Meg Makes: Two great soups light on effort

Meg Makes: Two great soups light on effort

Today's recipes come from Faith Still of Champaign, who writes a blog called Home Ec @ Home at She taught family and consumer science for 10 years and now is a stay-at-home mom.

She wanted to share her Beef-and-Vegetable Soup, and the Cuban Black Beans on her blog caught my eye. I'm all for using the slow cooker to make meals that would otherwise take hours.

For the soup, Faith reminds readers that they can substitute their own favorite vegetables or others on hand, including fresh veggies from the garden.

For the black beans, a recipe she adapted from the America's Test Kitchen Cookbook, her reminder is to give yourself a half-hour of prep time if you're starting this meal in the morning. The recipe pays off in the evening, though, because your only task will be making rice.

It calls for baking soda — Still says its alkalinity improves the beans' texture and helps them keep their color.

Have a favorite recipe you're eager to share? Write me at I love connecting with other local food-lovers.

Beef-and-Vegetable Soup

1 pound ground beef

1 onion diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes or 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes (include any juice)

1 tablespoon beef base or 3 cubes beef bouillon

16 ounces frozen mixed vegetables

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon or more creole seasoning

2 bay leaves

5 to 6 cups water

Ground black pepper to taste

Brown ground beef, onion and garlic in a large pot. If you use a leaner beef, you won't have much excess grease. If you need to drain off excess grease, drain after beef is brown.

Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a low boil, then simmer on low for about 30 minutes.

Remove bay leaves before serving.

Slow-Cooker Cuban Black Beans

2 ounces (slices) bacon, chopped fine

2 onions, chopped medium

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped medium

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste if so desired

6 garlic cloves minced

2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or 3/4 teaspoon dried

6 cups water

1 pound (2 cups) dried black beans, picked over and rinsed

2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 pound chorizo sausage, quartered lengthwise and sliced inch thick (you can also remove casing and crumble it or use smoked sausage)

1/4 cup minced cilantro (optional)

Pepper to taste

Sour cream, hot sauce, lime wedges and/or chopped tomatoes, to garnish

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about eight minutes. Stir in onions, bell pepper, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook until vegetables are softened, about eight minutes.

Stir in garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in water, scraping up browned bits. Stir in beans, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and baking soda. Bring to a low boil. Then carefully pour into slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours until beans are tender.

You can stir in chorizo about halfway through the cooking time (or, you can omit it and bacon for a meatless version.

Discard bay leaves. Stir in cilantro (if using) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with rice and garnishes.

Meg Dickinson is a local communications professional who spends many waking hours daydreaming about food. To submit a recipe, email

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