth of chicken stock, same for whole tomatoes. Then about 8-10 ounces of dried white beans (Navy or Cannellini), a parm rind, about 10 basil leaves, half a large onions (chopped) and a third a bag of baby carrots. I set to 6-hours, pouring water into it every now and then so that beans would be fully submerged. If there had been any greens in my fridge – kale, spinach, chard – I would’ve tossed them in at the end. Serve with crusty bread or in bowls with freshly shaved Parm and a drizzle of olive oil.