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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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RV cooking: Campfire cassoulet is a fancy-ish version of beans and weenies

This hearty bean dish was created in a tiny RV kitchen, using a slow cooker and a half box of Ritz Crackers. (Leslie Kelly)
This hearty bean dish was created in a tiny RV kitchen, using a slow cooker and a half box of Ritz Crackers. (Leslie Kelly)

Our grownup kiddo lives in the Los Angeles area and was lamenting the lack of dried beans on the shelves in the supermarkets because of you-know-what crisis. So, I loaded up an express mail box and shipped some off. Thank goodness for the USPS!

Of course, I got a few extra packages, so now we've got dried beans for days. That means lots of slow cooker projects, which is a welcome distraction from the current state of slow-simmering anxiety.

Truly, time in the kitchen has been like a balm to me ever since I was barely old enough to reach the counter. Challenging myself to come up with recipes helps me feel in control, confident. Those feelings have been shaken lately, am I right? 

So, for bean experiment No. 1, I slow cooked some navy beans overnight. Did not soak them in advance because the slow cooker makes that step unnecessary. I always add the seasonings and veggies/meat after the beans have softened, and let that mixture simmer in the slow cooker another few hours.

To the navy beans, I added sliced carrots, chopped onions, a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste, garlic, salt and pepper and a little bit of dried rosemary. At this stage, I hadn't yet quite figured out what the final dish was going to be, but when I spotted a half empty package of Ritz in the cupboard, inspiration hit. 

In our teeny RV, where the pantry is always too full, we've made it a project to finish stuff. So we can make room for more stuff. Those crackers were crumbled and mixed with a tablespoon of pesto sauce. That flavorful combo went on top of the seasoned beans that I'd put in a casserole dish and that dish went under the "broiler" -- aka the grill setting on our microwave/convection oven. Brilliant!

Bratwurst cooked on the campfire partnered up nicely with this satisfying dinner, a warming meal on a chilly night.   

Leslie Kelly
Leslie Kelly is a freelance writer.