Thursday, October 18, 2007

Beans, beans... they're good for your heart...

Have I mentioned meat is expensive here? I tease Michael sometimes about how certain things are acceptable in Denmark that wouldn’t be tolerated at home. For example dinner without meat is not acceptable back in the Homeland, but is tolerated here in Denmark. That is largely because a pound of beef is about twice as expensive here as it is in the States and we don’t have a lot of extra money to throw around.

But we still need our protein so I have been making a lot – A LOT – of bean soup lately. We’re actually having bean soup three times this week. Monday it was in the form of normal bean soup. Last night we put it in burrito shells with homemade tomato salsa and cheddar and called it “Bean Burrito Night.” And tomorrow we’re back to regular bean soup.

It does help that we love, love, love bean soup. (And that I brought a large bottle of Beano with us). John especially gobbles it up. I always thought of bean soup as being, well, kind of bland, but I found a great Cooking Light recipe that I doctored up with a bit of McCormick Cajun Seasoning and here we are on week three of bean soup – with an occasional marinara spaghetti night and scrambled egg dinner thrown in for variety.

Bean Soup
Cooking Light, January 1999
1 pound dried black beans (we’ve been using brown beans and they are also very good)
2 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon McCormick Cajun Seasoning
5 cups Chicken Stock or 2 1/2 (16-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

To prepare soup, sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; bring to a boil, and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain.

Cook the bacon in pan over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from pan. Add chopped onion, thyme, garlic, and bay leaves to bacon drippings in pan; sauté for 4 minutes. Add McCormick Cajun Seasoning, beans, bacon, Chicken Stock, and 3 cups water to pan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add salt, and simmer for 30 minutes or until beans are tender. Discard bay leaves. Place half of bean mixture in a blender or food processor, process until smooth and return to pot.

You can top this with any number of things. Our favorites are cheddar, tortilla chips and fresh tomato salsa with raw onions. You can also include lime juice and sour cream.

I usually double the recipe and that is enough to feed us for about three meals. If you do double the recipe, give yourself extra time to let the soup reduce. I usually start this soup around 11AM and it’s completely ready by 5:30PM. The most time draining part of the preparation is the bacon frying and onion chopping which can be accomplished in about 15 minutes. It’s a great Saturday soup that you can prepare between housekeeping, sports watching and other weekend activities.

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