Sausage, Kale, and Black Bean Soup

I was definitely late to the kale party. I’ve had it a few times, but always in the company of another vegetable – usually in the pre-packaged bags of mixed greens from the grocery store where kale is mixed in with lettuce, spinach, and arugula. I bought a big bag of it in the raw last week and packed a salad for lunch the morning that I got sick. By the time I got back to my house, I was so sick that I didn’t take the time to fully unpack my car, and my lunch stayed there overnight. My poor kale leaves froze. And then thawed. And I can tell you with utmost certainty, thawed, decaying kale leaves are one of the WORST smells that I have EVER encountered. I had to double bag the garbage, throw it outside, Febreeze the whole kitchen, light a candle, and turn on the overhead fan. And it still took a day for the smell to wear off. It turned my stomach so much that I couldn’t even look at the rest of the kale in the fridge for a few days. Tonight I finally got over it, but not enough to eat it raw. The solution? Soup!

Sausage, Kale and Black Bean Soup

What you’ll need:

5 cups of vegetable or chicken broth

5 cups of water

1 pound of sausage (I used our own homemade pork sausage)

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 can of black beans

1 white onion, chopped

5 cups of kale, roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 teaspoons of fennel seeds *

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour

Servings: 5

What to do:

Take the sausages out of the casings and break them up into quarter sized chunks, or slice it thinly. Put about a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan and brown the sausage, cooking it through. Meanwhile, put about a teaspoon of olive oil in a large stockpot. Chop up the onion and slice the garlic and put them in the stockpot, cooking about 5 minutes. Add the broth, water, tomatoes, and black beans to the stock pot. Roughly chop the kale and add it to the broth. When the sausage is cooked through, add it to the soup. Add the pepper, salt, fennel seeds, and thyme. Simmer on medium low heat for 30 minutes.

*A note about the fennel seeds – most sausage that you buy in the store, like hot Italian sausage, has a lot of fennel in it already. Fennel can be a very overwhelming flavor if you use too much of it. I used 1 1/2 teaspoons because I was using homemade pork sausage that had very little seasoning in it to begin with. If you’re using store bought sausage, I would recommend decreasing the amount of fennel, to one teaspoon or even a half a teaspoon, depending on what kind of sausage you’re using.

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Beef Barley Stew and Other Foods to Eat Without Wisdom Teeth

J got his wisdom teeth out yesterday, so his food options have been restricted to soft foods he can chew gently. My poor guy – he didn’t get put under for the procedure, because as of January 1st, our insurance company has a new policy that they won’t pay for anesthesia for wisdom tooth extraction (except for little kids). And because of J’s job, he can’t take narcotic painkillers without having to fill out a bunch of paperwork for his employer, and its a hassle. So he was awake, and his only pain management was a shot of novocaine to the jaw. He walked out looking like a zombie movie extra, and the only thing he could stomach yesterday were protein shakes and vanilla ice cream.

Today he was feeling a bit better, and I felt like tackling a more time-consuming dish because I don’t have class or work on Tuesdays. I am attempting to generally improve my diet (I’m not calling it dieting or losing weight because that’s never worked before!), and thanks to Pinterest, I have a whole stack of healthier, filling, especially-good-for-cold-weather meals.

Tonight’s selection was Beef Barley Soup, which, in my case, ended up being Beef Barley Stew. I’ve never used barley before, and I really enjoyed it in this stew. It is a great filler and a healthier alternative to the white pasta that I usually crave. I got the recipe from Skinnytaste – http://www.skinnytaste.com/2012/09/beef-barley-soup.html. This gal has some really fantastic, healthy recipes and I highly recommend you go over to Skinnytaste and check it out. I was going to use her picture, too, because none of mine worked out (must have been my lighting, because my liquid looked gray! And it wasn’t, really! Time to get serious about Googling food photography), but I didn’t know if that would be a breach of blogging etiquette of some sort.

I made a couple of changes from the original recipe. I added a whole cup of barley instead of 2/3rd cup. I have never worked with barley before, and when I measured it out and dumped it in the soup, it seemed like the proportions were off and I’d need more barley. What I didn’t realize is how much water barley absorbs as it cooks, and the full cup of barley soaked up enough of my liquid to turn it into a stew, not a soup. Lesson learned! I also added 2 tablespoons each of oregano, parsley, and thyme, which I think gave it an extra oomph.

For J’s portion, I had to scoop out the pieces of beef first and shred them, pulled pork style, to reduce he chew-time-per-spoonful. He didn’t seem very enthusiastic about it, but I’m not taking offense because he hasn’t been enthusiastic about anything since watching his own teeth getting yanked out. Of course, his suggested remedy was ice cream, so after dinner he got his second heaping bowl of vanilla for the day. This stew was so yummy, though, I don’t care if he eats all the ice cream and leaves all the leftovers to me! Unless……..barley and vanilla ice cream? Hmmmm……..better not.