Presoak beans for 8 hours or overnight or boil them 3 minutes in water to cover and soak for 2 hours. Discard soak water and rinse beans in a colander. (Use the soak water to water your plants.) Add water and kombu to beans. (Kombu is the magic ingredient in this recipe. It makes the beans more easily digested and avoids flatulence.) Boil this mixture gently for 15 minutes then simmer on medium-low for 45 minutes. Add spices and simmer 45 minutes more. Stir frequently. Place this mixture in a crock pot with the tomatoes and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. Remove bay leaves. Break up the kombu and noone will ever know it's there. Chili is even better the second day.
Substitution suggestions: Try using different kinds of dried beans or use canned beans and avoid the presoaking and pre-cooking. Add other vegetables (onion, celery, etc.) and/or add meat or rice. Try varying the seasonings. Enjoy!