Costa Rican Chicken and Black Bean Soup

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Black bean soup is one of my favorite comfort foods and I am always on the lookout for different ways to prepare it.  While researching recipes I ran across this one several years ago on what was recipezaar (now food.com).  The combination of Caribbean spices and a little heat from cayenne make for a flavor combination that is out of this world.  I decided to make the soup a more filling meal by adding a protein.  Frozen chicken breasts are an ingredient that we usually have on hand, but boneless, skinless chicken thighs or the shredded meat off of a store bought rotisserie chicken would also work.

I really like to use dried beans when I have the time as they are so tasty, especially when cooked with a few flavor enhancing ingredients like bay leaves and ham hocks.  One advantage to dried black beans over other types of beans is their small size.  Because of this they don’t need to be soaked overnight.  One disadvantage to cooking dried black beans is that they can turn a rather unappetizing shade of gray.  By adding a tiny amount of baking soda to the cooking liquid you can keep them mostly black.  No matter what you do though some of the color will leach out.     If you are time crunched, substituting 4 (15-ounce) cans of drained and rinsed black beans will make the soup much quicker to get on the table.

A squeeze of lime juice across your bowl of soup is a must as this little bit of acidity really allows the flavors to shine.  Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro.  Serve with a salad and a Red Stripe or Caribe lager for a complete meal.

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Italian Sausage Soup

So here it is just two and half weeks away from Christmas and I’m wearing shorts and flip flops.  This current spell of abnormally warm December weather does not do much to inspire me to finish my Christmas shopping or get started on my holiday baking.  However, when the calendar says it’s winter I’m breaking out the soup recipes regardless of the fact that it is nearly 80 degrees outside.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite community cooking sites, Allrecipes.  Most everything I have made from the website has turned out delicious, especially if you stick to the more highly rated recipes.  Of course, I couldn’t leave it alone and follow the recipe exactly.  I added a few more vegetables and spices and came out with a winner.  I love recipes like this where a few changes can make it authentically your own.  Feel free to use what ever veggies you have on hand and which ever type of Italian sausage your family prefers. Continue reading

Slow Cooker Greens and Beans Soup

October is a glorious month on the Gulf Coast.  The oppressive humidity of summer is gone along with the threat of any big hurricanes.  The weather is still warm during the day and cools off nicely in the evening.  For me this is enough reason to start breaking out the soup recipes.  This is one of my husband’s favorite soups and he affectionately refers to it as “Lawnmower Soup”.

This recipe was given to me by my hairstylist, Beth.  A couple of years ago I was getting my hair cut and bemoaning the fact that I had no idea what to cook for dinner that night.  She suggested this soup using canned, seasoned greens and cooked on the stove-top.  I have made it that way numerous times, however, I really prefer to use the frozen collard greens.  This gives me the ability to season the soup the way I like it and to better control the salt content.  In addition, the texture of the cooked, frozen collard greens is much more to my liking.  This is a super easy meal to put together and is made healthier with turkey kielbasa, but if you prefer the pork kielbasa feel free to use it.  You could also substitute a small ham hock for the bacon.  Serve with cornbread for a complete meal.

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Slow Cooker Beef and Bean Chili with Beer

Chili.  The word alone makes my mouth water.  We love it in all forms, with or without beans, with chunks of beef or ground beef, white chicken chili, meatless, stove cooked, slow cooker style, etc.  Really, the possibilities are endless.  This will undoubtedly be the first of many chili recipes I will post.  Although I indicated in the title that this chili is for the slow cooker, you can easily make it on the stove in a 5-6 quart pot, just let it simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours.  Beer is not something I use often in chili and I was really pleased with the results.  It turned out that the beer was not overpowering in this recipe and gave the chili a bit of a malty background flavor.  Since the recipe only calls for 1 cup there is a nice big swig (or two) left over for the chef.  The heat level of this chili is easily controlled with spices and if you don’t like much heat at all you can substitute with mild Ro-Tel or canned diced tomatoes.  I used Penzeys regular chili powder which made my batch flavorful but not too spicy.   If you want more heat, feel free to add anywhere from 1/4 – 1 teaspoon of cayenne or ground chipotle pepper or load up on the sliced, pickled jalapeños.  You are the boss of your chili so make it as spicy as you like it.  Enjoy! Continue reading

Red Beans & Rice

At one time red beans and rice was a dish reserved for Mondays.  It was a practical way to use up the leftover Sunday ham  and it could cook unattended for hours while the wash was done.  Now this dish is a favorite any day of the week.  When I make this, I like to brown my sausage ahead of time.  This not only renders out some of the fat but also makes the sausage much more flavorful.  If you can’t find dried red beans in your area, kidney beans make a great substitute. Continue reading