Helen Jane’s Minestrone Soup Recipe

Eat this with grilled cheeses and grapes

Other than their minimal “no thank you” helpings, and vats of ranch dressing, this soup is the number one to get good veggies into our children.

You probably see it on the meal plan, seven, ten times a month. We eat this soup a lot.

Minestrone Soup is good for your ass and ass.

We always make sure the soup is cool enough for kids to eat. To quadruple check for temperature, kids get lots of bread and dippers and we take our time.

(Tonight, we sat by the fire to watch Ratatouille while eating our soup and sandwiches.)

Helen Jane’s Minestrone Soup Recipe

3 tablespoons olive oil
6 pieces bacon, chopped fine
1 large onion
3 stalks celery
3 carrots, peeled
3 cloves garlic
1/2 green cabbage
1/2 bunch kale, washed
1 32 ounce can of chopped tomatoes
2 quarts chicken broth
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 bay leaf
2 cups water
1 16 ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons Stella shaped pasta or 1/3 cup Ditalini pasta.
A block of parmesan cheese and a fine grater

Chop the onion, celery and carrots fine. You want them small, especially if small mouths are consuming. Mince garlic. Slice the cabbage fine. Remove ribs from kale and slice fine. Open your can of tomatoes.

Your veggies are ready.

Warm olive oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven or soup pot. Add the chopped bacon and stir until cooked through and fat has melted down.

Remove the bacon from the oil to drain on paper towels. Add onions, celery, carrots, salt, pepper and bay leaf to the pot. Since I had a half red pepper left over, I chopped it wee and added that too. If you have one, join in! If not, that’s okay too!

Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
Add garlic, cabbage and kale and stir frequently until mixed through and limp.
Add can of tomatoes, chicken broth and water.

Stir through until everything is mixed. Turn heat to high, bring the soup to a boil and then turn to low and simmer. If I have a random Parmesan cheese rind, this is when I add it. If you have no Parmesan cheese rind, I promise I won’t hold it against you.

After 15 minutes, add the white beans. Cook for another 20 minutes, add the pasta (if you’re using) and cook until the pasta is tender (7-10 minutes, depending on the size). Remove bay leaves, taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Leave the bacon out and swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth and you’re looking a little Vegan around the edges.

Serve with sprinkled reserved bacon (this keeps it crunchy) and a healthy scattering of grated Parmesan cheese.
(Sometimes, when lilygilding, I drizzle olive oil over the whole thing.)

If the soup’s not enough, I like to serve this soup with grilled cheese or panini.

Healthy comfort on, my friends.
Healthy comfort on.

We enjoy soup verily.

How I remember to take my pills

How I remember to take my pills

After this year’s February of doom, I’ve taken a stronger interest in my health. Step one: Get a baseline blood panel.

Lo and behold, I was super low in Vitamin D and Vitamin B. My blood pressure is high and my sinuses are a wreck. I’ve been prescribed sprays, allergy meds, vitamins and I am back on the aspirin.

So after a few years of taking nothing but prenatal vitamins, like a lot of Americans, I’m back on the daily pill party.

As I have a lot of other tasks vying for my attention, taking daily pills just isn’t something I always remember. But at least I know enough to hack myself.

I set out my trusty Ikea votive holders (also known as our small wine glasses and the perfect pudding cups). On Sunday, I fill them up for the following week. I  start the whole thing again the next week.

Easy and pretty.
And good for me too.

Vitamin and pill cups all stacked up

Meals for Jiffer – getting my kids to eat

Thai Pork Lettuce Bundles

Looking through my archives, I see that I’ve put a mighty big share of my dinner time regulars on the site already.

2005! 2007! Hilarity! Years ago!
Oh! I was so very different.
And so very the same.

Hi Jiffer! Here are some recipes that we eat on the regular that get the food into the children and sometimes some vegetable food too.

I’m posting our minestrone soup recipe tomorrow that’s my real secret weapon in the “getting my children to eat vegetables arsenal.”

Ha! Can you imagine how unscary that actual arsenal would be? Just a locked room, filled with ranch dressing, salt, honey and those tiny happy flower Japanese vegetable cutters. The unscariest.

Anyway, happy clicking.

Artichoke dip recipe, the best

This is a photo of my favorite best artichoke dip.

In spring, I get a little goofy with happiness as three of my favorite foods come into season. Stocking up on asparagus, strawberries and fresh artichokes fills my heart with glee. (It’s the little things, isn’t it?)

Since my favorites haven’t quite yet hit the stores this season, I satisfy myself by making this cheesy, creamy perfection.

See, you need an artichoke dip recipe.
You need this for potlucks and book clubs and to impress your new beau.
You need this with corn chips or thinly-sliced, slightly crusty French bread.

But Helen Jane! I thought you were posting recipes from your meal planning this week.

Well, this recipe works because all the items can be found in your pantry. Canned, condimental (that’s a word), on hand, this is the kind of dip you can go to when there’s an event you haven’t planned for. Pop up dip!

No spinach or water chestnuts to mess up the creamy texture, this dip is all squishy smoothy comfort.

My artichoke dip makes people get all grabby.

Helen Jane’s Trusty, Tasty Artichoke Dip Recipe

2 cans artichoke hearts, quartered
2 cups mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese to mix through
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on the top

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Drain and rinse the artichoke heart cans.
(What are we, animals?)

In a large bowl, fold together the artichokes, mayonnaise, garlic, Worcestershire, pepper and the Parmesan cheese.

Scrape the mix into a baking dish. I usually split the recipe between two smaller baking dishes. This way, guests can scoop with minimal germing and maximum crusty cheesy topping.

Top the dip with the other 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake dip for 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

After removing from the oven, sprinkle with parsley, serve with tortilla chips or French bread.

Now don’t get grabby, get giddy. You have the perfect artichoke dip recipe.

This artichoke dip recipe makes my bocce team happy. That's enough right there, isn't it?

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup Recipe

Last week, Jiffer asked for the recipes for some of the foods in our rotation. This black bean soup is loved by grown ups and kids alike.

Other reasons I love this soup:
Slow cooker!

This soup cooks all day when I’m at work. At the end of the day, a quick blend gives us a tasty base for all the fixings.
(Plus, it’s great with tortilla chips.)

I put the ingredients for this soup in a large plastic bag the night before. This way, James can drain the beans and add them to the slow cooker, along with the vegetable-spice mix and the stock before work starts.
(Plus it’s great with cheese quesadillas.)

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup

1 16 ounce package of dried black beans
1 large onion
5 carrots
3 celery stalks
1 yellow or red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 bay leaves
1 container/32 ounces vegetarian stock
2 cups water

Vegetarian Black Bean Soup ingredients

Sour cream
Hot sauce
Chopped cilantro
Chopped green onions
Chopped tomatoes
Lime wedges for squeezing

The night before: Fill a large bowl with water and empty the package of beans into the water. Drain. Fill the bowl with water again and put the beans back in the bowl. Then let the beans sit overnight.

Also the night before: Chop the onion, peel and chop the carrots. Wash and chop the celery. Wash and chop the bell pepper. Peel and mince the garlic cloves. Put into a large plastic bag.

Vegetarian Black Bean Soup ingredients

I was out of ground cumin. But I had cumin seeds on hand. I toasted and ground them up because that’s just the kind of weirdo I am. (It’s easier to toast and grind than make another trip to the store.)

Toasting cumin seeds

Ground cumin in the coffee grinder

Nora Lea and Dottie did NOT like the smell of roasted ground cumin seeds.

Nora Lea doesn't like the smell of cumin

Add the spices and salt to the plastic bag and keep in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, empty the plastic bag filled with vegetables and spices into the slow cooker, add the vegetable stock.

Drain and rinse the black beans and add to the slow cooker.

Draining black beans

If your mix needs it, add up to two cups of water until it looks a little like this.

Vegetarian Black Bean Soup in the crockpot

I set the slow cooker at six hours on high, but it’s really good for up to 10 hours at low.

Slow cooker set for 6 hours

Before serving, remove the bay leaves and either blend with an immersion blender or scoop into a blender or food processor — until you get to your desired consistency. James likes it chunky, I like it smooth. We meet in the middle.

We serve with cheese quesadillas, tortilla chips and fixins.
As should you.