Combine all ingredients in a plastic bag or an airtight container; store, tightly sealed, until needed.
BASIC BEAN SOUP Combine contents of package with 7 cups water in a 3-quart saucepan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 2 minutes.
Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour. (Or soak bean mixture in the water overnight in a covered pan.) Do not drain.
Bring beans and liquid to boiling, reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until beans are tender.
Remove bay leaf. Season to taste.
MEATY BEAN SOUP Follow basic recipe through the soaking step. Add 1 3/4-1 pound smoked pork hock or beef shank crosscuts. Bring to boiling; reduce heat.
Cover and simmer 1 hour for pork hocks or 1-1/2 hour for beef shanks.
Remove meat, chop coarsely and return to soup.
Remove bay leaf. Add 1 16-oz. can tomatoes, cut up and undrained. Add one medium carrot, chopped.
Cover and simmer for 30 more minutes. Season to taste. Makes 4-6 servings.
SPICY BEAN POT Follow basic recipe but reduce water to 5-1/2 cups. Remove bay leaf.
Brown 1/2 pound ground beef and drain off fat. Add 1 teaspoons chili powder and cook 1 minute. Add to bean soup along with 1 10-oz. can Rotel.
Heat through, stirring occasionally. Season to taste. Serve in tortilla bowls or with corn chips. Garnish with jalapenos, if desired. Makes 6-8 main-dish servings.
CHEESY BEAN SOUP Follow basic recipe through the soaking step, except reduce water to 4 cups. Remove bay leaf. Mash beans slightly. Add 2 cups milk and 1 6-oz. link cheese food or smoked cheese food. Cook and stir until beans are soft. Makes 4-6 main dish servings.