This recipe was the first I introduced into our family’s cooking repertoire when it grew from 2 to 3 members in 2005. As a childless couple before then, we enjoyed more eating out and entertaining guests with elaborate dinners. But with the arrival of the first child things changed. I needed simpler,  faster and more child-friendly recipes that I could throw together in a few minutes. Ideally, the ingredients would have to be common pantry staples and the recipe would be flexible enough to accommodate the changes reflecting the availability of the staples. Whew! This was a tall order to fulfill so my quest began.

I am proud to say that by now I have this very thick, incredibly ugly-looking but very useful folder full of recipes that work great for our family. Here is how it works: after I try a new recipe, its destiny is defined by meeting all the criteria from above plus eliciting a “thumbs up” feedback from at least 2 members of the family (including me).

Recipe folder 500

Once the recipe passed this rigorous testing, it either ends up in the folder or in the trash bin. Sometimes I use a middle-ground approach, jot down its simplified version that works better for me and file it in the folder. Also, I made a smart move and made my life easier by dividing the folder contents into categories like “appetizers and snacks”, “main dishes”, ‘savory baking” and “desserts”. Of course, I know that nowadays people store everything electronically but somehow I cannot let go of this old-fashioned way to collect recipes. Love my paper. Judge me if you can :).

Three bean soup 500

The best part about this three bean soup recipe is that you can substitute pretty much any ingredient for something else. For example, if you want a heartier meal, add sausages or bacon when sautéing veggies and use chicken or beef stock instead of vegetable one. If you are out of cannellini or pinto beans, the kidney and black varieties will work just fine. No green beans? No problem – use broccoli, peppers or mushrooms instead.

Featured image 500

Ideally, I would cook the three-bean soup in a slow cooker for at least 4 hours to make the beans softer and the soup a little thicker. But if you only have 20 minutes to put dinner on the table, just use a potato masher to mash the cooked soup slightly in the pot. It is important to not overdo it by turning the soup into a chunky puree but instead just add a little thickness to the texture.

Beans in tetrapack 500

To limit your family’s exposure to BPA, I would recommend choosing beans and tomatoes that come in cans made with BPA-free lining,  in tetra packs, or cooking dry beans from scratch and using fresh tomatoes. One 15 ounce can of beans equals 1/2 cup of dried beans before cooking or 1.5 cups of cooked beans. I like these time-saving and very economical beans in tetra packs from Whole Foods.

Three bean soup - a quick family-friendly dinner
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  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, cut into small cubes
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 can (15 ounces) stewed tomatoes. You can replace them with chopped canned or fresh tomatoes.
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock or water
  • 1 can (15 ounces) of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups of washed fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Chopped parsley or chives
  1. Sauté the onions, garlic, carrot and cumin in olive oil a heavy-bottomed pot, until the vegetables are soft and aromatic, 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the next 6 ingredients, bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  3. If desired, mash the soup slightly using the potato masher.
  4. Sprinkle with chopped parsley or chives.
  5. Serve with crusty bread and a salad.
  6. Enjoy!