Unforgettable Navy Bean Soup

THE MEMORABLE BEAN!
BEANS are the most undervalued food item. Although the bean is a complex carb. like bread and starches, it feels right at home in the veggie group and holds its own in the protein group. The miraculous bean has little or no fat and is cholesterol-free. In fact the bean actually lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your body.  Garlic, rosemary and thyme gives this soup that unmistakable ~unforgettable ~  flavour!

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Café de La Paix, Toronto,ON

The first time I had navy bean soup was at the Colonnade on Bloor Street in Toronto. I was a teenager and I took the subway to the Cumberland Street stop and headed off to the Colonnade. After window shopping and buying a retro 20’s hat with a matching long silk scarf that morning, it was time for lunch at my oasis. I was relieved to get off my feet and settled in to enjoy my bean soup. Good times. The hat shop is gone along with the quaint cafe. But, the memories remain.  I am sharing with you my most favorite, unforgettable memories of a  sumptuous soup. Today, we celebrate the glorious bean!

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NAVY BEAN SOUP Unforgettable

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. Navy beans, dry
  • 1 Onion, Large
  • 1 Red Pepper
  • 5 Stalks Celery
  • 5 Carrots
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 4 tbsp Olive oil (or Avocado oil)
  • 5 cups home-made chicken stock* (or vegetable stock)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tsp Rosemary, dried ~ or ~
    (1 Rosemary sprig ( 6-7 inches ), large fresh sprig)
  • 1/2 tsp Thyme, dried or 1 tsp fresh Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 Tsp Pepper (fresh ground)
  • 1½ Tsp Fresh Ground Salt (Kosher or sea salt)

Meat Lovers
Optional – add  diced bacon or cooked sausage rounds during or after the cooking process for that meaty flavour.

Organic Rosemary, Garlic and Thyme

* the ratio of stock and water needs to add up to 7 cups. If you don’t have enough stock add more water. Your stock may be very concentrated and rich and you may need to adjust the ratio. Use your good judgement.
Substitution: If you don’t want to use carrots and celery replace them with 4 cups of sliced yellow onions about 3 more onions. It now becomes a Tuscany navy bean soup.
Not enough carrots? If you only have 2 carrots in the frig. add one onion in place of the 3 additional required carrots. The same applies to the celery.navy_beans

Soaking Navy Beans. The water collects carbohydrates from the beans.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Soak the navy beans for  3 hours. Change the water frequently ~ discards the carbohydrates in the ‘soaking’ water. Carbs make your beans become the “magical fruit”.)
  2. Mince the garlic, dice the onion(s), chop the celery, pepper and carrots.
  3. Sauté the onions, celery, and carrots in olive oil in the pot (dutch oven). After the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes), add the garlic and red pepper and sauté another minute or two.
  4. Add the rinsed navy beans, stock, water, smoked paprika, bay leaf, fresh ground pepper and herbs to the pot.
  5. Bring to a boil (boil for 10 minutes while stirring) then turn down to simmer. Total cooking time 90 minutes.
  6. Taste test to check if the beans are thoroughly cooked. Add salt. Taste again to see if you need more salt. We left the salt to the end because salt makes the beans hard.

Serves 6-8 (good for storing in glass jars & freezing)

ALTERNATE METHODS OF COOKING
For the following two methods, saute the vegetables in a fry pan with olive oil first before adding to the crock pot or pressure cooker.
bean-soup-2SLOW COOKER METHOD: Combine all of the above ingredients into the slow cooker and stir. Set to cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8 hours.
PRESSURE COOKER: Beans are a perfect match for pressure cooking. Place pressure regulator on vent pipe and cook 30 minutes at 15 pounds pressure.  Use instructions included with your p.c. model. One of my sisters is always using a pressure cooker. (She uses 2 at a time) With her engineer-like mind – it’s a given. Less work and a most efficient method. Freezer friendly for another day!  Their freezer is full of goodies (and don’t last long in the freezer either). Don’t freeze in plastic or freezer bags–use glass jars– and leave a gap of one inch at the top so the jars wont crack.
I have my mason jars ready for this one to enjoy again and again. Make it once serve it thrice ( 3 times ) is my motto!!!  Give a jar to a friend adds happiness to their day.  We are giving a whole new meaning to jar heads!  ◔‿◔  ( aha!)
HAT2FOOD TIP: Common mistakes are boiling or simmering the soup too long or too high. While simmering you should not see any bubbling at all. If you can not obtain a very low simmer then add 1/2 to 1 additional cup of water/stock.  You may want to turn off the heat for 2 minutes after the 10 minutes of boil time. Gas stoves are a favorite with chefs because the heat goes right down quickly when you reduce the flames. The best choice is a pressure cooker. If you have never used one I recommend it. It seals all the moisture inside the P.C.

The Magical Fruit!

The Magical Fruit!

THE HEALTH SMART BEAN
(1) Heart healthy  💖
(2) Nutrients: antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals
(3) Economy: Beans may be the least expensive source of protein
(4) SLOW to digest: keeps you feeling full longer and aids in weight loss
(5) FIBER: 5 to 8 grams of fiber in 3 ounces (100 grams)…prevents constipation.
(6) Reduce cancer risk: 3 cups of beans per week.
(7) Blood sugar balance: Beans digest slowly which helps keep the blood sugar balanced. At the same time reduces fatigue and irritability.
(8) PROTEIN: About 1/2 cup of beans provides 7 grams of protein. The same amount of protein as in 1 ounce of chicken, meat or fish.
BONUS: Beans are inexpensive. Stock up!

BEAN TIPS beans-reduce-gas

superfoodTHE NEW SUPER FOOD
Beans are  on the list of super foods. It does not get a lot of air time. More people are discovering that the lowly, often neglected bean is not only low in cost, it is high in health benefits. Protein:  1 oz chicken=1/2 cup beans.
didyouknow2DID YOU KNOW? Garbanzo beans (chick peas) are the highest in protein of all the beans. It contains Potassium, K and very high in folate. And — is over the scale in energy! —

navyHOW DID NAVY BEANS GET THEIR NAME?
With a long shelf life, navy beans became a staple on U.S. Navy vessels beginning in the mid-1800s; earning them their name that has survived the test of time. The navy bean is the same type of bean you find in tins of baked beans.

EAT BEANS THREE TIMES A WEEK FOR YOUR HEALTH!

Game Day Spicy Meatballs

These are a healthier alternative to the typical  game day feast of nachos, chips, wings and pizza. They are so tasty and will not last long.  Delicious and nutritious snacks!

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INGREDIENTS
img_42491 pound ground chicken (or turkey)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg, whisked
3 tablespoons unseasoned whole-wheat bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Hungarian or hot paprika
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves, about 1 small sprig or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, about 5 sprigs or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon sugar substitute
1 lemon, zest only
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:
1) In a large bowl thoroughly mix the chicken, garlic, egg, bread crumbs, Worcestershire, paprika, onion powder, oregano, thyme, brown sugar, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a bowl.
2) Gently mix in the chicken (to avoid any toughness in the meatballs) and form into mini meatballs, slightly smaller than a golf ball; it should make 28 to 30 meatballs.
3) Warm the butter and oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
4) Transfer the meatballs to the pan and do not disturb for 3 minutes to brown well.
5) Turn, cooking another 3 minutes without disturbing.
6) Keep cooking until browned and cooked on all sides, but still juicy and plump with a spring to the touch.
7) Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Serve with cocktail skewers or toothpicks for game day!

img_4258Both chicken and turkey are a great alternative to beef when making meatballs and these meatballs are healthier than pizza, wings or chips for that game day snack!  These are also great for those who want to build their muscles to compete with or become  football players or just build a little bit of muscle like myself.

While turkey has a slight edge from a nutritional standpoint, the price of chicken is more stable year-round, and boneless, skinless cuts of turkey breast can be found easily at most grocery stores.  A 1-lb. serving of skinless, boneless chicken breast contains 135 calories per serving, which is 12 calories higher than the same serving of turkey. The ratio of protein to fat is also slightly lower than turkey with 25 g of protein and 3 g of fat per serving.

Amino Acid Profiles
Another important consideration is the amino acid profiles or each meat. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and different amino acids have different effects on muscle gain. Specifically, the branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs — isoleucine, leucine and valine — are linked to optimal muscular growth and repair. Again, turkey is slightly superior to chicken in its content of BCAAs. One serving of turkey contains 1,420 mg of isoleucine, 2,176 mg of leucine and 1,451 mg of valine. A serving of chicken contains 1,230 mg of isoleucine, 2,073 mg of leucine and 1,297 mg of valine.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Risotto

With Fall here and the abundance of the wonderful gourds available I think about recipes that can utilize these vegetables to the fullest.  A few years ago when going out to dinner with my serious foodie crowd, I put up my nose when one friend ordered pumpkin risotto for their main course.  We were at one of the city’s most famous Italian restaurants.  We would all have a taste of everyone’s main on our bread plates before  we started.  I was so taken aback that the pumpkin risotto was the best tasting! It was hands down the winning dish!
pumpkinsI have been making it every fall ever since. The flavour is just stunning!  Look for fresh pumpkin already cut and seeded in your grocery store so this recipe is not labour intensive. You would swear that there is butter and cream in this risotto but it is completely absent.  This is partially due to the cooking method as well as the substitution of the classically used arborio rice with CARNAROLI Rice.
It is amazing!  If you do use a fresh whole pumpkin keep the shell to serve pumpkin soup (which you can use canned pumpkin to make), steamed mussels, lamb ragout…. the list goes on. The presentation will be stunning for your Thanksgiving table.

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INGREDIENTS
pumpkin-risotto-322Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 cups carnaroli rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup apple cider
4 cups vegetable stock
3 cups diced pumpkin
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
3/4 cup walnut pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated

INSTRUCTIONS
1.  Heat 4 cups of vegetable stock.  Keep warm.
2.  In a large heavy bottomed pan with high sides, heat oil over medium high heat.   Add onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.    Sprinkle with salt, about 1/8 teaspoon as the onions become sweet tasting.    This helps to layer the flavours.
3.  Add rice and cook a few minutes longer to coat all rice kernels in oil but not browning.
4. Add wine and stir until it is completely absorbed.
5. Add cider and ladle in hot stock one cup at a time.
6. Add sage and thyme and cook until all liquid is absorbed.
7. Before serving add walnuts, salt and pepper (to taste), olive oil and parmigiano.
pumpkin-risotto33
Most chefs will argue the cooking time should be only 18 minutes. It doesn’t sound like a lot but this is what they all claim. A chef’s school instructor told me that the famous chef who’s pumpkin risotto I fell in love with apparently just lets his risotto sit and cook without stirring and at the end he just gives it a toss. So far, I have been too scared to try this as I have put so many good ingredients in it but I will give it a try and give you a play by play report.                                 This is an excellent vegetarian dish and if you eliminate the wine and cheese, this would make an excellent vegan dish.

HAT2FOOD TIP: Make sure that you buy edible pumpkins and not the ones that are meant for carving.  Pumpkins belong to the winter squash family along with butternut, acorn, spaghetti and others.  The pumpkins that are grown for eating  ( not carving )  are sugar pumpkins, sweet pumpkins, cheese pumpkins, pie pumpkins and some heirloom varieties.

taste-testTASTE TEST: I baked my pie pumpkin in the oven for 60 minutes at 350F.  After it was baked and cooled I opened a tin of pumpkin puree and tasted both of them.  What a difference!  The tinned pumpkin had a muddy taste while the pie pumpkin tasted like candy!  I will never buy tinned pumpkin again!

didyouknow2Pumpkin has many health benefits. They are a great source of carotene which is one of our major antioxidants that helps to protect us against certain kinds of cancer (particularly lung cancer) as well as heart disease. Pumpkin is rich in carotene which helps to manage blood sugar metabolism and aids in the health of the pancreas. Pumpkin contains many vitamins and minerals. It is helpful in the relief of bronchial asthma. and promote the health of the lungs and throat as well. European folk medicine acknowledges pumpkin as a potent remedy in the treatment of respiratory and digestive ailments.

Oven-dried Tomatos

These are so easy to make and freeze to enjoy throughout the year.  Great on salads, sandwiched, pasta. pizza.  The flavour is concentrated.

Recipe                                                                                                                                                                                      6 to 8                        tomatoes, slices about 1/2 inch thick                                                                                    1/2 teaspoon        salt                                                                                                                                                      1/2 teaspoon        freshly ground pepper                                                                                                                   1 tablespoon        fresh thyme, fresh oregano, fresh basil, whatever you have.                                          1 tablespoon        olive oil                                                                                                                                                Directions                                                                                                                                                                               1.  Preheat oven to 250 F or 120 C                                                                                                                                 2.  Place sliced tomatoes on a baking sheet  on a piece of parchment or silpat sheet.

Sliced fresh tomatoes with salt, pepper, herbs, olive oil

Sliced fresh tomatoes with salt, pepper, herbs, olive oil

3.  Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt pepper and fresh herbs.                                                                4.  Bake for one to two hours checking every half hour until pieces have shrunk slightly, edges are shriveled and juices no longer run.  They are not completely dried but are still juicy.

tomatoes that have been backed and out of the oven

tomatoes that have been baked and out of the oven

5.  Cool slightly and put into glass jars covered by olive oil.  Leave about 1/2 inch of head room and freeze if you will not use them up in the next week or two.  Yummy!

Oven-dried tomatoes in glass jar with olive oil and thyme

Oven-dried tomatoes in glass jar with olive oil and thyme