When I heard this week’s challenge with beans and maple syrup my mind immediately went to Baked Beans. I love baked beans – I mean, really love them and I have been wanting to incorporate my crock-pot into one of these challenges, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I was concerned the kale would get lost in the sauce, so decided to make Kale Chips instead and flake them over the beans when they were done. The cashews also, didn’t want them to get mushy in the “bean-like stew” so I dipped them in maple syrup and toasted, then crumbled them and also put them on top of the dish when done. Now, I will admit, I could have really just made this a vegetarian dish, but I added bacon. I just couldn’t fathom the dish without it and it gave us that added oomph factor.
Verdict? My family LOVED it. I am not kidding, they were really, really good. Husband: “Tasty” (which seems to be his favorite adjective to describe things), “like I could eat it in a bar” (which means he thought it was good enough for a restaurant). Daughter? LOVED IT. Said it was so good. The extra kale chips she grabbed from the counter and ate the rest herself, the cashews she was non-committal about. ME? They beans were sweet, tangy, the nuts added this amazing taste to it (I kept adding more) and the kale chip was a further nice crunch factor and smokey to boot. This is something I will definitely make again. So, without further ado… the recipe:
Crockpot Baked Beans with Carmelized Cashews and Kale Chips
- 2 cans of white beans (rinsed and drained)
- One whole vidalia onion (small to medium size) chopped
- One carrot, sliced
- One celery rib, diced
- 3/4 cup GOOD maple syrup, plus 1/4 cup or less for the cashews (I used Trader Joe's Organic)
- 6 slices of bacon
- Bunch of fresh kale, rinsed, ribs removed and torn into pieces, then tossed with 2 tbs olive oil (don't soak them, just get them lightly covered)
- 1/2 cup cashews
Cook the bacon in a pan until crispy. Remove bacon (keep drippings in the pan) and once cooled, crumble. Set aside.
Add onion, carrot and celery to drippings (yes, I used all the drippings, but you can drain some if you wish) and cook on low heat until just slightly soft (maybe 2 minutes). Dump the entire pan contents into the crockpot. Pour in the two cans of white beans, then 3/4 cup of maple syrup and all the crumbled bacon. Mix and put crockpot on low for 8 - 10 hours. I find the more it cooks the better it is. Gets nice and dark.
Heat oven to 425 degrees and place Kale on a cooking pan (I used my Pampered Chef Bar Pan) and sprinking the olive oil laced kale with some salt, cook undisturbed for 11 - 14 minutes (you want them crunchy, not burnt, not soggy - play with it). Cool.
Toss cashews with maple syrup and then toast (used my toaster oven) till they brown, mix and toast again so they're a nice golden, tawny color, (don't burn) cool and then put them in a plastic bag. Hit them with the back of a mallet or glass or whatever you have handy until they are crumbled.
Assembly: Put the beans on a plate, sprinkle cashews and crumbled kale over the beans and eat. YUM!
P.S. I consider this challenge a side dish. I made skirt steak as the main course and it went beautifully!