January 22, 2012

Warm Soup for Cold Nights


Yikes! Life has been moving at warp speed lately, I think. Last I remember, it was my birthday! (Which means the last two weeks have completely buzzed by...) I have been cooking a lot lately, but unfortunately, not taking the time to take photos... I have also been falling asleep by 9:30 at night, which puts a damper on my blog time. Luckily, I have a running list, a photo file of things I haven't shared yet... like this recipe that I tried when I was still trying to use leftover Christmas ham!

Growing up, I was never really a soup person... that all changed when I moved to New Jersey and experienced my first real, cold winter. There is nothing like cozying up to a bowl of soup... I started loving soup even more when I realized how incredibly easy it was to make. It's the ultimate one-pot dinner!

This Mexican Ham and Bean Soup is a Cooking Light recipe, which I tweaked a little- my additions are in italics... It ended up having just the right amount of spice and heat to warm up a cold night.

Mexican Ham and Bean Soup
Cooking Light- Serves 8

1 pound dried pinto beans
8 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups water
8 ounces cubed smoked ham steak
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin (I used 1 tbsp)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
3 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 chipotle chile (I used chipotle chile in adobo)
1 1/2 tsp adobo sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup shredded Manchego cheese or Monterey Jack cheese*
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro (garnish)


Sort and wash beans; place in Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain.
Combine beans, broth, and next 10 ingredients (through garlic) in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Partially cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender.
Stir in tomatoes and chile, (and adobo sauce if using); simmer 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves and chile. Stir in lime juice and 1/4 cup cilantro. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with cheese (if using); sprinkle with cilantro.

Notes on this recipe:
*I chose not to use the cheese in this recipe to make it lactose free.
My husband and I love spicy food... If you prefer things to be less spicy, definitely do not add the adobo
sauce. The lime juice added a much needed fresh, bright flavor to the soup, as did the 1/4 cup of cilantro that I stirred in. I really enjoy the flavor of cilantro, which really livened up the flavors in this soup! I would not make this soup without adding the lime and cilantro. If I could do it again, I wouldn't go through the whole process of using dried beans... it doesn't really add anything to the flavor of the soup, and it was kind of a pain in the butt. I'm more than willing to put in the extra effort if it pays off, but in this case, I don't think that it did. Next time, I will substitute with canned beans to make this a much quicker/easier meal...

What kinds of soup do you like?? Any great recipes that you want to share?!? I'm on the hunt for some crock-pot soups that I set and forget during the week... I hope everyone is staying warm!

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