by Christel Swasey
I accidentally made Shrek Soup. For a party. Oh, it was scary, the night before, when I realized that the delicious soup that I had concocted appeared so brown and gluey. My 14-year-old daughter said, “Mom, it tastes good but it looks like something Shrek would eat.”
Note to self: If you add carrots to potato leek soup, do not puree any of them, as the orange carrots mix with the green leeks, turning the soup an ugly brown.)
In preparation for this holiday party, in which forty people were going to come to dine at my small house (which actually fits about eight people, tops) I had asked three of my guests to bring pots of soup. I’d planned to make the fourth pot, and to bake rolls and cookies, and it would be a bread-and-soup based, simple, hearty feast.
I had planned to serve my guests what I thought was a fool-proof potato leek soup, the rich and creamy and irresistible version with a secret ingredient of whipping cream, but then: two things happened:
a) Because I had tried to wing the recipe and not read the recipe, it turned out badly the night before so I didn’t dare serve it to guests.
b) After the fact, my conscience got the better of me. Leeks and cream taste great, but the antioxidants in the leeks don’t cancel out the fat and cholesterol in the whipping cream, contrary to popular thought.
So, I searched for a healthy soup online and found one. It had to be different from the three soup flavors my friends had told me they were going to bring. And I had to run to the store, get the ingredients, and make it quickly.
So, the healthiest, easiest, yummiest-sounding soup that I found was on the Mayo Clinic’s website. It’s a minestrone that they’ve improved by using unsalted chicken broth and fresh tomatoes rather than canned tomatoes, limiting the sodium content. I doubled this recipe and I also quadrupled the amount of pasta, so that the soup would feed more people. I also added the beans and pasta separately, because I fear overcooked pasta.
It turned out perfectly. We still have leftovers, three days later. I just warmed some up for lunch and it is wonderful!
The good thing about making a healthy choice (like serving the Mayo Clinic Minestrone, rather than high-fat –although admittedly delectable– potato leek cream soup) is that you can fill up on this nutrient-packed soup and will end up eating fewer pieces of fudge (or whatever else your heart desires but gets clogged and sludged by.)
So, here’s a great idea for a holiday gathering.
My version of The Mayo Clinic’s Minestrone:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2 carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups fat-free, unsalted chicken broth
4 large tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped spinach
3 cans canned beans (I used 1 chickpeas and 2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed)
1 and 1/2 cup uncooked small shell pasta
2 small zucchinis, diced
5 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
DIRECTIONS: (My version)
In a large saucepan, I heated the olive oil over low to medium heat. Next, I added the onion, celery and carrots and sauteed 5 minutes. Then I added garlic and continued cooking for another3 minutes. I stirred in broth, tomatoes, spinach, and zucchini. While it boiled very briefly, and then simmered, I cooked the pasta separately. Last, I added the beans and the pasta and fresh basil, just before serving.
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