by Kari Kempf
Sometimes, Boston is cold, and we have become especially cognizant of this temperature-driven attribute this winter. When you’re from the lower Midwest like me, you yearn for the days of long ago (last summer) when daylight existed after 5 o’clock. There are, of course, defenses against the cold, like puffy down parkas over a base layer (or three) paired with earmuffs, hats, scarves, gloves or fur boots (preferably all at once if you are like me and feeling très fashionable). But few things can curb the piercing pain of news that more snow is on its way (again) quite like something hot, hearty, and eaten with a spoon. And with a side of carbs, please. I first discovered cassoulet when I spent a winter in Luxembourg during college, facing similar weather and winds. The hot bowl of delicate white beans entrenched in a creamy tomato stew warmed me from the inside out, and the sausage, bacon and duck confit gave the dish an unforgettable flavor and appeal that gave me the fortitude to go back outside and face the elements (we were skiing in the French Vosges mountains and it was really, really cold). Originally a specialty of Southern France, cassoulet is a traditional dish made using white beans, tomatoes and locally available meat and poultry ingredients, plus whatever else happens to be on hand. It’s eclectic, memorable, and savory, but also regrettably high in saturated fat. This winter, I found myself craving the dish, so on a cold Thursday night, I trudged through snow to the grocery store in hopes of creating my own take on a Friedmanized version of the dish. I also had a plan to save labor and time using a little help from a graduate student’s best friend: the slow cooker. I made a loaf of whole wheat blend bread in the slow cooker that evening, an endeavor that I have been experimenting with since the summer, and then set to work on preparing the cassoulet. Six hours in the slow cooker later, the cassoulet was complete and ready to be enjoyed with a slice of the homemade bread. The result was a flavorful, fiberful stew of smoked chicken sausage and turkey bacon that will almost certainly soften the inevitable blow of yet another snowstorm to come (my bonus dessert recipe doesn’t hurt, either).
(Serves: 4 )
- 1-lb chicken breasts, thinly sliced and chopped into bite-size pieces
- 6 pieces lean turkey bacon
- 3 smoked chicken sausages, chopped into bite-size pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- One large onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup tomato paste
- 2 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp rosemary
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 large carrots, cut into medallions
- One 28-oz can diced tomatoes
- 3 cans cannellini beans (or navy beans) or equivalent amount of prepared dried cannellini beans
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 cups water
2. Using the same skillet (don’t drain it!), add two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and add the chopped onions: cook on medium until translucent, then add the thyme, black pepper, rosemary, garlic and chicken breasts. Add chicken sausage, and cook until chicken breast is browned and cooked all the way through. Add tomato paste to coat all ingredients.
3. Transfer skillet contents to your slow cooker and added cannellini beans, diced tomatoes, 3 cups water, salt and carrots. Crumble turkey bacon on top and give the pot a good stir to mix things up.
4. Cook on ‘low’ for 5-6 hours, tasting and stirring occasionally. Add pepper, salt, or whatever you please to taste. Serve in a bowl with a piece of bread and enjoy!
- 1 packet quick-rise yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 cups whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup white flour
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
1. Combine water and yeast in a large bowl. Add honey and salt and let sit for 5 minutes, or until bubbling.
2. Slowly add the whole-wheat flour, olive oil, and half of the white flour. Stir together, folding the mixture.
3. Flour your hands and intermittently add the rest of the white flour, kneading the dough. Add flour to hands and the surface of the dough to keep from sticking.
4. After kneading thoroughly, let the dough rise for approximately one hour.
5. Line the bottom of your slow cooker with parchment paper and transfer the dough to the slow cooker. Cook on high for approximately two hours. Cutting the loaf in half toward the end will help you determine whether it is finished. Enjoy!
And of course, I always have room for dessert. As part of the fieldwork component of my advanced community nutrition class at Simmons College, I am interning for the Haley House’s Take Back the Kitchen program. Every Friday, I help supervise a small cooking class for high school students that focuses on creating wholesome plant based meals. A few weeks ago, we created beet-infused red velvet cupcakes, and they were a huge hit. I decided to recreate them for myself, tweaking a few things (like, making them dark chocolate rather than red velvet) and…let’s just say the whole batch was gone in a flash.
(Makes 12 cupcakes)
- ¾ cup beet puree (from 2 medium beets, boiled or roasted)
- OR from canned beets (no salt added)
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons Truvia Baking Blend OR 1 ¼ cup sugar
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 cup milk (any kind)
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips (optional, but strongly recommended)
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp-1 tbsp milk (will depend on the type you use and desired consistency—mix all together and slowly add milk until you reach desired consistency. If you add too much, just add more confectioner’s sugar)
- ½ tbsp. cocoa powder (optional: add this for dark chocolate frosting)
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Mix the beet puree and canola oil until well combined.
- Add sugar/Truvia, milk, flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder.
- Mix all ingredients until combined
- Taste the batter (mostly just because you totally can, since there’s nothing raw)
- Mix in chocolate chips, if using.
- Fill cupcake tins ¾ full and bake 20-25 minutes until firm in the middle.
- Frost, if desired (editorial comment: these are great without frosting, but I am a frosting person so I added some.)
Kari Kempf is a 2nd-year Friedman student. To learn more about her, visit our Meet Our Writers page.