My dear readers...I've missed you! I won't apologize because you all were so kind to point out after my last absence that I have no reason to, but I will say that life has been, in one word, busy. The kind of busy that comes with having a house guest for two full weeks. The kind of busy that sends you to Florida for an unexpected family emergency. The kind of busy that keeps you in the office until 3am to meet a deadline. The kind of busy that leaves you with little time to cook, let alone time to write about what you cook.
And, in the midst of all of that busyness, I've become completely obsessed with this book. And this one. So, the little spare time I've been able to find over this last week (you know, like when I should be sleeping), I've spent engrossed in the world of Edward and Bella. Its been so long since I've read a romance, let alone a fantastical one involving vampires and werewolves, that I'd forgotten how nice it is to step out of my own busy world for chunks of time to get lost in a fictional one. I don't know how I managed to resist the inexplicable pull of the saga for so long, especially with all of the hype the movie created last fall (which I finally watched last weekend in Florida with my stepsisters and which led to my buying the first book in the airport on the way back home) but the escape has been welcome. I feel a bit silly, especially when I read reviews that state "teens will relish this newest adventure...", but as a friend pointed out, there's just something about a good vampire romance that the female population can't resist, no matter how juvenile the books may be. And this female can't disagree.
When life gets hectic Brian and I try to plan meals that are quick to prepare and last for days. Our crock pot comes in handy on these occasions, acting as our own personal chef slaving away while we're at the office. This particular soup was the result of us running home on our lunch break to read a chapter of Twilight let our dogs out and discovering while hastily making sandwiches for lunch that we had some veggies in the fridge that needed to be used up. Knowing that there would be no time after work to prepare dinner (this was to be the 3am night), I pulled down the trusty crock pot and got to work. In one hour's time Brian and I ate lunch, made dinner, cleaned the kitchen AND I got a little reading in. Talk about productive.
That evening I hurried home, ladled soup into pyrex bowls, grabbed a bottle of wine and our dogs and got back to work. Even though dinner was eaten while sitting in front of my computer it felt good to know that it was homemade and healthy, so much better than the take-out that is usually consumed on such late nights.
This week will be busy as well (I had to work this weekend to prepare for it) but hopefully things will be back to normal soon. And, I'm halfway through the Twilight saga, for which my kitchen (and my husband!) will be grateful, I'm sure.
Obviously this recipe can be modified in many ways to suit different tastes. I personally think that adding a bit of spice to the broth would be delicious.
Crock Pot Minestroneserves 6, or 2 for three meals
1 large zucchini, or 2 small, diced into bite-size chunks
2 summer squash, diced into bite-size chunks
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped ham
28-oz can of diced tomatoes (I used the kind with basil)
8 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh oregano
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup dried cannellini beans
1 cup Israeli cous-cous, or other small pasta
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach
Put the chopped zucchini, squash, bell pepper, ham, tomatoes, beans, bay leaves and fresh thyme in the crock pot.
Heat oil over medium heat in saute' pan. Add onion and saute' for 3 minutes. Add garlic and fresh oregano and saute' an additional minute. Add mixture to crock pot and put pan back on heat.
Add chicken broth to saute' pan to de-glaze the pan. Pour into crock pot.
Cook soup on high for 6 hours. When the beans are tender, add the cous-cous or pasta and fresh spinach. Place lid back on crock pot and continue to cook until pasta is tender and spinach is wilted, about 15 minutes.
Salt and pepper to taste. (be sure to remove thyme stems and bay leaves before serving)
Good evening! Tonight Brian and I tried an after-work run downtown. It was fantastic! The temperature was a good 10* warmer than it was this morning, we were still in "go" mood from being at work and, best part, we weren't trying to drag ourselves out of bed and onto the road. We did a little under a 1/2 mile warm-up walk, 1-1/2 mile run and a 1/4 mile cool-down walk. It was perfect. This was my first 1-1/2 mile run on the road (not the track) since the start of the training program and it felt really really good.
For dinner we had leftovers in the fridge for Brian, so I wanted to put something easy together for me. I was still in comfort food mode and wanted something warm and satisfying after being out in the cold. So, I pulled an Amy's Tomato Bisque out of our pantry, a couple of slices of leftover oatmeal bread and some broccoli together.
I was going for a tomato soup and grilled cheese kinda thing, so I put 1/2 a slice of 50% reduced fat white cheddar on each of my oatmeal slices and broiled them in the oven. The cheese didn't melt very well...it kinda looked like plastic wrap while it was in the oven. Scary. I also steamed some broccoli and added a sprinkling of sea salt to it. I don't understand why restaurants put butter or cheese on broccoli, its natural flavor is so great and perfectly enhanced with a bit of salt. Yumminess.
The Amy's Tomato Bisque is pretty good. Its definitely not homemade, but I just didn't have the energy in me tonight. I'll do a tomato soup soon though, I've got a couple of recipes that I love and now I'm in the mood... This meal was really filling, I only finished 1-1/2 pieces of the bread and about 3/4 of the soup, but I ate all of my broccoli like a good girl... And Lucy was more than happy to finish off the cheese bread for me, how could I resist this face?
For a snack today I had my Clif Nectar Cacao: dark chocolate walnut about an hour before my run.
Product Review:Clif Nectar Cacao: Dark Chocolate Walnut
This bar was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD!!! I had never tried any of the Cacao flavors, and sadly this is the only one my Whole Foods carries so it may be the only one I try for awhile. It had a wonderful, dense texture, almost like a really chewy brownie. And big chunks of walnuts! It was a great energy boost for my run and held me over until dinner a couple of hours later. I will definitely be buying these again!!!
I also tried a bite of Brian's Clif Builder's Chocolate bar....also really yummy! He loved it, which says a lot because he is NOT a protein bar fan. I wanted him to try out some Clif bars this week for me and give me some reviews. He says "it tasted almost like a candy bar"..."really filling". So there you go. :)
And last, but not least, my favorite coffee shop downtown broke out the Spiced Apple Cider!!! You know I was all over that this afternoon...nothing says "its fall!" like spiced apple cider...
Have a great night! Oh! I added a Meet Andrea page, so if you feel like learning a bit more about lil' ol' me, check it out! :)