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Monday, May 1, 2017

My Healthy Minestrone Recipe

Minestrone is already pretty healthy. In case you didn't know, it is an Italian dish that uses in-season vegetables. It normally includes some kind of pasta, like a penne or fusilli, and you can certainly switch out the white pasta for a whole wheat version, but I had another idea.

If you notice, I did not say this was going to be a minestrone soup recipe. I don't really like soups, but I do like stews. I don't think this necessarily qualifies as such but that is what I'm calling it. The recipe I started with was a basic crock pot soup recipe. Normally, minestrone includes beans. Although beans are good sources of fiber and protein, I would rather use this as a side dish to a protein, like chicken breast.

My recipe is as follows:

  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato pesto 
  • 4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups carrots, diced
  • 2 cups celery, diced
  • 1/2 of a large white onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large zucchini (about 2 cups chopped)
  • 2 cups cut green beans
  • 8 oz package of sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice

Add everything to the crock pot sans the zucchini, green beans, and mushrooms and rice, and cook on high for 1 hour. Add the rice, and cook for another 2.5 hours. At the two hour mark, I tend to add the zucchini in to give it a little extra cooking time. Then, add the mushrooms and the green beans and cook for another 30 minutes or until they are tender. I also let the pot sit and cool for about an hour if possible; that tends to get the liquid soaked up or thicken like a stew gravy.

I tried to do a little research on how much pasta soaks up vs. how much brown rice soaks up and couldn't really find any information on it. But, for future reference, 1.5 cups of brown rice soak up 95% of the liquid in this recipe (6 cups). So that's good to know.

This recipe made an obscenely large amount of food. It makes approximately 14 1-cup servings, which MyFitnessPal gives as only 129 calories! That's crazy. You could even take out the tomato pesto if you wanted, as it can be a bit expensive and hard to find. That's 130 calories for 1/4 cup. I'm not sure how it would affect the flavor though.

Oh, another tip. Cook up some chicken breasts like you normally would, cut them into 3.5oz portions, and just literally stick them into the stew. It's thick enough to hold them on top. But the cool part is that the chicken will soak up a little of the left over soup and keep it nice and moist when you reheat it. Pretty cool. That was discovered by accident but it works wonderfully. Hope you enjoy!

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