- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, soften the vegetables in the oil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to the slow cooker. Add the broth, beans, tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover and cook on Low for 4 hours (see note). The soup can be maintained on Warm for up to 6 hours. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprig.
- Add the kale and parsley. Mix well. Divide the cheese curds among six bowls and top with the hot soup. Serve with country bread, if desired.
Instead of using a slow cooker, the soup can be prepared on the stovetop. The cooking time will be about 40 minutes.