>Pantry Cleanse: Bean Soup Edition

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I really don’t like making resolutions at the turn of the year.  It’s kind of like going on a diet.  People tend to stick to their resolutions or diets for a time but then they fall off the wagon.  
Having resolve, or being resolved, carries weight.  It conveys purpose and conviction.  And somehow it seems like a nice way to start this new year and new chapter in my life.  With resolve.  With new-found strength.  With dedication to my family, our health, our fiscal security and our happiness.
On a very practical level, I’ve resolved to clean out my pantry and freezer before going grocery shopping this year.  I know this seems mundane, but it will be a true test of my ability to maintain this mindset.  We will continue to receive our produce box every two weeks, and I’ll have to purchase milk for the boys, but otherwise I’m determined to use up what we have before going out and buying more. 

I tend to keep a fairly well stocked pantry and freezer (especially considering the fact that I have two refrigerators with freezers and a deep freezer), so this could take a while.  When I took inventory yesterday, I was a little embarrassed by the amount of food I found.  I won’t go into all the sordid details, but I will share this picture:
A: Don’t judge me by the giant vat of fake maple-flavored syrup on the bottom shelf.  It’s my husband’s.  B: Don’t ask me why I have two giant boxes of cling film.  It’s a mystery.  
What you can’t see in this photo is the top shelf of the pantry, which is full of booze (don’t worry, that’s not part of my plan – although it might make things more interesting), or the side walls, which also have wire basket-shelves full of sauces, herbs and spices and dried beans, rice, quinoa, canned tomatoes and a variety of baking products.  The point is, there’s a lot of food to go through.

The first meal I made based on these pantry/freezer/fridge ingredients was a big pot of bean soup and some individual flatbread pizzas.  I found two or three partial bags of dried beans (black, cranberry and navy) buried in the pantry, along with a small sample bag of pink beans that Marx Foods sent me a while ago.  I also had a ham bone in the freezer leftover from Christmas dinner.

 Bean Soup
prep time: 5 minutes
cook time: 4-8 hours
yields: A LOT of soup
Ingredients
(all measurements are approximate)
1/2 lb. dried cranberry beans
1/4 lb.dried black beans
1 lb. dried navy beans
1/4 cup dried pink beans
1 ham bone
4 gallons water
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups cooked blackeyed peas
1 teaspoon dried thyme
  1. Combine beans, ham bone, water and bay leaves.  Cook over low heat for at least 4 hours, or until beans are relatively tender.  Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up – the beans can fall apart and get mushy if they boil. 
  2. Add salt, pepper, tomatoes, blackeyed peas and thyme.  Cook for another couple of hours over medium-low heat, or until beans are tender, soup is thickened and flavors have combined.
Individual pizzas
prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 10 minutes
serves: 2 as a side, 1 as a meal

Ingredients:
1 recipe whole-wheat pizza dough, divided into 6 portions (rather than 2) and par-baked (I used two of the crusts for this meal and froze the other four for a future meal).
Your favorite tomato sauce
Cheese and toppings of your choice (I used some fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh basil, goat cheese and some Prosciutto di Parma that I had leftover from New Year’s Eve).

  1. Preheat oven to 425F
  2. Top your par-baked crust with sauce, mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese is brown and bubbly and crust is crispy and brown on the bottom
  4. Top with crumbled goat cheese, thinly sliced prosciutto and basil chiffonade.
The soup is hearty and flavorful.  The ham bone had just enough meat left on it so that little tender bits of ham were left behind during the slow-cooking process.  The flavor that it imparts is just meaty enough to let you know it’s there without being overpowering.  This is bean soup with a little bit of ham flavor, not ham soup. And the pizza/flatbread was a nice accompaniment – light and crispy, with just enough toppings to make it interesting. 
This was a nice way to start our pantry cleanse.  I managed to use up quite a few lingering pantry items along with a few things from the fridge and freezer that were going to go bad if I didn’t do something with them soon.  And we’ve got lots of leftovers (I froze about a gallon of the soup, gave some to my mom and kept a few servings in the fridge to take for lunch this week). 
If you live in the Roswell/Alpharetta, Georgia area and are looking for some good ideas for healthier living in 2011, or you just need some new recipe ideas, check out the Harry’s Farmers Market Calendar of Events.  They’ve got some great back to basics classes coming up – there’s even one this Friday on beans.  You can also enter to win a pantry makeover (which I may need after I use up all the stuff in my own pantry).
Happy New Year!

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9 thoughts on “>Pantry Cleanse: Bean Soup Edition

  1. >The soup looks so good! Pizza too! I too used to be a stock up shopper and cleaned out last winter. I now just shop for what I know I will need for the week and it is really saving us SO much money! It's hard to resist some of the sales, but most stores will give you the ie:3 for $2 per item price (66 cents) if you buy just 1!!! Really!!! You can do it!

  2. >Oh, what a wonderful idea. I feel bad every time I put stuff into my cupboard because it seems like I'm buying faster than I am using them up 😦 The soup looks absolutely magnificent–hearty and perfect for a cold day. The pizza looks MUY DELICIOSO 😉

  3. >Thanks all! We're making headway on the pantry clean-out (although we still have lots of leftovers to get through, too).@Jennifer – the CSA/produce delivery company we use is Nature's Garden Delivered.

  4. >@Jennifer: Our family of four gets their medium box every other week. I have to supplement with bananas and sometimes oranges in between, but the veggies have proven to be just about enough (unless we're having extra folks for dinner). We used to do the small box every week, but that was almost too much for us to go through. This option seems to work well.

  5. >Okay – I'm on board with this. I already decided we were going to try and go LOW on the eating out, but I am going to commit to not going to the grocery store (except for fresh milk) until I've cooked my way through the mass of stuff in my fridge/freezer/pantry. I know I have a ton, and it's not HELPING me save money if it just sits on a shelf. Nor is it HELPING my family. I like this challenge!

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