There are a few blogs that really inspire me...one of them being Ree Drummond's Confessions of a Pioneer Woman. Wow, that woman has humor, talent in writing, photography skills, and she cooks like no other. She is the real deal. I look forward to getting her e-mails in my in-box each morning.
Well this morning, I especially needed inspiration after a hard night with my oldest son waking up with night terrors, then getting sick. Between staying up and working until 1:00 am, then getting up with him for the remainder of the night, I didn't get much sleep. So when I opened up my e-mail this morning, and saw this recipe for a gorgeous roasted vegetable minestrone soup my heart skipped a beat or two. Oh sigh...it looked to die for!
But knowing how my Wednesdays go, I knew that shopping for the ingredients wasn't in my future. I took the van out no less than 9 times between busing kids to school, to playgroup, to preschool, to birthday parties, to friends houses to play, to tumbling lessons. Oh wait...I didn't drive my oldest two school, so scratch one of those round trips. Either way, I wore out my bus driver cap for sure today.
Somewhere in between, I decided to fill a pot with tomatoes from my Mother in Law's garden to start cooking them down into some spaghetti sauce. My garden tomatoes are just now starting to turn red. I'm praying for no frost over the next few weeks as I hope to get a late harvest. Thank goodness for over-zealous in laws planting a huge garden just for the two of them. Some peoples' entire backyards are as big as their garden plot! And their produce, is amazing!
The smell of cooking tomatoes wafting through the air, kept reminding me of Ree's soup. I could almost taste it as I looked at her tantalizing photos again and again as I squeezed a little computer design time into my day.
Then, I got a marvelous idea! I was going to stop making spaghetti sauce out of my tomatoes and do a mocked up (hopefully not too mucked up) version of Ree's soup with whatever ingredients I had on hand. I can't tell you how many times I start making one thing in my kitchen, then make a U-turn and morph it into something else. Usually, it's a lack of ingredients that forces it...but I can tell you, spaghetti sauce has way less ingredients than Ree's fabulous soup. I was setting myself up for trouble for sure!
Speaking of tantalizing photos...this isn't one of them...but it serves a purpose! These are some of the ingredients I keep on hand. I love freezers. I never let a batch of celery wilt, an onion go bad, or a green pepper get brown spots...that's because I chop and freeze them before they get a chance. Of course I love to use fresh...and I do often...but I keep a stash in my freezer for emergencies like these. Seriously... Ree's soup was haunting me by this point. If you haven't checked out her blog yet, just go now and look at those roasted zucchini, and yellow squash. You will understand as soon as you peek. Oh my!
I got a wave of excitement because I remembered I had an over abundance of yellow squash in my fridge...couldn't eat them fast enough with my Mother in Law's garden exploding. To my horror, I let them get soft, and mushy (dare I even say slimey)...way beyond anything I could work with. Why didn't I freeze those? Squash just doesn't freeze well unless you are intending upon putting it in sweet bread. If you put frozen squash in soup, it becomes part of the broth. So no roasted squash in my soup. Sniff sniff.
By now I had boiled down my tomatoes only to add water and broth for soup. That was a lot of tomatoes...so I had to add a lot of water. Did I mention I was only cooking for 3 tonight. Me, my 8 year old, my 4 year old, and my 3 year old. Since my oldest son's hunger was at bay from being ill, and Sydney got a peanut butter and honey sandwich on her way out the door to tumbling, and Colin is so picky...this actually amounted to me, making a big pot of soup for me. Did I mention that, Ree takes great pictures...that is my only explanation why I would do something so ludicrous.
Ree said not to skimp on salt, so I didn't. I love salt...not shy to say that at all. I especially love Kosher salt. Not all salts are the same...so I used my favorite tablespoon and dumped some in...tasted it, then dumped some more. By this time, I had added frozen celery, frozen onions, and frozen green beans to the pot. I also added 2 cans of kidney beans, 3 cans of Costco canned beef chunks, Italian seasoning, pepper, beef bullion cubes, and then decided to add something to make my kids like it.
My secret ingredient...Wacky Mac! Great stuff...colored with real vegetable dies too...almost a hint of a vegetable serving here, guys...well almost.
So I started cooking those in a separate pot...after adding all those ingredients above, I now had pot one and pot two going on the stove. The noodles ended up in pot two
This is pot one. Starting to look like minestrone isn't it!
Here are pot one and pot two. Yup, cooking for me and who ever else might not eat it. I better eat up!
Here's what the final product ended up looking like:
Okay...notice the Koolaid stained upper lip...I'm not too proud to say, I just got through pouring the kids a round of Koolaid. Oh, I know...all those good veggies in the soup would now be cancelled out by a glass of sugar. Well if you look closer at the photo...you will see a trio of ice cubes on the table. Colin is actually smiling because he is saying, "I spilled it Mama."
Murphy's Law of Young Families says that if you mop the floors...Koolaid or Applejuice will land on them within 24 hours. Ay yi yi!
Well, the good news...kids liked the soup. I liked the soup...it was more than edible, it was delicious, but not incredible. I'm sure it pales next to Ree's roasted vegetable Minestrone...but I fit the bill for tonight. I can't wait for another night with less chaos to make the real thing.
I bet you are all wondering what came of the remaining two pots of soup...
12 quart size freezer bags later...and we have soup for the next few months.
Recipe for Sam's Mocked-up verison of Ree's Roasted Vegetable Minestrone (long name, needs no other explanation.) I recommend trying the real thing, but if you have to, you can try mine. You don't even need all of the ingredients to make it...that's the beauty of it. Improve and go!
24 large tomatoes blanched and cooked down
lots of water broth bullion cubes...enough to fill two pots with the cooked down tomatoes
frozen onions (about a whole chopped onion)
frozen celery (about 5 stalks of celery)
frozen green peppers (about 1 peppers worth)
1 large bag frozen green beans (I didn't cut them...no time...had to run Sydney to tumbling class during this step.)
2 cans kidney beans
3 cans Costco beef chunks (broth and all)
a good palmful or shaking of italian seasoning
a couple of palms of salt (remember, we are salting two pots here)
Simmer ingredients together for as long as you have, then add the important secret ingredient to make kids like it: Wacky Mac.
Once Wacky Mac is Al Dente, serve with drink of choice. I don't recommend Koolaid.