Healthy Soups, Stews and Chili - Homemade Beans

ONE OF THE most admired skills in any cook’s repertoire is the ability to create wholesome, tasty soups and stews. Cooks with these admirable attributes frequently utilize soups and stews as highly versatile comfort foods, and with good reason. Picture a bitterly cold day and exhilarating hot soups and stews come to mind. During a boring bout in bed, throat-soothing soups are the best restorative medicine. On sizzling summer days, rejuvenating cold soups quickly lower our thermostats. Hot or cold, soups are time-proven delights, ready to add zest and variety to our lifestyles.

Soups and stews are truly the most broad-based of any food group. Their range of enchanting flavors stems from almost endless choice of vegetables, meats and fish. With this variety, there’s a compatible soup for any menu you may plan. Soups are most popularly served as a separate course in luncheons or dinners. Some soups and stews are excellent as a main course. In any event, soups are always welcome. Among your acquaintances, can you recall anyone who does not like soup? Well-rounded home cooks and professional chefs soon develop a knack for preparing a number of these table delights, ready to enhance the pleasures of a widespread array of luncheons and dinners.

Most soups are uncomplicated to create, and for convenience, most can be prepared several hours before serving. The secret to making great soups is simple. Always use good basic ingredients. The best Mirepoix (carrots, celery and onions), herbs (thyme, parsley stems and bay leaf) and chicken, beef or veal stock is essential. In the following webpage, you will find recipes and step-by-step techniques for dozens of delightful soups and stews. With these taste wonders in your repertoire, you will develop an understanding of the chemistry of the world’s finest dishes.

About Sodium and Salt

Onions, Carrots and Celery

A natural source of sodium can be found in the basic of vegetables, and sodium (salt), as we all know, does provide flavor. However, sodium (processed salt) can be a problem for some people, especially those with congestive heart disease or hypertension. In general, high amounts of sodium should be avoided. To achieve maximum flavor without the need to add sodium in the form of table salt, kosher salt or sea salt, we will use three basic vegetables – onions, carrots, and celery – in most soups and stews. Together, they provide natural vegetables flavor and natural sodium content. When onions, carrots and celery are dry sautéed using no oil, the natural flavors are released into the dish. When sautéed in oil, the natural flavors cannot escape the coating of oil additional sodium (salt) is necessary to flavor the food. These basic vegetables provide the following:

  • 1 medium onion: 54 mg sodium
  • 1 medium carrot: 28 mg sodium
  • 1 stalk celery: 35 mg sodium

Tomatoes and Beans

Many of the most popular recipes use either tomatoes or dried beans as another source of flavor. When tomatoes are called for, always try to use fresh, ripe tomatoes; plum tomatoes are the best. When the recipe calls for dried beans, home-cooked beans are always the first choice, and we have provided a simple that is easy to follow and prepare and that has better flavor than canned varieties. When using canned goods, always consult the Nutrition Facts on the label, (it is now possible to find some dried beans that are canned without salt.)

  • 1 cup Homemade Beans: 356 mg sodium – (from natural source)
  • 1 cup canned beans: 750 mg sodium (processed)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes: 16 mg sodium (from natural source)
  • 1 cup canned tomatoes: 391 mg sodium (processed)


Homemade Beans

EQUIPMENT: Measuring cup and spoons, 2-quart cover saucepan, serving spoon

PREPARATION TIME: 2½ hours – Makes 1½ to 2 cups, depending on the bean

  • 1 cup dried beans
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 ham hock or 2 slices bacon (optional)
  • About 3 cups Low-Sodium Chicken Stock or packaged
  • Rinse and sort beans; set aside.

In a hot, dry saucepan over medium-high heat 300˚F (150˚C), dry saute the onion and garlic until slightly browned (caramelized). Place the beans, thyme, bay leaf and ham hock or bacon, if using, in the pan and cover with about 3 inches of stock and stir to combine. Bring to a rapid boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pan and close the vent, and let stand about 1 hour. Don’t peek.

To resume cooking, check the liquid level in the pan. The beans should be covered by at least 1 to 2 inches of liquid. If they have absorbed the liquid, add water or stock as needed. Cover the pan, close the vent and cook over medium-low heat 210˚F (99˚C) until the beans are tender, 1 to 1½ hours. Remove the ham hock, if used.

Serve the beans as a side dish or use in recipes as needed. The cooked beans can be covered tightly and refrigerated for up to 3 days or even frozen for longer storage.


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