We eat whole foods as much as possible, in the European slow-cooking, slow-eating countryside style, preparing most meals from scratch with a minimum of packaged convenience items, and a sprinkling of favorite indulgences. Dinner is when this really comes to bear, since we have a real chance to sit down, share, and *linger* – my main term for all things “slow living.”
I make heavy use of my slow cooker year-round in the process… so much so, I’m considering just keeping that gargantuan beast on my counter at all times as a practical measure. ;)
Other than vegetarian, we don’t adhere to any strict diet or regimen beyond whole and wholesome. Lately, we have been trying to pare down on gluten-containing foods due to family bellyaches, and it does seem to be helping us all attain digestive balance. Going mostly gluten-free hasn’t been a big deal since we don’t eat much in the way of processed food anyway, and it’s been easy to substitute non-gluten flours in our baking. Overall, the quality of the food and the experience of eating it is what’s most important, and which I believe should be interesting, inspired, and also comforting.
Living and cooking this way can be time-consuming – which is the point, right? Living life well and experiencing it thoroughly does take time…. and that’s the beauty of it. When you consciously make the time for things you want to experience, “time,” such as we perceive it, makes space for you to take that time.
We can discuss the nature of time and space more on another occasion – though for now, let’s just say, it would be a good experiment to endeavor upon, if you should feel so inclined. Apply this to other things you’ve always wanted to do – like meditation, yoga, a special hobby, or getting into a regular exercise routine – and you may find it works the same way. In the meantime, the slow cooker is a magical modern element appliance that can help us leap through the space-time continuum. ;)
…. Since as we all know, there are definitely periods – like the busy holiday season – when it gets a little hectic, and a little magic can be a huge help. Enter trusty crockpot!
Soup prepared in a slow cooker can be a lifesaver – and one of the healthiest things on the week’s menu, to boot. Especially as the weather gets cooler, we live by our soups around here – and never seem to tire of them, since there are endless varieties you can make just by throwing a few things you already have on hand into the pot.
There really is no other meal that is easier or more satisfying in our regular rotation. Even when it’s not so busy, the slow cooking method since the lower temperature preserves nutrients allows the flavors of the ingredients to season together more naturally. I always make a huge batch, so we usually have enough left to freeze another round for a convenient, healthy family meal later, too – which comes in handy on activity nights, or when the chef is not up to cooking.
Most of the soups we make are vegan and gluten free, and relatively low calorie and low fat. This savory soup uses a 15-bean soup bean blend as a hearty, protein- and fiber-rich core, surrounded by lots of yummy herbs and veggies from the garden. If you don’t have these particular herbs, just throw in what you like or have on hand instead. The soup will be very liquid at first, and will thicken and become naturally thick and creamy the longer it cooks.
Be sure to pre-soak your beans in water the night before in a covered container in the refrigerator to hydrate and soften them for best cooking and digestibility. This recipe can also be prepared on the stovetop – allow at least 1-2 hours to cook due to the high bean content if using this method.
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced, to taste
1 yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped – retain leaves for seasoning
2 leaves kale or chard, separated from stalk and chopped (chop stalks to use as well)
2-3 carrots, diced
2 red potatoes, diced
1 pre-soaked 16-oz bag 15-bean or similar soup bean mix (omit seasoning package, if included)
2 32-oz cartons vegetable stock – or – 8 cups home-prepared vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
2-4 sage leaves (or 2 tsp dried)
Celery leaves from chopped celery and/or cutting celery leaves
3-4 stems fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
2 stems fresh oregano leaves (or 1 1/2 tsp dried)
1 tsp cumin
3 cubes raw sugar (or 1 Tbsp granulated raw or brown sugar)
1/2 tsp black pepper, or more to taste
salt to taste
Directions: Drain and rinse soaked beans in a strainer. Turn your crockpot on high and add the oil. Stir in onions, garlic and celery first and cover as you prepare the other ingredients. Add the remaining vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, and sugar. Stir, cover and leave on high if half a day or less to cook, or set to low if preparing in the morning for dinner. Check seasoning and stir periodically, adjusting to taste. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Hearty enough as a complete meal on its own, or serve with crusty sourdough, a side of cornbread, or top with a scoop of cooked rice and cilantro garnish.
Love and light,