Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Slow cooker black bean soup

I've never been the kind of person who listens and quietly obeys instructions.  I've also never been the kind of person who is quiet.  I'm okay with that, and I hope you are, too.

My parents will agree with both of those observations.  For as long as I can remember, my mom or dad would lean over during a certain part of the church service to tell us a little story.  "We were always so happy that the minister never invited kids up to the front of the sanctuary for a children's sermon when you two were little.  We were afraid of what you and your sister would say."

Are you kidding me, Mom and Dad?  What we'd say?

I guess they were referring to things that kids say when responding to a pastor's questions, like that Easter is when Jesus sees his shadow or, worse, something private about their parents.  I'm going to resist the urge to point out that, more often than not, it's parents who say things that embarrass their children.  Because I'm a mature adult.  And mature adults are gracious and don't point out the faults of their elders.  Like I said, I'm a mature adult.

Athough there weren't weekly opportunities to embarrass our parents in front of the entire congregation, my sister and I definitely found a way to ruffle their feathers just a bit, even if it was unintentional.  Each week, we'd attend Sunday School, an hour or so of Christian education targeted at various age groups of kids.  And, each week, when Mom or Dad would retrieve us, our teachers would mention how "inquisitive" -- yes, that was the word -- we were.  "Oh, they ask such interesting questions," the teacher would insist.  We later learned that interesting was teacher code for many and persistent.

Kudos to my parents for never shushing our questions (aside from "Can I have ten bowls of ice cream for breakfast?") and teaching us that as long as we raised our hands, waited for our turn to speak, and were kind, that questions were always okay and even encouraged.  Love you both so much! :)

My curiosity grew with me into my 5 foot 2 and a half inches adult self.  These days I question everything I read on the interwebs (probably a safe practice anyway), including recipes.  I can't tell you the number of recipes I've printed with the intention of recreating and ended up altering beyond recognition. 

Like this one.  It began as a recipe for slow cooker black bean and mushroom chili.  I'd printed it weeks before and didn't glance at it again until the night before I planned to make it.  All I could do was shake my head in dismay.  Slow cookers are designed to make lives easier and dinners more convenient!  Ergo, slow cooker recipes should not require that kind of prep and effort.  The end.

Ready for bed and faced with the idea of, gasp, cooking dinner on my own the next day, I did some quick thinking and a little risk-taking.

I asked myself what I could do in place of the chili.  I had beans and broth.  I had a can of green chilis intended for the original recipe.  I had a chopped onion in the freezer.  And I had some leftover snacks from the Super Bowl.  Could I make a hearty black bean soup in the slow cooker on the fly?

Turns out I could, indeed!

Simple familiar flavors, a handful of ingredients, and 8 hours of hands-off slow cooking.  What more could you want from a filling, cozy dinner?  I can't think of anything to question... and that's saying something, folks.  I'm already planning to make this again and explain the toppings bar.  Maybe shredded chicken or some diced peppers.  How about caramelized onions or fried tortilla strips?  TDF!

"Accidentally amazing" was the phrase Matt kept throwing around.  All because I refused to settle for someone else's instructions.  Makes me wonder what I would've asked our pastor during those children's sermons when I was younger.  I'd like to think it would've been something about what kind of candy Jesus preferred most.  You know, because mature adult me wouldn't be curious about that such a silly thing...

One year ago: Grilled cheese and guacamole sandwich
Two years ago: Peas with shallots and pancetta
Three years ago: Snickerdoodles; Baked apple pie oatmeal

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup
(an original recipe!)
-serves 6

A few notes: Have fun with the toppings or, as I did with leftovers, go naked -- the soup has more than enough flavor on its own!  And, speaking of leftovers, they taste better than the soup did the first night.  Yum.  Also, thanks to a commenter for the reminder as I meant to add this and didn't: the beans will soak up even more of the liquid as the soup cools and sits in the fridge.  Adding more stock or even water (I usually do that latter and it's just fine) will help to restore the dish to a more soup-like state :)

1 pound dried black beans, rinsed
1 (8-ounce) can diced green chilies
1 small white onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Hot sauce, optional
4 cups (32 ounces) low sodium chicken broth
Grated Monterey Jack or other cheese, for serving
Crushed tortilla chips, for serving
Sour cream, for serving
Salsa, for serving

In the bowl of a slow cooker, combine ingredients and 3 cups of water, stirring to mix.  Cook on low for 8 hours until beans are tender.  Serve with cheese, chips, cream, and salsa and enjoy!


  1. I think I'm going to make this tomorrow.

    1. Eating a bowl right now. I really like the soup and it's extremely cheap and easy. I'm a fan of spicy foods so I'm going to use tablespoons instead of teaspoons for the spices next time. Also, be sure to have some extra stock on hand if you're planning on having leftovers because the beans soaked up more liquid in the fridge overnight.

    2. Thanks so much for the reminder! I meant to include that note about adding liquid after an overnight stay in the fridge. You're right on!

  2. Well, you couldn't have been any worse than the youngster this past Sunday who was asked if he knew what Transfiguration meant and he made a reference to "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire". The youth minister never missed a beat and later the senior minister commented that he was glad that this was not his week to do the children's sermon since he probably wouldn't have caught the HP reference.

    1. Ha ha ha! Oh, that is fantastic. And, kudos to the youth minister for understanding the reference. Thanks for sharing! :)