red bean and sausage soup
The freshman fifteen and the starving college student. Essentially, two halves of the same coin. That was the topic of our dinner conversation last night. Since my daughter is just months away from beginning her freshman year (at a University yet to be determined because we’re still waiting on an acceptance letter — fingers crossed) we were discussing what the food would be like when she goes off to school.
She conceded that campus fare probably wouldn’t live up to what she got at home. And while there are myriad choices, cafeteria food gets monotonous after a while – the options aren’t always the healthiest available and many first year students succumb to the freshman fifteen. (Realistically, how can anyone expect to maintain their weight while on cafeteria-style meal plan, supplemented by late night pizzas?) The prospect scares her. I understand. I was a victim of the freshman twenty.
On the flip side, there is the “starving college student” who subsists on 4/$1 ramen noodles and off-label macaroni and cheese – neither of which have a lick of nutrition. There has to be a happy-medium, right?
Aside from a mini-fridge stocked with carrot sticks, hummus, and yogurt in her dorm room, I think Emily’s first year of eating away from home will be a test of wills. Will she stay safely in the salad bar and healthy options section of the commissary or will the siren call of pizza and french fries win out? It’s not an either/or. I know she’ll do both. We all do. After her first year, she probably won’t have the meal plan and will be cooking for herself. Hence, the other side of that coin… the starving college student. Food can be expensive, so I’m giving Em the best advice I have. Beans and rice (supplemented with fruit and veggies).
Take it from the rest of the world. These items are staples. Why? They are nutritionally dense and relatively cheap. To illustrate my point, I give you this sausage and red bean soup with rice. This made enough for 6 hungry people and cost less than $15. I know, $2.50 per serving is 10 times more than ramen noodles, but this is infinitely more satisfying and still budget friendly.
For those of you shaking your head, thinking, “That kid isn’t making a pot of soup while she’s in college.” I know. For my student, I’ll recommend a can of beans over rice — augmented by Mom’s care packages.
- 1 pound dried red beans
- 12 cups water divided
- 1 pound kielbasa sausage sliced 1/2" thick
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 2 carrots peeled and chopped
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 5-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth or water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 cups hot cooked rice
- 1/2 cup scallions sliced
- 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley chopped
- vinegary hot sauce such as Crystal's or Tabasco
Add red beans to a large dutch oven. Inspect beans thoroughly and remove any pebbles or other debris. Cover with 6 cups of water and let sit overnight.
Drain beans. Cover with remaining water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, loosely cover with lid so that steam can escape.
Drain cooked beans in a colander.
In the dutch oven heat olive oil over medium-medium high heat. Add kielbasa, stirring occasionally, and cook until browned. Transfer sausage to a small bowl.
Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the dutch oven. Return to medium heat and add celery, carrots and onion. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
Return beans to the pot and add bay leaves, cayenne, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low. Loosely cover pot with the lid, so that steam can escape. Simmer for 45 minutes or until beans are tender. Remove from heat.
Transfer about a cup of beans and liquid to a blender and puree until smooth. Add puree back into the pot of beans and stir to combine. If soup is too thick, add additional broth a little at a time until it's to the desired consistency. (I like it a little thick)
Add one tablespoon of vinegar, ketchup, salt and pepper.
Taste for seasoning. Add additional vinegar, salt and pepper to taste as needed.
Add kielbasa to the soup. Reheat if necessary.
To serve mound about a quarter cup of rice in the center of a shallow bowl. Ladle soup around the rice. Sprinkle with scallions, parsley and hot sauce to taste.
Serve with a side of cornbread and a green salad for a delicious meal.