This morning when I woke up and seen that it was going to be a chilly 63 in Tucson, I thought it would be the perfect day to make a little ham and bean soup and use up that leftover ham bone that is in the freezer from Thanksgiving.

Everyone makes soup a little different. I have a bad habit of just dumping whatever I have in the refrigerator in there and usually end up having to get a larger pot. Today was different, I actually followed a recipe, but I modified it somewhat.  The original recipe came from The Canadian Living Test Kitchen.  The recipe intrigued me because of the addition of fresh kale to it.  Wow!  I never have put kale in my bean soup before.  I thought I would give it a try.  

The last time I ate kale, I was pretty young and didn’t like it.  I remember my Dad boiling it in a big pot with ring bologna, water, pearl barley, carrots and potatoes.  It is a German dish, I guess. I recall the kale leaves were tough in some spots. After I did some research yesterday, I guess we were eating the stem. 

HYPERLINK ""Kale is a member of the cabbage family.  The leaves of the kale just do not form into “heads” like a cabbage does.  Kale has lots of nutritional value.  Beta Carotene, calcium, vitamins K & C and the list goes on.  The best part is that if cooked kale doesn’t lose much of its nutrients like a lot of other vegetables would.  So it is a great way to get some extra nutrition in your diet by adding it to your soup.

For this recipe, I washed the kale leaves thoroughly, then took a small pairing knife and cut away the leaves from the stem. The stem goes all the way to the top of the leaf, then stacked the kale leaves in a nice pile then cut the leaves into small “ribbons” for the soup.

Here is the recipe. I hope you like it as much as we did.


Bean and Ham Soup with Kale and Garlic Croutons:

What You’ll Need:

2 1/2 cup 17 Bean and Barley mix

2 onions, peeled and quartered

4 stalks of celery, leaves and all, quartered (not the whole bunch of celery, just the stalks)

8 sprigs of fresh thyme

4 bay leaves

2 tsp. whole peppercorns

24 cups of water


3 T. of olive oil

1 large onion – chopped

6 stalks celery – thinly sliced

6 carrots – sliced

6 cloves of minced garlic


2 cans (5 1/2 oz) tomato paste

1 can diced tomatoes



Salt and pepper



First, get a bag of 17 Bean and Barley mix (about 2 1/2 cups) – I get mine at Trader Joe’s.

The next question is – do you have to soak your beans over night? I think yes, you have to soak your beans; but not over night. This is what I did and it turned out great! I placed the 2 1/2 cups in a large kettle and filled it with 8 cups or so of cold water. Then I brought the beans to a rolling boil on medium heat (pot was covered), boiled for a minute, removed from heat (still covered) and let set for 1 hour. Then drained and rinsed the beans.

Second, get a large soup kettle, the bigger the better! Place your ham bone in the kettle so you can make the stock and add your onions, celery, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, and water.

Cover and cook on low heat, skimming off foam as necessary, for about 2 hours or until the meat is coming off the ham bone. When done, remove ham bone and pick off meat, discarding fat. Strain the stock through a colander and set aside.

In that same large soup kettle, take 3 T. of olive oil, 1 large onion – chopped, 6 stalks celery – thinly sliced, 6 carrots – sliced, 6 cloves of minced garlic and saute for 10 minutes over med. heat. Add back in the stock, beans, more ham if desired, tomato paste, diced tomatoes with basil and oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 2 hours or until beans are done. Add the 6 cups of kale ribbons at the end and let cook for 10 minutes.

While the kale is cooking – I made some garlic croutons out of the leftover dinner rolls that I had – they were delicious!

In a bowl, toss together 3 cups of cubed leftover bread with 3 T. olive oil. Spread out on a jellyroll pan. Sprinkle bread with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees tossing once for about 6 – 8 minutes or until crisp. Great on this soup.

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