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This time of year begs for warm, comforting, hearty dishes that come together quickly.  Who has time to spend in the kitchen when there’s two feet of snow to shovel?  The beauty of minestrone soup is that it’s never the same twice and doesn’t get boring, at least not in our house.  The basic formula does not vary- beans, vegetables, broth.  The specifics, however, tend to change as the wind blows.

Minestrone Revisited

Using the Year of Slow Cooking recipe as my guide, I vary what will go in the soup each time.  Kids can help prep the vegetables, even choosing which to add, and help measure and pour the ingredients.  Even if you put the soup together after your kids have already left for school, they can chop the night before to make your morning smoother.  My kids love peeling and slicing carrots, and who can say no to that?

I love zucchini in minestrone, but it’s not something I tend to have in the refrigerator in the dead of March.  So we did without, and that was fine.  This particular time around, we were shortly post-snowstorm, and I was dipping into the bottom of the crisper and back of the pantry to make dinner happen.  I used red kidney beans, chickpea (garbanzo) beans, a large can of diced tomatoes, lots and lots of chopped carrots and celery, some diced garlic, and dried onion flakes.  Unlike the original recipe, I use chicken broth rather than beef, and canned beans instead of dried.  An hour before serving, I added frozen, thawed green beans, and five minutes before serving, a few cups of fresh baby spinach.  I find the fresh spinach is so much better in the soup that frozen, as called for in the original recipe.  In an effort to keep the carbs lower, we skipped the pasta, but did serve the soup with crusty bread and Parmesan cheese.

We enjoyed the soup after a chilly day outside, and had enough leftover for two days of lunch.  It provides an awesome way to get a ton of vegetables and lean protein.  Naturally gluten and dairy free, vegetarian, and low in fat, it makes the perfect meal.  Everyone feels genuinely happy to see this soup for dinner, which is a nice compliment to the recipe. While the temps are still low, make your family a warm and healthy dinner that comes together quickly, and spend your time making memories instead.  Share your favorite wintertime recipes with our readers, below.

It’s been one of those weeks. Seriously.  Jam-packed with activities, my husband working late hours on a project, and the nice weather luring us outside as much as possible.  There are two nights a week that require me to pack our dinner into a cooler in the early afternoon and take it along to my kids’ evening activities.  While a picnic is fun on a relaxing Summer afternoon, I could do without having to pack dinner to-go on school nights, but whatever.  That’s the nature of our schedule these days.

Easy Crockpot Taco Soup

Easy Crockpot Taco Soup

I was looking for something to make in the crockpot to alleviate some of the workload, but also something different.  After our winter dinner rotation of soups, chili, and casseroles, I really didn’t want to make a meal we’d had recently.  I looked online for a recipe that would be quick and not too complicated, so that I could prepare it before we headed out for the day.  I found this recipe for Easy Crockpot Taco Soup, and I was thrilled to see I had all of the ingredients already.  A few changes (if I ever post a blog that doesn’t contain changes to a recipe, call for help; I’ve been kidnapped and am writing under duress). Instead of a can of spicy Rotel, I used another can of diced tomatoes, since we don’t like too much heat.  We use our own homemade ranch mix  and homemade taco seasoning instead of packets, and I always substitute ground turkey and chicken broth instead of beef.  It came together quickly in the morning, and we were happy to find dinner waiting after a busy day.

I have to say, this was really, really good. I suspect it was the addition of the homemade ranch mix, because that’s not something that’s ever been in any of our taco or soup dishes.  Garnished with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheddar, we all loved it.  This is definitely one we will make again!

Share a dish you turn to when you’re looking for something for different, or leave a comment below.  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.






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