Empty places at the table have taught me to treasure my family. Not too long ago, there was a period of time when my husband, Justin, was not able to make it home for dinner for several nights in a row, and I'll never forget how it felt to finally sit down, clasp hands around the table in thankful prayer, and share a home-cooked meal together.

The dinner table is sacred space, as far as I'm concerned.

It made me realize how important this piece of my role is. Our meal is part of what connects us and holds us together.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I like good food. I like to experiment with textures, colors, and spices. For me, it is all a part of the adventure of life. Why would you possibly settle for boring when you could have new flavors to try? The price of my adventuresome spirit is a bit of complaining from the little ones, which can be wearisome at times, even though I know that I am training them for sophisticated taste.

Sometimes though, you need a tried and true standby. Something that is not too much work, tasty, and warms you up on the inside. That's what this soup is. There are no complaints when I put it on the table, and it only takes around 15 minutes to put together (but as a heads up, you do need to soak the beans overnight). I made it yesterday because I knew that I would be doing a lot of editing that day and I didn't need anything else to worry about. 

On this brisk autumn day, I wanted to share it with you. I hope this makes your life a little easier, and I hope that you are greeted at your table with every chair filled and the sound of satisfied slurping. Enjoy.

Little girl in yellow dress eating a bowl of soup next to sister

Slow Cooker Ham and Bean Soup


1 cup 15-bean soup mix (you can find this in the dried beans section)

4 cups water

1 smoked ham hock or shank

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 T. chili powder

1 T. lemon juice

1/8 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp salt

14 oz petite diced tomatoes, canned


  1. Wash beans, then cover with 2" of water and let them soak overnight in the fridge (or if it's morning already and you forgot, use the quick soak method)
  2. Drain and rinse
  3. In a heavy crockpot, put the beans, water and all ingredients in except the tomatoes
  4. Simmer on low for 4-6 hours (longer/higher if you make a double batch)
  5. Remove the ham hock and, while you're waiting for it to cool down, stir in the tomatoes and let them cook for another 30 minutes or so
  6. Take meat off the bone and add it back to the soup.

I usually serve with some good hearty bread or grilled cheese. Feeds 4-6 people, depending on how hungry you are. Bon appetit!

Ham and bean soup in a floral bowl with multigrain toast