Ham and Bean Soup

1216171555b

I haven’t written much about food lately. My love/hate relationship with this necessity of life has trended toward the latter in recent months. The root cause of this discomfort has been the intent to reverse the weight gain associated with my back surgery. At best, I’ve stalled that gain.

My husband started a diet around the same time with lots more success than I’ve had. When I mentioned this contrast to my family doctor recently, she told me, “Don’t despair about this. My husband could lose weight just by sleeping fifteen extra minutes a day.”

Right now my husband is resting. Sleep has been elusive for him this week because he had his second rotator cuff surgery in 18 months. I’ve heard that such a surgery used to be remarkably painful. Now there’s a 3-day nerve block that alleviates the worst part of recovery from the surgery.

Unlike me, my husband is practically a model patient, good-natured and oriented to reality. He is not grouchy or prone to confabulation. He wouldn’t complain loudly about the help then whisper that he’d given birth to alien twins that had been absconded moments after birth, which is exactly what I did once upon a time years before I met him.

I decided to make him some ham and bean soup today. Now that his appetite is returning, I thought I’d make him something to help him rebuild after the surgery. The soup was well-received, for he ate four bowls of it.

This soup has plenty of onion in it. Actually, both my husband and my daughter railed against the smell of the onions sweating in butter. My daughter hid from it, complaining that the smell would be bonded to her shower-wet hair. Then my husband asked me to open a couple windows to air out the house.

I suppose that they do not have the happy association I have with that smell. It is the scent that assailed me every time I arrived for a holiday meal with extended family while I was growing up. In my family, a good gathering began with the sight and smell of yellow onions sweating in hot butter or lard.

Ham and Bean Soup

Serves 6-8

  • One large yellow onion, finely diced
  • generous dash freshly ground pepper
  • 3 cups sliced carrots
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 lb ham, cubed into 1/4-1/2″ pieces
  • 3 16 oz. cans great northern beans, drained

Melt butter in dutch oven over medium. Add diced onion and pepper to pan and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent. Stir in carrots and celery. Cover and cook for five minutes. Add remaining ingredients, cover and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer for 45 to 60 minutes until vegetables are tender. Serve with toast or garlic bread.

Mushroom Barley Vegetable Soup

36983706585_4c2e3b30b4_k

My birthday is just days away, so I went to the license bureau to renew my car’s registration. One of my neighbors works there, and she asked me about my back. It so happens that she is also having trouble with her lumbar spine, so I commiserated with her briefly about my muscle spasms that have been flaring up this week. She advised me, “You need celery.”

The line was moving too quickly for me to ask how celery had helped her. Obviously food choices do have an impact on health. I’m uncertain of what magic celery could work on muscle spasms. Perhaps it is one of many fruits and vegetables that reduce inflammation.

This is the second time this week my curiosity has been piqued about celery. Yesterday I read a superb food history article called “Celery Was the Avocado Toast of the Victorian Era” by Heather Ardnt Anderson. It seems strange indeed that such an unremarkable vegetable once occupied center stage on the dinner table.

All of this reflection on celery inspires me to share my favorite recipe that includes this vegetable.

Mushroom Barley Vegetable Soup

Serves 6

  • 2 T butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups sliced carrots
  • 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
  • 5 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking barley
  • 1 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 15 oz can dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 4 cups beef or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped (I used a whole bunch from the grocery store because I love parsley)

Melt butter in dutch oven over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, carrot, celery, ground pepper, and bay leaf. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes, beans, barley, and broth. Cover pan with lid and let simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables and barley are tender. Stir in chopped parsley, remove bay leaf, and serve.

 

Taco Soup

35068085784_ad12605a7c_k

This is my planned sequel to taco night. I make this soup about once a month. It’s one of those mixtures that improves in flavor as a leftover. Like its second cousin chili, it tastes better after resting for a day or two in the fridge before reheating.

I usually use leftover ground beef taco filling in this soup, but other taco-seasoned meats could work in this recipe, too.

Taco Soup

Makes 8 servings

  • 1 lb leftover taco meat
  • 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
  • 1 quart reduced sodium beef broth
  • 1 15 oz can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 15.25 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook sliced mushrooms in a dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heart until mushrooms are golden brown in spots. Add leftover taco meat, breaking up the meat until it is heated through and well combined with the mushrooms. Add broth, beans, and corn. Heat to a gentle boil and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Stir in hot sauce and black pepper to taste.

Diced tomatoes and shredded cheese are good toppings for this soup.

Tomato Free Zesty Chili

31659480563_833b6816c9_k

While I love tomatoes of all sorts cooked into almost any form, I also know that this savory fruit can be unkind to those with acid reflux and related disorders. My husband enjoys traditional northern chili, but his stomach complains when he eats it. To solve this problem, I wanted to develop a red chili with no tomatoes. This quest seemed puzzling until I realized that we had been enjoying just such a soup at a local burger diner. During one of our many visits there over the past couple years, I closely examined the soup, spoonful by spoonful, and determined that what set this concoction apart from other local chili was the lack of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce.

I don’t wish to encroach on this local favorite by copying it, so I made a chili this afternoon that was significantly spicier than the diner chili.

Tomato Free Zesty Chili

Serves 8

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 quart reduced sodium beef broth, divided
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 – 15.5 oz can hot chili beans, undrained
  • 1 – 15.5 oz can dark red kidney beans, undrained
  • 2 – 1.25 oz packets Tex Mex chili seasoning (or 2 packets of your preferred chili seasoning mix)

Sprinkle ground beef with 1 T chili powder. Brown and crumble in dutch oven, drain excess fat. Mix 1/2 cup beef broth and corn starch to make a slurry. Pour remainder of the quart of broth into dutch oven. Bring to a bare simmer and whisk in slurry. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring gently. Let boil for two minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in both cans of beans and the seasoning packets. Reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes. Enjoy.

Easy Potato Soup with Ham

Here’s a simple potato soup recipe that skips most of the rich add-ins that can lower such a vegetable soup to a guilty pleasure. Gone are heavy dairy ingredients like half and half or sour cream, unless you use indulgent leftover mashed potatoes.

Serves 8

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups sliced carrots
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 14 oz can sliced potatoes, diced
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 14 oz diced ham (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
  • 32 oz mashed potatoes (3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 T dried parsley or 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/2 t pepper

Melt butter in dutch over medium heat. Add onions and pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add carrots and celery. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until vegetables are crisp tender. Add broth, ham, and canned potatoes. Bring to a gentle boil. Stir in mashed potatoes and sprinkle with parsley. Soup is ready to serve when heated through.

Easy Big Batch Chili

29860705372_c01d649b53_z

Cooking played a vital role in my recovery from depression. As I tried more recipes and created some of my own, I felt mastery despite that I was and am not a fantastic cook. Even when I felt like my life was falling apart outside the kitchen, I knew I could succeed at planning a meal with limited resources that people might even like.

It all started with chili. Here was a one dish meal that was challenging to screw up. I experimented with the recipe my mom taught me in my teens. After a few attempts that were too fiery, I arrived at basic template for chili that could be embellished or scaled to suit the occasion.

After I had been stuck in moderate depression for years, my mom suggested that I try making chili for a 100 for my brother’s wedding reception. This was to be an informal gathering for family who hadn’t been able to attend my brother’s out of state wedding. For the first time in months, I did not agonize over choices or planning. I did not dread failure. I just did it. About half of people who tried my chili at that reception liked it enough to ask who made it. This mattered more to me than they could ever know.

I learned that if I acted without worrying whether anyone would like the result, my chances of a positive outcome were greater.

This evening I made my chili once again. It continues to evolve. This version can serve 10-12 people. I freeze cooled leftovers in sandwich bags. This chili keeps well frozen for two months.

Choosing no salt added versions of the canned tomatoes can help control the sodium level. If lower sodium plain beans are used, I recommend adding more chili powder to taste.

Big Batch Chili

  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 2-16 oz cans mild or medium chili beans, undrained
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained (a 10 oz can is fine, too)
  • 29 oz can crushed tomatoes (fire roasted crushed tomatoes work great, too)
  • 3 T plus one teaspoon chili powder, divided
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1 beef boullion cube (optional but tasty)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 t Sriracha sauce

Brown the ground beef with 1 teaspoon chili powder in Dutch oven.  Drain well. Add beans, tomatoes, 3 T chili powder, pepper, water and Sriracha sauce. Bring the chili to a simmer and add the boullion cube if using. Simmer f0r at least 30 minutes. Enjoy.

A Recipe for Cheap Diet Soup

I have a few recipes for inexpensive, diet-friendly dishes. Back when I was broke (not so many years ago), I made a goal of seeing how little money I could spend on cooking and still create something nutritious. This soup was part of that quest. The butter can be omitted, but I think adding a little fat helps with flavor and nutrient absorption. Of course, this recipe can be varied. I’ve found that mushrooms and a 1/2 cup of cooked barley are nice additions.

  • 8 cups chicken broth (boullion may be used)
  • 1 lb carrots, sliced
  • 1 bunch celery, sliced (include the leaves if you love celery)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 lb dried kidney beans, cooked
  • 1 bay leaf (optional, really enhances the flavor of the soup)
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 T butter

Melt the butter in a dutch oven and cook the onion over medium heat for five minutes. Next add the celery and carrots and cook for fifteen minutes more. Adding the remaining ingredients and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.

I plugged this recipe into a recipe calorie calculator at caloriecount.com and these were the results if the recipe were divided into 12 servings:

recipe calories