The Missouri November weather was spectacular last weekend. Dave and I went on an epic, 3-hour, 10+ mile hike around the Weldon Spring area to enjoy said Missouri November weather, beginning and ending at the Weldon Spring Disposal Cell. What is the Weldon Spring Disposal Cell, you ask? Well, we wondered the same thing. It’s a 45-acre mound of rocks covering layers of nuclear waste. And you can walk to the top! How’s that for a bizarre tourist attraction?
The Us Army Ordinance Works purchased the site and adjacent land (17,232 acres- whoa) in 1941. The Army contracted the Atlas Powder Company to manufacture trinitrotoluene (TNT) and dinitrotoluene (DNT) at a sprawling factory complex on the site until 1945 to support World War II efforts. After the war, the Army started selling off the land but kept about 2,000 acres to house the Weldon Spring Uranium Feed Mill Plant, which was just what it sounds like- a uranium ore processing plant that operated from 1955 to 1966. Uranium ore processing plants produce well, radioactive waste, and that, kids, is what’s tucked beneath the Weldon Spring Disposal Cell.
I’m hesitant to believe that the waste isn’t harmful to the surrounding communities or people walking all over the cell, but so far, I feel no strange after-effects. I can see better, though. Strange…. Anyway, we were starving when we got home and had breakfast-for-lunch, with the addition of these warming, slow-cooked, creamy pinto beans and leftover cornbread to dunk in them. I’d soaked the beans overnight the night before and put them in the crockpot before we headed out, so only finishing touches were left to be made when we got back. The cornbread originally accompanied some white bean chicken chili we’d made and heated up well to go with the beans. So, without further ado, creamy crockpot pinto beans and gluten-free cornbread!
CREAMY CROCKPOT PINTO BEANS
- 1 bag dry pinto beans, rinsed and sorted
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 slices bacon, chopped, or 2 tbsp olive oil for vegan beans
- 1 yellow or white onion, diced
- 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
Rinse the dry beans after you pick them over for any rocks or clumps of dirt. Finding rocks and clumps of dirt in bags of dry beans isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds, but it is every bit as gross as it sounds, so look ’em over good. Put the beans in a bowl and cover with an inch of water, soaking at least 8 hours or overnight. How retro-frugal you are, soaking beans! Good for you. The WWII-era Real Housewives of Weldon Spring would be proud.
When the beans have had a good soaking, dump their soaking water, rinse them again, and put them in your crockpot. Cover with water, up to 1/2 inch above the beans. Keep in mind that when cooking in a crockpot, the water added to a recipe will stay put, so add as much as you’d like or not like. Cover and set to low for 8 hours or high for 4. Take a hike.
When you return from your hike/nap/workday/classified mission, chop the 2 pieces of bacon and cook them over medium in a small skillet until crispy. If you’re omitting bacon, heat the olive oil over medium. Remove the bacon once it’s crispy and add the onion to the bacon fat or olive oil, cooking for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
Salt and pepper the onions, and add the onions, bacon, and 2 cups of beans to a food processor. Whir that sucker until the mixture is smooth and creamy, then stir the mixture back into the pot of beans.
You’re all done! The beans are even better the next day. They’re rich and creamy and make a perfect partner for a few hunks of….
OLD FASHIONED GLUTEN-FREE CORNBREAD
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 room-temperature egg, beaten
- 4 tbsp melted butter, cooled
- 1 1/2 cups room-temperature plain yogurt
- 4 tbsp raw honey
Grab two bowls and preheat your oven to 400. In the larger bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In a second, smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: egg, butter, yogurt, and honey.
Now make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients in the large bowl. See where this is going? Now you know why the dry ingredients got more bowl-love than the wet ones. Pour the wet ingredients into the center well and mix until just combined.
Grease a cast-iron skillet or 9×13″ pan and spread the cornmeal mixture in evenly. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is golden-brown.
This celiac husband-friendly side was quite tasty. It held together well but was also crumbly, and would be great with the addition of cheddar cheese or chopped green chiles. It was great with the white chili and stood up to the beans. What will you serve with yours?