One change that has steadily made itself a firm fixture in our life is homemade “stock” food. By stock I mean food that one would normally (at least in our case) buy already made – canned food. We had already transitioned from canned veggies to frozen/fresh veggies so it was only a matter of time until we made the leap in other areas. My hubby thought that I’d taken this to new heights when I came up with the novel idea of making our baked beans for breakfast (a full English breakfast featuring eggs, beans, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, fries/hash, and mushrooms).
“Why can’t I find a recipe for baked beans!? How hard could it be?” My frustration was met with a moment of silence.
“Who wants to make baked beans when you can buy them?” countered my astute husband.
He made a point that many seemed to have agreed upon. There were many recipes for Boston Baked Beans and other yummy American versions, but as anyone who has had a can of Heinz Baked Beans knows, the Boston bean has no place on the English breakfast plate. Apparently the humble British Baked Bean wasn’t gourmet enough for a recipe.
I was finally able to dig up a recipe that I had to tweak (I’ll feature that on here when I have to make it again in a few weeks). All of this wouldn’t have happened if it were not for my trusty Kroger Vegetarian baked beans upping their sugar levels. When you eat these beans at least once a week, you notice these things.
Yesterday was my minestrone soup day. We like a bit of soup with our sandwiches for lunch and a year ago the soup that would have featured prominently in our bowls would have been this:
(or some version of it). This, by the way, is the LAST can that I’ll willingly buy of the stuff. It had been about a year or so since the last can of Progresso, so my memory of it was based on my taste-buds’ reactions to it at the time: a bit tomato-y, chunky, and an overall decent can of soup given its nature.
Eating a bowl of the stuff last week made me wonder what abuse my poor tongue had undergone over the years to ever think that this was in any way “decent.”
I’m a big believer in the idea that if you are exposed to something long enough, you will think of it as normal. Canned food is one of those things. Canned beans, tomatoes, and soups are as ubiquitous as canned vegetables – we eat them because they’re easy and, well, that’s what you do. You eat canned veggies in recipes and call that “from scratch.” Once you break that chain your taste-buds adapt to the “cleaner” taste of food and you never go back.
Or, at least if you do, you’ll wonder what possessed you to pick up that can in the first place.
My hubby isn’t a big soup eater, in general. There are certain types of soups that he likes and I’ve learned which ones are probably going to be a hit. One soup that he definitely likes is minestrone. When I first started fiddling with the idea of making my own soup, I opted for “Best Darn Minestrone Soup Around” recipe on AllRecipes.com. It sounded good and it had great reviews. I scaled it down and fixed it and it really was good. What I didn’t like about it was the amount of fat and dairy involved (when a recipe calls for 4 cups of heavy cream, a shiver runs up my spine).
So I tweaked. A lot. In fact, it hardly looks like the same recipe, but I do have to give credit to the original recipe since it did give me inspiration. This recipe feeds two people about 6 times (and it freezes really well).
- 1 Cup of white beans (I clean, soak, and cook my beans prior to adding them to the soup. You can also add the bean “broth” to the soup to add flavor and also liquid to your soup.)
- diced onion, carrot, and celery (add as much as you want)
- 1/2 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
- 1/2 cup barley (give or take – cook it prior to adding it to your soup or else the soup will get really thick)
- 1 Can of diced tomatoes with juice. I bought this thinking that it was actually going to be a can of crushed tomatoes (like in the picture – I really should have known better). Instead, it was more tomato sauce with bits. I fretted that this would make the soup too tomato-y (something the hubby hates), but it didn’t.
- 1 teaspoon (or tablespoon depending on your likes) crushed garlic. I love this stuff from Trader Joe’s.
1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon (or two cups vegetable broth)
- 1 cup macaroni (I cooked it prior to adding, again, and dumped the reserved liquid into the soup. If you think your soup has too much liquid by this point, then drain and add.)
- chopped turnip greens (about 5 big leaves)
- chopped frozen spinach
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 tbsp dried parsley
- Dash of pepper
- Prepare beans night before (or use canned)
- Chop onion, carrot, and celery. Add to pan (either with some butter or use non-stick spray). Cook until just tender.
- Add garlic, pepper, Better than Bouillon, mixed vegetables, and tomatoes. Bring to boil and let simmer.
- While soup is simmering, cook prepared beans in small pan. When beans are just tender, add to soup.
- Cook barley and add to soup. Continue simmering.
- Cook macaroni in small pan until al dente. Add to soup. (Limp noodle isn’t an insult in this house. If this isn’t your idea of a good thing, then add the noodles to the soup once the beans are soft and cook until tender.)
- Add basil, parsley, turnip greens, and spinach and cook until everything is tender. Generally the entire simmering time takes a couple of hours in total (from the first simmer to this step). Serve!