Friday, September 3, 2010

Survival skills

For a lot of the Country school already started.  With school also comes the wave of activities.  Dance class, Tae Kwon Do, soccer, football, etc., etc., etc.  My own boys start school this month, one of them has already started soccer practice and the baby starts practice next week.  This means the end of my carefree summer.  No more leisurely mornings of breakfast and going to the gym.  No more laid back evenings for cooking.  Nope, things are going to get a lot more hectic in the Rodriguez House.

One of the ways I keep my sanity is to use my beloved servant.  I've heard it referred to actually as an indentured servant.  A kitchen item that many of us have but do not use often enough, if at all.  I'm talking about the crock pot.  I have two.  One is ancient, it was my Mother's.  The other is newer, shiny with a sleek black insert.  I actually use the old decrepit one more.  I use that one at least once a week.  When I was first together with my husband I attempted to make a pot of beans, or frijoles, on the stove.  It did not go over well, I made a huge mess, it boiled over all over my burners.  I was disheartened.  I did not try again.  I relied on canned beans-he's Mexican we eat a lot of beans so that got rather costly.  As time went on my Mother in Law shared a new discovery with me.  She'd, of course, always made beans the old fashioned way-the way I did not seem capable of doing!  Then she realized she could use her crock pot to make frijoles.  The crock pot!  Even I couldn't screw that up!  The trouble with the old stove method really was that you needed to keep an eye on it and frankly I didn't want to.  So she shared with me how to make them in the crock pot and I've been doing that ever since, at least once a week, sometimes more.  Now I will share with you!

  • Sort the beans, remove any broken pieces and stones-seriously look for the stones you do not want to bite into one!
  • Place sorted beans in a colander and rinse well.
  • Pour them into the crock pot and fill with water, I usually go about an inch below the top.  Turn the crock pot on low and walk away.  For about 8 hours.  Seriously you can leave the house.  You can clean the house.  You can go to bed.  Most of the times I do this before I leave for work but sometimes I do it before I go to sleep.
  • When the beans are almost done cooking salt the pot to taste, do not add salt too early I'm told that makes the beans "tough".
  • Heat a frying pan with olive oil.  Add one whole serrano chile and one wedge of onion to the oil when it's hot and let it sizzle.  Pour all of that, including the oil, into the beans and stir. 
Now you have the world's simplest, and one of the most nutritious, side dishes at your disposal.  This works with any dried bean.  Black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, anything your little heart desires.  If you have time and foresight you can sort them and soak them overnight, I've heard that takes away some of the less desirable side effects of the mighty bean.  Just drain the water in the morning and add fresh water before you cook.  If you have less time you can cook them on high for about 4-5 hours.  If you're not a vegetarian you can add ham bones or bacon to the pot, the sky's the limit!

What to do with your beans now?  Serve them whole.  Smash them and fill corn tortillas.  Mix them with eggs for breakfast burritos.  Add them to salad.  Add them to corn muffins.  Mix them with quinoa.  Whatever you decide to do cooking them in the crock pot will save you tons of time and that's something we all need as school restarts and the kids get busier and busier.

An amazing resource for inspiration if you're just getting started in the use of this dear, but somewhat intimidating, appliance is A Year of Slow Cooking.  The author decided to use her crock pot every single day for an entire year.  She has recipes for anything under the sun and tells you how to cook it while you're out of the house.  She even tells you how to cook an entire chicken in the crock pot so you can stop running into Costco for their rotisserie chicken on the way home from work.  I've used that recipe a couple of times and it's really good.  The chicken stays moist, the spices give the right flavor, and best of all I don't have to even think about it while I'm gone.  I know my beloved crock pot is cooking dinner for me.  All I have to do when I get home is finish up a couple of sides and get it on the table.  Another bonus for this website, it's gluten free.  Obviously you can gluten up the recipes if you want to, but hers are all written gluten free. 

Here's my challenge, dig out your crock pot, dust it off and use it-at least once-next week.  Then come tell me what you made-I'm always looking for dinner inspiration-and enjoy a stressfree dinner with your family!


  1. Okay I am going to try this... wish my luck, my husband would love it, (I can't stand beans, it started when I was an infant and threw them up when my mom fed them to me LOL) anyways, I would really love for my kids to like them!

  2. Sounds yummy! I will have to try that! A super easy one for the crockpot is Hawaiin Chicken-chicken breasts, bbq sauce, and pineapple tidbits....toss it in, cook on low for 6-8 or high for 3-4....not sure what is allowed in the gluten free diet-but we serve over rice....or switch it to cranberry sauce (no pineapple or bbq) and serve over mashed potatoes for an early taste of thanksgiving ;)

  3. Good luck Stephanie! I hope you like the way they turn out, fresh beans taste much better than canned, plus this way you can control the salt.

    Ali, that sounds good! I will have to check for a safe BBQ sauce. I've tried the cranberry meat served over potatoes before, that was really good too.


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