First of all, in Italy they are called borlotti while New Englanders refer to them as shell beans. In the US, the beans are a fall crop, but are available most of the year as dried beans. The taste of the cranberry bean doesn't at all come close to its namesake. The flavor they hold is actually mild and chestnut-like. The beans are brown with cranberry-colored markings and tend to turn a light brown after being cooked--so if color is what you are looking for, you'd be better off with kidney beans. The cranberry bean is a great choice for recipes that call for legumes. Adding this bean provides great nutrition and extra protein. Using the label off of the bag of dried cranberry beans I used today, I found that per 1/4 cup of dry beans provides 9 grams of dietary fiber (which is 35% of your daily value), 8 grams of protein and 10% of your daily value of iron. That is all from only a quarter cup of dry beans! We can eat that in one bowl of soup! So let's add the whole bag to today's CrockPot!
I'll admit, I forgot to prep the beans last night before heading to bed. Luckily for me, and all other procrastinators out there, there is a "quick soak" technique that can be done about 90 minutes before it is time to add the beans to whichever recipe you may be using.
Rinse the beans and add them to 8 cups of water. Bring the pot to a rapid boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. When the hour is up, drain the water from the pot and rinse beans again.
Next comes two cans of broth. I used beef broth because I didn't have enough vegetable broth and didn't want to use chicken again. Next is the can of petite diced tomatoes, a can of Campbell's Bean with Bacon condensed soup, and about 1 cup of frozen peas and carrots. Stir it all together. Set the CrockPot insert back into the cooker and turn heat on to low.
Now let's add in more flavor.
Stir in about 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.
Cover and let it go!
So of course everything can't always be a success. While this is not by any means a failure, I feel it is not a complete success since it is in need of further tweaking. So what is it about this stew that I am not completely happy with? I'm glad you asked. There weren't really any "mouth-popping" flavors that would make this dish stand out compared to others. There was a subtle smokey after taste thanks to the can of Campbell's Bean with Bacon condensed soup. The cranberry beans held up nicely in the 8 hours of cooking and had a nice bite to them. I could taste the tomatoes only because I knew they were there and thus looking for them. All-in-all the stew came together well, it is just in need of a little more TLC.
What will I do differently next time? Thank you for asking! Let's see, next time I make this stew, I will first use 2 cans of diced tomatoes but NOT petite. Then I think I'll add a little extra of the veggie mix. The biggest change will come with the flavors: perhaps 1 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 3/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, and finally 1 tsp ground nutmeg. Hopefully that will pack more of a punch! :)