Dinner the other night was minestrone soup. This is a great meal to load up on veggies! I'll post the ingredient amounts I ended up using, but just a warning that it did end up making enough for a small army. No worries, as this will freeze great since I did not add the noodles directly to the soup.
Serves a small army
1 C bulk great northern beans
1 C bulk red kidney beans
1 Tbl raw apple vinegar per cup of dried beans
2 cans organic garbanzo beans (I had cans in my pantry to use up)
3 Tbl olive oil or butter
1 medium onion
5-6 garlic cloves
1 C chopped carrot
1 C chopped celery
4 C homemade chicken stock (added water to bring to about 8 cups of liquid)
1 large can organic chunky tomato sauce (homemade is even better)
1 C chopped green beans
1 large chopped zucchini
4 Tbl fresh chopped basil
4 Tbl oregano
4 Tbl fresh chopped parsley
salt & pepper to taste
whole grain pasta shells
1 C organic baby spinach (to make it like Olive Garden's)
fresh grated parmesan for garnish
24 - 36 hrs before you plan on serving the soup for dinner, place all the dried beans you bought in bulk in a large pot and cover with water. A general rule of thumb is to use twice as much water as beans. So 3 cups beans is 6 cups of water. Then for each cup of beans pour in 1 Tbl of the raw apple vinegar. Why the vinegar? Well, the acid in the vinegar break down the phytic acid (the plant's defense mechanism and consequently a nutrition inhibitor) in the beans. This will also help to break down the beans complex sugars and to make the beans more easily digestible. Soak the beans 12 - 24 hours.
In the morning of making this for dinner, drain your beans and rinse them well. Heat the oil or melt the butter in a large stock pot. Add onions, garlic, carrots, and celery and cook for 2 - 4 minutes or until onions are translucent. Then add the rest of the ingredients except for the spinach and cheese. Cook on low all day so that the beans are nice and soft and the flavors blend to supreme goodness. In a separate pot, cook the pasta shells. Immediately after putting the soup in bowls to be served, stir in some spinach and some pasta shells. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving. Grate fresh parmesan on top.
I also like to serve this with homemade garlic sourdough bread.