Bring on the beans

Jill Wendholt Silva

Scrooge was a classic “bean counter” — a derogatory term for someone who is tight-fisted and ungenerous with their money.

But when it comes to good nutrition, there’s nothing bah-humbug about counting beans.

A Google search of dry bean soup mixes starts at five (usually red bean, navy bean, black bean, black-eyed peas and split peas) and ratchets all the way up to 32 varieties. For The Kansas City Star’s 15-Bean Tex-Mex Soup, we used a supermarket soup mix variety that comes with a seasoning packet.

While many cooks these days prefer canned beans, dry beans are less expensive and couldn’t be easier to prepare, although you do have to plan ahead and soak them the night before. The next morning, put beans and remaining ingredients in a soup pot or slow cooker. Several hours later, you’ve got a healthy one-pot meal.

In case you’re wondering, Hurst’s Ham-Beens Brand soups usually include 15 of the following beans: Northern, pinto, large lima, baby lima, blackeyed pea, garbanzo, green split pea, kidney, cranberry, small white, pink, small red, yellow split pea, lentil, navy, white kidney, black and yellow eye beans.

Dried beans are rich in protein, calcium, phosphorous and iron.

If you’re looking for a gift this holiday season, pour bean soup mix into a Mason jar, tie with a bow and share our recipe for a thrifty meal.

Shopping tip: Hurst Beans sells a 15-count bean soup, while Bob’s Red Mill makes a 13-bean soup mix.

Cooking tip: When you are cooking in a slow cooker or cooking slowly for several hours conventionally, use dry minced garlic, as it will produce a nice garlic flavor.

15-Bean Tex-Mex Soup

Makes: about 3 quarts (12 1-cup servings)

1 (20-ounce) package 15-bean mix (discard ham flavoring packet, if included, or save for another use)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, sliced thin

4 carrots, cut in fourths lengthwise, then sliced

2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

8 cups water

1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, with liquid

1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

11/2 tablespoons dry minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 (13-ounce) package low-fat turkey smoked sausage, sliced

Rinse beans and discard debris. Cover beans with water and soak beans overnight, then drain in a colander.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or 4-quart soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrots and jalapenos. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 8 cups water along with beans, both canned tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper and turkey sausage.

Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, maintaining a simmer, for 21/2 to 3 hours stirring occasionally.

Per 1-cup serving: 271 calories (24 percent from fat), 7 g total fat (2 g saturated), 25 mg cholesterol, 36 g carbohydrates, 17 g protein, 451 mg sodium, 13 g dietary fiber.

Recipe developed exclusively for The Star by professional home economists Kathy Moore and Roxanne Wyss.