Thursday, July 2, 2009

Crockpot Baked Beans

Do I need to explain every time I don't post in a month and a half that my life is insane and I'm always going in 20 different directions??

Good, cause that would get boring.

After 15 years as a vegetarian, I sometimes still find myself stuck in an omni mindset about certain foods. Baked beans, for example, are a side dish -- right? .... Why? I use beans as a protein source in a million other things, why can't baked beans take center stage for dinner? Because I'm prejudiced, that's why. In an effort to expand my horizons (and damn do I love baked beans) I decided I was going to make some for dinner one night, with some fabulous other sides. That night was tonight. I had planned them with collard greens and roasted sweet potatoes, but then I was thinking biscuits would be great to sop up the baked bean juice (sauce? gravy? liquid?) so I made whole wheat biscuits instead.

My quest to find the perfect baked bean recipe took a few weeks, and even still the one I made I altered. I was finding that most baked bean recipes were baked onion recipes with beans mixed in. Alright, forgive my use of hyperbole, but I don't see why one would need 2 onions in baked beans. Other recipes were basically beans in premade BBQ sauce or ketchup with some spices. BLEH. What I ended up with does have some onion powder, which I'm fine with, and some ketchup, also ok, but I think beans are really the star. The sauce is sweet, but not TOO sweet, and mildly smokey. Some fake bacon bits round out the dish in the way only odd smokey salty bits of facon can.

This also is also part of my continued quest to learn to cook legumes from dry, instead of from a can. A can will probably always be my favorite for convenience, but man is dry cheaper, and for something like this I think they really absorb a lot of the sauce. If you want to use canned beans instead, go for it. You'd need about 4 cans of beans, drained and rinsed, to equal the dry, and you'd want to cook it much shorter or on a lower temperature since they're already soft.

Crockpot Baked Beans

1 lbs bag of navy beans (dry)
Water for soaking
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 tbsp facon bits (You can usually find these at the supermarket labelled something like "Bac'n" -- read the ingredients, you'll be surprised)
1.5 tsp salt
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses (or whatever molasses you keep on hand)
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp liquid smoke

1. Soak the navy beans overnight in the fridge (about 12 hrs) in about 4X as much water as you've got beans.

2. Drain and rinse the beans and put them in a medium pot with about 3X as much water as beans. Bring the beans to a boil and boil for about two minutes, then drain ... again.

3. In the crock pot, add all the other ingredients and whisk together into a smooth sauce. Stir in the beans. Cover and set the crock pot to high, and cook for 8 hrs or until the beans are soft (this could vary depending on how fresh the beans are, how hard your water is, how long they soaked, etc... Mine were perfectly tender after 8 hrs, and may have been sooner, but I wasn't home).

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