Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Calm After (and Before) the Storm: Minestrone Soup

The presents have all been opened and put away, the Christmas goodies eaten (and eaten, and eaten ... not that they're all eaten yet, of course, but we're getting there).  My father-in-law and his wife were here since Christmas Eve, and left yesterday morning for their next stop, in upstate New York.  I am sitting, Moby Dick-like (yes, a white whale), on my couch, in my new fleece robe, thanks to my brother, listening to the wind outside, following up on the "blizzard" from earlier this week, which, strangely, brought our county only about four inches ... the storm just missed us, and socked the rest of the state. 

It was quiet on the roads yesterday, given that our state was still under a state of emergency.  There was still too much ice and snow to go running, and I ventured to my yoga studio, hoping that I would find that my teacher had come in--she does, after all, live only two blocks away, and the streets were clear; she was there, and two other students joined me for a very private, intimate class.  It was good to be there, to be in that space of calm after the mad rush and entertaining of the holiday.  I needed a mental and spiritual detox.  (Case in point: I got two items of clothing for Christmas, and broke out into tears because I couldn't try them on to decide whether or not they were even the right size.  Yep, love those hormones.)  At our request, we did lots of hip openers and spent an extra long time in savasana while she came around and gave us each a quick massage.  Have I mentioned how much I love my yoga teacher?  Oh, right, I guess I have.

The big accomplishment this week was finding a postpartum doula.  The one I had last time, kind as she was, just talked entirely too much ... about her kids, about band camp, about anything under the sun.  This one seems very no-nonsense, practical, thoughtful, but caring.  The down side: this one also requires a commitment of a minimum of 20 hours a week, so it will be a pretty significant expense, one we weren't really planning on.  Still, I think it will be good to have someone not related to me help us at the beginning, since we won't have any family coming to stay and help (I will bite my tongue here and not make comments about my mother), so we are going to bite the bullet and sign the contract.  I've started to pack for the hospital, too, which is strange ... I think I'm beginning to realize that that this child could arrive at any moment.  My "due date" is just over a month away.  Some relatives gave us pink clothing for Christmas (not that we need another shred of clothing; this little one will be well-outfitted for the first six months of life, I think).  I feel so not-ready for this ... then again, will I ever feel any more ready?

We've also started to make and freeze some meals, for those nights we don't feel like cooking because we're trying to figure out how to deal with a new infant: a chicken soup, a lasagna.  This week is a good week for that kind of preparation, since we're home on vacation, with some extra time on our hands. As much as I like to read recipes (and look at pictures of food) online, I'm considering getting a copy of World Vegetarian just to have, and maybe making some healthful meals from there.

While this isn't one of the things we're freezing, it is a good "detox from the holiday excess" kind of soup.  It's hearty, and filling, but has lots of vegetables in it, and you can always put in less pasta (or pick around it like I do and leave that part to your pasta-loving husband and son, like I do).

I think the first time I made this soup I was living in Los Angeles.  In fact, I think that the recipe was passed on to me from an ex-boyfriend (which would be strange, given the fact that he is probably the biggest carnivore I know).  I can't be sure.  It reminds me, though, of the time I was first learning to cook, first learning that soup didn't have to come from a can, first learning the versatility of vegetables.  Everyone should have a good minestrone soup recipe in his/her back pocket.

Tell me, what are your favorite things to make ahead and freeze, for when you know the storm is coming?

Minestrone Soup

1/2 c. dried red beans, soaked and drained (or one 15 oz. can)
5 c. water
2 c. shredded green cabbage (or kale, or spinach, or other winter greens)
1 1/2 c. chopped tomatoes (canned are OK if the fresh ones are awful)
1 small onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 medium potato, peeled and left whole
1 small potato, peeled/diced
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. salt
1 1/2 T. finely chopped garlic
1/4 c. basil
1/2 c. small shell-shaped pasta (or whatever you like)

Place all ingredients except basil and pasta in a large soup pot or Dutch oven, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until beans are tender, stirring occasionally.  This takes about an hour.

Transfer 2 c. soup to a blender (or use your handy-dandy immersion blender) to puree part of it, and return the puree to the pot.  Add the basil and pasta, and simmer until the pasta is cooked through, about 25 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season to taste with more salt and pepper, and serve, if you like, with grated Parmesan or Manchego cheese.
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  1. The postpartum doula sounds like a good investment and something that will help tremendously after the baby is born! Wow I can't believe it's only a month away...very exciting! The soup sounds great, lets see good meals to freeze...maybe a pot pie, Cinnamon rolls, soups, and definitely lasagna.

  2. I love all your pictures of food! I would love to try this recipe, but just learned that I have a sensitivity to pinto beans!! Really!

    ~Jem (ICLW #5)

  3. Listen, there have been yoga classes that I muscled through on days when I just want to walk out so badly purely so that I can get the little post class massage they often give. One instructor used to rub lotion on her hands and then for maybe no more than 5 seconds rub your temple. I would have walked through a blizzard (you did come to think of it) for that 5 seconds. It was pure heaven!

    Good for you for freezing in advance. Sounds like you're really getting prepared.

  4. Wow, your yoga teacher truly does sound amazing. I want one. :)

    As for freezing and storing, minestrone would definitely be one of the things I do. Also a big pot full of lentil dhal. I also often make a chickpea and pumpkin curry/casserole type dish and freeze that. Quite good for using up whatever leftover veges happen to be around.

  5. I was totally going to ask you what tastes good as a frozen dinner because we didn't do that with Babe and should of.

  6. I think the post-partum doula is a wonderful idea, and an act of being kind to yourself, and giving all of you the best start after your little one's arrival.

    And that soup...ach! I need to detox now:)


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