Spicy Bean & Short-Rib Soup and a Hat

January is National Soup month.  I plan to share a soup recipe every week.  I’m a week late to the soup party, so this week I’m sharing two.

Here’s what you need:

1 pound of dried 16-bean mix (you can use any mix of dried beans, if you prefer.)


bean soup 2

3 T salad oil

3 pounds of chopped up short-ribs

2 T Chili powder

5 t sugar

4 t salt

1 large onion

1 c tomato juice

1/4 c cider vinegar

a little cocoa

This recipe is old.  I think it’s from Good Housekeeping, sometime in the late 1970s.  Back then short-ribs were an inexpensive cut of meat.  This week, at Costco, short ribs went for $8.57 a pound. Holy smokes, I could get filet Mignon for that price. I got stew meat instead and it worked just as well.  I guess short-ribs got trendy.

bean soup 1First de-gas the beans by boiling them for five minutes, cooling and rinsing.   It’s a good idea to use soft water or add salt to the water.  That’s because magnesium and calcium in hard water can bind to the pectin in the beans’ outer skin and make them tough.  You can use the salt in the recipe, if you want.

While you’re boiling the beans, brown the meat in a little oil.   Just put a few pieces in the skillet at a time. That gets the Maillard reaction going and seals in all the juices.  The Maillard reaction breaks down the sugar and protein in the meat and gives it that mmm-mmm good roasted flavor.

I do the same thing with the onion.  Cut it up into thin slices and saute in a little oil.  Yes, the Maillard reaction is key here too, but cooking the onions in oil does something else important.  Take some time getting the onions golden brown.  This gives the enzymes a chance to break down the sulfur molecules, releasing great flavor.  It’s a great idea to salt the oil before adding the onions.  The onions will be super-tender and salted through and through.

Throw the beef and beans in a crock pot.  Add 6 cups of water, the Chili powder and  sugar.  Set to cook for at least 2 hours on high.  Set at a slower cook time if your schedule needs accommodating.

Stir in the vinegar, onions, tomato juice, and a little cocoa.  The cocoa is optional.  It gives a nice rich color to the soup and it brings out the Chili flavor.  Cook for another hour or until the beans and the meat are tender.  I like the meat tender enough to cut with a spoon.

By the way, this soup is not spicy hot; it just has the flavor of the Chili without the heat.

I serve this with Boston Brown bread, pumpernickel bread or blue corn chips.


A glass of red wine, and I’m ready to watch the new episode of Supernatural that I TiVo’d last night.

I planned to have a bowl of blueberries, but I was too full.  I’ll save those for a snack later tonight.

Photo on 1-15-14 at 7.17 PM

And the hat?  I finished the second one knitting from my remnant stash.  I’m working on number 3 now.

Don’t you just love the cinched up crown of this cap?  It’s super-easy to make.  Pretty much just a straight knit-stitch on round needles.  Except for making the loop-holes for the draw-string; that’s a yarn-over maneuver.


Photo on 1-15-14 at 7.18 PM #3


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