January 22, 2013

My first summer into the blog (way back in July 2011), I vented about the super hot weather in Chicago. A year and a half later, I find myself trapped inside because of super cold weather. The windchill today, a balmy -12 degrees.
Lucky for me, I had the day off from work. All I really had to do was return a movie to the Redbox (I know, my life is really exciting) but I'm deciding it's just too cold to even take a quick walk to it. Will pay for the extra day to stay toasty inside. 

Cold Weather=Soup Weather. I just purchased celery for the first time ever and have been getting so excited to make soups and stews. Then the idea for Minestrone Soup popped in my head.

What makes minestrone minestrone? Small pasta, tomatoes, celery, carrots, beans and onions. I had everything but beans so I subbed them with lentils. 

I got a basic soup from two recipes and added a few other ingredients that I had laying around to make this hearty and very comforting soup on this cold day. 
One important thing I learned from a cooking class I took a few years ago is that recipes are flexible. For instance, in the class, curry was being made and the teacher suggested if you don't have coconut milk, you can use chicken broth and/or white wine. Up until that moment, I didn't really know much about substitutions for ingredients I don't usually have. But now, the possibilities are endless. Sometimes the outcome is bad but you live, you learn. This minestrone was a success! 

Minestrone Soup adapted from crave by random house and cookstr
1 strip of bacon, chopped
1 tbs olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 sweet potato or butternut squash, diced
1-14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 tsp thyme (dried, or more if using fresh)
1 bay leaf
1-32 oz carton of chicken/vegetable stock
1 cup lentils, rinsed or 1-14.5 oz can of cannellini, great northern or navy beans
1 cup orzo or other small shaped pasta
Bunch of spinach/kale/chard/other greens
Salt & Pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese

1. Heat pot and add bacon. Once cooked through, add onion, carrots, celery garlic and sweet potato. Add olive oil if pan is too dry. Cook for 10 minutes.
2. Add in tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, stock, lentils and bring to boil. Lower heat and cook until sweet potatoes are fork tender. 
3. Add in orzo and cook for 8-10 minutes. Add in spinach just before serving. 
4. Add salt and pepper to taste and top with Parmesan Cheese. 
5. Enjoy! 

So stay warm! Bundle up, have some soup, drink tea and dream of a hot summer day at the beach. Or you can be like me, and have fun with your winter get up. 
Just kidding, I really don't own this hat. I couldn't resist trying it on though. 

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