Does everybody love beans? Or is it just me? Because I'm sort of obsessed with them. I love them in a cassoulet, baked with ham, in a hot soup, in a cold salad - you name it, if its got beans, I love it! Plus, I can't lie - I like singing the "bean beans the magical flute " song in my head while I'm eating them. It makes me giggle inside. Hee. Hee.
It took me a little while to learn how to make beans well. Beans certainly aren't complicated but they require patience. I also found the bags of dry beans in the grocery store a little intimidating and I felt stupid asking people what I was suppose to do with dry beans. Needless to say, I made a few mistakes along the way. Mostly, just not soaking them long enough or not cooking them long enough and they ended up sort of hard. Or, I'd cook the beans too long so they were nice and soft and then everything else in the pot was overcooked.
Oh and if you ever need an ice-breaker at a family reunion. beans are also an excellent source of conversation, particularly with the older generation. Bring up beans and you'll leave with a few old time jokes and possibly a great Three-Bean Hot Dish recipe.
I also like beans because they are packed with fiber - which our American diet is seriously lacking. Turns out kids need fiber too and beans are a great way to get a bunch packed in to one serving. The way to figure out how much fiber your child needs is to add 5 to their age from ages 3-18. So for example: My Lily is 3 and if I add 5 that means she needs - wait for it - 8 grams of fiber every day. That is a challenge. But one cup of beans (great northern for example) is packed with 16 grams of fiber - enough for two days.
I made this recipe a few weeks ago and we really loved it. Lily likes beans a lot anyway probably because her Baba makes the best beans this side of the Danube, so it's not too much of a challenge to get her to eat her beans. I hope I can remember everything I threw in. Here we go.
*Update: Seconds after I hit "publish" on this post, my husband hands me a New York Times article about beans and the author says to add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the water when soaking them overnight. Interesting. I'll definitely give this a try next time.
White Bean Soup
Ingredients: bag of dry beans (great northern, cannellini or pinto. Either soak the beans overnight in cold water or boil them for about an hour until they are soft. 8-10 cloves of garlic. 1 ham hock or chunk of ham. 1 yellow onion. 2 cups chicken broth. 1 tbl dried tyme. 1 cup of water. Italian parsley as much as you like. Salt. Pepper.
Fast Directions: Warm olive oil in a large stock pot, add onion and cook until softened. Add garlic. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Cut up the piece of ham (already cooked ham) add them to the pot with the pre-boiled beans, thyme, water and chicken stock. Cook until the beans are soft and edible. Add salt and pepper to taste. You'll need to add more water depending on how much the beans absorb and how high of a heat they are cooked on. I'm estimating the amount of water as 1 cup but it all depends on how soupy you want it.
Slow Cooking Directions: Do everything the same as above, except use a ham hock, which isn't cooked. After you cook the onions, and garlic on the stove top - put the ham hock, beans, thyme, water and chicken stock in a slow cooker for 6-7 hours. You still need to soak the dry beans overnight the day before making this recipe - but I wouldn't boil them on the stove top because the beans will get done to0 fast, before the ham hock and then the beans will be mushy
Serve with crusty, warm garlic bread. FYI: Kowalski's has the BEST ever garlic bread. Save some of this soup for the next day - It will be even better!