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Hearty Bean, Bacon, and Beef Stone Soup

This soup is easy (if you don't mind dicing vegetables or once they're all diced), economical (you see, there's really no beef in there), foolproof (what can go wrong with basic ingredients, bouillon, and "salt and pepper to taste"?), and flexible (make it thick as a stew, or a one-dish meal with some added pasta, store in the freezer for future meals, etc.). The idea for it came from reading that red kidney beans were one good source of copper needed for healthy formation of the baby's heart, skeletal, nervous system and arteries. Other good sources are green/brown lentils and mangoes. As a mum-to-be eager to eat right and having but minimal experience in cooking with beans, I googled for "kidney bean recipes" and found several for soups. After scanning through some of the more promising-looking ones, I decided that something like the following was the basic idea. Why "stone soup"? As in the story from which this phrase comes, you can add just about anything you like in there, as long as you think the tastes will be compatible. The bacon is optional, but I think the kidney beans and beef bouillon cube are absolutely essential for the rich, hearty taste.

Bean, Bacon, and Beef Stone Soup

2 ounces bacon, minced
3 carrots, sliced thinly
3 stalks celery, chopped small
1 cup canned whole tomatoes (or 2 large tomatoes), chopped
1 onion, chopped
2-3 (19 ounce) cans kidney beans
2 potatoes, cubed small
1 beef bouillon cube
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onions over medium heat in a soup pot till they are almost soft and translucent. Add carrots, celery, potatoes and tomatoes and fry a little more till onions are soft. Fill pot with water to completely cover all vegetables, almost to the top of the pot. Add the beef bouillon cube to the pot. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes until potatoes and carrots are soft.
In a frying pan, lightly fry the bacon (stripped off its fat) and set aside. Alternatively, simply pour some oil into a bowl, mix in the bacon and microwave, covered, for about 2-3 minutes.
To the soup pot add kidney beans with their liquid, and let it simmer on medium low for 15-20 minutes. It all depends on how soft you want your beans, potatoes and carrots to be. Add the bacon and cook for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

The soup may turn very thick the next day, especially if the beans and potatoes are cooked till very soft, so add water (and seasoning, if needed) accordingly.


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