Slow-cookers are a bit perplexing. If they were as great as some of their hard-core fans claimed, surely they would have taken over the world by now, right? The truth is, they do have their downsides. As far as easily replaceable appliances go, they are rather large. There's the whole lifting the top issue, too- removing the lid adds hours to cooking time, and for taste and touch cooks like me this can be maddening.
But there are times when you just have the urge to dump your dinner ingredients and run. In this scenario, the slow cooker becomes your somewhat unsophisticated home chef. He knows the basics, the rudimentary yet satisfying home-style foods that can be just what you want. Just give him some time and space, and come back to something entirely different than what you left.
This is a chili that I adapted from an internet recipe. The barley transforms into something reminiscent of ground beef, making the bean stew oh so luscious and hearty. We ate it straight up the night I "made" it, then froze leftovers which were later reincarnated in the form of a chili cheese tofu dog.
* 1 onion, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 1/2 c. beans, dried (i used black, kidney, and garbanzo)
* 28 oz. tomatoes, diced
* 1 c. corn, fresh or frozen
* 1 c. barley
* 4 c. water
* 3 tbsp. chili powder
* 1 tbsp. cumin
* 1 jalapeño, diced
* 1 tsp. coriander
* 1 tsp. unsweetened chocolate powder
* Cayenne, to taste
* Salt, to taste
* Fresh ground pepper, to taste
* Grated cheddar or pepper jack cheese (optional)
The night before you want to eat, boil a cup and a half of dried beans in water for 5 minutes. Drain the water. Soak the beans in water overnight, discarding the soak water once during that time and again when you finish soaking.
(If you are using canned beans, just start the morning of the day you want to eat chili and drain and rinse your beans.)
The morning of the day you want chili for dinner, combine all ingredients except for salt, pepper, and cheese in a crock pot. Set the crock pot on low and cook for at least 7 hours. When you get back, taste your chili and adjust spices, salt, and pepper as necessary.
Serve with grated cheese.