White Bean Stew with Smoked Sausage and Kale – Using Up Leftovers!

Scrappy Stew - White Beans, Kale and Roast Chicken
So it seems winter is going to beat us down at least one more time before spring officially arrives.  Maybe more, but I’m hoping for just one last hurrah.  I used to love winter and all its coziness and hot tea and warm socks.  But now that I’m a mother of two little people, I find winter to be quite suffocating.  I just NEED there to be the option to go outside.  When I had Ellie back in November, I quickly taught Ollie how to open the backyard door by herself.  That was probably the best move I made all year.  She could come and go while I fed the baby and everyone was happy.  But when it snows, there’s this expectation from Ollie that we MUST GO OUTSIDE NOW AND YOU MUST GO WITH ME.  And it just isn’t that easy.  And frankly, as most of you know, it takes 15 minutes to get a child bundled up to go outside and then 5 minutes for them to get so cold they want to come back in.  I fail to see how it’s worth the effort.

The one thing I DO love about cold weather is the food. I love making a huge pot of beans and eating it over the following days in various ways.  Over cornbread, with smoked sausage, in a quesadilla, with a fried egg, whatever, it’s all good.  And this most recent batch of stew we made was my favorite.  Because Matt made it.  Seriously, though, we both make our beans in the same way and much in the spirit of the Family Meal Blog, I always love when a recipe is made by someone else in this family.  This stew also does my most favorite thing in the entire kitchen-world: it uses up leftovers!  We threw in a half used can of diced tomatoes, a handful of kale, onion, and some leftover turkey and sausage from a local bbq joint and it was frankly, amazing.  The beauty of a good bean stew is that you can add anything and if the beans are good, you’re good to go.  For this, I recommend using dried beans instead of canned, although canned would cut the prep/cook time by a good 8 hours.  They just don’t have the depth of flavor that starting with dried beans does.  And because we’re a part of Rancho Gordo’s Bean of the Month Club, (yes) I recommend you get their beans if you can find them!

White Bean and Kale Stew

 

White Bean Stew with Smoked Sausage and Kale

  • Servings: 8-10
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*start this recipe the day before you want to eat it! Modified for a slow cooker below the recipe!

1 lb dried white beans, such as canellini
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced (these three ingredients together are called mire poix)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (we used half a can because that’s what we had leftover in our fridge)
1 smoked sausage link, chopped
4 oz. smoked turkey breast
1 small bunch of kale, rinsed and chopped

The night before you want to eat this stew, rinse the beans and then submerge them in a large stockpot by about 2 inches of water along with the bay leaf.

In the morning, bring the beans to a boil in the same water you soaked them in and add the onion, carrot and celery and garlic cloves.  Season with salt and pepper.  Reduce to an active simmer and cook until beans are tender.  This time can really vary.  I’d say on average, I have the beans simmering for about 2 hours before they are a texture I like.  Some like al dente beans.  I’m not one of those people.  I also don’t like them to be total mush, like canned, but it’s your preference, really.  Just start tasting them after an hour and keep going if you’re not satisfied.

After about an hour of simmering, add in the tomatoes and meats (and honestly, the meats were leftovers in our fridge. You could add bacon, ground beef, no meat at all – this soup will be amazing no matter what).  Toss the kale in about 30 minutes before serving and adjust the seasoning of the stew with extra salt and pepper.  Remove the bay leaves and serve with crusty buttered bread.

Slow Cooker Note: this could all be done in a slow cooker if you wanted to get it on before you go to work.  Just soak the beans in a large slow cooker overnight with the bay leaves with at least 2-3 inches of water covering the beans.  In the morning before you leave for work, add in the mire poix and garlic and turn it to low.  When you get home, add in the rest of the ingredients and turn it on high for about 30 minutes to let it boil.  Adjust the seasoning and serve.

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Rustic Tortellini Soup

Tortellini Soup
I love this recipe because it first evokes memories of eating at a very dear friend’s house, second, it is incredibly flavorful and hearty and third, it is SO very simple to throw together.  It also makes enough for 8-10 people!  AND it tastes better and better the longer it sits in your fridge!  The glories of a good soup.

I had this soup for the first time at our friend, Rod and Jill’s house.  Rod and Jill were our travel buddies on our awesome road trip to Seattle last summer and besides sharing a love of recreational vehicles, we share a love of food and cooking!  Jill made this soup on a fall afternoon and invited us over last minute to share it.  No one in their right mind turns down a free meal and we have even been known to cancel our plans if we receive a dinner invitation last-minute.  Yes, I think it’s that important to take someone up on their offer to share a meal with you.  Drop what you’re doing, don’t worry about the details and just say “when can we be there and what can we bring?” (although I’m of the belief that you should not bring a dish to a dinner invitation unless you ask first!  If they say “nothing” then by golly, bring nothing! If you must bring something, bring wine!)

We may be exiting out of soup season with the coming of warmer weather, but since this could basically double as a pasta dish, I think a nice, crisp salad and some bread would turn it into an amazing summer-patio meal as well!  The tomato/basil/celery flavors are certainly reminiscent of summer!  Whenever you make it, I know you’ll love it and keep it in your recipe arsenal for future use!

Tortellini and Sausage Soup

Rustic Tortellini Soup*
serves 8-10

1 lb ground sausage (I used Wright’s hot and spicy)
1 onion, chopped fine
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
2-14 oz. cans fire roasted tomatoes
2-14 oz. cans white beans (cannelini or great northern – drain one can and puree the other can in its juices)
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups beef broth
2 lbs tortellini (any flavor – I found mine in the refrigerator section near the cheese)
a small bunch of fresh basil

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the sausage and then set aside to drain on paper towels.  Pour out all but a tablespoon of oil and saute the onion and celery until they begin to soften. Add the two cans of tomatoes (with juices) and the drained and pureed beans.  Stir to combine everything and then add the broth and wine and bring to a boil, tasting for salt, pepper and adjust your tastes with more wine if you want.  Add in several of the basil leaves and let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes.

Cook the tortellini to the package instructions and put about a 1/2 cup in each bowl and then top with the tomato/sausage soup.  Garnish with some chopped basil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if you like.

*I would like to note that Jill’s recipe is better than mine.  I asked her via email if she knew it by heart and she said things like, “I think it was this much” and “I sometimes do this instead” and while I LOVED the way this version turned out, I have fonder memories of hers.  So this soup can be altered and flavored to your tastes!

Healthy Weeknight Dinner – White Beans with Crispy Kale

White Beans with Kale, Onion and Bacon
Yet another beautifully simple dish inspired by Tyler Florence’s book, Start Fresh (I very loosely followed the recipe).  I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes cooking, but especially those who are cooking for babies or toddlers and desiring to show them a variety of foods at an early age.  I was talking to a friend just last night who said that because of the picky way she ate when she was little, she has such a hard time trying new foods as an adult.  Consequently, she is sure she hates cauliflower but is going to try it for the first time this week.  Hooray!  There are many ways to enjoy new vegetables and one of the best ways is by roasting them. So simple, so fresh and brings out a whole host of flavors you won’t get by steaming or boiling.

This recipe calls for kale, onion and bacon to roast together in the oven.  The kale gets super crispy and the bacon adds enough fat to take the dish to comfort-food level.  If I were feeding this to a baby, I’d simply take a bit of each component and blend it up with a little water or stock!  It’s totally easy to let the babies eat what you eat – just cook good food for YOU and blend it or mash it up for THEM!  This is the essence of Start Fresh and if you want an all-inclusive book for babies through toddler years and older, this is the book for you!

White Beans and Kale with Bacon

White Beans with Kale, Shallot and Bacon*
serves 4 to 6

1 large bunch of kale leaves, ribs removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 small shallots, cut into strips
3 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

On a baking sheet, arrange the kale, bacon, shallot and pine nuts and bake at 350F until the bacon is crisp, about 25 minutes.  Stir a few times as it bakes to ensure nothing burns and the bacon cooks evenly.  In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil and crush the clove of garlic and add to the oil and when it begins to sizzle and turn brown, add the beans and stir to combine, add the stock and reduce the heat to low and let the beans simmer.  Salt and pepper the beans to taste and discard the garlic clove.  Serve the beans with the kale mixture on top and enjoy!

*inspired by a recipe from Start Fresh.  He made a risotto and I used beans 🙂  Work with what you have!