Hearty Minestrone

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I’ve been meaning to tell you about the salad I whipped up for Friendsgiving, but it’s been all polar vortex-y here again and I just couldn’t bring myself to make something cold. If I need multiple layers of fleece to keep my body temperature in check, it’s soup weather–and therefore time to get down with my minestrone recipe.

minestrone recipe

Let me expound upon the virtues of this meal. Tons of vegetables, two kinds of beans to keep you full, and pasta because carbohydrates are little bits of heaven. Plus, cheese! It’s delicious and warm, and I’ve been eating it with crusty bread for lunch all week.

Here’s what you need:

— 32 oz low sodium vegetable broth
— 2 cups water
— 10 oz frozen spinach
— 1 large zucchini, diced
— 1 can kidney beans
— 1 can garbanzo beans
— 1 can diced tomatoes
— 1 can tomato paste
— 1 cup small pasta
— parmesan rind
— black pepper, basil, oregano, and garlic to taste

First, add the tomato paste and diced tomatoes to the pot. I like to get the paste incorporated right away since it’s much easier to do it early. Ain’t nobody got time for red blobs floating around. Once those two are well-mixed, add everything but the pasta and let it simmer. (Yep, throw that parmesan rind in there. SO GOOD. Just fish it out when the soup is done.) I like to simmer for at least an hour, preferably two, so the flavors can meld. When you’re about 20 minutes away from eating, add the pasta.

Bonus: I make this on the stove since I’m at Casa Ronchetti all day, but if you’re going to be running around it can also be tossed into the crock pot, on low for 6-8 hours. Do the same add-the-pasta-at-the-end trick in that situation, too, or it gets kind of smooshy.

minestrone recipe

Yaaaaaaas.

Done! And now you have a whole pot of soup to feast upon the next time you have 4-6 people over. It keeps really well, too, so I just make this giant batch for the two of us every time. It’s been so nice to have something something warm this week.

What are you eating now that it’s cold and terrible outside? Who else has a killer minestrone recipe? Feel free to drop a link in the comments. Anybody else ready for lunch?

Easy Pumpkin Spice Cake

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Easy Pumpkin Spice Cake When I was 13, my parents sent me to a summer basketball camp (this was back when I still thought I, perhaps, had some athletic skills–spoiler: I don’t!) and one of my fellow campers asked me if I liked cake. I was all, “Who doesn’t?!” Turns out she meant the band, who are fine, but I get way more excited about Cake the Dessert, as most people do. You can eat it at work parties, on your birthday, with coffee for breakfast as I have done above; there’s no bad time for cake.

I’ve gotten better at making them lately, too. I used to flat-out refuse because baking a WHOLE CAKE was a lot of pressure for somebody who rarely uses the oven (I’m more of a cook as opposed to a baker), but now I have my sea legs and it’s really not so bad. In fact, I saw a trick on Pinterest a while ago and had been meaning to try it, so I finally did. I call this the can o’ pumpkin hack:

pumpkin ingredients

Literally, those are the only two things you need. Instead of the usual wet ingredients like eggs and oil, add the can of pumpkin to the cake mix. This makes it a little healthier, which is awesome because then I can eat more of it, but the real point is the flavor. Instead of regular old spice cake, now we have PUMPKIN SPICE cake. It’s the dessert version of everybody’s favorite coffee. Holla!

pumpkin2

One tip: the batter will be slightly thicker than usual, which made me nervous for a second because BAKING but it turned out just fine. I think the next time I’ll make this I’ll add some chocolate chips. Walnuts would be really good, too. Of course you could frost it, but I personally find that to be like pouring a bag of sugar into my mouth so that’s why there isn’t any. Naked cakes forever!

Have you been baking lately? Any cake hacks to share? Been enjoying the smorgasbord of pumpkin-flavored foods that pop up every fall? Who else hates frosting?

Relaxed Freezer Cooking

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Relaxed Freezer Cooking

Have you ever started doing something new and it’s a legitimate game-changer? Freezer cooking is that way for me. I decided to give it a shot earlier this year after I kept seeing stuff about it on Pinterest, and I thought it was time for an update now that it’s been several months. I’m still loving it, it’s still way easier than cooking everything day-by-day, and I’ve inadvertently started making new things (which was actually one of my goals for the year, so go me).

My approach to freezer/batch cooking is way more relaxed than most other folks who do it. Some people have these marathon cooking days and will get dinners ready for an entire month. Honestly, that sounds awful. And who can plan meals that far in advance!? Definitely not either of us, so instead I aim to get several key items for the week done. A lot of what I choose is easy to double and toss in the freezer, which I SHOULD have been doing since the day I learned how to cook, but whatever. Now I know. I tend to do most of my cooking on Sundays or Mondays, so while I was whipping things up yesterday I took a few pictures. Here’s a sample menu of things that are easy to make together.

Relaxed Freezer Cooking

Relaxed Freezer Cooking

Relaxed Freezer Cooking

Full disclosure: these peppers are totally from Whole Foods. I did heat them up, though.

It might not SEEM like there was a lot going on here, but when you cook certain things from scratch, like the beans, they need some prep time. I started the cooking process late morning when I tossed the chicken into the crock pot and the beans into water to soak. Then I pranced away and did other things for five hours. When I came back, I took the chicken out to cool and got three pots ready for the beans, quinoa, and soup. The beans and quinoa are cooked in water, while I always use some sort of broth for the soup (this time it was chicken). I also started pre-heating the oven for the jalapeños.

During this portion of the proceedings, it’s all about time management. Yesterday was a lot of waiting for things to boil, which is actually my favorite because then I can get some vegetables sautéed while I stand there. I’ve found that it helps to pick foods that won’t be ready within a few minutes of each other, because that’s when the smoke detector goes off. For example, my brain short-circuits when I try to do pasta and quinoa at the same time. Maybe you’ll have different issues, though, so if you give this the ol’ college try know that things will be hit or miss until you find your groove.

Active cooking time was a hair over an hour, and I got the quinoa, beans, soup, jalapeños, and bonus vegetables done, plus the zero-effort crock pot chicken. I’m basically done with dinners now. I might make a grilled cheese to go with the soup (or garlic bread?) and I’ll have to make some more vegetables, but that’s pretty much it. Holla!

If you want recipes, here’s a good one for quinoa, this is how I do the pinto beans, here’s the lemon chicken courtesy of Hubsey, and the chorizo stuffed peppers are from the meat department of Whole Foods. No shame. (This recipe seems pretty similar if you want to be a baller and make them yourself.)

What have you been whipping up in the kitchen? Anybody else trying freezer cooking? How do you save time when you cook?