Slow Cooker Italian October Beans (Dark Days)

Slow Cooker Italian October Beans (Dark Days)

In the Dark Days Challenge we get to decide what we will use outside of local ingredients. I haven’t defined a list, but expect I plan to use more non-local simply because I’m eating vegan this winter. This would include nutritional yeast, non-dairy milks, tofu, tempeh, and gluten flour (that I use to make wheat meat). Mostly, I want to consciously use more local and/or organic ingredients. The ingredients bolded in the recipes are all local. I thought that would be easier to get an idea from than a list.

I’ve preserved tomatoes, herbs, and a few fruits, but that’s about it for this year. I’m hoping that this challenge will get me excited about preserving and I’ll get it in gear next year.

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By going to both the Durham and Raleigh farmers markets I’ve already found a few things I don’t usually cook with. The large Raleigh market has more produce, but none of it is organic. I’ve decided that doesn’t matter as much for the winter. In the spring I’ll start buying everything from the Durham market again, or maybe I’ll join a CSA.

I hadn’t noticed October beans at the market before. I really love beans and they are perfect in a meatless diet or meal. Of course I’m looking for local beans that I can use for Dark Days meals. Even though they were fresh and not dried I cooked them for a long time. They didn’t get mushy at all. You could use a dry bean like white or pinto instead with no problem.

This is a good dinner combo because you can use your 4 quart slow cooker for the beans and your 1 1/2 quart for the polenta. This way you can come home to a completely slow cooker meal!

Note: You can cook both of these recipes on high for about 1/2 the time. This works better for me on the weekends, but low is better on work days since I’m gone all day.



Slow Cooker Italian October Beans

Serves: 4

soy-free, gluten-free
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes (or 1½ cups fresh or preserved)
  • 2 cups October Beans
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 3 cups assorted greens (Swiss Chard, Kale, Collards), chopped (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
The night before:
  1. Heat the oil over medium heat then add the onion and saute until translucent.
  2. Add garlic and cook for  minute more.
  3. Wash the greens then chop.
  4. Store everything together in the fridge.
In the morning:
  1. Add everything to the slow cooker, except for the greens, to an oiled slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  3. If using the optional greens - About 20 minutes before serving: Add chopped greens to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 20 minutes or until the greens are cooked, but still bright green. Adjust seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over polenta.
It's better with the greens, but honestly I forgot to put mine in last night and it was still pretty tasty.

Slow Cooker Cheezy Polenta

Serves: 4 small servings

soy-free, gluten-free * Use a 1½ to 2 quart slow cooker or double the recipe and use a larger one.*
  • ½ cup polenta or yellow grits
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (makes it taste a little cheesy - you can leave it out if you don't have any)
  • salt and pepper to taste
In the morning:
  1. Add all the ingredients to an oiled 1½ quart slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.


  1. says

    I’m so glad I found your site (through Tuesday Twister). I cook healthy food but have had a hard time finding healthy crockpot recipes. How perfect!

  2. says

    you found beans at the Durham Farmer’s Market? I didn’t see them.
    : (
    I’ll have to look extra hard this week.
    I’m trying to do the Dark Days Challenge too, but not officially because I saw the challenge too late to participate.
    I haven’t made Polenta in my slow cooker, I’ll have to try it!

    I did use meat in my first Dark Days Meal. Decided it was the best thing for flavor, and protein since I didn’t see any local beans. We’re trying to eat meat only one or two days a week, but with me under the weather, it’s hard for my husband to keep that up.

    Thanks for the recipe!

    • Kathy Hester (geekypoet) says

      I didn’t find them at the Durham market, but the Raleigh one. There is a larger variety there, but no organics : (

  3. says

    Those beans – and polenta – look really good! I get fresh beans at the Carrboro farmers’ market, but there isn’t much variety. I’ll have to check out the Raleigh market sometime soon! I get all of my flour direct from Lindley Mills in Graham, and have been able to get locally grown and milled vital wheat gluten flour. I used to order all of my flour direct from them, but my co-op (Weaver) stocks all of their flours in bulk.

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