Category Archives: Beans

Black Bean Soup

food-1030This is an updated version of an older post, as this time around I took some pictures and improved a bit on the recipe. I love black beans, and this recipe is no exception. You can choose to make it with dried beans or canned beans. With dried beans, simply soak overnight, change the water, and simmer for 2 hours or until tender. Then proceed as directed. Once the beans are cooked, this recipe only takes about 30 minutes to prepare. It’s also a low-cost, filling meal, so it’s great for feeding the family. The kids love it too, as you can dress it up however you like. I served it up with plenty of tortillas, tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, salsa, steamed corn, cilantro…but the possibilities are nearly endless.

5 slices bacon, finely chopped

½ onion, finely chopped (save 1/3 for garnish)

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

2 T sherry

1 can tomato sauce

½ t Worcestershire

2 T cumin

1 T chili powder

1 T dried oregano

1-2 c chicken broth

Black beans, cooked (1 lb dried, cooked, or 3 cans)

Salt to taste





Sour cream


Diced onions

Diced tomatoes



Heat a large, heavy stockpot to medium-high heat. Cook bacon in stockpot, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6-7 minutes. Stir in onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until vegetables are tender, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno, cook another minute. Add sherry to deglaze, stir and let cook down until almost dry. Then stir in broth, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, and seasonings. Stir in beans, bring to boil. Lower heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree soup. (Alternatively, let soup cool and using a blender, puree in batches.) You can puree to as smooth of a consistency as you desire. (I left a few beans whole just for texture) Adjust seasonings and broth amount, if needed. Simmer 10-15 minutes more and serve with garnishes.

Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Parmesan Risotto and Green Beans

food-7631So this is the first post where I am actually posting three recipes, designed to be incorporated into one complete entree. Each component of the dish is relatively simple on its own, but when they were incorporated together, it made for a delicious, satisfying meal.

Duck is a wonderful meat, one I don’t enjoy often enough. It has a richness akin to red meat, but a texture more like the dark meat of a turkey or chicken. But the taste is definitely satisfying, and doesn’t need much “dressing up”, in my opinion. A bit of salt and pepper did quite nicely. And as for the duck fat? Well, I happened to have a whole duck I broke down to use in this (and other, future) recipes. I removed all of the fat and skin and over medium-low heat, rendered the duck fat, until the skins were crispy and the fat was liquid in the pan. Then I cooled and strained the duck fat for future use. (If you decide to do this, you can keep the duck fat for weeks in your refrigerator.) Sinful, but delicious. And that skin? If you let it sit on a paper towel, sprinkle a little salt, it is quite tasty. That’s definitely not a low-fat snack!

Speaking of breaking down a whole duck, that was quite an experience for the kids. They have never seen a whole duck (well, not one that is no longer swimming in a pond, anyway). They all had to come stare the duck’s head, and gawk at how I had to use the cleaver to remove the head and neck. Our middle son begged to touch the head and webbed feet. (obviously, he’s not the squeamish one of the bunch). Of course, once the drama of that was all over, the crowd dissipated and left me to do the rest of the dirty work. Where did the rest of the duck go? Well, I froze the wings, back, and neck to use for broth in the future, roasted the legs and thighs in order to use the meat in a salad, and the fat, skin, and breasts you already read about.

Risotto is a side dish that is not really time-consuming or difficult, (it doesn’t take any more time than other rice dishes to cook), but it takes an active 20-30 minutes of stirring, so you can’t just leave it to cook while you tend to other things. But its creaminess is well worth the effort, so I try to indulge once in a while!

And I love fresh green beans. Steamed with a little butter, and they’re heavenly. Sometimes, you don’t have to fuss to make a great vegetable dish. When you use fresh, the vegetables really shine without much added to them.

Of course, feel free to substitute any meat for the duck, or whatever vegetable you would enjoy.

For the duck:

2 duck breasts, boneless and skinless

Salt and pepper

1 T vegetable oil (or duck fat, if you have it)


Season duck breasts with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat a frying pan to medium-high heat. Add oil or duck fat, and swirl to coat. Add duck breasts to pan and let sear for 2 minutes. Flip breasts, and turn heat down to medium. Let cook for 2-3 more minutes (depending on how thick your breasts are, mine were no thicker than ¾ inch), or until duck is medium. Remove from pan. You don’t want to overcook duck, and once you remove it from the pan, it will continue to cook from the residual heat. You can test it for doneness by either taking a knife and cutting into the thickest part and peeking (it should be faintly pink), using a thermometer (140 degrees is desired), or with experience, you can touch the surface of the meat, and if it is relatively firm, it’s done. Let the breasts rest for 2-3 minutes, and slice.

For the risotto:

2 T olive oil

2 T butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 c uncooked Arborio or other risotto rice

½ c white wine

3 c chicken broth, warmed

¼ c parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Parsley, for garnish


Heat a large, shallow saucepan to medium heat and add oil and butter, swirling to melt butter. Once melted, add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add rice and stir, cooking for 2 minutes. Add wine and stir to deglaze. Cook until wine is almost evaporated, 2-3 minutes. Add 1 cup of broth. Cook, stirring, until broth is almost evaporated. Add another cup of broth. Continue to cook, stirring often and scraping rice down so that all grains are absorbing the broth, until almost evaporated. Add a bit of the last cup of broth at a time, continuing to cook and stir, until rice is al dente. Once rice is al dente and has absorbed the broth, remove from heat. Add parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnishing with parsley.

For the green beans: 

1 lb fresh green beans, washed and ends snapped

3 T butter

Salt and pepper to taste


Fit a saucepan with a steamer basket, add water to the bottom of the steamer basket, and steam green beans for 3-5 minutes on high, or until the beans are crisp-tender. Drain, and place the saucepan (without steamer basket) back onto the burner on medium heat. Melt the butter in the saucepan, and return the beans to the pan. Cook, stirring, for 4-5 more minutes or until the beans are tender but not mushy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Red Beans and Rice

food-7151 When my husband John and I were early in our relationship, we took our first “weekend trip” to New Orleans. (This was years before the Katrina disaster.) New Orleans was an incredible place, especially when it comes to food, and I fell in love with Cajun and Creole cuisine at that point. Red beans and rice was something I particularly wished to recreate. Creamy, spicy, smoky, delicious comfort food, and it was cheap to make! The following recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s book, Louisiana Real and Rustic. (because when you want Cajun or Creole food, who better to ask than Emeril? Okay, maybe Justin Wilson, but I don’t have his books…) I reduced the amount of ham by half, and used andouille sausage instead of regular smoked sausage. (I had some left over from another wonderful Emeril recipe, Emeril’s Gumbo Turkey Ya-Ya. This is John’s specialty dish he makes every Thanksgiving holiday. This year, we even made it for Christmas Eve. Want to make it? You can see a copy of the recipe here: ) This is wonderful served over steamed rice. If you like a bit more spice, a dash or two of Tabasco does nicely.

2 T vegetable oil (or bacon grease)

1 c chopped onion

½ c chopped bell pepper

½ c chopped celery

1 t salt

½ t cayenne

¼ t ground black pepper

½ t fresh thyme leaves

4 bay leaves

½ lb chopped ham

½ lb andouille sausage, chopped (can substitute smoked sausage)

1 lb dried red beans, rinsed, soaked overnight, and drained

3 T chopped garlic

8-10 c water

Steamed rice



Heat oil or bacon grease in stockpot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions, bell peppers, celery, salt, cayenne, black pepper, and thyme for about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves, ham, and sausage and sauté for 5-6 minutes more. Add the beans, garlic, and enough water to cover the contents in the pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to medium and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours. Add more water if the mixture becomes too dry or thick.


Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to mash about half of the mixture against the side of the pot. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 ½ hours, or until the mixture is creamy and the beans are soft. Add more water if it becomes too thick. The mixture should be soupy, but not watery.


Remove the bay leaves and serve over steamed rice.

Black-Eyed Peas


Black-eyed peas have long been a tradition for New Year’s in the South. They are supposed to bring good luck for the coming year. Some say that if you eat one pea for each day of the new year, you will ensure good fortune. (To me, that’s an awful lot of black-eyed peas.) I’ve also heard that since they swell when cooked, it represents getting more, or growth. And as for the ham or pork added? Apparently, the pig is thought to represent prosperity and wealth.

Lucky for me, we have a farmer’s market somewhat close to our home, and every year they sell local fresh black-eyed peas. (We also happen to live far enough in the country where down the street from us lives an elderly man who grows wonderful squash, okra, and black-eyed peas. Lucky us indeed!) Fresh black-eyed peas, in my opinion, are much more flavorful than dried. This year, I stashed some fresh peas away in the freezer when I had the opportunity to buy them.

And as for the pork? I was wondering what to do with my leftover ham bone from Christmas dinner! Problem solved…

This recipe uses those fresh peas. If you don’t have fresh, you can always buy dried – just soak them overnight, and let them simmer longer, about 2 hours or so. The rest of the recipe can remain the same. Also, if you don’t have a ham bone and leftover ham from Christmas, you can always use smoked ham hocks, pork jowl, or bacon.

Happy New Year!

1 T vegetable oil

1 c onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 c diced ham

1 lb fresh black-eyed peas

2 c chicken broth

Ham bone

Salt and pepper


Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno, sauté 4-5 minutes or until softened. Add diced ham, sauté for a minute or two more. Add black-eyed peas, chicken broth, and ham bone. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until beans are soft. Remove ham bone, taste, and add salt and pepper as necessary.



Split Pea Soup

food-06111I have loved split pea soup since I was a little girl. It’s pleasantly warming and comforting, perfect for cold winter days. Rather than the same old ham bone or bacon to flavor the soup, in this recipe I have attempted to keep the sodium and fat content low and opt for full-flavored spices. Madras curry powder is a spice you can find in the asian section of the grocery store, or in an asian or indian grocery store. Smoked paprika has only fairly recently made its way into the spice aisle of grocery stores, so you may or may not find it at your local grocery. If you have trouble finding either spice, you can always order them (and a bunch of other fun spices) at and


2 T olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 c vegetable broth

2 c water

1 ½ lbs dried split peas, rinsed, picked through, and soaked for a minimum of 4 hours

1 herb bouquet**

Salt and pepper

2 t smoked paprika

2 t madras curry powder

1 lemon, juiced and zested

Pinches of smoked paprika



**herb bouquet – 3 cloves garlic, peeled, 4-6 allspice berries, 2 bay leaves, 1 sprig thyme, 6-8 sprigs parsley, tied in cheesecloth. (this idea was adapted from Elise at, who adapted it from Julia Child’s “The Way To Cook.” Which is a great book, by the way. Thanks Elise!)


Heat a large stockpot to medium-high heat. Add olive oil, and swirl to coat. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic, and sauté until vegetables are soft and onions begin to look translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, water, peas, and the herb bouquet. (the liquid should just cover the peas. If more liquid is needed, add more water.) Bring to a boil and reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally and skimming scum off of the top.

Discard herb bouquet, and puree soup until desired consistency. Add salt and pepper, smoked paprika, and curry powder. Add lemon juice and stir. Taste and adjust salt as necessary. Serve in bowls with pinches of smoked paprika and lemon zest sprinkled on top.