Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Minestrone Soup and How to Cook Dried Beans

So many recipes to share, so little time. It was a serious debate with Bryant which of the past weekend's meals to share. We decided on the minestrone soup but the blueberry scone and the quiche recipes are sure to follow.

Minestrone soup is probably my favorite soup. Whenever I see it at a restaurant, I always want to get it (but often balk at paying $5 for a cup of soup). So of course, making it at home is a lot cheaper! Also, it has so many fresh vegetables that summer is the best season for it.

This recipe makes a lot of meals. It says that it serves 8 but I think we're going to get more than that out of it. We had it for dinner Saturday night, then I had it for lunch 3 days in a row and I still froze about half of it for a future meal! Definitely worth all the chopping.

Minestrone Soup
Taken from: Allrecipes
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups tomato sauce OR 4 cups crushed tomatoes OR 6 fresh tomatoes (crushed in the food processor)
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 cup kidney beans, drained
  • 1 cup white beans, drained (I used canario)
  • 2 cups baby spinach, rinsed
  • 3 zucchinis, quartered and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano OR 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil OR 1 Tbsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat short pasta (I used rotini)
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese for topping

-In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and saute garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
-Add chicken broth, water, tomatoes and red wine, bring to boil, stirring frequently.
-Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, white beans, spinach, zucchini, oregano, basil, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better.

-Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until tender. Drain water and set aside.
-Once pasta is cooked and soup is heated through place 2 tablespoons cooked pasta into individual serving bowls. Ladle soup on top of pasta and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top to taste.

Cooking Dried Beans

Also, I've finally figured out how to cook dried beans! Sad, but true. Bryant and I had a black bean fiasco a couple months ago where we soaked the beans overnight, all day and STILL they weren't ready to eat! I had also decided to soak the entire bag about 3 weeks before we moved to California. Needless to say, we had a lot of black beans before we left. I definitely had to get creative to use those up...and probably cleared out our systems in the process!

So I hadn't bought dried beans since...until they had some at the farmers market on Saturday and was going to make minestrone soup that night. Bryant reminded me of "the incident" so after searching the internet, I found that you some easy directions to follow AND they don't require overnight soaking.

Also, since dried beans are cheaper than canned, it always helps our budget (Bryant lovingly calls me "the budget nazi" thanks to my extensive excel sheet, large collection of coupons and money-saving tips). Cooked beans can also be frozen so unless you're moving in 3 weeks, you could always make a few cups at a time and freeze them for easy future uses (as I mention below, dried beans will typically triple in volume). Finally, any time you can get away from added sodium and preservatives, found in canned beans, is always a benefit!

-Rinse beans to be cooked (dried beans will typically triple in volume so 1 cup of dried beans makes 3 cups of cooked) and pick out any bad ones.
-In a large pot halfway full of water (do not add salt), bring them to a boil and boil for at LEAST 10 minutes. (Apparently, dried beans have low levels of a toxin so you need to boil for 10 minutes to make sure the toxin is removed.)
-Drain beans. Place beans in slow cooker and add 3 cups of water for every one cup of beans. Cook on high for 2-4 hours or on low for approximately 4-6 hours. Cooking times can vary by bean type.

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