Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Thrifty, Tasty Tuesday: Black Bean Soup & Cornbread

            Welcome to the first installment of Thrifty, Tasty Tuesday! If you’re looking to save money and eat healthier, there is no greater bang for your buck than beans. They are high in fiber and protein and low in fat. And they are cheap. A one pound bag costs around $1.60 a bag. Yes, planning is required when using dried beans because you need to soak them overnight. But the payoff is huge.
This soup was a big hit with my family. The first time I made it, I served cornbread in case I needed to bribe entice the boys to finish their soup. But they genuinely liked it.
Black Bean Soup is made in a slow cooker (Crockpot). The night before, I chop the veggies and soak the beans. Then I toss everything in the slow cooker before we head out the door in the morning. It's a huge relief to come home with dinner almost ready.

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup

1 lb. bag of dried black beans*
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chilis
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 finely chopped onion
1 finely chopped bell pepper (I use red, but green would be fine)
4 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
1 1/2  t. chili powder
1/2 t. oregano
4 teaspoons of Vegetable “Better than Bullion” **
salt & pepper to taste

Sort and soak the beans overnight according to the package directions.

Throw everything in the slow cooker except “Better than Bullion” ***

Cover with enough water so there is an inch of water over the beans (about 7 cups). I usually boil the water in the kettle to get things started a little quicker

Cook for at least 7 hours on low (if you won’t be home from work in time, the soup won’t suffer from cooking an extra hour or two).

Add Better Than Bullion and stir thorougly.

If you have an immersion blender, run it through the crockpot before serving to thicken the soup. If you don’t have one, puree two cups of soup into a blender or food processor then return the pureed soup to the crockpot. If you have neither, use a potato masher and smoosh up the beans.

Cook for an additional 30 minutes or more. While that’s cooking, you can whip up a batch of my favorite cornbread shown below.

Serve soup with cheese or sour cream.

*I use Goya beans. There are store brands available for a little less, but I think it’s worth a few cents extra. There is usually less debris and fewer broken beans in the Goya beans. 

**I love this stuff, I keep several varieties on hand. However, it is high in sodium. So if you’re watching your salt intake, use low sodium vegetable stock instead of water and skip this ingredient.

***Salt slows down the cooking time of beans, that’s why it’s best to add this at the end.

*****Smoosh is a very technical culinary term.

Vickie’s Famous Cornbread
(to save time, you can mix the dry ingredients the night before)

1 Cup Yellow Cornmean
1 Cup King Arthur White Wholewheat Flour*
1/2 Cup Sugar**
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 Cup Buttermilk***
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 425º

Spray an 8x8 pan with nonstick spray.

Thoroughly mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix eggs, buttermilk and oil thoroughly and add to the dry ingredients.

Stir gently and quickly. Don’t overmix or the cornbread will be tough. A few lumps are okay, they’ll disappear in baking.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

*I’ll admit it. I’m a flour snob. I only buy King Arthur. I watch for sales and stock up.

**I use turbinado sugar because it gives a slight molasses taste, but regular white or brown sugar works fine.

***If you don’t keep buttermilk in the house, use a cup of milk plus a tablespoon of vinegar as a substitute