I find that, because I have a food blog, everyone assumes that I’m always in the mood to cook. They think that it’s all chef-y food, all the time. I wish that was the truth… But, unfortunately, I tend to go through kitchen mood swings.
Lately, I’ve been craving some simplicity. When it has come time to decide what we’re having for dinner each night, I’ve been winging it quite a bit, opting for basics that I can make without a recipe. When I get into these into these dreary kitchen moods, I am always glad that I have learned to cook over the years. With minimal effort, I know that I can pull together something for dinner using whatever’s on hand. Sometimes, I think that’s one of the most valuable kitchen skills to have.
One of my favorite non-recipe dinners to make is soup. I almost always keep soup ingredients on hand, and I can mix and match what I have for endless variety. I start with aromatics – onions, garlic, carrots, celery. Then, I usually add a bit of meat, beans, or sometimes both. Add some good flavored broth (which I always keep in the freezer so I have it on hand), herbs and spices, and a few chunky veggies (if you like), and you’ve got a great soup. No sweat!
Want it to be even easier? Throw it all in your slow cooker. That’s what I decided to do a few weeks ago when I made this ham and bean soup. I had a ham bone left over from a Christmas dinner that I made for my family. I pulled out some dried beans from the pantry and used the two as the base for a simple slow cooker ham and bean soup. I didn’t really measure… I don’t think you need to. The measurements in the recipe are approximations… This is one of those dishes that you can feel your way through, and use what you have. Most importantly, enjoy the process. Sometimes getting in the kitchen can be pretty therapeutic, especially when you’re lacking inspiration.
Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup
Serves approximately 8 - 10
- 1 – 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 – 4 ribs celery, diced (about 1 cup)
- 3 – 4 carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound dried white beans, soaked overnight
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 – 3 sprigs of thyme
- Ham bone with meat
- 6 – 8 cups liquid
(I used about half water, half vegetable stock)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat (or in your slow cooker insert, if it is safe to use on the stove). Add the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic. Saute until tender, for about 10 minutes. Transfer the sauteed vegetables to your slow cooker, and stir in the soaked beans, smoked paprika, cumin, and coriander. Toss in the thyme, stems and all.
Add the ham bone to the slow cooker, and add the liquid. Be sure to add enough liquid to mostly cover the ham bone. Cover, and cook on low for about 8 hours, until the beans are tender.
Remove the ham bone and the sprigs of thyme from the slow cooker, and use an immersion blender to partially puree the soup. You can puree as much or as litlte as you like. I like to puree the soup just enough to thicken the broth, leaving plenty of chunks. Cut the meat off of the ham bone, chop into small pieces, and return to the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.