13 August 2008

A month or so ago, Meijer had all of their dry beans on sale. I had been wanting to make a bean soup sometime, so I stocked up. I wanted to do it in the slow cooker, as I love using it, but have only a few meals that I make in it. I looked at some recipes online, but there were too many, and I couldn't decide on one that I wanted to try. Some of them weren't slow cooker recipes, so I had to figure out how to adapt them. And almost all of them (even the slow cooker ones) called for soaking the beans overnight before cooking them. Well, that seemed like a pain. So, I put off making the soup because I wasn't sure how to proceed. Well, today I just decided I was going to wing it. I didn't soak the beans at all, so I wasn't sure how long it was going to take, but it turned out really great. I have to say, it was a complete success. Here's the recipe I created:

Lesa’s Slow Cooker Bean Soup

2 lbs. smoked ham shanks
1 cup dry pinto beans
½ cup dry black-eyed peas
½ cup dry large lima beans
½ cup dry red kidney beans
½ cup dry navy/great northern beans
½ tsp salt
10 cups water, divided
¼ cup dry lentils
¼ cup dry split green peas

Place ham shanks in large slow cooker (at least 6 qt.) Pour beans over ham. Cover with salt and 6 cups of water. Cook on high, about 3 hours. Check water level. Add more water to again cover the beans and ham, about 4 cups. Cook on low, another 3 hours. Take out ham shanks and separate the meat from the bone and fat. Cut or shred meat and return to slow cooker. Add lentils and peas and cook for another 30 to 60 minutes, or until they are soft.

Makes about 8 servings.

Nutrition Info per serving:

Calories: 155
Fat/Sat. Fat: 2/.5
Cholesterol: 8
Sodium: 315
Fiber: 21
Protein: 16

It turned out really well! I started it at 11:30 and it was done by 5:30. We had church, and couldn't eat it until 8:30, so some of the beans were a little on the soft side, but now that I know how long it takes, I can plan it out better. Jim absolutely loved it. That's how I measure my success!

Some notes:
1. The recipe says to cook on high for three hours, then low for three hours. That my be hard to do for those of you who work all day and don't have a programmable slow cooker. I think it would work just as well to cook on low for a longer period of time. Maybe low for a total of 8 hours? I will try this next time. The reason I put it on high was because I didn't get around to putting it together until 11:30. And since I didn't know how long dry beans would take, I thought I better start off with high. So next time, I will allow 8 hours and start it on low. If you are going to leave it all day, you better add as much water as you physically can at the beginning so they don't dry out by the time you get home.

2. I made it today with black beans, but excluded them from the recipe because they made the whole soup kind of black-tinted. The broth was almost black. It doesn't affect the flavor, it's just kind of weird looking. It makes everything the same color, and you can't even tell the different kinds of beans apart. I had that problem with the taco soup once when I forgot to rinse the canned black beans before I added them. I think I will look for another type of bean to replace it, but for now I will just skip them.

3. Next time I would like to add some onions. I have to be careful, because Jim doesn't like them too much, but if I add them at the beginning, they will be all soft and sweet by the time it's done. I think they would be a great addition. I might add some very finely chopped garlic as well.

4. I am thinking about adding the lima beans part way through cooking next time. They cooked the fastest, which surprises me because they are the biggest bean. By the time we ate it, the skins of the limas had all come off and were floating around. I think next time I will wait maybe 2 hours and then add them. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Sorry that I don't have a pic to show you. My camera is giving me problems. Hopefully I'll be able to get one the next time I make it.

Want to know the greatest thing about this meal? It's super cheap! I figured it up and guess how much it costs per serving? Less than 70 cents! Can you believe that? It's really filling too.

I think I found myself a winner. I hope you try it. Leave a comment and tell me what you think if you do try it.

01 August 2008

Tonight I tried my hand at making a risotto. A risotto is a rice dish that is creamier than plain rice. It is made that way by adding the liquid slowly and stirring constantly so that the starch comes out of the rice and thickens the dish. Sometimes milk or cream is added as well.

Here's how I made mine.

Mushroom Risotto

1 ½ tsp olive oil
¼ cup onions, finely diced
1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 cup white mushrooms, diced
⅔ cup milk
½ cup rice (I used long grain)
2 ½ cups beef stock

Heat oil in large skillet or saucepan. Add onions and cook gently until they become soft but not browned. Meanwhile, put beef stock in separate pan on low heat.

Add salt, pepper, and mushrooms to onions. Cook mushrooms until soft. Add milk and rice and bring to a simmer. Add 1 cup of warmed beef stock and stir regularly until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add another cup and repeat. Add the final half cup and repeat.

If you keep the heat set to medium, the rice should be cooked by the time the final half cup is absorbed. If not, add more stock and cook a little longer until rice is cooked through.

Makes 2 servings.

Now, I think risotto is traditionally made with short grain rice instead of long. But I couldn't find short grain at the store I went to, so I decided long would have to do. And it did just fine. I would like to try it with short grain sometime, though.

And a note on the beef stock. I used homemade broth from a roast I made a while back then froze. I thought the finished dish had a kind of sweetness to it, and I don't know if it is from the broth or not. That roast was cooked with lots of carrots, so it could be. It's rare that I have my own beef broth; in the future I will probably use a reduced-sodium store bought type.

I served this with some baked salmon and green peas. Jim absolutely loved the risotto. He said it was the best rice dish he's ever had anywhere, anytime. Wow! But I have to keep in mind that he was on some pretty strong pain meds for his kidney stone and was a tad bit loopy. :)