What is it about the crisp weather of fall that makes us crave heartier food for supper? I find myself cooking more pots of beans, chili and soup when autumn gets underway. Following are a few of my favorite recipes that I use to satisfy my craving for a hearty, comforting, steaming bowl in the fall. And since fall means football, these are wonderful to serve on game day.
I once heard that the dalai lama said to approach love and cooking with wild abandon. That sums up why I enjoy making and serving the following recipes. You can add whatever and change the recipe around and it still comes out tasting wonderful. Have fun with these. Don't be afraid to experiment while making these steaming bowlfuls.
White Bean Chicken Chili
I usually cook without measuring. I also love to cook with my crock pot. Things like beans, soup and chili taste better to me when they have been cooking over the course of several days.
I dump a small bag of white beans into the crock pot and let them soak overnight without turning the crock pot on. This just keeps me from having to clean up so many dishes. In the morning, change out the water and set the crock pot for about 10 hours on high.
When I get home from work, I add in frozen chicken breasts and turn the crock pot to another 10 hours on high and let this cook overnight. The next morning, I drain a lot of the broth off of the beans and chicken. I like my chili a little on the thick side. At this point, I also take the chicken out of the crock pot and shred it before adding it back.
After draining off the excess broth, I add onion and garlic powder. My husband will not eat anything with chunks of onion or garlic in it. I add what I think would amount to a few teaspoons each. I add double that amount of paprika and chili powder. Don’t forget to add the salt and pepper. I use grinders just because I like the taste better. Then I set the crock pot to cook for the next 6 hours on high. This gives the spices time to integrate their flavors with the beans and chicken.
I took a bowl of this to one of our neighbors this morning and he gobbled it up while we were visiting. I took his slurping noises as a sign of approval. He sent me home with an empty bowl.
This is great with some mozzarella cheese sprinkled on the top or a dollop of sour cream or both. If you are worried about the calories, go for a walk afterward. The crispness in the air is your invitation to walk off the calories from a steaming bowl of white bean chicken chili.
Mixed Bean Vegetable Soup
For this, I start by dumping a bag of 9 or 15 mixed beans into the crock pot. Again, I let it soak overnight in the crock pot and change the water in the morning. I usually start my three or four day soups in the middle of the week with weekend eating pleasure in mind or on a Friday with Sunday dinner in mind.
After soaking all night, change out the water and set the crock pot to cook while gone all day at work for about 10 hours. When the beans have cooked through an entire day, it is time to add the larger vegetables. I cut up potatoes and carrots and add them to the cooking beans. If you like onions, chop them up and add when you add the potatoes and carrots. I set the mixture to cook during the night again.
In the morning, add in your frozen or canned vegetables. This is where the fun part comes in. I do not always have the same vegetables in the house. I usually have green beans, corn, tomatoes, and okra. All of these get added to the soup. Sometimes, I add chopped peppers. Lima beans are good in this too. Peas make a good addition. I have been known to add cauliflower or broccoli to this soup if it is in the kitchen. Momma always puts cabbage in her's.
After adding the vegetables, I choose which spices will be added. Salt and pepper of course are added. Sometimes, I add just a dash of cinnamon when I am feeling wild or a little bit of nutmeg. Onion and garlic are great additions, as are thyme or basil or oregano. Add whatever suits your fancy that day. That’s why I love making this mixed bean vegetable soup. It never comes out the same twice in a row.
Cook in the crock pot for another 4 or 6 hours to give the spices and beans and vegetables time to marry. I love serving this soup with a pan of crusty corn bread. Life doesn’t get much better than this.