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Minestrone Soup with Cheesy Garlic Toasts

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All you can see of me now is my feet high up in the air.  I am lying on my belly and wedged deep within the back of my refrigerator finding those lost items that managed to fall between the crevices of the chiller and the meat department.

Minestrone soup with Cheesy Garlic Toasts

It's a sad day here in Bam's Kitchen. All I can find for a protein source is a few lonely slices of bacon. How in the world am I going to feed 2 hungry strapping teenage boys with 6 little pieces of bacon?

I cut up the bacon into small pieces and put it into the soup pot hoping that miraculously it would transform into a lovely broth. Maybe I should call this "Stone Soup". I rustled up a plethora of fresh vegetables and lovely spices off the spice rack and threw them into the pot as well.

Minestrone soup with Cheesy Garlic Toasts

The forage continues on to the pantry...Ahhah...I see some dried high protein cranberry beans that I used for a New Years game. During the party, I had placed a handful of the beans on the kitchen table and handed all the kids a straw. The kid that was able to suck up the most dried beans with their straw in 5 minutes wins. (great game for kids on snow days or typhoon days and over served adults alike) Don't worry the beans were bigger than the straw and I will not be using the "used" beans on the menu.

cranberry beans

I made a rich and flavorful minestrone soup, chock full of vegetables served with a side of cheesy garlic bread is a hearty and comforting meal that is budget friendly and easy to make.

Minestrone soup with Cheesy Garlic Toasts

If you have cranberry beans already cooked in a can, then you can have this delicious meal on the table in less than 30 minutes. If you are using dried beans like me, I have a fast and easier method for preparing your beans instead of soaking them overnight. For a quick soak, boil your beans in 8 cups of water for 10 minutes and then let stand for 2 hours. Drain the beans and place in a medium saucepan with 8 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 1 hour.

I added the beans, some gluten-free vegetable broth, canned tomatoes some fresh basil and more herbs to the lovely "stone soup".  If you did not have a lactose intolerance, then adding a rind of parmesan cheese to the soup whilst cooking gives it an amazing flavor. The aroma from the soup was magnificent and now my hungry teenagers were in the kitchen asking when they could eat. I saved the cheesy deliciousness for the bread served on the side. I just had a couple of last touches to complete this simple meal.

Minestrone soup with Cheesy Garlic Toasts

The star of this recipe is the fresh and beautifully vibrant green spinach leaves from the fresh market. I added them just at the last couple of minutes, just until they wilted in the soup.

Minestrone soup with Cheesy Garlic Toasts

The best part of the recipe is that you get to use whatever you have in your kitchen or pantry. Experiment with different kinds of beans. You can try navy, garbanzo, kidney or whatever you have in your pantry. If you don't have fresh spinach, try kale or swisschard or swap out for some zuchinni or butternut squash instead.  It is all about improvising and using up what is in the refrigerator and pantry. If you don't have elbow macaroni try some whole wheat spirals or tri-colored shells or maybe even tortellini. Now that sounds really good. Hmm, might even try that one myself next time.

Minestrone soup with Cheesy Garlic Toasts

I made a quick cheesy garlic toast in the oven and added some gluten-free pasta in the last couple of minutes and dinner was served. This would be a great recipe to throw in the crock pot before leaving for work in the morning. If you are diabetic or gluten intolerant, hold the garlic cheesy bread on the side. If you are using a crock pot or plan on making extra for left overs tomorrow, you may wish to boil your pasta on the side and add to the soup later.

Minestrone soup with Cheesy Garlic Toasts

I hope this heartwarming soup helps unthaw your cold hands after shoveling the snow or making snowmen while you are trying to keep the kids occupied on their snow days. Sending some warm thoughts and breezes from Hong Kong your way and I hope spring comes soon.

 

WHAT’s FOR DINNER?

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Minestrone Soup with Cheesy Garlic Toasts

By HWC Magazine  , ,

February 8, 2014

Rich and flavorful minestrone soup, chock full of vegetables served with a side of cheesy garlic bread is a hearty and comforting meal that is budget friendly and easy to make.

  • Cook: 5 hrs
  • Yields: 4 Adults or 1 Hungry Teenager

Ingredients

cranberry beans - 1 cup (I used dried beans but you can save time and use a canned cooked beans too)

water - 16 cups (skip this step if using canned beans)

bacon - 6 strips bacon chopped

onion - 1 small chopped

garlic - 3 cloves chopped

carrots - 1 large chopped

celery - 2 stalks chopped

canned tomatoes - 16 ounces crushed (I pulsed them in the food processor as my boys do not like chunks of tomatoes)

vegetarian broth - 8 cups (can also use beef or chicken broth mine was gluten free)

bay leaf - 2

basil - 1/2 teaspoon dried

oregano - 1/2 teaspoon dried

thyme - 1/2 teaspoon dried

rosemary - 1/4 teaspoon dried

parmesan cheese - 1 rind (hold if lactose intolerant or can add grated parmesan cheese at the end of the dish)

salt and pepper - to taste

sugar or sugar alternative - 1 teaspoon/pinch just mellow out the canned tomato

cayenne pepper - 1/8 teaspoon (optional)

pasta elbows - 1 cup dried (I used gluten free)

spinach - 2 cups fresh chopped

Garlic Cheesy Bread

bread - 1-2 slices per person french, sourdough, whole wheat or whatever kind of bread you like

mozzerella cheese - 3/4 cup grated

garlic powder - 1/4 teaspoon or just sprinkle on top of each mozzarella bread slice

Directions

1If you have canned beans skip this step and proceed to step 2. Wash and pick over your dried cranberry beans (or other beans of choice). For a quick soak, boil your beans in 8 cups of water for 10 minutes and then let stand for 2 hours. Drain the beans and place in a medium saucepan with 8 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 1 hour. (Do not add salt to the water as this can toughen your beans) Alternatively you can soak your beans over night. If you use canned beans, this will cut your cooking time down to 30 minutes. Pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees celsius to bake your cheesy bread.

2In a large soup pot, add bacon and onions and cook until the onions are caramalized and the bacon is lightly browned. Add the garlic, celery, carrots and cook until slightly tender. Add the crushed tomatoes. I puree the crushed tomatoes as my teenagers dislike big chunks of tomato in soups and stews.

3Add the vegetarian broth, bay leaf, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parmesan cheese rind (if desired), salt and pepper to taste, sugar or sugar alternative, cayenne pepper (if desired) and stir. Add the cooked beans and let simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. (You can use fresh herbs as well and if you do not have all of the herbs listed just use the ones you have and just do a taste test and adjust accordingly)

4Add your pasta elbows to the soup and cook for about 8 minutes or until tender (If you do not like your soup thick for the left overs tomorrow, you can cook your pasta on the side and add it add it to the soup)

5Slice your bread and allow 1-2 slices per person (or a whole half a loaf for each teenage boy...). Pup some of the mozzarella on top of each bread slice and then sprinkle with a little garlic powder and pepper if you wish. Pop your cheesy breads in the oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese melts and bread edges are slightly toasty bronze.

6Add the chopped spinach and cook for just about 1 minute or until just wilted so it stays green and vibrant. Check the soup for seasoning and adjust as needed. Remove the parmesan rind.

7Serve this wonderful hearty soup in a big bowl with your cheesy toasts and enjoy!

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