I am a big fan of soup. I like all kinds of soup-Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Italian and down home American (read that with the Southern accent I don’t have) to name a few. It is soup season so I will likely be making lots of it.

Soup is filling, nutritious and comforting. It is generally a pretty healthy option if you don’t load it with cheese, cream or other naughty stuff. The naughty stuff makes it tassty but, you can make a flavorful soup without all those calories so save the naughty soups for one in a while treats. It is also quite economical. You can throw just about anything in a pot and make it soup.

A couple of weeks ago I found a “gourmet” bean mix and a similarly labeled lentil mix. I found these at my local Costco so I will be making lots of soups with beans and lentils in the coming weeks. This week I made a basic pot of bean soup and turned it into two different soups. Give it a try!

Basic Bean Soup

1 lb. dried beans

Rinse beans and sort through them removing any pebbles or other foreign objects. Put them in a large bowl or pot. Cover with water (use lots of water) and soak at least 4 hours, preferably over night. After soaking, drain and rinse well.

2 boxes or 4 cans of Chicken Broth
4 bay leaves
2 small or 1 large onion (chopped)
4 carrots (chopped)
3 stalks of celery (chopped)
2 leeks (cleaned, quartered and sliced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 TBS dried herbs (I used Herbs de Provence)
1 cup water

Put all ingredients in a soup pot or crock pot (my favorite) and simmer until beans are tender. If you prefer a thinner or thicker soup, adjust the amount of water. Skim off any foam that develops during cooking. After beans have cooked, season with salt and pepper if desired. Don’t salt at the start of the cooking process or the beans might be tough.

Soup as listed above is quite tasty, but to make it even better try spitting into two portions and make one or both of the following soups:

Spicy Bean Stoup with Chicken and Kale
To basic bean soup add: 2 cups roasted chicken (cubed), 1 large bunch of kale (cleaned and chopped or buy it in a bag already cleaned and chopped at Trader Joe’s!) and your favorite chili garlic paste. Heat until kale is tender crisp. This will be a thick soup or “stoup”.

Bean, Ham and Spinach Soup
To basic bean soup add: 2 cups cooked ham ( diced) and 6 oz of baby spinach roughly chopped. Heat until spinach wilts b

Serve with a salad, crusty bread and a glass of wine. Doesn’t get much better than that on a cool night!