Cool recipes for cool weather

Cool weather is here again and I am sharing two of my favorite recipes which I have prepared for others and they seem to enjoy.  The Crock Pot beans were in the column last January and there was so much positive feedback; Here it is again along with a chili recipe with a twist.  Once you eat home cooked chili, soup, and beans, you simply no longer appreciate the canned stuff.  It takes a few minutes to prepare these meals but no longer than it would take you to go to a restaurant, and they are much tastier and more nutritious.  Use as many organic ingredients as you can find.


A Caribbean twist to a great winter-time dish! Sure to get the sinuses flowing!! This can be prepared without meat - just omit the first step with ground beef. Serve this dish by itself or over a bowl of basmati rice.

Place about a pound and a half of ground round in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain and set aside.2. Place a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add a little olive or coconut oil.  When pan is hot, cook 1½ cups chopped onion and 2 cloves of crushed garlic in olive oil until the onion is tender. Add 2½ cups chopped bell pepper (I like red or yellow best), and cook until tender.

3. Season with 1 tablespoon each of ground cumin, chili powder, and paprika,  ½ teaspoon salt (I add more salt or Braggs Liquid Aminos), and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves.

4. Stir in 2 15-ounce cans stewed tomatoes, and one can each of kidney beans, black beans, and cannellini beans. Pour in water to cover.

5. Bring to a boil; stir in the meat and a 6 ounce can of tomato paste. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. (I usually transfer to a crock pot instead and keep it on low for a while).

6. Before serving add a half teaspoon honey and 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar.

CROCK POT BEANS (or soup if you use more liquid)

Most people mistakenly assume beans must be made with ham, bacon, or some kind of pork to taste good.  This is simply not true!  You can get creative with beans and the following recipe illustrates many ingredients that can be used.  You can put this into the crockpot at night and in the morning it is done; or you can put it in the pot mornings and have them ready for the evening meal.  I like the addition of vegetables and ground cumin is a must with beans.  Sometimes I simply use some salsa along with cumin, sautéed onions, and Braggs Liquid Aminos (If you haven’t tried this, you have missed a taste treat).

You can vary this recipe all over the place-- most everything is optional..

1/2 medium sized yellow onion, diced                                                                    4 whole garlic cloves, peeled                                                                                                 1 tsp ground cumin                                                                                                                 1 tsp chili powder                                                                                                 2 cups dry beans (whatever kind you like)                                                                                    1 teaspoon dried oregano                                                                                 2-3 bay leaves                                                                              

2 large Carrots                                                              

2 large stalks of celery                                                                               1 red potato (turnip would be a good substitute), peeled and cut into large chunks

1 can Rotel Tomatoes                                                                                                                     Salt and Pepper to Taste

Cilantro (optional)

Olive Oil and Vinegar (Optional)                                                                  Tabasco Sauce (Optional)

Sort beans and remove stones and discolored bad beans. Rinse well in colander. Put beans in pot and cover with 2-3 inches of water. Soak at least a good 4-5 hours.

After soaking beans, drain and rinse well in colander. Add to large crockpot. Add 4.5 to 5 cups of fresh water, depending on your taste and how soupy you want your beans. Add onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, bay leaves, carrots, celery, potato and Rotel. Do not add salt at this point (it makes the beans tough). Cook on low setting in Crock-Pot overnight (or overday) for at least 8 hours.

Remove carrots, celery, garlic, potato ,and bay leaves. Throw out bay leaves and celery (I don’t throw away celery). Take carrots, garlic, potato and about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the beans. Mash well with fork and return to pot, stirring to incorporate. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Rinse and chop cilantro and add  (I usually chop almost the entire bunch). Cook at least another hour or so, depending on how “done” you like your beans.

If you want it thicker, mash more beans. If you don’t want it thicker, don’t mash the beans. If you want to add a little splash of Olive Oil and Vinegar, you can — it’s totally personal preference but adds smoothness and a little twang! Also you can add a little bit of Tabasco Sauce for a little kick.

(Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, and wrote a weekly column in Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at