Why I Am Posting These Recipes

I believe that it is healthier for an individual and for the planet to reduce the consumption of animal products in the human diet. However, I love to eat all kinds of delicious food, and find it really, really difficult to go totally vegetarian. Also, my family protests if I serve too many vegetarian meals in a row. So I am committed to making an effort to move towards a vegetarian diet without wholly doing so. I will post recipes several times a week that represent my philosophy of eating well, eating healthy, eating local. Most recipes will be easy to prepare, as I have a busy life. So I expect my followers to be people who love to cook and eat well, want to try to help the planet through their eating (by eating local foods and trying to reduce the use of meat in our diets), and have many other things to do each day besides cook.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Vegan Black Bean Soup in Slow Cooker

Within the past couple of months, I have read or heard from at least 3 different sources with good culinary reputations that soaking dried beans is unnecessary if you cook them slowly for a long enough time.  So I decided to try a black bean soup in the slow cooker without soaking the beans the night before.  It turned out fine, so I guess those culinary experts are correct.  I wonder why the "old wives" wisdom says that you need to soak beans the night before?  Although I developed this recipe myself using a combination of flavors I have become familiar with over the years, I have to thank Deborah Madison, a cookbook author I admire, for the idea of using chipotle pepper to give black beans that smoky flavor that a carnivore would get from cooking the beans with a ham bone.  

Even though I love beans cooked with a ham bone or a smoked pork hock, I am trying to make that transition to completely vegetarian beans as my contribution to better planet sustainability.  If we eat meat, it is very hard to limit ourselves to locally and sustainably farmed meat unless we eat only at home and purchase such meat exclusively.  Industrially raised animals tend to eat antibiotics, food laced with pesticides, and possibly hormones.  The resulting manure returns to the soil and those chemicals leach into our water supply.  Even if we try to buy organic meat at the supermarket, it is likely to come from a place that is unkind to the Earth, or possibly unkind to the animals.  

As I learn more and more about climate change and the human activities that contribute towards this catastrophe, I resolve not only to act in a way that takes fewer resources from Earth, but also to try to inspire others to increase their environmental thoughtfulness.  If each of us pursues this, perhaps we can change the negative course our planet is on.  The idea that my future grandchildren or great-grandchildren might suffer extreme hardships, perhaps even struggle to survive, due to climate change causes me to shudder, and to think hard about what I can do about it.  

Sustainable eating is one way to help combat climate change.  Methane gas is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and agriculture is the primary source of methane gas emissions globally, with methane production coming from animal digestive processes.  We can reduce the demand for livestock by eating plants instead of meat, and thereby reduce carbon emissions.

So make this vegetarian version of black bean soup in your slow cooker to take one small step towards saving our planet.

3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 TBS cumin
1 dried chipotle pepper
2 TBS molasses
8 cups water or a combination water/vegetable broth (I used 7 cups water and 1 cup vegetable broth, because I had some broth in my refrigerator)
2 cups dried black beans, rinsed
splash of Caribbean jerk sauce
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
bunch fresh cilantro, chopped, as garnish

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Saute onions until translucent.  Add green peppers.  Stir and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add pressed garlic, stir, then add cumin and stir.  Add tomatoes.  Stir and cook for a couple of minutes, then transfer to slow cooker.  Add liquid, chipotle pepper, and dried beans to slow cooker.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours.  Add splash of Caribbean jerk sauce, sea salt, and pepper to taste.  Reduce heat to low and continue cooking at least one hour, or until beans are soft.  Puree soup in slow cooker with stick blender.  Add more salt to taste if necessary.  Serve with chopped fresh cilantro sprinkled on top.

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