For dinner in the winter, I'm satisfied with a warm bowl of beans. Growing up we'd often have beans and cornbread. Not fancy beans — just thrown in the crockpot with water or broth, a diced up onion, that "ham" flavoring packet and maybe a leftover ham bone. And it was good. This is better, healthier even thanks to the spinach. In fact, I've made these beans twice in recent weeks and am officially declaring it my official, go-to, wintertime bean recipe.
The recipe is adapted from a favorite line of cookbooks: America's Test Kitchen's Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution. I made a few tweaks. For starters, I omitted the mushrooms (just sounds unappealing to me to cook mushrooms and beans together for 9 or so hours). I increased the amount of sausage from 8 ounces to 9-12 ounces (for easier math) as sausage typically comes in 12-ounce, 4-link packs. Likewise, I upped the spinach by an ounce, because the baby spinach I buy comes in a 5-ounce clamshell container. Lastly, the second time I made it, I used a 4-ounce container of chicken broth and the 2 cups of vegetable broth leftover in my fridge. Why open another container of chicken broth?
Anyhow, if you are craving an easy dinner that takes the edge off the winter chill, try this out. Tweak it; make it your own.
PS: A great thing to serve with this: my Family Cornbread.
Slow Cooker 15-Bean Soup with Sausage and Spinach
Adapted from Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution
9-12 ounces (3-4 links) hot or sweet Italian chicken sausage, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 onion, chopped fine
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
8 ounce bag of 15-bean soup mix, flavoring packet(s) discarded
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
Black pepper to taste
5 ounces (5 cups) baby spinach
Microwave sausage, onion, garlic, thyme and pepper flakes in bowl until onion is softened (about 5 minutes), stirring halfway through. Transfer to slow cooker. Stir in broth, water, beans, bay leaves and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add black pepper — to taste — now or later, if desired. Cover and cook on low until beans are tender — 9 to 11 hours on low or 6 to 8 hours on high.
Discard bay leaves. Stir in spinach and let sit until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.