I still like my old cooking book. Even though these recipes could be tagged under the “Not-So-Healthy” options, they had been my faves. Is there anything that could be done to rescue them using the right substitutes, I wondered. While remaining positive, prevails the doubt if my family would actually like the healthy style. This was a challenge for me but at the same time an opportunity to have a lot of fun.
The Minestrone Soup has three particular ingredients which make it different from traditional vegetable soups: Short pasta, pancetta & basil. Pasta is high on carbs, pancetta is Italian bacon saturated with fats and sodium. By medical recommendation we should avoid consuming them, so here is where the party begins looking for the adequate replacements. My husband said that changing those ingredients would make a different recipe: A super-deli vegetable soup but not the Minestrone. Despite his encouraging comments, I decided to name it the vegetarian version of the Minestrone Soup.
A couple of years ago, I discovered this whole grain called “barley” with an interesting chewy, pasta-like consistency that makes the times for “risotto” (an Italian dish of rice) in many recipes. Barley is an outstanding food source for dietary fiber, selenium, and tryptophan, niacin, manganese, copper, and phosphorus. At 270 calories per cup, barley is a low-calorie food. I have used the “pearled barley,” which is more common and what most grocers sell. The amount of protein pack on this cereal goes way beyond the commercial pasta making it something worth trying.
After doing some research on the vegetarian substitutes for the Italian bacon (pancetta), I found that sauté mushrooms slices add the “umami” flavor that process meat provides to some dishes. Interesting, isn´t it? Let me tell you I finally put hands on the recipe with an extreme success, so I encourage you to give it a shot. Check for yourself how it is possible to enjoy of all the Italian flavors on this broth ….. without pasta!
VEGETARIAN MINESTRONE SOUP RECIPE
Prep time: 20 min. Cook time: 1 hr
YIELD: 6 – 8 portions
- 2 large carrots, diced.
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1/2 medium white onion, diced.
- 1/3 c. chopped fresh chives.
- 1 medium potato, diced.
- 1 lb. of mushrooms, sliced.
- 3 handfuls fresh Baby spinach
- 2 Tbsp. of tomato paste
- 6 c. of chicken broth or vegetable stock – low sodium (if you prefer, you can use homemade chicken broth).
- 2 Roma tomatoes, diced.
- 1 can of Red Kidney Beans (16 oz) or 2 c. of the homemade kidney beans.
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- 2-3 fresh basil leaves ó 1/2 tsp. of dried basil.
- 1/2 c. of pearled barley *(you can use 1 c. of short pasta if you prefer)
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed.
- 2 Tbsp. of avocado oil.
- Warm the avocado oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, sauté the sliced mushrooms until lightly browned.
- Add the white onion, garlic, and the chives stirring often, until the mushrooms have softened and the onions are turning translucent. (See picture A)
- Add the celery, potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots. Cook them stirring constantly until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. (See picture B)
- Add the kidney beans, broth and tomato paste to the pot. Cover and bring to boil. Let it simmer for 20 minutes approx. (See picture C)
- Add the spinach, barley and basil leaves. Season it with salt and pepper. (See picture D)
- Simmer until vegetables and barley are tender, about 30 minutes approx. (See picture E)
- Serve warm and enjoy!
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*Pearl barley: It is the most common form of barley. It’s still chewy and nutritious, but less so than hulled barley because the outer husk and bran layers have been removed. The polished grains are also softer and take less time to cook about 40 minutes.