I mentioned in my last post that I have (finally) discovered the joy of meal-planning. I have also discovered that it’s not as stressful as I thought, and it has become a fun and creative outlet for me. Before the pandemic, I was constantly scrambling to figure out what to make for dinner every evening and I was losing my enthusiasm for cooking. Once we had no choice but to stay home and our calendar cleared of commitments and appointments, I decided it was time to start meal-planning. I began by taking inventory of the contents of my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry so I can have a list to refer to when researching recipes. From there, I decide what I will cook for lunch and dinner. I frequently batch cook to stock the freezer with portioned meals for the evenings I don’t feel like starting a meal from zero (or just don’t feel like cooking at all). I’m using my Instant Pot more often for the evenings I’m pressed for time but still want to get a nutritious meal on the table. When I don’t want to (or can’t) spend hours in the kitchen, I put my slow cooker to use. I’m using my cookbooks more often to find new recipes to try which keeps our meals interesting and varied. Since I am trying to grocery shop once a week or less, I am even more mindful of food waste. I keep track of what ingredients need to be used first and plan meals around them so nothing spoils. This green vegetable minestrone is a recipe I threw together to use up some produce and leftovers that needed to be eaten, and it quickly became one of our favorites.
Green vegetable minestrone is very similar to Marcella Hazan’s minestrone soup, except that it does not include tomatoes. It is a recipe that is open to improvisation–something we are all doing right now during quarantine when we are limiting trips to the grocery store and using what ingredients we have on hand. You could certainly follow my recipe, but you can make it your own by using a wide variety of green vegetables and aromatics, such as leeks, kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, or escarole. If you have leftover roasted vegetables, add those to the soup too for a boost in flavor. It’s fine to add a colorful vegetable to the soup for a pop of color, but the fun challenge of making this soup is to see how many green vegetables you can use so that the finished dish lives up to its name. I had half a bag of frozen spinach, some sad-looking zucchini, and a small head of Savoy cabbage that needed to be used, so creating a green vegetable minestrone was a no-brainer. To make the soup heartier, I added a can of cannellini beans. For the liquid I used chicken stock, which I always have in my pantry, but you can also use water and flavor it with chicken or vegetable bouillon. Green vegetable minestrone won’t win any beauty contests, but what it lacks in looks, it makes up for in wonderful flavor and texture. It was the perfect dinner for a cool spring evening.
I hope cooking and baking are bringing you some comfort during these strange times. I know life is not easy or particularly enjoyable right now, but I hope you can find ways to escape the stress and worry from time to time with activities that nourish your body and mind. Since my blog is a place of positivity, learning, and encouragement, I thought I would wrap up this post by sharing a few uplifting links that made me happy this past week. Enjoy!
- This article written by Samin Nosrat makes my Italian heart incredibly happy. You can be sure that I’ll be tuning in to The Big Lasagna Party!
- We Are Not All In The Same Boat
- How fun is John Kraskinki’s You Tube channel? It always puts a smile of my face.
- I have always wondered how she does this. Now we know!
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
- 1 large celery stalk, peeled and cut into small dice
- 1 small onion, peeled and cut into small dice
- ⅓ cup (79 mL) extra virgin olive oil
- ½ head Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
- 2 small zucchini, cut into ½-inch (1 cm) pieces
- 1 cup (133 grams) frozen peas
- 2 cups (195 grams) frozen cut green beans
- ½ pound (227 grams) frozen cut spinach
- 4 cups (946 mL) chicken stock or vegetable broth plus 1 cup (250 mL) water
- 1 16 ounces (454 grams) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided (plus more to taste if necessary)
- Place a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add in the olive oil.
- Add in the diced carrot, celery, and onion, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook the vegetables for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently until they have softened slightly.
- Add the sliced Savoy cabbage and diced zucchini to the pot and toss to coat them in the olive oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently until the cabbage and zucchini have softened slightly.
- Add the frozen peas, cut green beans, and spinach to the pot and stir to incorporate them into the vegetable mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are mostly defrosted.
- Pour in the chicken stock (or vegetable broth) and the water and stir to combine.
- Add in the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (if using) and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and stir to combine.
- Cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low so that the soup simmers gently. Stir the soup occasionally for the next hour, adjusting the heat as necessary to keep the soup at a steady, gentle simmer.
- After the soup has cooked for 1 hour, add in the cannellini beans and cook the soup partially covered for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Once the soup is finished cooking, remove the Parmigiano rind, taste the soup for salt and adjust if necessary. Serve hot.
- Storage: Allow the minestrone to cool to room temperature and store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 3 months in a tightly sealed, freezer-safe container.
- Make it Vegan: Omit the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Use vegetable broth.