Healthy & Hearty Minestrone Soup

Image source: Love & Lemons.

Rainy Days Mean Soup!

On a cold, rainy day last week, I was in the mood for soup. When I found this easy, healthy, hearty, vegetarian recipe for Minestrone Soup on Love & Lemons and realized I had most of the ingredients on hand, I had to try it. This is the kind of recipe that’s easy to alter. I didn’t have white beans or kidney beans, so I used black beans instead. I didn’t have diced tomatoes, but I had can of tomato soup to add to the veggie broth. And I wanted to use the zucchini sitting in my vegetable crisper.

One of the best things about this Minestrone Soup recipe is that the onions, carrots, and celery are sautéed in the same pot in which the soup simmers. Less pots to clean. Hubby and I agreed it was so delicious, I have to make it again.

This recipe is best right after it’s made, as the pasta absorbs the broth as it sits in the leftover soup. If you want to make it ahead of time, I recommend cooking the pasta separately and stirring it into the soup as you’re ready to eat. Alternatively, you can skip the pasta and add an extra cup of beans to the soup. Prepared this way, the soup will keep well for up to four days in the fridge.

When you’re ready to eat, top each bowl with a sprinkle of parsley, red pepper flakes, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. If you’re vegan, feel free to skip the cheese, or garnish your bowl with a scoop of vegan pesto instead. (Non-vegans take note: regular pesto is also a great topping for minestrone soup!).

Serve the soup with good crusty bread and call it a day, or round out the meal with a side salad. Enjoy!

Love & Lemons

Happy cooking, hon!

Minestrone Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups white beans or kidney beans, cooked, drained, and rinsed
  • 1 cup chopped green beans
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 cup small pasta, elbows, shells, orecchiette
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Pinches of red pepper flakes
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional, for serving

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, salt, and several grinds of black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.
  2. Add the garlic, tomatoes, beans, green beans, broth, bay leaves, oregano, and thyme. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in the pasta and cook, uncovered, for 10 more minutes, until the pasta is cooked through.
  4. Season to taste and serve with parsley, red pepper flakes, and parmesan, if desired.

Servings: 4-6

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Ginger & Turmeric Carrot Soup c/o Simply Quinoa

Image source: simplyquinoa.com

Autumn puts me in the mood for soup!

Preferably vegetable, creamy and hearty.Velvety Vegetable Soup has been my go-to, but I wanted to try something different this year. I found this recipe for Ginger & Turmeric Carrot Soup that also calls for butternut squash on Simply Quinoa, where Alyssa says, “This creamy ginger & turmeric carrot soup is anti-inflammatory and perfect for a chilly night. It’s packed with nutrients, has a velvety smooth texture and tastes delicious!” Thanks, Alyssa–all credit for top photo and recipe to you!

To make enough for Thanksgiving and extra to give away and to freeze, I multiplied the recipe by 6! (Would that be called “sextupling?”) With two huge soup pots simmering on the stove, the house smelled delicious. I taste-tested this new recipe, and it may be the first time, but won’t be the last, I make this healthy, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, parve Ginger & Turmeric Carrot Soup.

Happy cooking, hon!

Single Serving Tip: Did I share my single-serving tip? Pour soup into either a disposable coffee-to-go-cup or a small container, leaving room at the top for liquid to expand as it solidifies, and freeze. Freezing soup in ice trays is another tip. Pop out as many cubes as needed to make whatever size bowl is desired.

Ginger & Turmeric Carrot Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 leek , cleaned and sliced
  • 1 cup chopped fennel (1 small head)
  • 3 cups chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped butternut squash (or more carrots)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger (about 2″ piece)
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can lite coconut milk

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or saucepan. Add the fennel, leeks, carrots, and squash. Saute for 3 – 5 minutes until the veggies start to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt, and pepper, and saute for a few more minutes.
  2. Add the broth and coconut milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Once the soup is cooked, add it to a blender and blend until creamy. You could also use an immersion blender. Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste.
  4. Serve immediately with a dollop of coconut yogurt and enjoy!

Servings: 4

Pre-Schoolers & Pumpkins, Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Scooping out the insides of a pumpkin with my 2021-2022 co-teacher, Hannah.

Autumn Exploration

Carving out the insides of a pumpkin with an audience of little onlookers is fun. Inviting the kids to explore its’ texture is funny. Some are game and some are not! A few reluctant kids change their minds when they see others touching the orange, wet, and stringy pulp and seeds. One girl tasted the pulp and seeds. I know who’ll be a fan of pumpkin lattes!

At the end of the school day, I collected the seeds and, hon, you know what came next. I made Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds (recipe below) and brought them in for the kids to try. Yum!

We also painted mini-pumpkins, crinkled leaves to decorate paper trees, and explored a texture tray filled with smooth acorns, bumpy pinecones, and itty-bitty pumpkins snipped off of Pumpkin Tree branches. We rolled pinecones in paint and then rolled the paint-covered pinecones on blank paper to create original prints.

Hands-on learning!

Image soure: Joy Food Sunshine

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Tips Before Roasting Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds must dry completely before roasting. Remove the seeds from pumpkins and rinse thoroughly, discarding any stringy orange pieces. Drain seeds by lining a large baking pan with paper towels, spreading seeds evenly in a layer, and letting sit for 24 hours. At the 12 hour mark, change damp paper towels for dry ones, stir to air out pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups pumpkin seeds dried for at least 24 hours
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (or coconut sugar to make paleo)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Very lightly grease a large baking pan, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Melt coconut oil or butter in a large microwave safe bowl or on the stovetop in a 4-quart pot.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  5. Mix in pumpkin seeds until they are all evenly coated.
  6. Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin seeds and mix until all they are evenly coated.
  7. Spread pumpkin seeds on your prepared baking pan in single layer.
  8. Bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. They are done when they start to brown.
  9. To test for doneness: remove a few seeds from the pan and let sit on the counter to cool. If they harden up the seeds are done. If they remain soft, return to the oven, checking them after 5 minutes. Continue baking in 5 minute intervals until done.
  10. Once seeds are done, transfer them from the warm pan to another pan lined with parchment paper to let cool.

Yield: 3 cups

Store pumpkin seeds in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Thanksgiving Menu–Autumn, Tomato, Bean and Vegetable Soups

My Thanksgiving menu always includes soup. Velvety Vegetable Soup has been my go-to meal starter for years, but last year I changed it up by serving Roasted Autumn Vegetable Soup. It was delicious! Friday, when the house is full and lunch includes more visitors, I’ve paired Roasted Tomato Soup and Tuscan Rosemary White Bean Soup with paninis and cheese and cracker platters.

Wishing you a healthy and happy Thanksgiving! Hope it’s filled with family, friends and some time to relax.

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

My co-teacher, Hannah, scooping and sharing the insides of a pumpkin.
Image soure: Joy Food Sunshine

I like roasted seeds and nuts (do I sound like a squirrel?), but have never tried sweet roasted pumpkin seeds. When we were scooping pumpkins and saving the seeds for our two preschool classes, my co-teacher Hannah said she loved the seeds with cinnamon. Mind blown! What planet am I living on? How did I not know about these? Hon, here’s a healthy, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo-friendly, kosher recipe from Joy Food Sunshine that I must try!

Happy carving, scooping and baking!

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Tips Before Roasting Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds must dry completely before roasting. Remove the seeds from pumpkins and rinse thoroughly, discarding any stringy orange pieces. Drain seeds by lining a large baking pan with paper towels, spreading seeds evenly in a layer, and letting sit for 24 hours. At the 12 hour mark, change damp paper towels for dry ones, stir to air out pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups pumpkin seeds dried for at least 24 hours
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (or coconut sugar to make paleo)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Very lightly grease a large baking pan, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Melt coconut oil or butter in a large microwave safe bowl or on the stovetop in a 4-quart pot.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  5. Mix in pumpkin seeds until they are all evenly coated.
  6. Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin seeds and mix until all they are evenly coated.
  7. Spread pumpkin seeds on your prepared baking pan in single layer.
  8. Bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. They are done when they start to brown.
  9. To test for doneness: remove a few seeds from the pan and let sit on the counter to cool. If they harden up the seeds are done. If they remain soft, return to the oven, checking them after 5 minutes. Continue baking in 5 minute intervals until done.
  10. Once seeds are done, transfer them from the warm pan to another pan lined with parchment paper to let cool.

Yield: 3 cups

Store pumpkin seeds in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Farro Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables

Image source: David Malosh for Food & Wine.

One of my daughters loves to cook and another loves to bake. The third’s in college so she gets a pass until she lives on her own–lol! My son, also a self-declared chef, tells me about the dishes he puts together. When I requested he make dinner for hubby and me, he said, “When I come home, you cook!”

Morgan, the one who whips up delicious, healthy meals, introduced us to farro. I love its texture and taste and the way it forms a healthy base for an endless variety of additions. Mixing with roasted veggies are my favorite way to dress up this grain.

“Crispy roasted root vegetables like parsnips and celery root add an earthy, caramelized depth to this simple grain salad made with tender, chewy farro. Resist the urge to stir the vegetables during cooking to help the them develop the most color,” says Maria Sinskey for Food & Wine, whose recipe is shared here.

Farro Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water 
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste 
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked pearled farro (about 9 1/4 ounces) 
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups) 
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled, cores removed and discarded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups) 
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups) 
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled celery root (about 3/4-inch piece) 
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus parsley leaves, for garnish 
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more to taste 
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste 

Directions

Step 1

Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring 3 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Stir in farro. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until farro is tender and water is mostly absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, 10 minutes.

Step 2

While farro cooks, toss together carrots, parsnips, onion, celery root, 1/4 cup oil, and 2 teaspoons salt on a rimmed baking sheet; spread in an even layer. Roast in preheated oven until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Step 3

Drain any excess water from farro. Stir together farro, chopped parsley, vinegar, pepper, roasted vegetables and any residual oil from roasting pan, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes or up to 3 hours, or cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. If chilled, let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

Step 4

Just before serving, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and vinegar. Garnish with parsley leaves.

Tips

Farro and vegetables may be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 3 days. Buy pearled farro for this recipe; it cooks more quickly than whole-grain.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Best Black Bean Burgers

Photo courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction

I love good veggie burgers but, often, one bite in and they fall apart. There I am making a mess, while attempting to use a fork and knife to eat a crumbling burger.  No more with my new favorite Black Bean Burger recipe thanks to Sally’s Baking Addiction. SBA advises partially drying out the black beans to cook “big, thick, hearty, and flavorful” burgers that can be grilled or baked. Whether they’re eaten on a bun, plain, or on a salad, these delicious veggie burgers are “easy, healthy, satisfying, juicy, spicy and NOT MUSHY!” They were a winner with my family and friends.

Happy cooking, hon!

BLACK-BEAN BURGERS

Ingredients:

  • 2 (14 ounce) cans black beans, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper (1/2 of a pepper)
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion (1/2 of a large onion)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs or oat flour
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, optional
  • corn kernels cut off 2 ears cooked corn-on-the-cob, optional (left over from the previous night’s dinner)
  • 2 large eggs (to make vegan & vegetarian, see note)
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (to make vegan & vegetarian, see note)
  • 2 Tablespoons ketchup, mayo, or BBQ sauce
  • pinch salt + pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C). Spread beans evenly onto a lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until slightly dried out.
  2. In olive oil, sauté chopped pepper, onion, and garlic over medium heat until peppers and onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Gently blot some of the moisture out. (My veggies weren’t too liquidy, so I skipped this.)
  3. Place sautéed mixture in a large bowl with remaining ingredients (cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, Worcestershire, ketchup, salt, and pepper). Add beans. In a food processor, pulse everything together. (Tip: you may need to process mixture in small batches.) Alternately, the bean/veggie/spice mixture can be mashed with a fork. Either way, don’t completely mash the beans. Leave some larger chunks of beans to create a “bulky and satisfying texture.”
  4. Form into patties– about 1/3 cup of mixture in each. Shape the black bean burgers however large or small desired, keeping in mind the larger they are, the more unevenly they’ll cook. To bake: Place patties on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 375°F (191°C) for 10 minutes on each side, 20 minutes total. To grill: Place patties on greased aluminum foil and grill 8 minutes on each side. “Generally, black bean burgers should grill on medium-high heat about 350°F (177°C) – 400°F (204°C).”
  5. Serve with favorite toppings. Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Yield: 6 to 7 burgers

Notes:

  1. Freezing Instructions: Stack cooked or uncooked patties between parchment paper in a freezer container or zipped-top bag. Thaw in refrigerator and reheat or, if uncooked, cook according to instructions above. Thawing can be skipped; just cook from frozen for an extra couple minutes.
  2. Vegan & Vegetarian: Since Worcestershire sauce is not vegan or vegetarian, leave out or replace with a condiment such as BBQ sauce. To make burgers vegan burgers, (1) leave out the Worcestershire sauce or replace with favorite vegan condiment, (2) leave out the cheese, and (3) replace the eggs with 1/3 cup mashed sweet potato.
  3. Creative Toppings:  For a light lunch, skip the bun and eat on a salad. Creative toppings ideas are mashed avocado + caramelized onion, pepper jack cheese + spicy mustard + sweet pickles, herbed goat cheese + roasted red peppers, sriracha + sautéed mushrooms, mozzarella + pesto, corn salsa + cheddar cheese, or even chunky mango guacamole, BBQ sauce + Swiss cheese + grilled pineapple

Roasted Cauliflower with Date-Parsley Gremolata

Shout out to my daughter Morgan and her new cookbook Eating Out Loud, Bold Middle Eastern Flavors for All Day, Every Day by Eden Grinshpan. I love it when Morgan cooks dinner!

Of the cauliflower– ‘Its deep, roast-y deliciousness is the perfect counterpoint to the sweet, herbaceous date-parsley gremolata. You are going to be blown away by how much brightness you get from the preserved lemon and how the dates balance the tartness with their dense texture.”Of the cauliflower– “Its deep, roast-y deliciousness is the perfect counterpoint to the sweet, herbaceous date-parsley gremolata. You are going to be blown away by how much brightness you get from the preserved lemon* and how the dates balance the tartness with their dense texture.’

Eating Out Loud by Eden Grinshpan

Roasted Cauliflower with Date-Parsley Gremolata

Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Gremolata

  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted Medjool dates (about 5)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • approx. 1/2 lemon juice, squeezed from fresh lemon (*The recipe calls for preserved lemon, but Morgan used freshly squeezed lemon juice.)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Roast the cauliflower: Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and salt. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet (or two-you want to make sure the florets have room to breathe so that they get cartelized and crispy instead of steamed) and roast until the cauliflower is golden brown, 20 – 25 minutes.
  3. Make the gremolata: In a large bowl, mix together the dates, sparsely, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. If making this ahead, leave out the vinegar until just before you serve.
  4. Scatter the gremolata over the roasted cauliflower and serve.
  • Yield: Serves 4.

Hearty and Healthy Beef Stew

Cold Weather Comfort Food

I’ve made Beef Stew before, but wanted to change it up. Researching other recipes, I found some that simmered in a crockpot and some that baked in an oven. (Yes, you read right. Who knew?). I decided to use a crockpot, combining recipes for Ina Garten’s “Ultimate Beef Stew” (Food Network) and Chungah’s “Slow Cooker Beef Stew” (Damn Delicious). The only addition needed? A loaf of bread. This combination requires a bit of prep time, but it’s now my go-to Beef Stew recipe because it was hearty, healthy, savory, and delicious! Plus, there was enough leftover for future meals. Yay!

Hon, hope you find your own comfort during this strangest of holiday seasons.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cups chopped fennel*, trimmed and cored (1 large bulb)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 4 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, including the juices
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 pound carrots (4-5 carrots), scrubbed and cut 1/2 inch thick diagonally
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (2 large potatoes), scrubbed, 1-inch diced
  • 2 celery stalks, cut diagonally into slices
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and sliced lengthwise
  • 10 ounces frozen peas
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Season beef with salt and pepper, to taste. Add beef to the skillet and cook until evenly browned, about 2-3 minutes. (Tip: Drain cooked beef on paper towels before adding to crockpot. If there’s a lot of oil left in skillet, once it cools, wipe it down before heating up wine.)
  3. Place beef, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and peas into a 6-qt slow cooker. Stir in beef broth, Worcestershire, thyme, paprika, turmeric, and bay leaves.
  4. Heat 1/3 cup of the wine in skillet over medium heat. Add onions, fennel, garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Stir tomato paste and diced tomatoes into the vegetables. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes. Add to crockpot. Stir ingredients until well combined; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours.

Notes:

–The original recipes call for less meat, but I used 3 pounds so that there’d be enough for now and later.

–If, like me, you’ve never cut fennel before, click here to watch Melissa Clark’s video. Now I know!

Yield: Approximately 8-10 servings.