New Thing #6: Bay Leaves

Until yesterday, any time a recipe called for a bay leaf, I’d ignore it. “Who cares?” I’d think to myself. I definitely didn’t!

At the local herb/spice store I mentioned previously, I asked if they had any bay leaves and how they sell them. “Well, I sell them in bags – one bag for a buck,” he told me. I asked him how many came in a bag, to which he replied, “More than any one person will use in a lifetime!”

Well, sign me up! Sounds like a deal!

That was a week ago, and I had yet to do anything with a single leaf! Time to get creative. The obvious choice: soup – a perfect wintertime meal.

I worked with the ingredients I had on hand: canned beans, sweet potato, garlic, veggie broth. Be creative and make changes as you see fit. If you want less beans, go for it; if you want to change the beans to your personal faves, go ahead! (Just remember that if you use canned like I did, rinse them in a colander under cold water for at least 3 minutes. This helps remove the excess starch and sodium.) Add pasta, rice, or additional veggies to make it even heartier!

This soup is conveniently vegan (yet filling!) but it’s easy to de-veganize if you see fit. Use chicken or beef broth instead of veggie. If you want it to be extra-meaty, add some sausage, shredded chicken or pork, or cubed beef… or mix and match!

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Bean & Sweet Potato Soup
Yields approximately 3 meal-sized servings, or 4 appetizer/side-sized portions.

  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large sweet potato, skinned and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp dried cilantro
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (omit or decrease this if you want it to be less spicy)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • dash of salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • one bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • light coconut milk (optional)

Put the cubed sweet potato in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Add about a tablespoon of water and cover with plastic wrap. Pierce the plastic wrap about 5 times and microwave on full-power for 6 minutes or until sweet potato pieces are done. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and stir until golden and fragrant. Add black beans and one cup of water. Using a potato masher or sturdy whisk, mash some of the black beans so that some break down. (This will make the soup’s broth a bit thicker and creamier.)

Add the rest of the ingredients except coconut milk. Stir until combined, then raise heat to medium-high. Once it is boiling, stir again, cover the pot, and lower the heat to medium-low. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir again, then remove bay leaf before serving. Top each bowl with a tablespoon of coconut milk drizzled on top.

I ate a bowl of this soup for lunch at around 1:00pm and was still full by 7:30pm! This isn’t a dainty soup!

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