Monday, August 27, 2012

Something From Nothing #1: Easy Black Bean Soup

When I started this blog almost 4 years ago, my daughter had just left for college.  I didn’t  think about it then, but there was a hole her absence left behind and I guess this creative outlet helped me to fill it.   It is hard for me to believe, but after all this time and over 150 posts I am still here typing away, and best of all you are still here listening.

Well, time does fly and our daughter didn’t waste one moment of her time or one of our hard earned dollars and graduated on time this last May.  She is now looking for a place of her own and will soon be the queen of her domain calling all the shots around her place. 

If she wants to eat Halloween candy for dinner like she wanted to when she was nine, she can.  If she wants her room to look like a pig sty without my interference, she can do that too.    If she is lucky enough to have a 14 year old daughter someday, she can be a cool mom and let her date and wear thongs, but something tells me she won’t.  I do have to be honest and say she will never be able to get a tattoo or dye her hair blue as long as I am alive; there are just some things I will always have an opinion about. 

As mothers have a tendency to do, I have drilled my mantra into her head.  I have always told her, “money buys freedom and freedom is priceless”.  Since she listens to me when it counts, she has become a very good saver.  She knows that in order to treat herself to things she wants and still save money she has to cut corners sometimes, and this is where my blog comes in.

In an effort to help her economize when she is cooking for herself (on those days when she is out of Halloween candy), I am going to start posting simple and delicious recipes made from inexpensive staples that everyone usually has or can easily stock in their own pantries and refrigerators.  I’m going to call my new feature, Something from Nothing.

My first Something from Nothing recipe is for a great little black bean soup made from canned beans, bacon, frozen vegetables and a few dried spices.   You can always enhance this by topping it with whatever you might have on hand (suggestions follow), but just plain is great too.

Easy Black Bean Soup

I always have a couple of cans of beans in my cupboard.  Beans are really very versatile, from being the main ingredient in soups, dips and salads, to sides and burgers. Not only are they tasty and affordable, but they are pretty good for you too.

3 slices bacon, chopped (No bacon, no problem.  Substitute bacon with 2 tablespoons oil)

1 cup chopped fresh or frozen onions or frozen mirapoix blend (Chopped onions, celery and carrots.  It is always good to have some of this on hand in your freezer)

1 small garlic clove, crushed (or 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic)

2 - 15 ounce can black beans with juice

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon mild chili powder

1/4 teaspoon coriander or 1 lightly packed tablespoon of fresh chopped cilantro

1 medium size bay leaf

Salt and pepper to taste

Place bacon in a medium size saucepan set over medium high heat.  Cook until it is browned and almost crispy.  Add mirapoix blend or onions to the bacon and drippings in the pan and cook until it is slightly soft and transparent (approximately 5 minutes), stirring frequently.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute longer.

Add canned black beans and juice and mash with a potato masher or the back of a fork until most of the beans are mashed.  Add water, cumin, chili powder, coriander and salt and pepper.  

Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes (or until vegetables are tender crisp), stirring occasionally.

Remove cover and simmer until desired consistency is reached if needed. 

Garnish with whatever you have on hand.  Some suggestions are pico de gallo, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, avocados, fresh cilantro, fresh or pickled jalapenos, grated cheese or salsa.

This recipe can be easily halved or doubled.

Serves 2 - 4

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