Minestrone soup

I hosted craft night last night and a friend who is having her 40th birthday this week said that her favorite dessert is cheesecake. So cheesecake topped my menu plan. Add some strawberry topping, check. Now what to make for dinner? I perused some magazines and books for ideas and came across some spring pasta with a warm goat cheese salad in the Cook’s Illustrated Menu cookbook. The pasta was a bit involved (it’s pasta??) and I wanted something that I didn’t have to mess with when people were arriving. But the warm goat cheese salad….

It was little rounds of chive and goat cheese, rolled in crushed pecans. It was divine. Sorry, it was gone too fast for picture taking. I will make it again! Especially considering the massive amount of chives growing in my garden.

So that’s a lot of cheese on the menu so far! I decided to go with a healthy soup as the main meal. Something non-cream based to offset the richness of the goat cheese and cheesecake.

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Minestrone Soup

1 onion, diced small (about 3/4 cup)
3 carrots, diced small (about 1 cup)
3 celery stalks, diced small (about 3/4 cup)
2 zucchini, diced small (about 2 cups)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup red or white wine (optional)
3 tsp. Better than Bouillon (mixed with 1 quart of boiling water)
1-28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes with juice, tomatoes chopped
1 15-oz can of white beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tb chopped fresh basil
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup Ditalini or elbow pasta
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven, add olive oil and onion, celery and carrots over med-high heat. Sauté until soft and beginning to brown. Add zucchini and sauté another few minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Deglaze pan with wine (I actually used hard cider because that is what I was drinking — our homemade that is on-tap).

2. Add the Better than Bouillon (mixed with water) and the chopped tomatoes with juice. Add beans, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil.

3. Reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30-45 minutes.

4. In the last ten minutes, add the pasta.

5. Serve with crusty bread, goat cheese salad, etc.

And since it was Craft Night, I even got a very old WIP done!

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Planting the Garden, Springtime in Maine

We have had some amazing Spring weather for the last two weeks.  Beautiful, sunny, highs in the 60s.  But not a drop of rain until last night.  So, I planted all of my “early spring” veggies the last week of April, and have been diligently watering them.  Sugar snap peas, spinach, arugula, various lettuces, are all in the ground and sprouting.  Our herb raised garden has quite a few plants growing in it from last year — love that — and the chives, tarragon and oregano all look amazing.

Spring chives

Spring chives

Tarragon, planted from cuttings in 2012

Tarragon, planted from cuttings in 2012

I also discovered dill the other day that was not meant to be there.  That’s okay!  I transplanted it to a good square and we’ll see how it goes.  We have also been doing our spring chores because of the great weather, and I painted our entire front porch (back breaking work with something like 75 little spindles to paint, some of which are located behind prickly rose bushes), and Hubby cleaned and sealed our porch and decks.

Our hops plants are growing like….hops.  I think they’ve grown at least 8 inches in the last 3 days (or it seems that way).

Hops-Nugget-Spring-2013

Hops-Nugget-Spring-2013

The dogs are enjoying the lovely Spring weather too.  Hamp is 4.5 and finally settling down a bit.  Magnus turned 13 a few months ago, but is still getting around well.  I think Hamp keeps him feeling young a bit.  Even when he has to steel himself to go up the stairs at bedtime.  I think his old bones are happy it’s Springtime.

Magnus

Magnus

Hmm...Hamp, what's that dirt on your nose?  Digging in the garden already?

Hmm…Hamp, what’s that dirt on your nose? Digging in the garden already?