Black Valentine Bean Soup

Ingredients for Bean Preparation:

5 cups of water (may need a little extra)

1 pound (2 ½ cups) of dried black beans

1 ham hock

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon salt


Ingredients for Soup:

3 tablespoons of oil

2 large onions chopped

1 large carrot chopped

3 celery ribs chopped

½ teaspoon salt

5-6 garlic cloves minced

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 ½ tablespoon ground cumin

6 cups of chicken broth

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons water



  1. First you will want to prepare your dried beans.  There are different methods on dried bean preparation.  I put my beans in a pot, covered with water and let soak for about 6 hours.
  2. Then I added the other ingredients listed above in the bean preparation section and brought it to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. After reaching a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer about 1 ½ hours (until beans are tender).
  4. Take out the bay leaves.
  5. To make the soup, put oil in a pot, heating to medium-heat and add onions, carrot, celery and salt. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft – around 10-15 minutes.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, pepper flakes and cumin, stirring constantly about 2-5 minutes.
  7. Stir in beans with liquid, and chicken broth, increasing heat back up to medium-high and bring to a boil. After reaching a boil, reduce to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.
  8. If you want to thicken the soup, take 1 ½ cup of beans and 2 cups of the liquid and put in a blender. Return to soup.  Combine the cornstarch and water and add to the soup.
  9. Time to eat!  Serve with a dollop of sour cream!

3 Tips To Growing Your Best Garden Yet

“What is a garden for?  It is for delight, for the purest of all human pleasures, the greatest refreshment of the spirits of men.  So say the old writers, and we cannot amend their words, which will stand as long as there are Gardens on earth, and people to love them.”
–  Gertrude Jekyll

Before you place your seed order, let me give you 3 quick tips to help you grow your best garden yet!

  • Ask yourself this simple question, what is your garden for?

Before you get google-eyes over all the seeds you want to order and plant, ask yourself what your garden is for?  What do you want to accomplish with it this year?  Is your garden your primary way to feed family?  Or is growing and playing in the dirt cheaper than going to therapy?  Are you gardening because you want to donate your harvest to your local church or foodbank?  Are you gardening because you always have?  Or are you trying to share your love for gardening with your grandkids?

Why you are doing what you are will help you determine what you want to grow.  For example, do you only want to plant vegetables?  Or do you want to add in flowers too?  What herbs?  Culinary or medicinal uses?

Usually my brother, his wife and 4 kids have a large garden.  However, this year because of a few health problems, they are going to scale back and plant something simple and easy for them to manage.  (They usually make pickles, tomato sauce and store away all their excess harvest in some way.)

Think about your own garden and its purpose.  Time, energy and health all fluctuate year after year, plan accordingly!

  • Figure out what you and your family will actually use. 

After you have determined the purpose of your garden, the next thing to think about is what you and your family will actually use.  What do I mean by this?  As any real gardener knows, it’s easy to get excited when we flip through our seed catalogs and see all the different varieties we want to plant.

However, before you start adding new vegetables to your collection, think about what your family will eat.  If your family refuses to eat Lima beans, don’t plant them.  If your family doesn’t eat sauerkraut, you may not want to go overboard when you plant cabbage this year.  Do you want cherry, sauce or slicing tomatoes?   You get the point.  Figure out what your family will actually eat.

Unless you have a plan to donate your harvest to neighbors and friends, only plant what you will use.  A zucchini plant will provide you with more zucchini’s than you’ll know what to do with!  Tomatoes produce heavy yields, so pick out the varieties you will use carefully!

  • Learn when is the best time to plant where you live.

No matter how beautiful the picture may be in the seed catalog, if you do not have optimal growing conditions for it, you may not be able to grow it.  If you try to grow cool weather crops in the hottest months in the South, you’re setting your garden up for failure.

If you try planting tomatoes or corn before the soil temperature is warm enough, your seeds will not germinate, even though the air temperature may be warm enough.  Learn when you should start plants indoors so you can transplant at the right time.  Though there may be snow on the ground and you think you have plenty of time, start planning what needs to be started indoors now and make a list of what you will need to get going!

The Secret To Winter Gardening

If you’re the type of food gardener that wants to enjoy a 4-season harvest, you need learn about cold frames, ASAP. That is, if you’re not already using them.

Cold frames aren’t complicated, mystical or difficult to use. They are nothing more than a basic raised bed with an old door, window or other piece of glass placed on top. These humble boxes are true gardening wonders. They can extend your salad season by months. And, cold frames will allow you to sow some of your hardier seeds directly outdoors while spring is still chilly, freeing up your indoor space for starting other, more fragile crops like tomatoes. Which is great, because seedlings get a better start when they have real sun versus artificial light. Best of all, cold frames give you the ability to grow food year round, no matter what the weather is doing outside! Continue Reading

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