U.S. Senate Bean Soup


This is one of my favourite cold weather soups – there are a few days left of winter and our nights are still cold so you have time to make some.  This recipe is from The Complete Book of Soups and Stews by Bernard Clayton, Jr. The recipe served in the Senate today does not include mashed potatoes, but does include a braised onion.
It is an easy recipe to follow.  I only modified it by using a baked potato and lightly mashing it, getting the meatiest  ham hock I could find, shredding the ham from the bone once it was cooked and adding carrots and extra celery when the soup was finished both for colour and crunch.  It makes a good amount and freezes well.  It is always such a delight when you open the freezer to scout something for lunch and you find this soup.  Enjoy!

U.S. Senate Bean Soup
Serves 6 to 8

The U.S. Senate has come to stand for many things in this Republic.  One is its bean soup.  There is also a bean soup served in the House of Representatives but it lacks both the prestige and taste of that of the Upper House.  Between the two, however, cooks ladle out gallons of 8-oounce servings each day in the 11 dining rooms on the Hill.

I had my first bowl of Senate bean soup in 1940 as the guest of Senator Charles M. McNary of Oregon.  I was a brand-new Life Magazine correspondent in the Capital and he was then the running mate of Republican Presidential hopeful Wendell Willkie.  I don’t recall what  we talked about but I have never forgotten the soup.

Senate bean soup can be served on any occasion that warrants a hot, steamy, filling and thick soup such as an Election Eve party or a modest precinct gathering.

1 pound dried white beans, Great Northern or navy
water to soak

1 meaty ham bone or 2 smoked ham hocks
3 quarts water, to cook
3 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup cooked mashed potatoes, or 1/3 cup instant potato flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
salt, to taste, if desired
snippets of parsley or chives to garnish

Soak beans overnight.
Drain and place them with the ham in a large (5 quart) soup kettle. Add 3 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 2 hours. Skim if necessary.

In the meantime chop the onions, garlic, celery and parsley,  When the beans and meat have cooked 2 hours, add the chopped vegetables and the potato to the pot.
Simmer for 1 hour longer or until the beans are tender.
Season with salt and pepper.
Remove the bones and meat from the soup.  Dice the meat into 1/2 inch pieces and return to the pot.  Discard the bones.  Reheat to serve

This is a hearty, robust dish and so it should have hearty, robust service – from the pot at the tale, and ladled into heated soup bowls.  Garnish with snippets of parsley or chives.

ALTERNATIVE: The House version: Only beans, ham hock and seasoning.  The beans are bruised with a spoon or ladle to  barely cloud the soup before serving

Fermented Food

Fermented foods have been made since Neolithic times. Fermented vegetables begin with a method of preservation that enhances the nutrient content of food known as lacto-fermentation.  Natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid.  The bacteria also produce vitamins and enzymes that are beneficial for digestion.  It is believed that fermented foods can lead to a stronger immune system and an increase in antibodies.

I have been making sauerkraut from green cabbage for years.  But almost any vegetable can be fermented either alone or by creating a mix of different kinds.  You can also experiment by adding spice and herb combinations.  The best news is that you don’t have to make mega quantities – small batch canning is a great concept.  You can find many ideas and recipes on-line.  Have fun with it! 

Polar Opposites – Socks

Don’t you think that these will make the perfect SF Giants socks?  The yarn is from indie dyer, Amy Lee’s company Canon Hand Dyes (colour way: Double Double Toil and Trouble). I just love them and they make me smile!

If you are interested in learning how to knit, there are several on-line tutorials and books.  But, don’t forget your local yarn store!

Happy Valentine’s Day


The power of the heart is the power to love; to care and nurture all life forms.

May we all support each other no matter what differences we may observe from the outside. May we all remember that we come from the same place and are all part of life itself. When we are born, it’s the love that counts. When we truly live, it’s the love that counts. When we die, it’s the love that counts.

May all hearts be honored as we put aside our difference and just love one another.

This is from Lydia’s Foods’ Newsletter.  Such a perfect sentiment for today!


Hike – 2.12.17

I’VE GOT MY MOJO BACK!  It’s been 7 weeks since I’ve had my Brooks trail running shoes on and have been hiking on the trails.  There was a break in the weather and it was absolutely gorgeous outside!  I encourage you all to get outdoors.  If this isn’t part of your normal pattern, add distance slowly.  I promise you won’t regret it and the Vitamin D is good for you!




There are so many resources when it comes to finding great recipes. A few of my favourite sites have been: Savory Simple, Smitten Kitchen and Style Sweet CA.  They do not disappoint. Another important thing, for me at least, with blogs is that you are not inundated with ads – I loathe them and they seem to slow my computer.  Recipes accessed in a user friendly manner is also important.

I tend to use the same basic recipes repeatedly with the exceptions of brownies.  I am always searching for the perfect brownie.  I wanted to share with you a simple, quick (with easy clean up) recipe from Smitten Kitchen’s blog.  It is brownie perfection! If you are in need of a quick and personal gift, this could be your answer. If you want to read the entire blog: My Favorite Brownies. Is there a better way to spend a rainy day other than in the kitchen baking?  Do let me know what you think.   ENJOY!

My Favorite Brownie

naptime brownies

Makes 1 8×8 pan of brownies which you can cut into 16 2-inch squares (shown above), 25 smaller squares, or 32 2×1-inch bites, which is what I usually do.

3 ounces (85 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 1/3 cups (265 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt (about 2 grams)
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides, or foil. Butter the parchment or foil or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula and scrape batter into prepared pan, spread until even. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free.

Let cool and cut into desired size. If you’re like me, you will prefer these and all brownies, cold or even frozen. But I bet you’re normal and will just eat them hot from the pan. If desired, dust the brownies with powdered sugar before serving.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Walk – 1.29.2017

It’s been 4 1/2 weeks since the hip surgery and I am able to go on walks just over two miles (two days in a row).  I am super excited to share with you my progress with photos of my walking adventures.  Enjoy them and be inspired to “keep moving” and enjoy the sunshine as January comes to an end. It’s time to start exploring; it’s beautiful outside!

The Biodiversity Museum – Panama City

The building was designed to tell the story of how the isthmus of Panama rose from the sea, uniting two continents, separating a vast ocean in two, and changing the planet’s biodiversity forever.


The Biomuseo, a natural history museum, was designed by renowned Canadian architect Frank Gehry (think Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain). The design was conceived in 1999 and it was announced in 2004 that Gehry, whose wife is Panamanian, would donate this to the people of Panama; his first in Latin America.  It finally opened in October 2014 well over budget.


The site is located at the end of the Amador Causeway facing the Pacific Ocean at the entrance of the Panama Canal.  Incredible panoramic views of the ocean and cargo ships entering the canal add the perfect backdrop.


The building’s colorful canopies were designed in reference to the richly diverse flora and fauna of Panama.


There are 4,000 meters of structure and will contain eight permanent exhibition galleries designed by Bruce Mau Design.  The exhibitions are led by the University of Panama and the Smithsonian Institutions and focuses on Panama’s biodiversity, one of the most biodiverse places in the world.


I LOVED everything about this museum and I learned so much starting with the land bridge between North and South America three million years ago and the cross-migration of animals that took place.  This room was fascinating with fantastic creatures carved out of fiberglass and covered with brilliant white epoxy that allowed touching of the exhibits. The sloth was just amazing!  I was never bored as all of this was new information to me.

It’s not finished yet- three remaining galleries need completion.  One gallery is a two-story aquatic exhibit called Oceans Divided.  It was to be completed last year, but when I was there in May 2016 it was far from being done.


Some call it post-modern genius; others a flaming pile of garbage.  What do you think?

Travel Logistics: Flight time from San Francisco is 7 hours; I paid $500 on COPA.  I would recommend staying in Casco Viejo district as there are great restaurants and shops. There is a sightseeing bus for a minimal daily rate that takes you to all the necessary spots.