Minestrone Madness

My poor BF came down with a cold, so despite the time crunch of
weeknights (I get home around 8:30 pm) and my habit of cooking mainly
on weekends, I wanted to put together something quick, satisfying, and
not too hard on the stomach.

Chicken soup is the quintessential grandmother's cure-all, but I
didn't think that would be enough sustenance for a grown boy.   A
chicken-broth-based soup, however, is a good starting point.  We both
love minestrone, and the heartiness can be dialed up or down depending
on your preferences, so that's what I settled on.  Extra points for
requiring minimal prep time before my slow cooker does the heavy lifting.

Besides tasting homey and comforting, minestrone is also terrific
because you can use up odds and ends, and throw in whatever vegetables
you have.  I had some extra cauliflower and tomatoes from the Superbowl,
so in those went. (I actually made this soup a few days ago, so the
veggies were a day old, not 4!)  Feel free to improvise to your heart's
content.

Here it is, mid-seasoning:

Serve hot, with italian bread.  For a really easy gourmet touch,
finish each bowl with a small spoonful of pesto and/or shaved
parmesan.  Seriously, what goes together better than tomatoes, basil,
and cheese?

Next time, however, I'm going to try this sweet potato, corn, and jalapeno bisque from the Wednesday Chef (found on the awesome blogroll of City Girl Lifestyle!)

What do you eat when you're sick?

Recipe below:

Ingredients:

[Omitted because I was too lazy to go to the grocery store:
2 medium carrots, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced]

What I had in the fridge and pantry:

1 medium onion, diced
2 medium red bell peppers, diced
Cauliflower florets
Grape tomatoes, about 1 cup
2 tsp crushed garlic
Olive oil
Pepper, basil

1 can garbanzo beans (16 oz), drained - Kidney beans are also a good addition
1 cup frozen corn
2 cans organic diced tomatoes, with juice
1 small can organic tomato paste (6 oz?) - A lot of recipes call for V8
or other vegetable juices, but I don't think the extra sodium is
necessary at all.  Tomato paste gives it flavor without excessive salt.
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

To make the soup more of a meal, I added:
1/2 lb meatballs or seasoned lean ground turkey
1 cup small pasta

The basic recipe:

In a large pan, saute the raw vegetables with garlic and olive oil until tender. (5-10 min)

In the slow cooker, layer garbanzo beans, corn, and pasta on the
bottom, followed by sauteed veggies, then cover with tomato paste and
diced tomatoes.

In the now-empty pan, saute the ground turkey or meatballs until
just browned.  When I'm lazy and using ground turkey, I like to leave
the meat in larger chunks so it doesn't disperse throughout the soup as
much.

Layer the meat on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker.

Pour in the 4 cups of chicken broth.

Cover and cook on HIGH for 3-5 hours or LOW for 6-10 hours. 
Depending on the absorbency of your vegetables/pasta, you may need to
add up to 2 cups more water to get a more soupy consistency.  If your
soup is too watery, you can puree a cup of it in a food processor, then
add it back; or use a couple teaspoons of instant mashed potato flakes
to thicken it up.

Season to taste with pepper and herbs in the last 30 minutes or so; the flavors will be more true to the finished product.

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