Slow Cooker Sunday: Baked Beans

I usually don’t pull my slow cooker out during the summer months. Which is kind of backwards if you think about it. Summer would be the perfect time to use it since it would mean I don’t have to turn my oven or stove on and inevitably add more heat to my already warm (or sometimes hot) house. I think my avoidance has to do with the type of meals I think of when it comes to slow-cooking… Hearty ones perfect for colder months. But, I decided to use it earlier this month to make Baked Beans. I attempted to make them last summer, but, even after soaking my beans overnight and cooking them in my slow cooker for nearly 10 hours my beans didn’t soften. This year I tried a new recipe and a short-cut to soaking my beans and the finished product was one just as delicious as some of the famous canned ones available at your local supermarket.

To save time, I diced the bacon and onion needed for the recipe the night before. To easily dice the bacon I placed it in the freezer for about an hour so it could firm up.

While most slow-cooker recipes for baked beans call for you to soften your beans by soaking them in water for 10 to 12 hours prior to cooking, I opted to take a short-cut. Instead, I rinsed them and placed them in a covered pot with water and brought them to a boil over medium-high heat. After letting the beans boil for 15 minutes, I removed the pot from the heat and let the beans soak in the water for about an hour. After an hour I drained the beans.

Once the beans were ready I layered the ingredients in the slow cooker. I spread the bacon on the bottom of my slow cooker, I then placed the beans over the bacon and finally I sprinkled the onions over the beans. I turned my slow cooker on to the low setting and covered it while I made the sauce.

To make the sauce, I whisked together water, tomato paste, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar and mustard in a large bowl until smooth. I poured the sauce over my ingredients in the slow cooker and covered it again and let it cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. You do not need to stir your ingredients together for this recipe. As the beans cook the flavors will develop and once the beans are ready you will give everything a good stir then.

At the 6 hour point I tasted the beans to check on the flavor and the doneness. I thought the flavor and tenderness of the beans was perfect. Unfortunately since I made these for my 4th of July BBQ I was crazed with getting things ready so I completely forgot to take a picture of the beans when they were done. But, trust me, they looked and tasted delicious!

 

Slow Cooker Baked Beans

Ingredients:

1 pound dried navy, pinto or great northern beans*

1 pound thick-cut bacon, diced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3 cups water

1 6 ounce can tomato paste

1/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap)

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

 

*I used pinto beans

 

Directions:

Go through the beans and pick out any debris or broken beans. Transfer the remaining beans to a colander and rinse with cool water. Transfer the beans to a pot and fill with water (a few inches above the beans) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let the beans boil for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let them sit covered for an hour and then drain.

Spread the diced bacon in a single layer in the insert of a slow cooker. Add the drained beans on top of the bacon and then the onions on top of the beans. Cover the slow cooker and set it to low. Do not stir the ingredients.

In a medium bowl combine the water, tomato paste, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar and mustard and whisk together until smooth. Pour the sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

At the 6 hour mark check the beans for flavor and doneness. If need be add salt and pepper to taste.

Beans are ready when they are creamy and tender.

Once ready stir all of the ingredients together and enjoy!

Recipe slightly modified from The Kitchn

Twice Baked Potato… In the Microwave

I made Twice Baked Potato a month or so ago for the first time the traditional way – in an oven. Just in case you don’t know, Twice Baked Potato is exactly what it says… A potato that’s baked 2 times. First you bake the potato, slice it in half, scoop it out, mix it with some toppings, spoon it back into the potato skins, top it with cheese and bake it again. And it’s delicious! But, I was left wondering if I can bake a potato in the microwave then why can’t make Twice Baked Potato in there also, so, I decided to try it out and I am so happy I did. It came out perfect and just as delicious.

I began by scrubbing two russet potatoes and pricking them with a fork a few times. Next, I baked them in the microwave. Luckily my microwave has a potato button, but, if yours doesn’t the average time is about 8-10 minutes.

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I let them cool for a few minutes and then sliced them in half and scooped out the inside.

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I mashed the potato with butter, sour cream and bacon bits. I then added in shredded cheddar cheese, milk, salt and pepper to taste.

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I then spooned the mixture into the potato skins and topped it with some more cheddar cheese.

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And finally I placed the potato back in the microwave and heated it for about 2 minutes, until the cheese melted.

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And that’s how simple it is to make Twice Baked Potato in the microwave!

 

Twice Baked Potato... In the Microwave

Ingredients:

2 medium russet potatoes

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter, sliced

1/4 cup bacon bits

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus more for topping

2 tablespoon milk*

salt and pepper

*I’ve used whole milk and 2% milk

Directions:

Scrub the potatoes and prick with a fork. Place the potatoes on a microwave safe plate and bake in the oven, using your microwave’s potato button, or for 8 – 10 minutes.

Let potatoes cool for a few minutes and then slice them in half. Scoop out the insides (be careful not to tear the potato skins) and place in a bowl with the butter, bacon bits and sour cream. Mash these four ingredients together and then add in the cheese, milk, salt and pepper.

Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins and top with cheese and return to the microwave for another minute or two until the cheese has melted.

Recipe modified from The Pioneer Woman on The Food Network

A Quick and Easy Coq au Vin

The first time I had Coq au Vin was at a cooking demonstration class at Williams Sonoma. I purchased the braising base that was used at the class but unfortunately my result was nothing like the one I tasted at the class. I think part of the reason was that I still wasn’t all that comfortable with cooking – I’m more of a baker, but, slowly but surely my cooking ability is starting to even out with my baking ability. Recently I came across a recipe for Coq au Vin in a magazine and decided to try making it once again, this time from scratch, and I had much better results. And in case you are wondering, Coq au Vin is a French dish of braised chicken in red wine and normally contains bacon, garlic, onions and mushrooms.

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Up first I sliced baby bella mushrooms, minced 2 cloves of garlic and chopped some fresh thyme.

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I then cooked three slices of bacon, which I cut into half-inch pieces, in two teaspoons of olive oil until they were brown, but not crispy.

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After removing the bacon from the Dutch oven and setting it aside I browned four chicken thighs which I seasoned with salt and pepper.

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Next I cooked the mushrooms along with a 16 oz. bag of frozen white pearl onions for a few minutes until they began to soften.

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Following that I added in the thyme, garlic and a tablespoon of tomato paste.

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And then red cooking wine. I cooked the mixture for about 5 minutes until the wine reduced by half…

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And then added in chicken stock.

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And finally I returned the chicken to the pot, reduced the heat to low and partially covered the pot and allowed the chicken to cook through and the onions to soften, about 40 minutes.

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And for the final step, I dissolved three tablespoons of cornstarch in an equal amount of water and added it to the cooking liquid after transferring the chicken to a plate. Once the liquid thickened I returned the chicken and bacon to the pot, stirring to coat the chicken. I must say I have used cornstarch to thicken cooking liquids before but I normally just add it directly to the liquid, dissolving it in water is a much better method as it eliminates the possibility of any clumps forming in the liquid.

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Final Verdict… Definitely something I will make again, although I think next time I won’t add the cornstarch.

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Easy Coq au Vin – Slightly modified from here

Ingredients:

3 slices center cut bacon, cut into half-inch pieces

2 tsp. olive oil

4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs

16 oz. frozen pearl onions

10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

1 tbsp. tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup red cooking wine

2 cups chicken stock

3 tbsp. cornstarch

Directions:

1. In a 5 to 6 quart Dutch oven, cook the bacon in the oil over medium heat until browned but not too crispy. Transfer the bacon to a small bowl lined with a napkin. Season the chicken with salt and pepper (I used about 1/2 tsp. each). Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

2. Add the onions and mushrooms to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften. Stir in the tomato paste, thyme and garlic. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring the liquid to a simmer. Return the chicken and any juices to the pot. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover and gently simmer, turning the chicken once or twice, until the chicken is cooked through and the onions are tender, about 40 minutes.

3. In a small bowl dissolve the cornstarch in tbsp. water. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the cooking liquid to a bowl. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Return the chicken and bacon to the pot, stirring to coat.