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Salt and Stone: Try Minestrone to offset all that candy

salt and stone minestrone

Vegetable Minestrone Soup: Just add whatever veggies you have in the fridge.

Tonight my children will run wild through the neighborhoods of Yakima, frenetically shuffling from house to house, ringing doorbells and shouting the time-honored “trick or treat!” into the weary faces of adults passing out candy from the other side of the doorway.

We are at the stage of life where my kids are old enough to have stamina and grit when it comes to collecting candy, but not quite old enough to phase out of the tradition. So I am preparing for a long night and an even longer week negotiating candy stashes, sibling arguments over who stole what from who, and the inevitable sugar crash that always comes with Halloween.

While I’ll be pilfering my children’s candy stash until just the black licorice and off-brand Werther’s hard candies are left (my love runs deep for a Milky Way), I feel it’s my obligation to offer you a recipe so chock-full of vitamins and nutrients that it somehow offsets the 27 pieces of bite-size candy we will all eventually give in to eating.

Vegetable minestrone soup is surprisingly easy to throw together. Clean out your veggie drawer in the fridge and throw in whatever you have on hand. Just remember to salt and pepper the mixture every time you add something to the pot. For optimal taste and texture, boil pasta in a separate pot and add it to the soup just before serving.

Fair warning: This makes a big pot of soup, so if you’re not planning to feed a crowd (or a gaggle of sugared-up kids), consider halving the recipe. This will easily serve 8 to 10 generous servings. Leftovers freeze quite well, so you can always save half for later this winter.

Happy Halloween! I hope there’s a warm bowl of soup and a Milky Way in your future.

Vegetable Minestrone Soup

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

4 stalks celery, diced

3 to 4 cups mixed vegetables (zucchini, red potato, cauliflower and green beans), diced

1 28-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes

2 14-ounce cans cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed

3 tablespoons tomato paste

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

Two shakes red pepper flakes

2 32-ounce boxes vegetable stock

1 cup pasta, cooked

Big handful baby spinach

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

In a large Dutch oven, sauté onion, carrot and celery in olive oil over medium heat until onion begins to soften, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add mixed vegetables to the pot. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, bay leaf, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Add in 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a pinch of black pepper. Stir well to combine.

Add canned tomatoes, cannelloni beans and vegetable stock to the pot. Stir in balsamic vinegar and honey. Add another 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and pinch of black pepper. Turn the heat to a low-simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a separate pot, boil pasta in heavily salted water until just tender. Drain pasta from water. Add pasta to soup pot. Turn heat off to soup. Stir in baby spinach. Taste broth to see if it needs more salt. If so, add final 1/2 teaspoon salt and one more pinch of black pepper.

Andrea McCoy writes the column Kitchen Captivated for Yakima Magazine and at The Salt and Stone, a home cooking blog. The Salt and Stone is a nod not just to the essence of cooking, but also to the Yakima Valley. Read more at www.thesaltandstone.com.

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