Minestrone Soup

The weather this year has been NUTS! It seemed summer would never end with 85+ degree days in October here in NoVA! When fall finally descended in the middle of the month we got a few autumnal days…then yesterday temps took a nosedive and we woke to frost this morning!

Why is the weather forecast important?

Explains my obsession with soup! I, personally have a hard time getting and staying warm and warming from the inside with soup or hot tea are much more efficient that walking around like an Eskimo!

This recipe for Minestrone Soup is based on what I had in the refrigerator leftover from earlier in the week and pantry items I had on hand. You can choose different veggies in place of the green beans, peas or spinach. Some options would be summer squash, kale or lima beans. I cook beans in bulk and freeze – cheaper and better for you than canned options- and had red kidney beans on hand, but cannelini or great northern beans are also a good addition!

Minestrone Soup Ingredients

Minestrone Soup

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of broth or stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups of beans (kidney, cannelini, etc.)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups of chopped vegetables (green beans, squash, etc.)
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach (or chopped kale)
  • 1 cup of small pasta, uncooked
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 T dried basil
  • 1/2 T dried parsley
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook until softened about 3 minutes.
  2. Add broth/stock, tomatoes, beans and bay leaves and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
  3. Add chopped vegetables and pasta and cook to al dente according to pasta package directions.
  4. Stir in spinach and peas and season with herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaves before serving.

I served with garlic cheesy bread.

Garlic Cheesy Bread

  • Cut a fresh baguette in half, or use slices of French bread. Spread with softened butter, sprinkle garlic powder and top with shredded cheese of your choice.
  • Broil about 3 minutes until cheese is melted.

Minestrone Soup


Sweet Potato and Turkey Chili – No Beans!

It’s finally feeling like fall here in the DC area

& I’m LOVING it!

Fall calls for comforting foods – but if you have a busy family and would rather be outside – you need something quick! A meal that can be thrown together in 20 min or so and left to slow cook while the flavors develop and it get’s yummier!

This Sweet Potato and Turkey Chili is the answer! It can be made in a pot from start to finish, or started in a pan then transferred to a slow cooker, or, my preference – start to finish in the Instant Pot.

This is a complete meal in a bowl and my hubby and kids loved it! Nutrition details: packed with protein, fiber and vitamins. Gluten and dairy free as is. Vegan if made with chick peas in place of turkey and veggie broth. Can be topped with shredded cheese or served over spinach for extra veggies!

Photo Oct 10, 4 52 41 PM

Sweet Potato and Turkey Chili

  • 16 oz ground turkey (or beans for vegan)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 c chopped onion
  • 3 crushed cloves of garlic
  • 14 oz canned tomatoes in juice
  • 16+ oz broth
  • 1t Trader Joe’s Chili Lime seasoning or 1/2 t chili powder
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/4 t paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 t salt (or more to taste)
  • 1 medium sweet potato cut into 1/2″ dice
  1. Heat 1/2 T of the olive oil in a pan/pot or Instant Pot on Saute at medium heat. Add the ground turkey and break apart while cooking thoroughly.
  2. Remove the cooked turkey from the pan/pot. Add the other 1/2 T oil and the onions. Cook until translucent. Add the garlic. Cook 1 more minute. Stir in the tomatoes, 16 oz broth and spices.
  3. Transfer to crock pot if slow cooking or leave in the instant pot.
  4. Stir in the sweet potato. Slow cook for 4-6 hr on high – or until potato cooked through. In Instant Pot bring to a boil on HIGH saute setting, then cover and turn to HIGH slow cook 2 hours or until potatoes cooked through.
  5. This chili can cook all day and be even yummier. It can be made ahead, frozen and reheated. Remove the bay leaf before serving.
  6. Optional toppings – grated cheddar or feta cheese. You can serve in a bowl or over greens for even more VEGGIES!

Photo Oct 11, 7 37 14 AM

White Bean Falafel

Typically Falafel are made from chick peas or garbanzo beans. I have a recipe I’ve used for years and made small appetizer sized ones and larger traditionally sized ones. Everyone loves them. We top with tzatziki or my homemade mayo.

Well, we were out of chick peas and a big part of cooking is comfort in the kitchen to know what you can substitute or how to adapt a recipe for what you DO have on hand. I had Great Northern or white beans – so here we go! You could also use Cannellini beans.

White Bean Falafel

  • 1 can of white beans, rinsed and drained, or 2 cups of beans.
  • 1 t cumin
  • 2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 onion grated or fine dice
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 2 T flour (what ever type you like, it’s a binder)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Scoop out to desired size and bake on parchment lined baking sheet at 375 degrees for 10-12 min/ side to brown. You could also shallow fry them.

Serve warm with tzatziki sauce or mayonnaise. You can wrap in a pita with cucumber and tomato or serve over greens. Refrigerate or freeze left overs.

Color & Crunch: Broccoli Salad

It’s almost summer and there is an abundance of fresh veggies so why settle for the traditional green romaine salad. We all eat with our eyes first and this Broccoli Salad is full of color and crunch! Great to serve with grilled fish as we did, or take as a side to a picnic.

I mixed in broccoli, red cabbage, carrots and a little onion, white because I didn’t have red onion on hand. Get creative with what you have on hand. You could add in bell pepper, green cabbage or cauliflower.


Then I mixed in Craisins and pumpkin seeds, but you could use raisins, sun flower seeds, chia seeds, slivered almonds, fresh chopped grapes – get creative!

For dressing I mixed my homemade mayo, honey, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, poppy seeds, salt and pepper. But you could also use a bottled slaw dressing.


Broccoli Salad

Feeds 6, generous servings. Prep < 10 min.

  • 1 head (~2 lbs) chopped broccoli or prepared broccoli slaw
  • 2 c red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 c carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 c onion, fine dice
  • Toppings: 1 c Craisins, 1 c toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Dressing: 3/4 c homemade mayo, 2 T honey, 2 T apple cider vinegar, 1 t lemon juice, 1 T poppy seeds, salt and pepper to taste.

Toss everything together. Can be made a day in advance and refrigerated. Flavor will just get better! Refrigerate left overs up to 3 days.

Eggplant Caponata

I LOOOVE eggplant! I think part of the reason is that it absorbs the flavor of the olive oil I usually cook it with!

One of our favorites is this double-duty Eggplant Caponata – which can be served as is and/or pureed into Baba Ganoush! Dishes that can be served one way then turned into something else for a later meal save time and money.

Eggplant Caponata

  • 2 large or 4 small eggplants, chopped into 1″ cubes
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 bell peppers, red/orange/yellow, seeded and chopped
  • 2 c tomato, chopped (or 1 can of chopped tomato, drained)
  • 3 T garlic, crushed
  • 1 T dried parsley, or 2 T chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 T dried basil
  • 1/2 T dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  •  2 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss all ingredients to evenly coat with olive oil and seasonings and spread in a roasting pan. Roast about 20 minutes or until edges are browned, stirring occasionally.

Serve warm as a side dish or chilled with crostini.

Baba Ganoush: you can toss the left over caponata into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. If you want a creamier consistency you can add tahini paste. Serve as a dip or spread with grilled meats or vegetables, flat bread or on a sandwich.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The baba ganoush may freeze.

Falafel: Baked-not-Fried

Falafel is a chickpea based fritter that is traditionally fried. I tried that and burned them every time so I now bake them to perfection!

We strive to eat a couple of meatless dinners each week. These can be served alone, in flat bread, over greens, as an appetizer, you name it! They’re a crowd-pleaser and easy to batch-bake and freeze – saving even more time!

You can serve them with a Greek yogurt based sauce like Tzatziki, but we love my  Homemade Mayo (recipe follows).


  • 2 cups chickpeas/garbanzo beans (or 1 can rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 c onion
  • 1/4 c parsley, chopped
  • 1 T garlic, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1/2 t corriander
  • 1 t salt, dash of black pepper
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 c flour of choice (wheat or oat or gluten free)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a food processor with the “S” blade, combine beans, onion, parsley and garlic. Add olive oil to get it moving. Pulse or process until desired consistency – we like them smooth, but some prefer some chunks of beans, you choose. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to combine.


I use a 2 T scoop to portion onto the pan but you can use a spoon. Space about 2″ apart for even browning. Wet fingers and gently press to flatten to 1/2-3/4 ” thickness.  Bake about 10 min until brown, then flip and bake about 8-10 min to brown the other side. Serve warm with tzatziki or homemade mayo. These also freeze up to 2 months.



I have always hated mayonnaise. I thought it was just a big blob of fat filled with junk I didn’t want to eat. With the start of the Paleo and Whole 30 trends I noticed more and more people making their own homemade mayonnaise. I was intrigued and a good friend talked me into trying it and gave me a great recipe!

As with anything homemade, the quality of the ingredients is key. So I used avocado oil, fresh lemon juice and free range eggs….and it blew my mind! My husband’s, too! He didn’t hate mayo the way I did, but knew it as the sweeter “dressing” variety and was still not a fan. He loves my homemade mayo and asks for it as a regular staple in our refrigerator. Our kids love it on fresh tomatoes, in coleslaw, chicken and tuna salad, deviled eggs – and of course to top the Falafel.


  • 1 fresh egg
  • 1/2 t dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 c light oil (I use avocado)

In a high speed blender put the egg, mustard powder, salt and lemon juice. Slowly blend to combine and warm the ingredients slightly. SLOWLY, and I mean s.l.o.w.l.y stream in the oil while the blender is running. Gradually increase the speed as the mixture emulsifies and becomes white and creamy, until all the oil has been added. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.



Oat & Berry Bake

I was making breakfast-for-dinner for the fam last night and I’m on a use-up-what-we-have-on-hand kick so I tried out this new oat and berry bake and it’s amazing. Oats, nuts, coconut in the pantry. Berries in the freezer, milk and eggs in the fridge – check!

I was slammed yesterday and didn’t eat lunch until 3pm so I wasn’t hungry when I had to leave for a meeting at 6:30. Just wanted to have dinner ready for the fam. But when I came back at almost 9 I totally ate this for dinner!  Oops.

Oat & Berry Bake

(great out of  the oven or cold next day – can double for a 9×13 dish)


  • 1c nuts, roasted and chopped (I used almonds)
  • 2 c oats
  • 1 1/4 c unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ¾ t salt
  • ¼ t nutmeg

  • 1 ¾ c milk
  • 1/3 c maple syrup
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 T melted butter

  • 2 ½ c fruit (can be fresh or frozen, blueberries or mixed berries – I tossed in frozen berry blend and it was fine)
  • Topping: coconut, berries, nuts


  1. Preheat oven to 375, grease 9×9 square pan, toast nuts.
  2. Combine dry ingredients (nuts, oats, coconut, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg) in a medium bowl.
  3. Combine wet ingredients (milk, maple syrup, eggs and butter) in a medium bowl.
  4. Reserve ½ c fruit and ¼ c nuts and ¼ c coconut for topping.
  5. Place berries in bottom of dish. Top with dry ingredients. Slowly pour wet ingredients over top and press down so all oats are covered.
  6. Top with berries, coconut and nuts.
  7. Bake 40- 45 minutes or until hot through and bubbling.


You can serve as is or with Greek yogurt.

I was in too much of a rush to snap a pic before I left. This is what it looked like after I got a hold of it!

Oat &amp; Berry Bake