Hot and Hearty Multi-bean Soup

Hot and Hearty Multi-bean Soup

Hot and Hearty Multi-bean Soup

The problem with buying bags of multi-bean soup mixes is that it includes a seasoning packet which is very salty and not that great as seasoning. They also require the addition of ham and bacon. Which, of course, means even more salt added to the soup. I’ve discovered a trick to get around the addition of meat-salt combo without flattening the flavor.

I usually have several types of dry beans, peas, and lentils in the pantry. I buy them in bulk from Central Market and many stores now have a bulk section where you can get a wide assortment of beans. You can buy as much or as little as you want or need. I usually get a good amount of all types of beans which can be cooked by type or added to soups. These will keep a long time in a sealed container, but not forever, so I use multi-bean soup as a way of using up small amounts of beans left over before restocking. I have the ingredients for this soup on hand all the time, with exception of the Anaheim peppers, though in a pinch you can add a can of canned green chilis instead of fresh peppers.

2-3 cups mixed dry beans and peas (7, 9, 10, 13, 16)
1 large onion
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatos
2 Anaheim chilis
Dried herbs and seasonings
Tabasco or other similar hot sauce
Liquid smoke (optional)

Cover beans with water. Soak overnight and drain.

Add bean mixture, 2 qts. fresh water (a bit more if you use more beans) plus the can of diced tomatoes and the onion and pepper to Crockpot. Add seasonings such as thyme, marjoram, parsley, garlic powder. I don’t measure; I just sprinkle. It’s hard to go wrong. I don’t use premixed seasonings which have salt added. (Conventional wisdom is that salt at this point would interfere with the beans absorbing water. I don’t know if that’s true, but you can always add salt later if you want.)

Add a few shakes of the hot sauce. This you can go wrong with. The relative hotness of various sauces varies quite a bit.  For instance, After Death Sauce is hotter than Tabasco because it’s made with habenero peppers. Know your sauce and use it sparingly. Better for the seasoning to be mild and people spike the soup with more sauce in their own bowls than make it too hot to eat.

Cook on Low in the Crockpot 4-6 hours.

(If you want to cook this in a big pot on the stove, bring to a boil then simmer for 3-4 hours.)

About a half hour before it’s finished taste and season with salt and pepper, if you wish.  Add some liquid smoke if you want. It doesn’t take much. A small amount 1-2 tsp should be enough for most tastes.

Flavor improves over time, so the soup will taste better the next day.

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Games Night

Recently, we hosted a games night.  Or, should I say, a game night because Diplomacy is the only game you can play in the span of an evening.  As the rules suggest, set aside four hours for a game.  We, however, were playing for the first time and had to read the rules and play the sample game.  Fun evening, but glad we had sustenance along the way.

As you plan, plot, negotiate, and strategise (click for more Diplomacy information) the best food to have on hand is dips, breads, and spreads.  Hot meals would be far too dangerous!

A portion of our spread looked like this:

games night

We served a variety of multigrain, naan, pita, and sourdough breads; an assortment of crackers; cold vegetables for dipping, as well as broiled eggplant; and various dips and spreads.

Below are recipes for some of the food served that evening.  As usual, I am unable to give exact measurements as Boyfriend glances at a recipe and then changes everything as he goes along.  Sigh.  I will do my best.

Tabooli:

We used quinoa instead of the traditional bulgur.  Cook a cup of quinoa for ten minutes, drain, and let cool. Add:

  • Salt
  • Lemon juice
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fresh parsley
  • Diced tomato (a real tomato, not a can of)
  • Green onion
  • Mint
  • Garlic

Toss it all together and let it sit in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours before serving.

Hummus:

You will need a food processor for this one.  Blend together a can of chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh parsley, garlic, cumin, coriander, salt (we used our usual Herbamare), and anything else you can think of that will add to the flavour.  Add sparingly until the hummus tastes the way you like.

Curry Cashew Bean Cheese Spread:

This was a new one for me and it was delicious.  Once again, you will need a food processor.  Blend the cashews until they are a fine powder.  Add cooked white beans (a can will do), lemon juice, tahini, curry powder, and Herbamare until the mixture is spongy/creamy/pasty like cream cheese.

The best thing about dips, spreads, and breads is that you can still eat them the next day.  We made a lovely little indoor lunch picnic out of our leftovers.  🙂

Vegetarian Chili

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Vegetarian Chili in my 6 qt crockpot, ready to serve!

When I was growing up, chili came out of a can—until my mother got a crockpot. She started making chili occasionally from a recipe that I thought was in one of the two Crockpot cookbooks she had; I’ve since looked in those books but found no recipe even remotely like the rather bland original recipe, so perhaps my memory is wrong and the beginnings of this chili did come from some family recipe and I just don’t recall chili prior to the Crockpot, because with the advent of the crockpot it became a frequent meal.

That was decades ago (and not vegetarian), so almost everything about the recipe has been gradually changed, including the amount because my crockpot is somewhat larger than that her old crockpot. Only one thing remains the same: the parboiling and soaking of the beans. It works very well in a crockpot recipe. Now, before you get all bent out of shape about chili with beans in it, you should read my previous post about chili with and without beans. You’ll probably still be bent out of shape, but at least you’ll understand where I’m coming from on this. (No, I’m not a Yankee. Born and raised in Texas.) 🙂

My Crockpot is a 6 qt: adjust recipe accordingly for the volume of your slow-cooker.

1 1/2 cups dry pinto beans (approx 1/2 lb), rinsed
3 med (14.5 oz) cans whole tomatoes
3 cups water
2 pkgs. Smart Ground
2 med onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, run through garlic press (or finely minced)
3 Tbls chili powder or crushed dried chile petine
2 tsp ancho chile powder (optional)
1 tsp habenero chile powder (optional)
1 tsp black pepper
1-2 tsp cumin
salt to taste
1/4 cup cornmeal

First a few notes about seasoning. If you use 3-4 Tbls of regular store-bought chili powder you will get a mildly seasoned chili. If you’re unsure about the heat, this is a good place to start, adjusting amounts to suit your own taste. I like to either supplement store-bought chili powder (I use Mexene) with small amounts of additional ground dried chilis (such as ancho and/or habanero listed above) or when I have enough of them I just use ground dried chile petines which grow wild in Texas, seeded by the birds, often in my garden. These are very tiny, very hot, peppers. I picked em as they get ripe, dry them, and then crush them in a very small mortar and pestle which I only use for grinding dry hot peppers. They make a good chili seasoning. Again, if you’re not familiar with them, use sparingly. You may also note that my recipe uses cumin even though cumin is an ingredient in most chili powders. It adds a savory spiciness (without any heat) and I wouldn’t recommend omitting it (unless you make your own chili powder and use more cumin than most store-bought brands).

True confession here: I don’t measure my spices when I make chili. I did make this recipe with these measurements, because I know people need measurements, at least to start with. It’s got quite a kick to it, so be warned if you use all the options, you should measure—and it will be hot! I usually throw in a dash of this or that depending on what I’ve got on hand. The heat and general seasoning of chili is very much a personal choice and I encourage you to experiment.

Simmer the dry pinto beans in 3 times their volume of water of for 30 min. Remove from the burner, cover and let stand for a least an hour and a half. ( If you want to start the chili first thing in the morning this can be done the night before, then put in fridge overnight after it has cooled.)

Drain the beans. Put all the ingredients—except the cornmeal—into Crockpot and stir well. The whole tomatoes should be smashed with a wooden spoon or otherwise broken up into smaller pieces. (Note: If you use canned diced tomatoes the flavor and consistency of the chili will be substantially different.) Cover and set the Crockpot to High, which is 4-6 hours on most Crockpots.

About an hour before the chili is finished cooking, gently sprinkle in 1/4 cup cornmeal, a little at a time, stirring as you do to prevent lumps. (This is a thickener.) This final step may be considered optional, depending on how you like your chili. More than 1/4 cup cornmeal can be used, depending on your preferences.

My Crockpot is programmable and rolls over to “warming” after the cooking time is finished. If yours isn’t automatic and you’re not quite ready to eat, turn the Crockpot from High down to Low (or off) after 6 hours, maximum.

Note: You could cook it on Low 8-10 hours, I suppose, but I can’t recall ever doing this though I may have.  The main reason I go for the shorter, hotter, cooking time and temp has to do with timing. I parboil the beans in the morning and let them soak. Then I prep the vegetables at lunch time and put them into the Crockpot. The chili is ready by suppertime.

The next post has my My Vegetarian Chili Without Beans (and Frito Pie!) recipe. 😀

BBQ Baked Beans

BBQ Baked Beans, hot and spicy!

BBQ Baked Beans, hot and spicy!

It’s summertime: prime-time for cookouts, as well as picnics and potlucks. I’m kicking off the summer with a series of cookout-related posts. (Other bloggers may be doing other things, that’s part of the beauty of group blogs. Never a dull moment.) This recipe will put some zing in your next cookout. It was inspired by a recipe I saw some years ago, which I have changed so completely that it no longer resembles the original. To give you some idea how radically this has evolved: it was originally a very complicated meat main dish with exotic (and not very appetizing-sounding) ingredients. I’d made beans lots of times before, but never quite “BBQ baked beans” and as put off as I was when skimming the odd recipe, I thought that there were bits in there I could use to improve my rather lame attempts at “baked beans”. Many years and a gazillion changes later…I came up with this new totally vegetarian version. 🙂

Here’s something for you to think about when you’re adapting a recipe that calls for bacon “for flavor”: what really adds the flavor (to my way of thinking) isn’t the bacon, but the hickory smoke (or apple or mesquite, or whatever the current trendy tree is). The smoke lends a savoriness to whatever it’s added to. A little bit of liquid smoke can do the trick, depending on what the recipe is.  🙂 For something like this, which is associated so much with cookouts, liquid smoke is a nice touch. (Colgin liquid smoke comes in a number of different flavors: hickory, mesquite, apple, pecan.)

This is very spicy. If you want a milder version, use one jalapeno instead of two. I really wouldn’t recommend eliminating it altogether because the pepper — and the spiciness of it — is an essential feature of the dish. It’s supposed to be spicier than regular baked beans. 🙂

1 16oz pkg dried pinto beans (2 1/4 cups)
2 Tbls olive oil
2 med onions, chopped
2 jalapenos, minced
2 cloves garlic, pressed (or diced)
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tbls spicy brown mustard
1 1/2 tsp (or to taste) liquid smoke (I’m partial to mesquite, but have also used hickory.)

If you are taking this dish to a BBQ or potluck, you may want to double the recipe and use a disposable aluminum pan. I’ve found that the deep aluminum roasting pans work well, and are more or less necessary if you double the recipe (a good idea if you’re going to be feeding a crowd).

There’s different “timings” for making this. Some of the preparation needs to be done ahead of time, but how much prep you do the day ahead and how much on the day of serving is up to you. You can soak the beans the day before or the night before. Or you can soak them two days before, make the dish the day before and reheat it. Choose the timing that fits your schedule.

The day before you plan on serving the beans, soak the beans either all day or all night, covered in 3 times their volume of water. If you soak the beans during the day, in the evening drain the beans, add fresh water and cook for 45 minutes. Cool, then refrigerate overnight. If you soak the beans overnight, then drain the beans, add fresh water and cook for 45 minutes the next day and continue on with making them.

Preheat oven 350.

If you’re starting with cold beans cooked the night before, bring the beans and liquid slowly to a simmer while chopping the veggies. Otherwise, chop the veggies while the beans are cooking.

In a large saucepan, saute the onions in olive oil, then add jalapenos and garlic. Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, 1 1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke (or to taste), along with some of the bean cooking liquid (about 1/2 cup).

Simmer sauce briefly, while transferring the beans with a slotted spoon to a 3 qt. casserole dish (or big disposable aluminum pan if you’ve doubled the recipe to take to a cookout). Pour sauce over beans. Stir well. Reserve the bean cooking water in case you need to add more liquid.

Put the casserole dish (or pan) in oven. Bake uncovered 45 minutes. If it looks like it’s cooking too dry, stir in a bit more of the reserved bean liquid. If it’s too moist, you can bake it longer.

I get regular requests to bring this to cookouts. It’s a sure-fire hit! 😀 Look for next Friday’s original cookout recipe: Frankenslaw!