Trendy Bean Soup

trendy bean soup

trendy bean soup photo by vsimon

How many food trends can you fit into a bowl? Let’s count.

  1. Local.
  2. Organic.
  3. Backyard gardening.
  4. Low carbon.
  5. Heritage seeds.
  6. Naturally nutritious.
  7. Food is the new health insurance.
  8. Gluten free.
  9. Frugal.
  10. Make ahead meals.

OK, that is enough for one abundant bowl of bean soup.

We grew many beans this year in our back yard garden. You can’t get any more local than that. Pesticide free and organic, there was plenty to share with the bugs. Together these trends lead to another -> low carbon.

The seeds are saved year to year, from an old heritage line.

Plain old beans are naturally nutritious. You couldn’t pack more fiber in if you tried. And are great sources of many vitamins and minerals, no need to add more. This type of food makes the best health insurance.

Beans are inherently gluten free and frugal. They might be the definition of frugal in a dictionary somewhere. Ours were free!

Our beans

They are mostly scarlet and pink lady runner beans, with a few coco rubicos thrown in. We grow them on 7’ tee-pees,  hummingbirds buzz and hover from one to another all summer long. 

These colorful beans cook to a lovely coco brown.


scarlet runner dry bean photo by vsimon

How to cook beans

The traditional way to cook dry beans is to soak overnight in a large amount of water. The beans swell and double in size, or more.

In the morning you can drain the water and add fresh, or not. Some say draining gets rid of the trouble makers in the GI compliant department.

Bring the beans and water to a simmer and cook until they are soft. How long to cook beans varies on the size, age, and type of bean. This could take an hour or more. Skim off any foam that forms. You’ll have to do this several times.

The runner beans are very large, the size of a butter bean or big lima. The coco rubicos are half as big. If the little ones fall apart by the time the big ones were done, no worries.


coco rubico dry bean photo by vsimon

Quick soak

I wanted to pressure cook this soup and hadn’t soaked the beans overnight. So I quick soaked these beans. That means to cook for a little bit, then let them sit, and swell.

Put the beans in the cooker and see how far they come up the side. Then add water to a level two times higher than the beans.

Make sure you have a large enough pressure cooker. Foam can plug the safety vents. Don’t fill a pressure cooker more than half full with beans and water.

Bring them to pressure and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, and leave the cooker on the burner. Allow the pressure to release naturally (slowly). You can achieve in one hour what an overnight soak would accomplish.

After the quick soak, I added a bit more water. Enough to so there were equal layers of the plump beans and water above them.

Then I cooked these for only 15  minutes. I quickly released the pressure to see if they were tender, they were. If they weren’t, I’d lock the lid back on, bring to pressure, and cook a bit longer.


pink lady runner dry bean photo by vsimon

Cook without a recipe

I could write a recipe for this soup, but I am not sure know how useful it would be to you. You only need to follow the general cooking instructions above.

Or follow the specific instructions on the package of beans you buy. There are many, many kinds to try.

You can add onions, celery, and carrots to the mix while you cook it. When it is done, puree it smooth, or chunky. Or leave it brothy.

There are many seasoning suggestions beyond salt and pepper. Make it Mexican with cumin, oregano, and garlic. Make it savory with thyme and sage. Smoked paprika makes it lovely. Make it Midwestern with chili powder and tomatoes.

*Don’t add tomatoes until he beans are soft though. If you add them in the beginning, your beans may never get soft.

Bean soup is a filling vegetarian meal. Or you can add any leftover meat you like, such as ham, pork, or sausage.

I added sausage and leftover pork roast from pasture fed animals, purchased directly from a local farmer. Is that another trend I spot?

Be sure to serve bean soup with a splash of vinegar! I learned this from the folks at the nursing home I worked at years ago. And my husbands family does it too. It adds zip and ups the saltiness, without ever more salt. I like good vinegar here, apple cider, sherry, or Champaign.  Don’t use malt vinegar, it is not gluten free.

Make ahead

Bean soup freezes (and thaws) beautifully. Make a big batch, cool it, package it, freeze it. You can have lunch or dinner in February from soup you make tomorrow.

What are your favorite dry beans for soup?


Enter the Gluten-Free, Hassle Free book giveaway by January, 13, 2010.

Cocoa Bean Brownies

cocoa bean brownies

cocoa bean brownies

photo by vsimon who devoured them right after the picture

Maybe you read that right and thought, oh, cocoa bean bits in brownies, cool. But it really is cocoa and beans. You would never know if I had not told you.

Some years ago, I saw a recipe in USA Weekend magazine by Jean Carper for Chocolate Valentine Cake. Gluten free, and made with garbanzo beans. No wacky gluten free ingredients, nothing hard to find, or expensive.

It was a hit. But I took a good recipe and made it even better. Same great taste, texture and moistness, now it is a little simpler.

Quick and easy

Jean’s original recipe called for melted chocolate. Why not just use cocoa, oil, sugar, and skip the melting step? Five minutes prep start to finish. It works like a charm and is easier, cheaper, and more nutritious than a mix.

The amounts of ingredients have been adjusted a bit because the beans come in smaller cans now. And I have made this maybe a hundred times. With many kinds of beans. Kidney, black, white, garbanzo, whatever is in the pantry. It truly does not matter. Do buy unseasoned beans though. No bacon, no spice, ick, not in brownies.


I have switched to dark brown sugar because it has some antioxidants. The cocoa and the beans have much more though.

Beans, and cocoa too, are also good sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals. What is not to love here?

You can substitute your own cooked beans too. Use 1 ½ cups in place of the canned beans.

Cocoa Bean Brownies (or Flourless Chocolate Cake)

yield: 16 brownies

A thin batter puffs during baking, and then deflates a little.

Very chocolaty, very yummy.

ingredients metric measures
1/2 cup pure cocoa, not cocoa drink mix 50 gm
1/3 cup canola oil 160 ml
1-15 oz can beans, drained 425 gm
1 cup dark brown sugar 180 gm
3 eggs 150 gm
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 2 gm

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. How simple is that?

Oil an 8×8 inch pan. Or 9×9.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until brownies are just set.

Cool, cut and enjoy!

For a chocolate cake and a fancier presentation, use a round cake pan. Cut into wedges and serve with raspberry or strawberry sauce.

L is for Legume

You know the little ditty, “Beans, beans the musical fruit, the more you eat…” Actually that is all wrong. The right way to say it is, “Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat, the less you toot.

Eat legumes regularly (pun intended) and your gut will be happy. Start with small portions, as you would when introducing any high fiber food.

Legumes are so delicious and very nutritious. Common legumes include lentils, dry beans, peas and peanuts. They are all great sources of fiber and folate, both are often lacking in the gluten free diet.

A cup of legumes provides 10-15 grams of fiber. Legumes are also high in potassium, most are low in fat and cholesterol free. They are as great for your heart as they are for your gut. These little beauties can also help you control blood sugar and manage your weight.

Legumes “fix” nitrogen and are loaded with protein                               Bacteria live in the roots of legumes and trap nitrogen from the air. This improves the soil, reduces the amount of fertilizer needed, and increases the protein level.

Legumes are 20-25% protein by weight. This is double the protein of wheat and three times the protein of rice. Using bean flours or pureed beans in baked goods helps to replace some of the protein and the structure lost when not using wheat.

Variety is the spice of life                                                                              Beans and lentils come in a seemingly unlimited variety and are incredibly versatile. Choose a color, shape and size. Add them to salads, soups, stir-fry, stews, casseroles, or side dishes. Excite your tired old recipes by adding new varieties of beans or lentils.

Try shelled edamame (green soybeans) in stir-fry. Enjoy black refried beans with Mexican entrees. Or make white bean and salmon stew. Serve roasted chickpeas or soy nuts for a great snack. Lunch on hummus with sweet bell pepper dippers. You can buy ready made hummus, or easily make your own. See the recipe below.

Dry beans, peas and lentils                                                                             These make a filling meal for very little dough. They have almost no sodium, but need to be cooked. Depending on the variety, cooking time may take from a quick 20 minutes or up to a very long 3 hours. Lentils are quick, garbanzos seem to take forever. What a great place to use a pressure cooker to speed things up!

Pressure cooking legumes                                                                                    I pressure cook beans and split peas all the time. It is often recommended to soak the beans overnight, before cooking them. This is a great idea, when you plan that far ahead. I often don’t.

You can do a fast soak in the pressure cooker. Put the beans in and add at least 3 times more water than beans. Lock the lid, bring to pressure and cook for 2 minutes. Allow to sit for an hour and the beans will be ready to pressure cook.

I must admit, I often do not even do that. I simply cook the dry beans, unsoaked. Most beans can be done in an hour or less, so I just cook them without soaking. I cook beans and split peas for one third the recommended stovetop cooking time. Then I check to see if they are done to my liking. Sometimes I need to cook a bit longer. It still is so much quicker than stovetop cooking.

There are multiple sites online with suggested cooking times. I did not link to any since I end up cooking legumes much longer than the lists suggest. In part, this is because I usually do not soak first. But also, we have some of the hardest water in the U.S. This makes the cooking time longer too. High altitude may will extend the cooking time. So, you may need to give yourself some extra time and experiment. Just like the rest of the gluten free diet. 🙂

Two cooking cautions                                                                                         Do not cook dry legumes with tomatoes, vinegar or lemon juice. The legumes will not soften. If the recipe calls for these ingredients, add them when the beans are done.

When pressure cooking legumes, do not fill your pressure cooker more than one-half full. They foam up and can clog the release valve.


Yeah for leftovers                                                                                      Legumes freeze really well, so you can cook up a mess o’ beans and enjoy them at your convenience. Package leftovers in small amounts, label, date and freeze.

Canned beans, peas and lentils                                                                        They cost a bit more than dry legumes, but they are still inexpensive. They are super convenient, but often high sodium.

Many kinds have 350-500 mg sodium per serving. Organic canned beans often have about 150 mg. Rinsing canned beans reduces the sodium. No added salt canned beans are available too.

I like cooked dry beans, naturally low in sodium. Or the organic canned beans. To me, the canned no added salt varieties taste flat. I am not a fan.

Lightly Lemon Hummus                                                                                    Yield 2 cups

1- 15 oz can chick peas, drained, juice reserved

1/3 cup tahini

¼ cup bean juice

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon dried garlic

3 tablespoons chopped chives

pinch of red pepper flakes

Put chickpeas, tahini, bean juice, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, cumin, and garlic in a food processor or blend. Process until smooth. Stir in chives.

Place in individual ramekins. This way everyone gets their own serving and double dipping is allowed! Garnish with red pepper flakes and a drizzle of the remaining oil. Serve with sweet peppers as dippers.

hummuspepper (1) 

hummus-and-sweet-pepper-dippers photo by vsimon

What are your favorite gluten free dippers?