chipotle ham & bean soup

We love ham!  And I try to stock up during the holidays when the spiral sliced ones are on sale.  But we always have so many leftovers!  So, I spend a lot of time coming up with new recipes for them.  This is one of my favorites...  so hearty and comforting and full of flavor!

The chipotle chili powder really does something special to this soup.  If you don't have any, please pick some up!  You'll find lots of uses for its smoky, sweet, slightly spicy flavor.  Use as much as you'd like...  it really doesn't have to be spicy if you don't want it to be!

Chipotle Ham & Bean Soup Recipe
makes 4 large servings - or 6 if you are serving a big salad and lots of bread with it!!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups diced ham
3 cups chicken stock
2 cans pink beans, drained
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2-1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Saute the onions, carrots and celery until they are softened and light golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the garlic for about 30 seconds, and then add in the ham and saute for a few minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock, beans and spices, stirring well and scraping up the browned bits off the bottom of the pot.  Before you add any salt, taste the broth - as the beans/ham/stock can be quite salty as it is!

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours or longer.  Remove the bay leaf and serve with lots of crusty bread!

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