Around these parts, July marks a state holiday known as "Pioneer Day," to commemorate those strong and brave men and women who forged the trails to the West. In some of the bigger cities, you can march in parades, pull a handcart, and play pioneer games. Since I live in a small town, the festivities are limited, so we make our own frontier magic. Starting with the food-what else? A little research shows that the trailblazers had significant amounts of cornmeal and dried beans on the long trek. Fresh meat was generally scarce, as were raw fruits and vegetables, Doritos, and Haagen Daaz. Somehow they survived.
With that in mind, I created a Pioneer Day supper of savory and healthy pinto beans in a thick spicy broth, topped with hearty squares of sweet cornbread. I fudged a little by using a crockpot for the beans. What a time and energy saver! I don't think I'll ever make beans on the stove top again. Bake a pie for dessert (serve with that un pioneerish Haagen Daaz) and you've got a real Westward Ho dinner. Somehow, I find it ironic that this morning I'm driving East, back home after a week out West in California.... More to come on that later.Slow Cooker Cowboy Beans:
Estimated Cost: $2.50
Notes: Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped tomatoes and cilantro.
3 cups dried pinto beans, washed
4 slices raw bacon, chopped, optional
1 onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons chicken bouillon, or substitute chicken or vegetable broth for cooking water
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
Place beans in slow cooker and cover with water to within three inches of top. Add bacon, onion, garlic and bouillon. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours, or until beans are fork tender. In the bowl of a blender, process tomatoes with juices. Add to beans; season mixture to taste with salt and pepper.
For the cornbread recipe, click here. Omit the cheese, scallions, and jalapenos. Increase the sugar to 1/2 cup. Sprinkle the top of the cornbread with sugar before baking.
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