Winter’s almost here!  Wait… what?  Yesterday I was enjoying a gorgeous day, hanging my sheets out in the sun, digging in the dirt, and thinking that North Dakota summers aren’t half bad.  Then I realized it’s October already–and my poor tomatoes and peppers probably aren’t going to ripen in the sun now that snow is in the forecast for this weekend.  That’s right.  Five months after the last dirty snowdrifts melted away, the snow is back again.  Blech.

There’s not much I can do about the weather, though, so here’s a cozy dish that’s perfect for fall potlucks and family get-togethers.  It’s actually great for summer picnics, too, so if you’re not lucky enough to have snow on the way, there’s no need to feel left out.

You can make this multi-bean bake either in the crock pot or in the oven.  For once, I prefer the crock pot, but if you’re short on time or feel like heating up your kitchen, go ahead and do it the other way.  You can also substitute different kinds of beans, if you prefer; sometimes I use baked beans in place of the pork and beans.  The original recipe called for lima beans, but I think they’re gross, so I use black beans instead.  And butter beans are almost impossible to find around here, so I usually just substitute black beans for those, too.  Just aim for a variety, and the sauce will tie it all together nicely.

Crock Pot Multi-Bean "Bake"Slow Cooker Multi-Bean “Bake”
Serves 10-12
Time:  20 minutes prep, 1-3 hours cook time

2 (16 oz.) cans red kidney beans, drained (about 2 cups)
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained (about 2 cups)
1 (15 oz.) can butter beans, drained (about 2 cups)
1 (31 oz.) can pork and beans (or two 15 oz. cans; about 4 cups)
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, diced
4-5 slices bacon
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp. Frank’s Red Hot sauce
1/4 cup light or dark molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. yellow prepared mustard
1 tsp. salt

Combine beans in slow cooker.  Brown the ground beef and onion; drain.  Add to slow cooker.  Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces; fry until just barely crispy.  Drain; add to slow cooker.

In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients.  Mix well into beans and meat.  Cook on low for 2-3 hours or on high for 1-2 hours.

Conventional oven method:  Combine ingredients (as indicated above) in large baking dish instead of crock pot.  Cover and bake at 350 F for 1 hour.

Slow Cooker Multi-Bean "Bake" 2