In my quest to save some money on groceries, yet still buy organic and seasonal produce, I recently discovered a new love for winter vegetables; especially root vegetables, greens, and cabbage.
My memories of stuffed cabbage, sauerkraut, or overcooked greens made me steer away from these for a while, but when cooked right, these affordable winter gems can be pretty darn tasty!
Greens can get bitter easily, and will benefit from being prepared alongside other vegetables that have sweeter taste (carrots, celery, onion), savory taste (like bacon), or a creamier texture (beans, cream).We made this winter soup recently. And by “we” I mean: I picked a recipe from a book, we simplified & modified it, and then my husband cooked it. We both had moderate expectations for the outcome of this dish. It called for toasted, day-old peasant bread and we didn’t have any. So we omitted the extra water it called for. It still came out with a lot of extra broth, but tasted great. Great to us – would the kids eat it? The vegetables were clearly visible… what to do?
Throw in some pasta! The kids will love that and it’ll absorb some of the extra broth. Win – win!!!
I wished we had used whole grain pasta, but the only soup & kid friendly (=small) shape we had on hand were regular elbow macaroni. See, we don’t always do things perfect, but a good 80/20 rule will work just fine. Use what you have and don’t stress about going back to the store. Sometimes it’ll turn out just fine, maybe better than you thought.
This original recipe also called for some savoy cabbage but we had already used the one we had the day before for our cabbage, bacon & mashed potatoes dinner, so we just left it out. Made no difference to me.
This soup turned out DELICIOUS!!! I took one spoonful and knew I had to post the recipe here to share with you. It’s too good not to share. What’s even better is that it’s cheap, easy to make and packed with nutrients! My very selective almost-5-year-old ate a whole bowl without complaining one bit. Well, I did tell her that we’re having macaroni & bacon soup for dinner. That kid loves bacon…
Here’s how you can make yourself some macaroni & bacon soup (with extra vegetables):
Total time: 45 minutes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4-5 slices bacon, chopped
1 bay leaf
3-5 fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch Swiss chard or kale (3 large leaves), coarsely chopped
1 15-oz. can chopped tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper
1 15-oz. can cannellini or Navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup elbow macaroni
Heat the olive oil in soup pot or deep skillet over medium-low heat.
Add the onions, bacon, sage and bay leaf and cook until the onions turn transparent, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the carrots, celery, and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the greens, tomatoes. Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the greens are wilted.
Now add the chicken stock and increase the heat to bring everything to a quick boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the beans and pasta and cook until pasta is tender – about 10 more minutes.
Optional: grate some parmesan over it just before serving.
Veggie Lovers note: You can totally make this vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken stock, and instead of the bacon just use extra herbs and a healthy drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.
What’s in it?
Not just for flavor, onions provide vitamin C, K, B1 and B6, dietary fiber, biotin, folic acid, and chromium. What’s more interesting though is that they can decrease blood lipid levels, prevent clot formation and lower blood pressure (yay for people at risk for heart disease!). What makes you cry when cutting onions are the organic sulfur compounds that react with oxygen in the air once exposed. Tip: Refrigerate your onions about an hour before cutting to reduce the activity of tear-causing enzymes.
A lovely aromatic herb that is best used fresh. Sage can have blood sugar lowering effects in diabetics. It has antimicrobial benefits and can aid to reduce perspiration. Pregnant and nursing women are advised to limit the consumption of sage as it can dry up the flow of milk during lactation.
Is so much more than a garnish for your Bloody Mary. Celery is an excellent source of vitamin C, B1, B6, B2, potassium, folic acid, calcium, and fiber. It contains phytochemical (=plant based) compounds called coumarins, which have shown to be helpful in cancer prevention by enhancing certain white blood cell activity. These same coumarins may also be useful for migraines as they tone the vascular system, and lower blood pressure. Many headaches are caused by constricted blood vessels.
Chock full of beta carotenes (plant based precursors for Vitamin A) we have always known that carrots are great for healthy eyes. They also provide you with vitamin K, biotin, and fiber along with vitamin C, B6, potassium, and thiamine. Their antioxidant compounds help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Cooking carrots actually improves our bodies’ ability to absorb their nutrients.
Similar to onions, garlic is a great way to load up on vitamin B6, vitamin C, and the important minerals manganese, selenium, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, iron, and copper. The health benefits of garlic can fill books and whole websites: garlic can protect against atherosclerosis and heart disease, it can lower total serum cholesterol levels and increase the good (HDL) cholesterol levels (HDL is considered a protector against heart disease). It can lower blood pressure, fight infections, protect against some cancers, and help with asthma.
As most dark, leafy greens, Swiss chard is packed with nutrients: carotenes, vitamins C, E, and K, fiber and chlorophyll. Look for organic greens to ensure optimum levels of minerals from a healthy soil. Swiss chard delivers magnesium (most of us are deficient in magnesium), manganese, potassium, and iron. It also provides vitamin B6, calcium, protein (!), thiamine, zinc (great for fighting infections), niacin, folic acid, and selenium. This long list of nutrients makes Swiss chard one of the most powerful anti-cancer foods, especially those of the digestive tract. Vitamin K is important for maintaining bone health, as it activates osteocalcin which anchors calcium molecules in your bones for healthy, strong bones.
Fully ripe tomatoes provide a great source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, B6 and K, lycopene, biotin, pantothenic acid, niacin, folic acid, and dietary fiber. Lycopene is the star content in tomatoes: it has shown to protect against cancers (breast, lung, colon, skin, and prostate), lower the risk of heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration. How? Lycopene neutralizes harmful free radicals before they can cause damage to our healthy cells.
A great source of protein for this hearty dish! Aside from lean protein, they provide complex carbohydrates to help you feel full longer and aid digestion. Beans in general are a great source of folic acid, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. Their high fiber content helps lower cholesterol, and keeps blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly. Their antioxidants, folic acid, and vitamin B6 contribute to a healthy heart.
Small red kidney beans also offer powerful antioxidants to help protect against cancer.
Stock (or broth) is best when homemade. Although there are some great organic versions now, but the smell of delicious broth in your house is unbeatable. It’s super easy to make and you can use leftover bones from a roasted chicken or uncooked bones. Stock is a cheap, but nutrient dense food that is getting a little more attention again.
Most of us are deficient in many of the minerals we need for good health. This is not only because we eat less and less fresh vegetables, but also because conventional farming and monocultures have stripped our soil from its minerals, making the food that’s grown on it less nutritious. Overconsumption of meat also causes our bodies to become too acidic, and without the help of the alkaline forming minerals, the results are chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Bone and vegetable broths are rich in calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Aside from balancing your body’s pH levels, mineral intake will also fight osteoporosis, and play vital roles in hormone production and metabolism. The high collagen content of bone broths also makes for healthy joints, nails, hair, and skin.