I loved it.
It turns out it was the result of a misunderstanding between my parents - namely, that while Mom thought that Dad liked baked beans from his time in the army, he actually didn't like them much at all because they reminded him of the army.
But he never said a word of complaint about it for decades. I think part of that was because he felt the household and the meals were Mom’s domain, and he did not want to interfere.
But I have very clear and fond memories of those meals, and how they were among the least fussy to get on the table. So I’ve always had a baked bean recipe in my repertoire. This recipe is a take on an old home-made baked bean recipe I had years ago that I’ve adapted for stovetop cooking, and the slow cooker to make it a full meal in a pot.
But you can just as easily make it a nice, easy side dish for picnics by eliminating the pasta and serving just the beans in their savory sauce. I like it particularly for picnics because there are fewer worries about refrigeration, temperature control, and potential spoilage and food poisoning than with many other typical picnic dishes.
In fact, on hot days, I recommend using a slow cooker for your cooking needs as much as possible to avoid heating up the kitchen. Since it can be plugged in down in the basement or outside on a covered area of a patio or deck, it won't add to the temperatures in the house.
It’s one of the few kitchen gadgets I actually recommend buying for your kitchen because it can pay for itself in no time by making eating at home that much easier and more convenient than it would otherwise be. Anything that will prevent reaching for the take-out menu or processed pre-cooked meals is worth the expenditure, in my book.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes 8-10 large servings
Recipe prep time – Approx. 15 minutes
Start to finish time –Approx. 30 minutes 7 hours)
(depending on whether you use stove top or slow cooker method)
Total recipe cost – Approx. $6.00
Total per person meal cost with salad – Approx. $1.50
1 pound dry red kidney beans + 6 cups of water, if you're using a slow cooker
3-4 cans (14-16 ounce size) red kidney beans
1 cup small pasta, such as elbows or 1½ cups medium pasta, such as rotini
1 large onion
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 29-32 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup of water
2-3 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Recipe continues after photos
Stove Top Method (about 30 minutes cook time):
- Peel and dice the large onion. Put it aside in a 4-6 quart pot or in the slow cooker.
- Wash and dice the 1 red and 1 green pepper and add them to the onions.
- Mix the 29-32-ounce can of tomatoes, 1 cup of water, the 2-3 teaspoons of vinegar, the 1 teaspoon of mustard, the 2 bay leaves, the ½-1 teaspoon of red pepper, and the 1 teaspoon of black pepper in a small mixing bowl. Pour the tomato mixture into the slow cooker or the pot with the onion-pepper mixture and stir.
- Cover the pot and place it over high heat. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender.
- Add the pasta to the pot and cook over medium heat until al dente, between 7-12 minutes. Add additional water in 1/2 cup increments, if needed.
- Rinse and drain the beans. Remove the bay leaves from the pot, and then gently stir in the beans. Heat them through for about 5 minutes. The meal is ready to serve.
- Rinse the dry beans in a colander. Put them in a slow cooker, along with 6 cups of water and about 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Add all the ingredients together as listed above, and stir them into the beans in the slow cooker.
- Cover the slow cooker, set it to high, and leave it to cook for 5-7 hours.
- About a half hour before you intend to eat and once the beans are tender and most of the water is absorbed, add the pasta. Recover the pot and allow it to cook. Check the liquid level and if it's becoming too dry, add more water in 1 cup increments, as needed.
I hope you find it as delicious as I do.