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black bean soup (gf, df)

*tap tap* is this thing on?

Hellooooo all you New Year’s Resolution-ers. Trying to eat more healthfully? Made a goal to get more veggies? Use your food storage? Try new things?

I am your friend.

This black bean soup was magnificent. I was inspired by several recipes I found in books and on the internet in the blogosphere to try a black bean soup recipe. I wanted one with lots of color, lots of flavor, and lots of healthy ingredients. Check, check, and check.

What I loved about this soup (besides the incredible flavor, satisfying nature, and photogenic qualities) was that I got five different colors from vegetables! Horray! I’m all about the color.

I think this soup is a great way to get in a lot of vegetables without feeling like…well, that you’re eating a bunch of vegetables (for those of you not vegetably inclined). I used dry black beans (which are on almost every “if you had to eat only ten foods” or “eat these magic foods” list because of their amazing nutritional value), sweet potatoes (which you really couldn’t taste on account of they absorbed all the other amazing flavors), onions and garlic, red pepper, and celery. Okay, so celery isn’t the most nutrient-rich of the green veggies, but work with me here.

The key ingredient (to me) was the ham and ham hock. For anyone who, like me, had a hard time tracking down a ham hock, what I found is (in my market) in a meat section, but is by more of the Mexican foods. It was sold in a two-pack for under $2, and I used one for this recipe and one for another.

Let me let you in on a few secrets:

1) I only buy a ham when it’s on amazing holiday sale, so I used leftover smoked ham that I bought on a Christmas-time sale and put in the freezer, and then the ham hock I found at the market.

2) I cheated with the beans. I pre-soaked them when I was pre-soaking beans for another recipe I made last week, then put them in my freezer in a freezer bag. I recommend this to anyone who is time-strapped (who isn’t?). That way all you have to do is throw them in the pot when you’re ready without having to worry about remembering to pre-soak them.

3) I made this soup the day before I was going to eat it. I also left the ham hock in until I served it to let the soup really develop it’s flavor. I may or may not have died and gone to heaven.

Okay, enough blabberjabbering, let’s get to the goods!

Black Bean Soup
Printable RecipeIngredients:
1/2lb dried black beans, pre-soaked (overnight or six hours in a large pot covered with at least 5 inches of water above the beans)
1/2lb ham, diced + 1 ham hock (these have almost no meat, that I’ve found)
3 cups water
1/2 large sweet potato, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4tsp cumin
1/8tsp chili powder
2 cups chicken broth (I used homemade)
salt and pepper
olive oil
optional garnishes: sour cream, cilantro, avocado, lime, etc.

Directions:
In a large soup pot, cover beans, ham and ham hock with 3c water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours or till beans are tender. Stir throughout this hour occasionally to make sure beans don’t stick to bottom. In a medium pan, saute potato, carrot, celery, onion, and bell pepper in a small drizzle of olive oil until tender. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more. Add to beans and ham. Stir in chicken broth, cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring all to a simmer and let cook 20-30 minutes or till you’re ready to eat and veggies are tender.

If you want a thicker consistency, you could definitely puree some of the soup. I loved it as is. Remove ham hock before serving and discard.

Makes at least 6- 8 generous servings.

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