that I tend to make mostly in January and February is this Hearty Red Bean and Ham Soup. It's a two step process BUT you can work on step one a few days ahead of time or even weeks if you go the route of the freezer. I love how rich, thick and flavorful the bean broth gets and the beans get very creamy in texture. The best part is you let the beans cook away in your slow cooker while you are at work and you get home to a yummy, warm meal. All you need is a little toasted bread to sop up the broth as you chow down.
1 pound red beans*, soaked overnight
4 large onions; 2 quartered, 2 rough chopped
2 large green peppers; 1 quartered, 1 rough chopped
1 head of garlic, unpeeled, sliced in half
3 cups of water
2 tablespoons minced garlic
6 slices center cut or turkey bacon, chopped, cooked in the microwave till just crispy
1 pound lean ham or turkey ham, cubed
1 smoked ham shank or smoked turkey "hocks"
4 cups of beef stock or ham stock
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
To par-cook the beans after soaking, add beans, 2 quartered onion, 1 quartered bell pepper, 1 head of garlic, 3 cups of water to a deep pot. Bring to rolling boil, and allow to boil for 30 minutes, lid off. After 30 minutes, turn off heat and allow to sit for 1 1/2 hours lid on. This can portion can be done the day before or even over the weekend and stored in the fridge till you are ready to make them. You can even freeze them to leave for another day.
To make the beans, place the par-cooked beans and liquid in the slow cooker. scoop out the garlic and large pieces of onions or bell pepper. Add all the remaining ingredients, EXCEPT the salt (see my post "Salt Will Keep Your Beans from Softening" for more info on bean cookery). Salt only once the beans are completely softened. Set slow cooker on hi for 4-5 hours or low for 8-9 hours. You can make this stove top and first bring to a boil, allow to boil for 5 minutes then cover and simmer 2-3 hours or until the beans have softened.
Serve into deep bowls by itself or over rice and lots of toasted bread to soak up the juices.
*I use Central American red beans. They are tiny but have an incredibly deep rich red color and the flavor is amazing. They are creamier in texture once softened then regular red beans. Check your local Hispanic market for Central American red beans or use regular red beans if you can't find them.
You'll notice that I say to use either ham or turkey products, the choice is up to you. Either is delicious. If you want to cut on some calories use the turkey products.