Minestrone Soup

The holidays are over and with the drop of a ball it’s officially a new year. There’s a good chance that a few of you have decided to start the new year off on a healthier foot. I’m not personally one for making resolutions, for me they rarely stick. Instead, I try to use moderation as a guide and make any changes I want through out the year. I started using the gym on a regular basis in the middle of August and just this past fall I started twice weekly yoga classes.

Still, after a month of heavy holiday foods, my body is just screaming for vegetables and “good for you” meals. What a body wants, a body gets. So I decided my first homemade meal of 2012 was going to be something chock full of vegetables, but still filling and comforting. Just what I needed on the day that I drove Jesse to the airport AGAIN for another trip to China. At least this time I get to meet him out there in February!

Minestrone Soup

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small zucchini, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 small yellow squash, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 small carrots, diced
1-2 celery stalks, diced
1/3 cup frozen lima beans
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 (15 oz) can reduced sodium diced tomatoes, with juices
2 (15 oz) cans vegetable broth*
3 cups hot water
1 (15 oz) can Kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups kale, finely chopped (tough stems discarded)
1/2 cup small pasta shape
Pinch of kosher salt, if needed

*Make sure to check the labels when you buy your broth. I found that my store brand had almost 200 mg LESS sodium than the national brand. I try to use as much reduced or lower sodium canned goods as possible when making this soup, especially since the cans are being layered together.

In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, zucchini, squash, celery, lima beans, carrots, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until onions turn translucent. Add the dry spices and bay leaves to the vegetables and stir. Make a well in the center of the pot and add the tomato paste. Stir to coat the vegetables. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the diced tomatoes with juices, vegetable broth, and water. Bring soup to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Increase the heat the high and bring to a boil. Add the kale and pasta* and cook for 8 minutes.

Remove bay leaves before serving. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan.

*If you plan to make this soup and eat it later, you might find that cooking and storing the pasta separately will prevent “too chewy” or soggy pasta. Personally, in soup, I kind like the next day soggy noodles.

Adapted from Food.com

Stuffed Acorn Squash


There isn’t a lot of fall weather that goes on in San Diego. In fact, the temperature last week was higher than it was for most of the summer. But that hasn’t stopped me from craving my favorite fall foods. Especially when I read posts on Facebook from all of my friends back in Ohio, which is exactly how I came across this recipe for Stuffed Acorn Squash.

It’s not something that I have ever made before, but I could tell by the ingredient list it was a winning combination. The squash adds a mellow flavor with just a touch of sweetness that balances perfectly with the somewhat spicy sausage. As with the Asian Lettuce Wraps, I was wary about using the apple. Typically fruit and savory is not a combination I like, but it works in this so don’t be afraid. Jesse kept asking, “What’s in this? It’s really good”. Which is always is a good sign.

Really quick before I get to the recipe – Today is the day that Jesse heads out for another month in China. Please excuse me while I cry like a baby having candy taken away. You’d think that maybe it would get a little easier each trip, but alas, it has not. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be OK. I’ll do what I did last time and keep myself busy and honestly a month is a whole lot shorter than his last trip. 4 Mondays. Totally doable. Now that my temper tantrum and pep talk are over, I’ll move on to the post.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash, halved and seeded
2 tablespoon butter, melted
1 clove of garlic, pressed
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1 lb mild sausage (I used turkey)
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 apple, cored and chopped (macintosh)
1 cup panko crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon sage
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the melted butter, garlic, and 1/4 tsp sage. Brush the inside and outside of each squash with the butter mix. Place the squash on a cookie sheet, cut side up, and roast for 50-60 minutes, or until fork tender.

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the sausage. When the sausage is browned, remove it from the pan and place on a paper towel lined plate, set aside. To the skillet add the onions, celery, and mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Add the apples and cook for another 2 minutes.

Return the sausage to the skillet then remove from heat. Season with sage, salt, and pepper. Stir in the panko and Parmesan. Add the egg and stir to combine.

Divide the stuffing evenly among the four squash halves. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes.

Serve with extra Parmesan for garnish.

Adapted from Food.com