Italian Minestrone Soup

 

This hearty minestrone is easy to make and totally worth the effort.
The recipe calls for seasonal vegetables and affordable pantry ingredients you can find in any local grocery store, making it budget friendly. Like an Italian minestrone soup, this recipe is loaded with vegetables, beans, spinach and ditalini pasta. The soup packs great for lunch, and tastes even better the next day. You can make this dish dairy free, gluten-free and vegan friendly. Just see the following  Cook’s Notes.  This recipe calls for about 24 servings, so just know that it also freezes and defrosts well too. It is extra nice to have on hand in the freezer on during those days when you feel like being a lazy cook in the kitchen, especially during the winter months.

Serves 24

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 cup of small diced pancetta bacon
2 peeled and small diced yellow onions
4 finely minced cloves of garlic
2 thinly sliced leeks, optional
4 medium diced stalks of celery
4 peeled and sliced carrots
1 peeled and medium diced turnip
1 peeled and medium diced parsnip
½ small diced bulb of fennel core removed, optional
3 peeled and large diced russet potatoes
Three 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes in juice
Three 15-ounce cans of drained cannellini beans
128 ounces of chicken stock
3 parmesan cheese rinds (See Cook’s Notes)
2 cups of frozen peas
2 cups baby spinach, chopped kale or chopped collard greens
juice of 1 lemon
2 pounds of cooked and cooled ditalini pasta (See Cook’s Notes)
Salt, to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese and fresh oregano and rosemary sprigs, for garnish

 

Directions:
In a very large pot or stockpot over medium heat add in the pancetta and cook until browned and crispy. Set aside the pancetta lardons.

Add in the onions, garlic, leeks, celery, carrots, turnip, parsnips and fennel to the pot and sauté for 10 to 12 minutes.

Add in the potatoes, tomatoes, beans, stock and cheese rinds and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add the peas, spinach, lemon juice, cooked pancetta, salt, and pepper.

To serve, ladle into bowl and garnish with parmesan, oregano and rosemary, if desired.

 

Cook’s Notes:
Minestrone soup is subject to change based on what you have and what’s in season. This minestrone soup recipe may look completely different in the summer since things like zucchini, yellow squash and squash peak in are that season. For the Spring, you might want to use peas, green beans and leeks for the soup. As for autumn seasonal vegetables, potatoes turnips, butternut squash, also work for this recipe. Basically, whatever vegetables you have on hand will work in this recipe. Left over vegetables will also work in a pinch too.

Grains or Pasta: Italian minestrone soup can also use things like farro or cous cous as the grain or pasta in the soup, such as orecchiette, elbow or small shell pasta. To make this soup gluten free, you can also substitute your favorite sturdy gluten-free noodle, such as DeLallo’s Whole-Grain Rice Shells.

Parmesan Cheese: The Parmesan cheese rind is not a necessity, but it will add some delicious umami flavors to the soup. You can add grated Parmesan to the soup as a substitute, or shredded Parmesan can be added as a garnish.

However, if you want to make the soup dairy free and vegan friendly, do not use Parmesan cheese or the pancetta. Most Parmesans are not technically vegetarian because they contain animal rennet. As a reliable substitute, Whole Foods 365 and Bel Gioioso brands do offer vegetarian Parmesan cheese, and both will work really well in this recipe.

How to Reheat: To reheat the minestrone soup simply add your desired portion to a small sauce pot and heat over low heat until hot. You can also simply add your desired portion to microwave safe bowl and heat for 2:30 stirring after 1:15.

How to Store: Minestrone soup will hold well in the refrigerator covered up for up to 5 days. It will also freeze well covered for up to 3 months. Simply pull it out as you need it and reheat following the directions above.

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Ditalini Pasta

 

 

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Veggie Fried Rice with Sunny-Side Up Eggs

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Staples like boil-in-bag rice can be a time-saving shortcut in this vegetarian version of a popular takeout stir-fry that’s topped off with eggs, a budget-friendly protein.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

One 14-ounce package boil-in-bag rice
2  tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large carrots
2 tablespoons vegetable, divided
1/2 cup of broccoli florets
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1/4 cup green beans
1 rib celery, sliced
1 small red bell pepper, julienned
One 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained
2 green onions, sliced
4 large eggs

Directions:

Prepare the rice according to package’s stovetop directions. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil.

In a wide pot, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil on medium-high. Add garlic and carrots. Cook 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the stir-fry vegetables. Cook  2 to 3 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Pour rice from the bag into the skillet, along with soy sauce mixture. Cook 2 minutes stirring often. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and  cover to keep warm.

In a 12-inch nonstick  or cast iron skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of  oil on medium-high. Add the eggs and fry for 1 – 2 minutes, until whites are mostly set. Cover skillet and cook  for an additional 2 minutes or until yolks are at the desired doneness. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place the eggs on top of fried rice.

Cook’s Notes:

If you cannot find all the vegetables at your local supermarket, feel free to substitute one 16-ounce  bag frozen Asian stir-fry blend in this recipe. Make sure that the frozen vegetables are thawed  and drained before cooking.

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Chicken Lo Mein

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Did you know that March has been designated as the National “Noodle Month”?

And if you are feeling like you are running out options for take out during the COVID-19 pandemic, and you are craving something salty, something savory, but you don’t know quiet these flavors are combined into your favorite take out dish, then this easy peasy recipe is just for you. It’s Chicken Lo Mein and it is packed with oodles of noodles and veggies to keep you happy and healthy at the same time.The noodles in this dish are big on flavor without the greasey guilt that you find in most take out foods. This recipe is pretty much straight forward. It is composed of just noodles, chicken and spinach cooked in a garlicky hoisin/soy sauce and dude, it is seriously fresh!

For the most part, lo mein noodles in the ethnic foods section of most major supermarkets. However, in this quarantine kitchen pantry, I substituted the lo mein noodles with the fettuccine I had on hand. You can also use spaghetti or soba noodles. I did not have any hoisin sauce, but there was a bottle of honey barbecue sauce in the fridge, which is somewhat similar to hoisin. I am happy to report that both of these substitution worked well in this dish and it turned out just as delicious.

So, are up to honing you home cooking skills with this dish? Are you game? Ready! Set! And away we go!

 

ENJOY!

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From the Quarantine Pantry:
Soy sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, honey bbq sauce, fettuccine, cilantro, garlic, carrots, arugula/spinac salad mix, snow peas and chicken breasts.

SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS:

For the Sauce:

3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the Lo Mein:

8 ounces uncooked lo mein noodles

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup snow peas

3 cups fresh spinach

1/4 bunch of cilantro sprigs, optional

DIRECTIONS:

To make the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, hoisin sauce and sesame oil. Set the sauce aside.

For the lo mein: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the lo mein noodles and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large nonstick sauté pan set over medium heat, add the olive oil and sesame oil. Once hot, add the garlic and chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until the chicken is cooked through, no longer pink. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set it aside.

Add the carrots and snow peas to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach, cooked noodles, chicken and prepared sauce to the pan and cook, stirring, until combined and the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.

To serve, place in shallow bowls and garnish with cilantro, if desired.

IMG_0566 low mein.jpg

 

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