Friday, July 1, 2011

Stupendous Soup... Kale and Cranberry Bean Soup (Vegetarian)

Yesterday I was craving a nice bowl of today that I would make a big batch to fill my craving.  I was given a package of Laurel Hill dried cranberry beans (also called Heirloom beans) to try out and I thought they would go great in an Italian-style Kale soup.  I have used fresh cranberry beans (pictured below), but never the dried variety so I was pretty excited about it.  Cranberry beans, also known as shell beans to New Englanders, are often used in Italian or Spanish cuisine.  Laurel Hill, a Northeast food company just released a line of Heirloom ancient beans and these are one of the new varieties!  Keep your eyes out in the natural section of the grocery store or at the local co-op!

Beans, beans, beans... Beans are a great addition to soups, salads, casseroles, or as a side dish.  There is a lot of nutrition packed into these babies and I would go so far as to say that they are nutrition powerhouses!  One serving of beans packs in almost 40% of your fiber for the day.  The fiber helps lower your cholesterol and keeps you feeling full.  Not to mention that they are low in fat, and calories (about 90 calories per serving size) a good source of protein, complex carbohydrates, B vitamins, and Iron.  Dried beans are cheap to buy and can round out a meal that needs a little "umph".  You can buy some varieties canned if you don't have time to soak the beans.  The convenience=higher cost.  The best way to prepare most dried beans is to soak them for 6-8 hours, or overnight, and then cook for about 45 minutes or until soft.  *It is important not to add salt to the beans (if you add it at all) while the beans are soaking as it prevents the water from getting into the bean and it won't soften correctly.

My first experience with kale and navy bean soup was this winter and I absolutely loved it.  I thought these beans which are describes as "nutty" in flavor would be an interesting substitute in a similar soup.  Soup is great to make in a big batch so you can have leftovers, but it also freezes great in case you want it later or get sick of it.  I usually put it in plastic tupperware and freeze it.  Buying canned soup is so expensive considering it is so cheap to make!  All you need is some broth or bouillon, vegetables, some meat or beans, and a starch (pasta, potato, noodles) and you have an awesome creation!  AND if you watch your sodium the difference is amazing... even the low sodium soups have 500 mg+ of sodium and you can make something just as delicious for half of the sodium or less!

Kale and Cranberry Bean Soup
Serves 8

1 pound of dried cranberry beans*
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
8 cups of water
8 carrots, cut in half and sliced
2 potatoes, sliced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 pound of kale, ribs and stems discarded, leaves chopped
1 Tbsp dried rosemary
Black pepper, to taste

Soak beans in a pot of water 6 hours or overnight (2 inches over the surface of the beans).  Bring beans to a boil for 50 minutes.  Drain beans and rinse.  Heat olive oil and onions in a large pot over medium heat for ~ 5 minutes or until softened.  Add the chopped garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Add beans, broth, 4 cups of water, parmesan cheese, and pepper and cook for 45 minutes.  Stir in carrots and potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in kale and 4 more cups of water and simmer for 15 more minutes or until the kale is softened.

*You can substitute Cannellini, Pinto, or Navy Beans

Nutrition facts: (1.5 cups of soup)
260 calories, 16 g protein, 41 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 14 g fiber, 230 mg sodium

Top with pepper and parmesan cheese and enjoy with a nice side salad for a lovely lunch or a light dinner!

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