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.

Make Ahead Pesto Polenta Lasagna


pesto polenta lasagna photo by vsimon

This recipe is from, submitted by Fiffen. It is a super simple do ahead dish. All it requires is layering purchased ingredients, packaging, and baking.

Sometimes you just need a plop and drop dinner. This one is rich and satisfying, a small serving is filling.  Serve with a green salad and vinaigrette on a meatless Monday.

Simplify your life with make ahead meals

Prep the lasagna and freeze some for later. Layer in small ceramic or glass containers with tight fitting lids. Package just one or two portions per container. This is what personal chefs do for clients everyday.

Proper containers are one of the secrets to successful make ahead meals.

Reusable, stackable containers

We use mostly small Pyrex rectangles that hold 3 1/2 cups. They hold 1-2 portions, have tight fitting lids, and stack well. There is an example of these containers on Amazon.

If you have a Wal-Mart nearby, you can buy these small rectangles individually, no need to buy an assortment. Wal-Mart is not my favorite store, but we have not found this size in singles anywhere else.

The lasagna in the photo is made in a CorningWare container. This style makes a nice presentation, oven to plate. Make sure to get ones with tight fitting lids, not the loose glass lids.

Small containers make thawing and heating quicker. Pull your dish from the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge. Meals can be refrigerated for several days. So it isn’t critical if you need to change your dinner plans.

Gluten free ingredients

I use Frieda’s prepared polenta. It comes in many flavors, and several work here. I like  mushroom and onion, basil and garlic, even dried tomato and garlic. I get whatever the store has. Look for it in the refrigerated produce section.

Classico marinara is the brand I by. All flavors are gluten free. I usually buy the roasted garlic flavor because it is lower in calories and sodium than the other flavors. But choose what you like.

Roland Pesto is my purchased pesto of choice. It is smooth, flavorful, and deep green. Classico pesto is leafy and unappealingly brownish. 🙁

Shredded cheese makes prepping this recipe quick. I like Sargento brand 6 Cheese Italian for the flavor. It is a handy mix of mozzarella, smoked provolone, asiago, romano, parmesan and fontina cheeses. Simple shredded mozzarella works too.

Sometimes you will see warnings on the internet that shredded cheese may be dusted with wheat flour to prevent clumping. Most often, it is not. And if it is, wheat must be printed on the label.

Pesto Polenta Lasagna submitted by fiffen

serves 8 metric measures
2 -8 oz tubes of prepared polenta total 500 gm
3 cups of marinara sauce 720 gm
1/2 cup pesto 120 ml
1/2 cup pine nuts 70 gm
2 cups shredded cheese (8 oz) 225 gm

Cut polenta into 1/2” slices.

Put a tablespoon or two of marinara on the bottom of an oven safe baking dish, or several small dishes.

Layer half of the polenta slices, marinara sauce, pesto, pine nuts and cheese.

Repeat layers.

Bake right away, refrigerate or freeze for later.

Bake it

Thaw overnight if previously frozen.

Remove any plastic lids.

If it is in one or two portion containers, bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes.

In a 9×13” pan? Cover with foil and bake for about an hour. 

Microwave it

Remove any plastic lids. The manufacturers say the lids are microwave safe, but it makes me uneasy. I don’t like cooked plastic, so I take the lids off.

Microwave one or two portions for 10 to 15 minutes.

I don’t even try to microwave a big pan of lasagna. The pan would keep hitting the sides of my microwave. And the turntable scrapes against the bottom of the pan. That is really annoying.

Enticing Embellishments

Sauté 8-16 ounces of slice mushrooms and add to the layers.

Sauté 16 ounces of fresh spinach and add to the layers.

Do both. 🙂

What would you like to make ahead?

Enter timtana flour giveaway

Don’t miss out on a chance to win whole-grain gluten free timtana flour. Simply leave a comment by January 6, 2009. Three winners will be announced January 7, 2009.