Add the remaining ingredients, except the toppings, along with the water, and bring to a simmer.
Mash some of the beans with a potato-masher, just enough to thicken the liquid base of the soup. Cover and simmer gently but steadily for 10 minutes.
Serve hot topped with as many of the optional toppings as you like.
Serves 6 to 8.
Cheddar Tortilla Crisps
6 flour tortillas
1/2 to 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Non-stick cooking spray
Chili powder, optional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray both sides of each tortilla lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Stack tortillas and cut the pile into quarters. Separate the tortilla wedges and lay them out on a baking sheet. Top lightly with cheddar cheese and sprinkle chili powder on, to taste, if using.
Bake in oven for between 8-12 minutes, depending on desired crispness. Remove pan from oven and allow to cool before serving with soup.
Serves 6 to 8.
This dessert is done in less than one minute, but is out of this world. The crispy, caramel topping makes this banana taste much like a crème brulee but it's better for you!
2 ripe bananas
2-3 T. granulated sugar (or vanilla sugar)
Chocolate syrup, optional
Peel bananas, slice lengthwise, and place on a broiler-safe pan. Sprinkle the cut surfaces of the banana halves generously with sugar. When the entire cut surface is covered opaquely with sugar, use a propane (or kitchen) torch to melt and caramelize the sugar. Allow to rest at least 30 seconds before transferring to a plate. If desired, serve with a drizzle of chocolate syrup.
Serves 2-4, depending on how wicked the sweet tooth is in those who are eating.