Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spicy Black Bean Soup

I studied Equine Science in College, which was basically a way for me to hang out in a barn and still go to school.  I grew up riding horses, and being a horse nut, so when I found out there were actual programs at real universities devoted to the 4 legged creatures I was obsessed with, it sounded like a dream come true.  What I didn't learn until I got there was that the Equine Science program, at least at Colorado State University where I ended up going to school (Go Rams!), was part of a larger Agriculture Department, and, that I would be required to take several "meat science" classes, in addition to all the horse related stuff.

Meat Science classes were not something I had signed up for.  To this day I wish I couldn't look into a field of cattle and name the breed I am looking at, and I really wish I couldn't tell you how to slaughter those same steers.  I wish I didn't know how to "estimate" the degree of marbling and amount of back fat on a cute little lamb, and what that lamb looks like underneath it's fluffy coat & skin.  I would pay good money, no, GREAT money, to forget the smell of a large working pig farm.  I have serious issues with factory farmed poultry- Poultry Science may have been the most disturbing class I ever took, and I took some disturbing classes, including one called Live Animal & Carcass Evaluation, or, "Alive & Dead" as we affectionately called it.  That class didn't even come close to Poultry Science.  For years after I finished with school I was a vegetarian.

The lure of the humble burger eventually pulled me back into the meat-eating world, there really is nothing quite like a big, juicy, hot off the grill cheeseburger.  I think it might qualify as my favorite food.  I eventually made my peace with what I know about the meat industry, and now I make consumer choices I can live with- about where I buy my meat and from whom. I share all this with you because while I am still quite content to eat vegetarian meals on a very regular basis my husband is not.  I am always trying to find meat-free options that he will like and will satisfy my conscience.  I know I've mentioned it before, but he thinks dinner without some sort of cooked animal is just not dinner.  I once tried to pass off a portabella mushroom as a "burger".  After just one bite the gig was up and he wanted to know where the burger was.

I have found one thing that he will eat for dinner without caring that there are no animals involved- Spicy Black Bean Soup.  It's one of the most simple soups to make, it's rich & delicious, and incredibly healthy, plus meat free.  Since it was raining off and on all day today, a hearty soup was the perfect choice for dinner.  I chopped up some avocado, along with a little swirl of non-fat greek yogurt to top it off and had a yummy vegetarian dinner that even my carnivorous husband loved.

Spicy Black Bean Soup
Olive Oil
2 15oz cans black beans (undrained)
1 10oz can diced tomatoes with chilies (like Ro-Tel)
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
7 to 8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 to 2 Tbsps cumin
1  to 2 tsp chipotle powder
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 avocado, cut into chunks
Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream

  1. Saute the Veggies.  Heat up some olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy bottom pot.  Add in the onions and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add in the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the green & red peppers, season with salt & pepper and continue to cook until the veggies have all softened, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the Beans, Tomatoes and Spices.  Add the 2 cans of black beans and the can of diced tomatoes with chilies to the soup pot.  Add the cumin & chipotle powder.  We really like the flavor of cumin, so I tend to add a lot of that.  We like the soup medium spicy, so I generally add only about a tsp of chipotle powder.
  3. Add the Chicken Broth and Puree.  Add a cup of the chicken broth and let the soup simmer, covered, over medium low heat for about 15 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and using an immersion blender puree the soup until smooth.  If you don't have an immersion blender, well. just get one, they are the best.  But seriously, if you don't have an immersion blender you can puree the soup in a food processor or regular blender, it's just much faster and easier to do it right in the soup pot with an immersion blender.  Add up to an additional 1/2 cup of chicken broth, if desired, to thin out the soup after it's been pureed.
  4. Serve!  I chop up a fresh avocado to serve in the soup, and add a dollop of fat-free greek yogurt, which is my standard substitution for sour cream.  For a Latin twist on Grill Cheese & Tomato Soup, serve the Black Bean Soup with a cheese quesadilla on the side! 

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