November 14, 2012

Mexican White Bean Soup

I grew-up in a working class family. Both of my parents worked very hard to provide the small amount of things that we had. We were lucky that my parents had lived in the same very small two bedroom cottage in Seattle since the early 1970's and the rent had never been raised. When they finally moved out in 1998 they were still only paying 300 dollars a month rent (which is unheard of in Seattle). Both of my parents barely graduated high-school and they worked jobs that most people would turn down. There were many months when my poor mother took me to the food bank line at the local church holding back tears. I was oblivious to most of the problems. I thought the fact that my mom was a great Tupperware dealer and got us a brand new television was neat. I didn't know that that the only way that my parents could afford anything when my dad was working at less than great nursing home was for my mother to sell Tupperware at night. I also didn't realize that the bean soups that my mother made so frequently were because beans were the stable that came from the food bank. I do know that my mother was a great cook. She could take three common ingredients and make food that I would pay money for at a great restaurant. I wish that I had half the cooking skills that she had in one hand. She is also the reason that I love to cook. I never learned to cook from my mother, I learned to love food. Cooking was an experience, there were no cookbooks just tasting, pinching and perfecting. She owned her kitchen. So when I go through my magazine recipes the ones that always catch my attention tend to be simple and make something great out of minimal ingredients. Last month I tried a new recipe for Mexican White Bean Soup from the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, which looked like a recipe that would have fit perfectly in my mother's kitchen.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 1 hour and 10 minutes of cooking time, 30 minutes of prep and makes 6 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. As I normally do I made my own vegetable stock. I decided to make vegetable stock instead of chicken since I make at least one vegetarian dinner a week and this was a perfect fit. I used the whole 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, my family likes food with a little kick. Instead of doing a quick soak on the navy beans, I let mine soak overnight. I find the overnight soaking method less time consuming and is the method I almost always follow. Finally, I let my beans cook for slightly longer than the 1 1/2 hours suggested. I cooked the beans for 1 1/2 hours then blended with an immersion blender (a blender would also work just as well) and then cooked for an additional 1/2 hour. I like my bean soup to be very tender and the additional time helped to accomplish the right consistency. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My husband and I really liked this soup. If I wasn't making this for my kids I probably would have increased the cayenne pepper even more, maybe up to a full teaspoon. I did top the soup with sour cream and cilantro and added additional cayenne to my husband and mine's servings. This recipe is great for the colder months to come and would be perfect served alongside a crunchy and crusty bread.

For the recipe go to Mexican White Bean Soup. (registration required)
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