My friend Leigh Ann had a baby a couple of months ago and a group of us signed up to bring her meals. I was racking my brain on what to cook when I noticed the bag of Trader Joe’s 17 Bean Soup Mix in the pantry. I have to smuggle this stuff back from South Carolina in my suitcase since we don’t have a TJ’s here. Most people would probably be like, “What in the hell?” if you brought over a giant pot of bean soup. But I knew that Leigh Ann would be down. She and I bond over our love of beans. To me they’re the perfect food: Filling, healthy, full of protein and fiber (about that… my theory is that the more frequently you eat them, the less of an “effect” they have on you), cheap, easy to make. What’s not to like?
Luckily I was right. I got a text from her the next day:
I’m at the doctor with Sam and it’s taking forever. I just want to get home to my musical fruit.
(Leigh Ann, please don’t be mad at me for sharing that story.)
Anyway, my TJ’s bean soup stockpile doesn’t last very long. Luckily Leigh Ann tipped me off to Central Market’s bulk bin of mixed-bean soup mix. It’s only like 13 beans- not hard core like Trader Joe’s SEVENTEEN- but we work with what we have. I’ve yet to try it, but the other day after a playdate Leigh Ann sent me home with a big tub of mixed dried beans. CM was out of the bulk mix, so she just bought nine bags of various beans and combined them in a make-your-own bean soup mix. GENIUS!
Aren’t they pretty?
So that’s what we had for dinner tonight… I use the recipe on the back of the TJ’s bag as a general guide but then throw in some extras. You could make this soup using 2 cups of any mixed, dried beans you like- garbanzos, black beans, limas, split peas, pintos, black eyed peas, kidney beans, lentils. The possibilities are endless. Oh, and you do have to soak the beans overnight.
This soup is pretty much the best meal ever. I could eat it, with crusty bread, every single day and be a happy gal. I throw in some diced ham steak to give it a smoky flavor and some heft, but you could leave that out. It gets better in the fridge and makes an awesome, easy weekday lunch if you cook up a big batch on Sundays. Which is what I did today.
Smoky Mixed Bean & Ham Soup
- 2 cups dried, mixed beans
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 28 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (undrained)
- 2 x 32 oz cartons reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 small ham steak, diced
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp Liquid Smoke
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Chipotle Tabasco, to taste (optional)
- splash of red wine vinegar
- salt & pepper
1. Place beans in a large bowl. Cover completely with cool water and allow to soak overnight. Rinse & drain.
2. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onion, pepper, carrots, celery and garlic. Saute until soft.
3. Add tomatoes, broth, beans, ham, Italian seasoning and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about an hour.
4. After an hour, test beans to see if they’re soft enough. Add Liquid Smoke, Worcestershire, Tabasco, vinegar, salt & pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
We had ours with Alexia whole wheat rolls. For Jack, I just used a slotted spoon to remove & drain some cooked beans and ham from the pot (BEFORE adding the Tabasco) and he gobbled those right up.
Thanks for letting me wax on about my love of the bean. We’ve had a busy weekend and I’m super sleepy, so I’ll catch you guys tomorrow.
PS: If you want to laugh really, really hard, read this. Now. (Potty mouth warning.)