Sautéing aromatics, like onions, garlic, and spices, goes a long way towards deepening the flavor of slow cooker meals. While some slow cookers allow you to sauté right in the cooker, others do not. It might mean dirtying a skillet, but it goes a long way towards developing a richer flavor. I would argue that it's still minimal effort, even if there's some sautéing involved!
I used Spicely Organic Cajun Seasoning for this recipe; however, if Cajun seasoning is hard to find where you are or if you don't want to buy yet another spice blend, you can make your own. While I incorporated dehydrated soy curls into this recipe, they are optional. Simply add two 15 ounce cans of light red kidney beans, instead of one. You'll be good to go. Finally, I recommend serving this over brown rice, but it also would taste terrific on savory corn grits or with some hearty cornbread. So many options, and yet, all of them gluten free!
Slow Cooker Cajun Kidney Beans and Brown Rice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 medium green pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, diced on a bias
½ tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp Cajun seasoning (see note above)
2 bay leaves
½ tsp garlic powder
1-3 tsp hot sauce
1 14.5 ounce can of no salt diced tomatoes
1 6 ounce can of tomato paste
2 ½ cups broth (fake chicken or vegetable)
1-2 15 ounce cans of light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (use 2 cans if not adding soy curls!)
1 ½ cups dehydrated soy curls, optional
1 Tbsp lemon juice, optional
Brown rice, to serve
1. In a medium sized skillet, add olive oil, onion, garlic, green pepper, celery, a dash of salt, and black pepper. Sauté over medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until the onions become a bit golden. Add smoked paprika, Cajun seasoning, and the bay leaves, and sauté for another minute. Spoon into slow cooker.
2. Add everything else listed in the recipe (except for the brown rice!), and stir until well combined. If you are not using soy curls, add 2 cans of light red kidney beans. If you are using soy curls, one can of kidney beans will do the trick. Break up the tomato paste with the back of a large spoon and incorporate as much as you can into the sauce. Cover with a lid, and set to HIGH for 4 hours. Taste, and stir in lemon juice or additional hot sauce at the end of cooking. Serve over brown rice.