Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

Whenever there is a cool snap here in Florida I am immediately in the mood to make soup. Factor in that I love pumpkin anything especially this time of year, and you will most likely find a pot of pumpkin-something on my stove. Well yesterday happened to be one of those days - nice and chilly outside, warm and cozy inside - I was ready for soup. I wanted something quick and easy too, so I rummaged through my pantry and I found a can of organic, vegan refried black beans, and a can of organic pumpkin puree . . . I thought, hmmmmmm? This could make a hearty, protein-packed, creamy soup without adding a lot of fat from dairy. I went straight to my pots, started chopping aromatics, clipping rosemary and thyme from my plants, and before I knew it, my house smelled of Autumn heaven!  Here's what I did:
INGREDIENTS
15 oz can of organic pumpkin puree (does not have to be organic, just make sure it's puree and not pie mix)
15 oz can of organic/vegan refried black beans (does not have to be organic, but if you want a fat free version, vegan is the way to go . . . no oils or fats added) 
2 cups of low sodium chicken stock
2 cups of crushed tomatoes (I use tomatoes that come in a glass jar or box, like "Pomi" brand)
1/2 large sweet onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
2 tablespoons of honey
Splash (or 1/4 cup) of cognac (or whiskey)
2 teaspoons garam masala (spice blend)
dash of cinnamon
cayenne pepper to taste
black pepper to taste
salt to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:
Saute chopped onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, garam masala, cinnamon, cayenne and black pepper in olive oil until onion and garlic are softened and cooked through (but not caramelized).  The oil and juices from the onion/garlic mixture will help blend all the spices together and help them sweat to release their flavors.  Depending on how spicy you like things, add more garam masala and cayenne to your taste.  When the onion/garlic and spice mixture look nice and soft and dark, add the cognac.  The smell is intoxicating! Cook off the alcohol for just a minute or two, then add the refried black beans.  Melt them into the garlic/onion/spice mixture, then add the pumpkin puree.  Mix beans and pumpkin until homogeneous, then add the crushed tomatoes.  As soon as I empty the can of beans and can of pumpkin, I pour one cup of chicken stock into each can to rinse out any remnants . . . don't want to lose a morsel of goodness.  Once the tomatoes are incorporated, I pour in the chicken stock and 2 tablespoons of honey (you can add more depending on how sweet you like things).  Season with salt.  Adjust spices to your liking and simmer until flavors meld.  Just before serving, I add a splash of vinegar (red wine or balsamic).  I know it might sound weird, but you don't actually taste the vinegar, it just wakes all the flavors up.  

Ladle soup in a nice deep bowl dolloped with a mixture of fat free Greek yogurt mixed with salt/pepper, lemon zest and chopped cilantro. Serve with warm pita bread.  Yum!  

I've said it before, but don't ever get tired of saying it . . . pumpkin is chock full of goodness!  Just look at it's beautiful, bright color and you know it's going to be good for you.  Not only is pumpkin loaded with vitamin A and antioxidant carotenoids like alpha & beta carotenes, it's a good source of vitamins C, K and E, along with lots of minerals like magnesium, potassium and iron.  


Now, from a single, one-cup serving of black beans you get almost 15 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein.  Legumes (more fun to say than just "beans") have an almost magical protein-fiber combination that explains why they have such amazing benefits for the digestive tract, the blood sugar regulatory system and the cardiovascular system.  

Mix both the pumpkin and black beans together in this tasty (low fat) soup and you have a powerhouse bowl of yummy, hot goodness ready to eat.  Enjoy!