Cooking by Number -- Bean Soup

With winter on the way — never mind the sneak preview of snow in New York in late October — the weather is perfect for bean soup. By beans, I mean the whole family of legumes, including black beans, white beans, pinto beans, split peas, and lentils. And there’s a lot to love:
• Beans are top for nutrition. They have more fiber than almost any other food, are a meatless source of protein, and are rich in folic acid.
• They fill you up, not out. Dr. Barbara Rolls, author of The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet (April 2012), applauds beans for their low calorie density and Penn State study participants lost weight while eating beans daily because the beans help cut their hunger.
• Beans make an easy and affordable meal or first course.

Here’s what you need to make Cooking by Number bean soup to serve eight. You don’t have to trim the recipe if you’re serving fewer people. Put the extra in single serve containers, label, and freeze.

1 pound packaged beans (or two 15-ounce cans)
2 cups chopped onions and friends
3 peeled and coarsely chopped root vegetables
4 cups broth

Here are some ingredient ideas to get you started. Mix and match to create your own flavor combos.
Beans — Black beans, cannellini beans, brown lentils, red lentils, split peas
Onions and friends — Onion, garlic, shallot, leek
Root veggies Carrot, potato, parsnip, turnip, sweet potato
Broth (regular or low sodium) — Chicken, vegetable, beef, turkey
Seasonings — Italian blend, salsa, cilantro, smoked pepper, herbes de Provence, bay leaf

Now that you’ve picked out ingredients, here’s what you do with them. I like to toss the beans, onions, broth, and seasonings in the slow cooker and let it do its thing. I add the root veggies about halfway through. You also can gently simmer your soup in a pot on the stove until the beans are soft. (Soak packaged beans in room temp water for a couple of hours to give them a head start.) For either cooking method, add extra broth or water as needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning before serving, if needed.

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