minestrone soup

For the last couple of weeks, Mack and I have been making a conscious effort to eat healthier foods.  Both of us have been working hard to find healthy alternatives to the somewhat fattening (albeit delicious) food that we have been eating for the last few months. So far, it has been a fun challenge.  We have been reading a ton of stuff on nutrition and have found a lot of very good information so far.

One of the things that I read is that eating a broth based soup before a meal can help you lose weight, because the soup fills you up without adding a lot of calories and fat to your meal.

I have been buying store brand canned soups and taking them to work to eat for lunch.   This whole time I’ve been carefully choosing what I thought were “healthy” soups.  Those that were low in fat, low in calories, full of veggies, and contained no MSG…  or so I thought…

Upon closer inspection of the label, I found something called “vegetable protein (hydrolyzed)” in the list of ingredients.   Having no idea what it was, I googled it.   It turns out that it is actually a form of MSG!

What is MSG you ask?  MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a food “enhancer”.  I am not a scientist, but basically MSG is a chemical that makes your brain think that what you are eating tastes great– even if it doesn’t, and is nutritious– even if it is not.   MGS can also cause asthma, migraine headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, etc. It’s pretty nasty stuff and there’s really no reason to eat if it if you can avoid it.  Check out this website for more information.  http://www.truthinlabeling.org/

I was pretty mad when I realized that the soup that I specifically purchased to avoid eating any MSG actually contained it.   The HUGE LABEL saying MSG FREE was just a lie from the soup company to get me to buy it.  That’s messed up.

I guess it was my own fault for not reading the label more carefully.  Hydrolyzed vegetable protein was always there in the list of ingredients, it was just hidden sneakily behind the huge letters saying: NO MSG.  It seems like everything that we purchase from the store these days  is packed full of chemicals to make the food last longer, and taste “better”, and in the end saves the food company money by selling us cheaper, inferior, less nutritious products.  It’s really sad.

At any rate, I took all of this information to heart, and immediately started looking up soup recipes…. more specifically, minestrone recipes. I have always loved minestrone soup.  There’s something about the vegetables, pasta, beans, and tomatoey broth that is so delicious to me.

Here is the recipe that I came up with based on a few different recipes I found online.

We had a bunch of veggies in the box this week that I could use for the soup; so luckily, I only had to pick up a few items from the store.  The end result was so good!  It tasted even better than the store brands, and we had enough soup to eat for dinner on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, AND I took a bunch to work for lunch.

Ingredients in soup

Ingredients

•    2-3 cups green beans
•    1 bunch dinosaur kale
•    2-3 cups spinach
•    2 leeks
•    3-4 carrots (peeled)
•    4 ribs celery
•    1 large yellow onion
•    3 monster sized elephant garlic cloves (or about 10-15 small cloves)
•    Fresh rosemary
•    Fresh parsley
•    2 pattypan or sunburst squash (or spaceship squash, as I like to call them)
•    1 green zucchini
•    1 yellow zucchini squash
•    6 smallish red heirloom tomatoes & 1 large yellow heirloom tomato (this could be also substituted with 2 15oz  cans of diced tomatoes)
•    1 15oz can organic, Italian seasoned diced tomatoes
•    1 15oz can organic cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
•    1 15oz. can organic garbanzo beans
•    Dried basil, oregano, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
•    1 cup elbow macaroni (or any small pasta you like)
•    4 cups organic vegetable stock
•    8 cups organic chicken broth

Start by chopping up the carrots, zucchini, and squash into small bite sized pieces.  I used 3 different types of squash because we had a bunch, but you could easily use any squash that you like.    Put everything in a BIG soup pot.

Puree tomatoes in food processor. (If you don’t have a food processor, then just cut them up really small with a knife.)  I used a bunch of heirloom tomatoes because we got them in our veggie box, but you could substitute these for regular tomatoes or even use canned tomatoes. Add to pot.

Dump onions, celery, garlic into the pot

Trim the ends of the green beans and break into small bite sized pieces. Add to pot.

Trim & discard the thick stem from the kale.  (You could also skip the kale and just use extra spinach.) Cut the leaves into small pieces and add to pot.

Add the spinach to the pot.

Chop celery, garlic, onions, & leeks into small pieces.  Add to pot.  I used elephant garlic for the first time in this soup.  (HOLY COW- these cloves are the size of my palm!)  Chop the garlic up into small pieces and add to pot.

Giant elephant garlic

Add the canned tomatoes to the pot.  Rinse and drain the beans and add them to the pot.

Add all the broth.  I used vegetable broth AND chicken stock to add extra flavor. You could use just vegetable broth though and no chicken stock though if you wanted the recipe to be fully vegetarian.   (Also, make sure to read the labels on the chicken stock.  I found several brands that were full of MSG even though the label on the front said otherwise…)

All together now

Add fresh rosemary, parsley, dried spices, and a generous amount of kosher salt to the pot.

Stir the whole mix around well, and heat over med-high heat.  Bring to boil, and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, add dry pasta and continue cooking for an additional 7-10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender (but not completely mushy), & the pasta is cooked al dente.  Serve and garnish each bowl with a bit of parmesan cheese.

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