Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Great Northern Beans: Lovin' On This Legume

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My mother was always an excellent cook, but unfortunately, she didn't enjoy cooking... at all. She made that very clear. This would have been fine except for the fact that she had a hungry husband and two ravenous kiddos to feed. My brother in particular would eat dinner, then want another one about an hour later. He was a bit... how do you say it?... big-boned. The alternative - eating out - was expensive, so that only left one option... cook some dinner already, mom.

In an effort to inspire her in the kitchen, my dad sent her off to Ursula's Cooking School in Atlanta. Actually, I don't even know if that's what it was really called. All I know is that I was going through my Little Mermaid phase and this lady sounded awesome! Did she have lots of arms with tentacles? Is that how she was able to multitask so effectively in the kitchen? I was mesmerized. We needed to be introduced.

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The closest I ever got to Ursula was through her delectable recipes, which my mother started whipping up at home like a true professional. Granted, mom didn't have multiple arms to aid in the process, but she did pretty well in my estimation. To this day, both of us still make Ursula's Hearty Bean Vegetable Soup. It's not the red-based vegetable soup you would expect, and for someone who's not crazy about soup (aka. this girl), I find it especially appetizing. Now before we get to the recipe, let's talk about one of the soup's main ingredients, Great Northern Beans.

You might not be familiar with these little guys. They're little white beans that look sort of like lima beans in shape and have a creamy, nutty flavor. You can find them in the dry form or in a can. They're very good at absorbing the flavors of the food they are cooked with, so if you're not a huge legume fan, Great Northern Beans might be just the thing for you!

Here's why you should jump on the Great Northern Bean train...

RICH IN SOLUBLE FIBER - In addition to speeding up the process of toxin removal in your intestines, soluble fiber also helps to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Just 1 cup of Great Northern beans has approximately 16 grams of fiber. The more fiber you have in your diet, the fuller you feel, which can assist in weight loss.

PACKED WITH PROTEIN - Like legumes in general, Great Northern beans are full of protein, without the added fat. In 1 cup of cooked beans, there is almost 15 grams of protein. That same cup has less than 1 gram of fat.

CHOLESTEROL-FREE - Watching your cholesterol? No need to fret when eating these beans! One cup has 0 grams of cholesterol. Score!

ANTIOXIDANT CITY - Great Northern Beans contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help prevent cardiovascular disease, strengthen the immune system and fight cancer-causing free radicals in the body.

FULL OF FOLATE - In just 1 cup, you are meeting 30% of your recommended daily value. Folate helps produce and maintain new cells, which is why it's particularly important for pregnant women. In addition, folate helps prevent changes in DNA which can lead to cancer, making it a great vitamin for everyone else!

This list barely touches on the full capacity of Great Northern Beans. They're really, really good for you! Now, since you're pumped up and ready to try some, let's take a look at Ursula's famous recipe, picture by picture...

Cut 2 large or 3 medium white onions into chunks. I half the onion and then slice the halves into slender chunks, like so.
Dice or mash 7-8 cloves of garlic.
Spray a soup pot lightly with non-stick cooking spray and add 2 oz. of butter and 2 Tbs. of olive oil. Heat until bubbling.
While the pot is heating, peel and cut 3 large baking potatoes into large cubes.
When the butter-oil combo is bubbling, add the onions and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes until they're a bit softer.
Now add the potatoes and 1 Tbs. of salt.
Now add 8 cups of HOT tap water. Stir and bring to a boil.
Once the mixture is boiling, add 2 (16 oz.) packages of frozen green beans or the fresh equivalent, whichever you prefer.
Simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are done, then use your spoon to mash the potatoes against the
side of the pan. You'll want to mash the majority of the potatoes so that your broth becomes more creamy.
Now bring the soup back to a boil and add 1 Tbs. marjoram, 1 tsp. sage and 1 Tbs. of beef, chicken or vegetable
granules (I used vegetable bouillon b/c it's what I had on hand). My mother uses chicken granules, which I prefer.
Now drain the water out of 2 cans of Great Northern Beans...
...and add them to the mix. Just before serving, add 1 lb. of smoked kielbasa (casing removed and sliced into thin circles).
Salt and pepper to taste and let the kielbasa heat up for a few minutes.

My favorite homemade soup! It's a crowd favorite and so very simple!


  1. You are very welcome! This is such a great soup! I'm sure you'll find it easy to make too!