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From the kitchen of the Rainwater Reptile Ranch
Soup Tricks
Everybody has a favorite technique for cooking beans. My problem is that I have been able to make almost none of them work to my satisfaction. What does work for me is an overnight soak followed by a half day cook in the crock pot on high, and this is what most of these recipes recommend. If you have a ban cooking procedure that works for you, by all means follow it rather than my directions.

I used avoid recipes that called for peeled fresh tomatoes until I discovered the trick for easy peeling. Boil a pot of water, and once you have a rolling boil, lower your tomatoes into it. Allow them to boil until the skin splits, then use a slotted spoon to remove them from the boiling water into a dish of water and ice. You will be able to remove the skins, more or less in one piece, with your fingers.

Three Bean Soup
Soak over night, then cook for several hours until tender:
1/2 C Cranberry beans
1/2 C Cannellini beans
1/2 C Blackeyed peas

Chop and saute in a small amount of olive oil:
1/2 good sized onion
1/2 C chopped celery
1-2 grated carrots, optional
1 small Anaheim pepper

Then add:
1 14 oz can of chopped, salt-free tomatoes
2-3 14oz cans of stock
1 T lemon juice
1/4 tsp each black pepper, oregano and garlic powder
dash of rosemary
1 tsp parsley
2-3 T chopped fresh cilantro

This soup can be made in two variations: beef or ham. If you are making the ham variation, use chicken stock. For the beef variation, use beef stock. In either case, saute about one pound of chopped ham or round steak, then stir into soup. Bring briefly to a boil, then allow to simmer for several hours. With a salad and crusty bread, this makes a fine winter meal.

This soup will easily adapt to a vegetarian version by leaving out the meat and using veggie stock. I suspect you will want to add some extra vegetables, possibly something like portabello mushroom, califlower or chopped cabbage. The seasoning may also want correcting.

After Holiday Turkey Soup
6 C chicken stock or chicken stock + water
Turkey carcass, stuffing removed
2 carrots, chopped or coarsely grated
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 good sized handful of green beans, chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped very small
1/4 tsp each: black pepper, thyme, basil
1/8 tsp each: hot paprika or chili powder
1/2 tsp marjoram
fresh cilantro to taste

Remove all of the usable turkey meet from the bones and set aside. Remove any traces of stuffing and excess fat. Break up and simmer in chicken stock for several hours. After simmering, remove bones, etc., and strain stock if necessary.

Add chopped vegetables, spices and reserved turkey meat, chopped well. Simmer for another hour. Cool overnight, then skim any excess fat. Reheat and serve.

The Official Chili Recipe of The Rainwater Reptile Ranch
3 lbs. ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
6-7 8 oz. cans of salt-free tomato sauce + 1 can of water
4-5 large tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 can of Ranch Style beans, or 1 can of pinto beans
1.5 tsp paprika and cumin
1 tsp cilantro
1/2 tsp ground mustard and salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1 T oregano
1/2 C custom chili powder blend
1 T cornmeal

Empty the tomato sauce cans into a large pot. When all of the cans are empty, fill one can about half way with water, and pour the water sequentially into all of the cans to glean any remaining tomato sauce. Pour this into the pot. Stir in all of the spices and the chili blend (about this, more later). Chop and stir in the onions and chopped tomatoes.

Brown the ground turkey in a little bit of olive oil. Remove to a plate with several paper towels and drain as much of the excess fat as possible, then stir the meat into the chili. Let the whole mixture simmer for an hour before adding the beans and cornmeal. We prefer Ranch Style Beans because of the extra kick they add, but any conventional canned pinto beans will do. Or pre-cook dried beans if you prefer. Let this simmer for another hour before serving. Serve topped with a little grated cheddar or parmesan cheese.

The grocery-store type chili powder generally contains a lot of ingredients besides chili powder, including a great deal of unnecessary salt. We prefer to use pure chili powder from Pendery's, and are likely to make each batch of chili with a different blend of powders. Among those we have used are Pecos Red, Sonora Sun, Cochise, Gila Flats, Cordova and Pendry's own salt-free chili blend, but certainly there are plenty to choose from if you want to experiment.

Split Pea Soup
1 C green or yellow split peas, rinsed
1.5 quarts of water or stock
1 C each chopped carrots, onions, celery and celery leaves
1/2 chopped butternut squash
1/4 C fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp black pepper
dash of cayennne
1 meaty ham bone with fat removed (optional)

Cover ham bone with water, boil and remove scum. If you're not using a ham bone, you might want to consider using chicken or vegetable stock instead of water. Add split peas, veggies and spices. Boil again, then simmer for 3 to 4 hours. When peas have reduced to a mushy consistancy, remove ham bone and bay leaf. Puree stock, veggies and peas through a food mill, food processor or blender. Cut ham from bone and add to soup. Correct spicing as desired.

Vegetable Soup with an Italian Accent
1 T olive oil
1 large chopped onion
2 large chopped celery stalks, about 1/2 C
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp each garlic powder and marjoram
6 C low salt chicken stock (about 3 cans)
1/2 C flageolet, cannelini or other white beans, pre-cooked
1/2 C chopped or shredded carrots (optional)
3/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp each oregano, thyme and black pepper
1 C each yellow squash and zuchini
2 medium Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped

Saute onion, celery and garlic in olive oil. Add stock and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. This is a wonderfully light, low-fat soup and very spicy. Feel free to throw in other veggies if the inspiration strikes you.

Southwest Vegetable Soup
1 C black beans, pre-cooked
2 14 oz. cans of low-salt chicken stock + 1/2 C water
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 medium Roma tomatos, peeled and chopped
1 Anaheim chile, deseeded and chopped
4 large tomatillos, blanched for 6 minutes
1/3 of a bunch of fresh cilantro
1.7 oz. can of green chiles
1/4 tsp each basil and garlic
1/2 tsp each black pepper and cumin
1/4 C mixed grain rice
1/2 - 1 C chopped ham (optional)

This was a happy accident that occurred as a result of one of my black bean soup experiments. Chop onion and anaheim chile, and saute in olive oil with garlic. Peel and chop tomatoes. Once onions and chiles are tender, add tomatoes, spices and one can of chicken stock. Blanche the tomatillos in boiling water for 6 minutes, then place in a blender with the canned green chiles and cilantro. Puree and pour into soup mixture. Add the chopped ham. Use some of the chicken stock from the second can to wash out the blender. Now put half of the black beans into the soup and the other half in the blender. Add some of the chicken stock or water, because the beans will set up into a paste rather quickly. Blend this paste into the soup. Finally add the rice, bring to a boil and then simmer until rice is tender.

Mexican Chicken-Lime Soup
2 T olive oil
2 medium or 1 large onion, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped OR 1 can of salt-free tomatoes
1 Anaheim pepper, chopped
2 cans of chopped green chiles (I use one large and one small)
6 C chicken stock (3 cans)
Juice of 1/2 a lime (despite temptation, add no more)
1/2 C arborio rice
4 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp each garlic powder & thyme
1-2 T fresh chopped cilantro

Saute onion and pepper in olive oil until tender. Add stock and other ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 - 20 minutes. This will become rather stew-like on the second or third day, and it will be necessary to add additional stock, and possibly also extra lime juice. Because of the citrus flavor, this soup would probably do well with shrimp or white fish.

1 T olive oil
1/3 C chopped carrots
1/4 C chopped celery
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/4 tsp each garlic powder and black pepper
1/4 C uncooked rice or small soup pasta
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 C water
1 cans of whole tomatoes, chopped
2 cans low salt chicken stock
1 C medium zuchini, sliced
1/2 C fresh cooked cannellini beans
5 oz. fresh spinach, chopped into strips

Saute onions, carrots and celery until tender. Add rice or pasta, seasonings, water, stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve with grated cheese.

Pasta e Fagiole
1 tsp olive oil
3/4 lb lean ground beef, veal or turkey
1 C each grated carrots and chopped onions
1/2 C chopped celery
2 cans of beef stock
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3/4 C small tube pasta, pre-cooked
1/2 C dried cranberry and cannellini beans
2 T fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp each garlic powder, thyme, sage, basil, black pepper

If you are going to make a large quantity of this soup, you will get best results if you cook the pasta fresh each time you serve this soup. If you put the pasta in the first day, by the third day, it's complete mush.

Soak beans overnight. The next day, cook on high in crockpot for several hours until mostly tender. Brown meat in frying pan and drain. Meanwhile add beans, onions, carrots, celery and spices to stock. Stir in the meat and bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour. Refrigerate overnight, and remove excess fat before adding pasta. Serve hot topped with parmesan cheese.

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Copyright © 1999-2003 Susan Chance-Rainwater